Monday, March 4, 2013

It’s A Wonder They Even Listen To Us Kemberlee Shortland © March 2013

It’s A Wonder They Even Listen To Us ~ Kemberlee Shortland © March 2013

Do you ever wonder why your dog seems to ignore you?

Do you think if you yell, they’ll suddenly ‘get it’?

A command is simple. Right? “Spot, sit.” Easy. Or is it??

We have two dogs — Daisie and Poppy. They’re Border Collies, which means they’re a LOT smarter
than we are. I mean a LOT smarter. I’m sure Daisie alone could out-think both my husband’s and my
brain power, combined, and still be looking for intelligence among us.

As a former dog trainer, I have a way with man’s, and woman’s, best friends. I’ve had a lot of success
with training methods and studying a dog’s behavior before recommending a training regimen.
But in my own house, things are a little different. While I can get Mr. Smith’s frisky terrier to heel
on lead, I can’t quite seem to achieve the same with our two. But I think that has more to do with
them being sheepdogs than anything else. It’s ingrained in their brains to follow the flock at a short
distance, so keeping them right beside me is a chore. Mostly for Daisie. She likes to be the front dog,
guiding the way, making sure the path is safe for the flock. Poppy is pretty good, but she’d prefer to
heel at my husband’s heels than mine (she’s with me all day as he works away from the home), and
really, she wants to be where Daisie is, which is usually about ten feet in front of the hubs (I bring
up the rear simply because I’m slow). But this really goes beyond the heel. On lead gives us some
control because when we say ‘come’ and they have no choice because we’re reeling them in like
fishes. It’s off lead it all goes to heck in a hand basket. It goes a little something like this —

Fetch: I’ve thrown the ball across the yard and Daisie runs for it. She’s meant to grab it and bring it
back so we can repeat the exercise. Dogs like fetching, right? What she does is pounce on it, give it a
chomp to teach it a lesson for getting away from me, then when she’s sure it’s no longer moving . . .
she walks away!

“Daise (call her name to get her attention), bring it.” She looks up at me like ‘what?’ “Bring it.” She
looks at the ball laying a few feet away. Again, I get the ‘what?’ look. “Dukes, pick it up and bring
it here.” Again, ‘what?’ She starts sniffing around, everywhere but around the ball, and wanders.
“Where are you going, Doodoo? Get the ball.” Now she’s circling the ball, totally unaware it’s there,
though really she does. By now, I’m getting annoyed so my commands become a little clipped. “Day-
see!” She looks up. “Get. The. Ball.” She wanders over, gives it a chew and looks up with it in her
mouth. “Bring.It. Here.” ‘what?’ “Now!” She drops the ball and walks off again. “Doodie!! Bring me
the ball, now.”

Keep in mind that after each command, I give her sufficient time to process the command. I don’t
rattle off commands like gunfire. But still, she wanders around, one ear cocked in my direction
because she’s listening, as always. For what? The sound of my footsteps going in her direction.
When I get about ten feet from her, she grabs the ball and looks at me like ‘Is this what you want?
Why didn’t you say?’ {grumble} Then the kicker . . . ‘Since you’re here . . .’ and she drops the ball
and circles behind me, waiting for me to pick it up and throw it again. I look down, she looks up, she
has ‘that look’. You know the look. It’s the one that says ‘Isn’t this a great game? Go on, throw the
ball.’ And guess what? I do!

Did you see what happened there?

1) Daisie is her name and should always be called Daisie, most especially when I want her to
do something. Like bring the ball. But {sigh} I have a bad habit with nicknames. Daisie, Daise
Dukes, Dukes, Dukie, Duku, Dudu, Do, Daisie Do, Do Dog, D-Dog, Dogdog . . . the list goes on.

2) And, Daisie is smart enough to invent her own games! And it starts when I throw the ball.
She knows eventually I will come and get the ball so she doesn’t have to make the effort
to bring it back. She’s already done her job as a sheepdog by chasing the ball, rounding it
up and guarding it until I (the farmer(?)) comes to collect it. AND she knows that because I
broke out the nicknames and that when I give her a command with the nickname, I really
don’t mean it. Nicknames are used at fun times {like when we’re on the floor and she’s
getting a cuddle or a brushing and she gets babydog talk}. Outside, it’s all fun and games
to her, especially when the nicknames come out. She’ll be eleven in July and has trained us

So really, it’s a wonder Poppy does what she’s asked because she suffers from the same nickname
syndrome — Pop Pop, Pop Dog, Pop-n-Stuff, P-Dog, P-Doggie, Peanut, Pork Chop, Sausage, Little
Sausage, P-Nutty . . .

