April 11, 2014

What I Love About My Brilliant, Sensitive, Reactive Dog

Let's start with those ears...

Ruby has a new dog walker that we're both very happy with. They've been going on mini-walks around my complex and running through her tricks. The notes that I've received on her wipe-board or in email updates include "wonder dog," "smart cookie" and "very impressive." She is all of those things and sometimes I feel Ruby is too cool for me. Even my father, who would not call himself a dog person, says that Ruby is the smartest dog he's ever met, and we have had some truly bright family dogs. 

Does her brilliance have anything to do with her reactivity and vice versa? I believe that it does. Herding dogs, well-known to be among some of the most intelligent, are also fairly prone to reactivity. She notices and remembers everything, and while this can mean she spots every dog in the distance and makes our walks challenging, it also means she learns very quickly and understands things with a depth that is astonishing to me sometimes. As someone who considers herself somewhat of an intellectual, I admire and appreciate Ruby's intelligence. I could see it in her eyes when I was looking for potential dogs to adopt - I was riveted. I still am. 

I also adore how playful she is. When I get home the first thing she does is scamper off to get one of her toys - usually her Kong Genius or her yellow Kyjen squirrel. We never skip at least one daily tug session. One of her greatest joys is stealing a sock from the laundry and leading me on a merry chase through the house with it. I suppose this could be considered misbehavior, and I'll admit if I'm in a rush or I've already rescued four or five socks from her jaws, I'm not always an enthusiastic playmate, but her undeniable glee prevents me from denying her thieving romp.

Her attentiveness adds a richness to our relationship that I haven't experienced before with a dog. She nearly always follows me from room to room, appears to listen intently to everything I say, and wants to be involved in whatever is happening. Even when there are other dogs or people around, it's clear that she doesn't want to be far away from me for long. When she chooses to snuggle up against my leg while I'm reading or curl up at my feet while I'm writing, even when she wants to chew her stinky catfish skin on my lap, I feel lucky and loved.

Because she is so sensitive, I have to be aware and accountable for every interaction with her. I can't be lazy, I can't be impatient. I have to look beyond momentary frustration and reach for the enduring good - the grace - as described by My Imperfect Dog. She requires me to think harder, try again, and question motivations. I've been inspired to learn more about dogs and their behavior in these eight months with Ruby than in my previous lifetime with them. Ruby helps me strive to be my best self, and that may be what I love about her most of all.


  1. I am sensing we all feel the same way about our reactive dogs - that they teach us far more about ourselves than we ever thought possible. Oz has taught me patience and even when I slip up, he still loves me despite of my "mistake". I love what you love about your Ruby. You are both blessed to have each other.
    Thank you for joining the hop, Lara and Ruby!
    Gina and Oz

  2. Love this! Silas is more independent, which is an added layer of challenge. It took a long time for me to learn that his independence was not indifference to my opinion, and how to get through to him without hurting his feelings.

    Ruby is such a sweet girl, and I'm very glad you found each other.

    1. Ruby is not a "velcro dog" by any means - she was at first, but I know now that was just uncertainty - she just doesn't want to miss out on anything. She'll often go lay in her dining room bed when I'm watching TV, or chew on an antler downstairs when I'm upstairs. A few times I've gotten worried that she's being too quiet, called her, had no response, then gone downstairs to find her laying on the couch, looking at me like "I'm right here. Did you need something?"

  3. I agree with Oz that I see a theme of our reactive dogs teaching us so much. I also think that the extra attention they need strengthens the bonds we have with them and makes us love them so much more. Thank you for joining the hop again.
    Oh, and I love those ears too!!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  4. Aww, what a great post about Ruby. I can see how special you are to each other.

    My dog likes to stay close to me when we are out and about and I love that about him. I never had to spend much time training him to come when called. He naturally wants to be close and comes running. While we're at home, though, he usually doesn't follow me around. He's really lazy and content to just lounge around wherever his dog bed happens to be. He's not much of a cuddler, although he puts up with my constant hugs and kisses.

  5. Great post. She sounds like an amazing dog. So glad you two found each other!

  6. So you play the sock game too huh? That's Harley and me special time together. I too think I should be disciplining - but instead I play along...

  7. I totally agree about the genius of herding dogs and being reactive. NOTHING gets past Torrey. At home, out walking, anywhere.


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