Book Report – American Lambs & The Art of Racing . . .

bl rasp

A dear person sent me a book titled American Lambs, by T Yamamoto. It's subtitled "Poems and Stories about Working Border Collies, Sheep, Family and Life on the Land." The author explains that it is a mix of real life and fiction, but is all based on a real island off the North West coast in which sheep were allowed to graze the pastures and beaches until the rural land slowly, inexorably, evolved into a landscape of urban dwellers who, in the author's words "didn't realize that they were changing the exact things they loved about the land." But don't think this is a sad book. It is a rich and moving celebration of our connection to animals and the land. I loved it, absolutely loved it, and I don't think you need to have sheep or herding dogs to love it too. I read it in one night, and Read More

Imitation # 2

scorp & will

Thanks for your comments with examples of what looks like imitation in dogs and cats. I was especially intrigued by the cat stories, having had a cat myself who did a perfect imitation of a herding Border Collie after watching me work Luke every day. Luke and I would drive the sheep up the hill to the pasture, and Ayla, my tiny, gray cat, would follow behind. She often sit on a log and watch as I worked Luke on gathering and driving. The sheep, although never abused, did not enjoy this exercise as much and Luke and I, and were always ready to bolt to the barn if given half the chance. When that happened, Luke would have to streak around them at lightening speed and stop them. When we were done working I'd say "That'll Do" to Luke and let the sheep run back down the hill. Once they Read More

Do Dogs Imitate? [And see you in Milwaukee?]

clouds 6-21

The ability to imitate came up on an earlier post, and jump-started an interesting conversation about whether dogs are able to imitate others. I mentioned that it's controversial in science whether non-human animals can imitate others, and promised to get back to the issue. It's worth a half-day seminar unto itself, (and I'll mention at APDT in October when I introduce the Cognition Symposium) but I thought it'd be fun to delve into the issue a bit here. We should start our inquiry  by defining "imitation." Of course, that itself is controversial! Some argue that imitation is any example of "observational learning," while others insist it's not true imitation unless the action imitated is a 'novel' one not normally done by the species. This, of course, limits the definition and makes it Read More

Toy Story with a Twist

cedar waxwing

We're still all about toys at the office, given the boxes and boxes of them that arrived last week. And there's nothing like having a new puppy in the house to get you back to thinking about toys! A great happy surprise has been that the toy we were afraid would live on our shelves forever, Sherman the (Big) Sheep, has been a big hit. It's sold more than any of the other toys, and we are still smiling about it. (And so is Will, he adores it.)  There are a few left, but we don't expect them to hang around for long. Just fyi, the loser of the new toy choices is the hapless Scorpion, undoubtedly an image most people don't want to see, and to make matters worse, it's covered in "nature's warning colors--red and black--just to make it more off putting. Poor little scorpions, I suspect Read More

Chase This, Not That!

sheep toy 2

A dog's love of a good chase is both a blessing and a curse. It makes playing with them extra fun; what a joy it is to play fetch and chase with some dogs! And it's got a dark side too--chasers love to chase cats, cars, joggers and bicyclists, and that doesn't tend to work out so well for all involved. In an earlier post I talked about teaching my new pup Hope not to chase Sushi the cat, and several readers asked how I am doing that. Here's a summary of both a generic plan and how it looks in detail in one home, with one dog, and one cat. Obviously, the details vary tremendously, but the basic plan is relatively universal. 1. MANAGE AND PREVENT: What could be more fun than chasing something if a dog is so inclined? Dogs are, after all, cursorial predators (meaning they run things Read More