At least Poppy is more like a real dog. She WILL come back to you with the ball, she DOES respond
to the ‘come’ command, and she’s ALWAYS at my side, even if I’m trying to get into the bathroom
for a little peace, if you know what I mean. To put it lightly, she has a little separation anxiety. But
that’s only because she’s afraid I’ll be away from her too long and she can’t see me, be near me or
preferably ON me. But that’s another story for another day.

Suffice to say, we always say Poppy is like a real dog because she fetches, comes, sits and stays.
Well, mostly stays. She really wants to have us in her line of sight . . . just in case we’re going outside
or doing something with Daisie and she wants to be included. She’s always afraid she’s going to miss
something, and ‘something’ is always fun.

We take them out every day for a run and romp and bring a tennis racket and a ball along. We can
really get some distance on the ball so that Poppy has to run and get it. We KNOW she will bring it
back, every time. If she can’t find it, she will stay out there sniffing around until she finds it. We can’t
even get her back until she does. That ball is like gold and she’s NOT leaving it behind. She loves to
run and she knows that if she brings back the ball, she can chase again until she’s collapsing on the
ground from the effort. Once she’s got her breath back, she wants to do it again.

Daisie, on the other hand, is away with the faeries. She can quite happily entertain herself by flipping
sticks in the air and catching them, walk around with the stick if we’re not playing but just walking
the big field behind us, or lay on the back steps just enjoying being outside, stick at her feet. But
ask her to do something and we either get the above game or the equivalent of the doggie middle

However, having said all this, we do have our watch words. Those words that tells them we mean
business. And oddly, they’re not ones you’d expect. We didn’t expect them until we realized what
was happening.

One day, I told Daisie to find her stick. She knows that command, like she does all of them—find
means fetch but she’ll have to look for it first. She went to where the stick normally lives outside
when she’s not playing with it and it wasn’t there. I had put it in a small empty planter box to keep
all her sticks together in one place . . . like an outdoor doggie toy chest. “Daisie, in the box.”

Let me just say here that she’s a highly intelligent dog. She knows the names to more than 200 of
her toys, many of which she doesn’t have any more but will still go looking for them if we send her
on a search. Hide and Seek is her favorite indoor game. And believe me, we play it a lot here in
Ireland because it rains to darn much.

So, I’ll hide toys around the house (leaving her in another room on a ‘down-stay’ so she doesn’t
see me) and when I come back I’ll send her searching for toys. I can tell her “Daisie, find Fred in the
kitchen” and she’ll go find Fred in the kitchen. She’ll have to look, but she knows he’s in that room.
Or “Find Fred in the loo” or “Find Fred upstairs.” So when I say “in the box” she knows to look in the
box. But that’s usually a house game. Outside, she hears the command and comes running like her
tail is on fire and gets all wiggly and wants a cuddle.

Hmmm . . . that’s interesting. “Daisie, find stick.” Back to the place where they normally live and she
sniffs around. “Doodoo (there’s the nickname thing again), it’s in the box.” Back she runs, all wiggle
and wanting a cuddle. Hmmm . . . veerrrry interesting. “Doodles, find stick.” Back to the box and she
sniffs around. “Box!” Back she runs. Aaaah! The word ‘box’ is a trigger word for get over here and I’ll
cuddle you. Again, she has me trained! Oddly, the word ‘faster’ gets her moving too, as will ‘car ride’,
but that has her scurrying away. She does NOT like the car.

So, what have I learned from Daisie? a) If I use all those nicknames, it means I’m not really serious
and that it’s always going to be a game, a game she can orchestrate and control. b) If she’s off lead,
she can do what she wants as long as we’re not within arm reach, but she will eventually come back
to us if we turn around and walk away (she never wants to be left behind). And c) if I use the right
word, she WILL come running for a cuddle. And let’s face it. Who doesn’t like a cuddle?

What’s Poppy’s watch word, you may ask? That came from another game called Where’s Poppy?
Wherever she is, she’ll come running. She can be down the field with the hubs and I can be on the
back steps at the house and shout “Where’s Poppy? Where’s Poppy?!” And off she runs, blazing a
streak up the field to the house. Ten feet from me and she leaps into the air like I’m going to catch a
40 pound rocket going 80 miles per hour! She’s like a spastic cat, wiggling all over my legs, trying to
get as close as possible but nearly knocking me over with her enthusiasm, a look of sheer joy on her
little doggie face. Then she hears it again, from down the field this time, “Where’s Poppy?” I give her
a ball and tell her “Find, Daddy” and off she goes, 80 miles per hour, not stopping until she reaches
the hubs.

I started this story with ‘It’s a wonder they even listen to us’ but perhaps it really should have
said ‘It’s a wonder we even listen to them’. Really, watch the signs closely enough and they’re telling
us what they want. Dogs are like infants who haven’t mastered the art of speech. Just as you’d
watch a child for signs, we must watch our dogs for signs. They will always tell us what they want.
You just have to look and listen. And not get annoyed when a game of fetch means you’re the one
fetching the ball!

Kemberlee is a native Northern Californian who has spent the last sixteen years living and working in
Ireland. She is a published romance and erotica author, and co-founder (along with husband, Peter)
and CEO of Tirgearr Publishing. As former dog trainer and canine nutritionist, dogs often find their
way into Kemberlee’s stories. In her novel, A Piece of My Heart, Molly is a combination of both of
Kemberlee’s dogs, Daisie and Poppy.

Kemberlee can be reached online at —


Paws With A Cause® enhances the independence and quality of life for people with disabilities nationally through custom-trained Assistance Dogs.
PAWS® increases awareness of the rights and roles of Assistance Dog teams through education and advocacy. Founded in 1979, Paws With A Cause is dedicated to helping its clients who are challenged by many disabilities, such as Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Seizure Disorders, and Hearing Disorders to name just some. Each of our dogs are trained to meet the specific needs of our clients. Tasks may include opening and closing doors, picking up objects, pulling a wheelchair, turning lights on and off, and alerting a person to particular sounds like a telephone, doorbell, smoke detector and many others. Our dogs change lives by enhancing the independence of our clients. By just opening a door, a dog opens up the world for a person with a disability and your donations will go to making that happen. PAWS thanks you so much for your donation and allowing us to open more doors.

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Kemberlee said...

Megan, thanks for hosting my story today. This piece was a lot of fun to write. I hope Paws for a Cause is able to double its goal, as I see their goal is almost reached. Will keep posting notes on my media sites to help the effort.

For readers, please post a comment here and I'll give one of you a free copy of my book, A Piece of My Heart which features Molly the Collie, aka Hairy Molly, as an integral secondary character. Moll is a blend of our two dogs, Daisie and Poppy.

Audrey Pierson said...

Love your dogs! I have 3 Aussies, so I know the herding groove well. Our last Aussie would chase the ball and then run inside with it because, obviously, we didn't respect it if we could just throw it across the yard. The other wouldn't chase it at all. Of our current three, one will chase the ball & bring it back (our 'real' dog)and the other two don't care. Oh, and we, too, have been trained well at retrieving the ball. LOL!

Kristi Ahlers said...

Your dogs seem to have a great personality. I'd love to meet them lol

Kemberlee said...

That's too funny, Audrey. Daisie has been known to pick up the ball and walk to the back steps and lay down with it. Sort of like "Mine, and we're done here." Poppy has a look of like "What just happened here? I thought my turn was next." Fortunately, she has no problem going to take the ball off Daisie, but then Daisie feels obligated to get back in the game until it's her turn again, then the cycle repeats. Both dogs are rescues, but both from working stock. Totally different parentage and ancestry. Daisie's line is from sheep herding stock while Poppy's is from cattle stock. Show Poppy a sheep and she'll run circles around them and get bored quickly. Show her cows and she's all over them to work. Daisie loves sheep though. Too bad her arthritis kicked in so early because we had to pull her off work.

My brother had an Aussie once. learned tricks but would not come to you if you called him for love ner money. He loved to jump the fence too. Great personality but just too inquisitive. He probably needed a friend to keep him home.

Kristi, you should see if there are any agility groups near you and go watch. Collies are incredible at agility. Did you see the videos on my FB page last week? Almost makes me want another collie. Almost ;-)

Carley Bauer said...

We need to post this on Layla's page. She lives and breaths for her dogs. I don't know if she friended you, but I do know she was impressed with your expertise.

Now that I am the grandmother of a 6 mo. old Beagle, I must read more dog articles.

Kemberlee said...


I'm sure Megan and Wendi would love to see some cross posting of their pages and the articles. They're posting different articles every day through the 8th, and because they're blogs, they'll be up for-ever! ;-)

I've been following the Beagle tales in your daughter's house. He's totally precious.

Kemberlee said...

Congratulations to Audrey for winning a copy of A Piece of My Heart!

Thanks everyone for visiting me. I hope you enjoy the other doggie stories.