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Border Collie Rescue - On Line - Deaf Dogs - Mind Reading?
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I Quote - "I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of some weird religous cult." - Rita Rudner
 
How did he know that ? - I think he can read my mind !
"How do I look"?, you may ask your dog - in an excited way because you are dressed up in your best clothes, anticipating a well earned or unexpected evening out. Your dog looks back at you, not exactly sharing your excitement and responds with a glance that says "looks like your going to go out without me" and turns away to go off and sulk in his bed!
Communication and understanding has been achieved. Not by your words or even your actions, simply by your mood and appearance.
Looking more closely at this form of communication, we can see how a dog can 'anticipate' the handlers next move in every day life as well as in more intensive methods of dog training where the dog will frequently pre-empt the handler and go straight into the next stage of a training routine, obliging the handler to stop the dog and go back and reposition him before continuing with the training process.
The more a routine is practised, the more finely tuned a dogs reactions become.
Hours and hours of dedication go into some of the more interactive skilled disciplines in the various areas of dog training, but without us noticing or intending we are also teaching our dogs by our everyday repetitive routines.
You may not have noticed but he has been watching you intently as you go about your business, rushing in and out of the house, to and from work. Perhaps you may suddenly find yourself feeling guilty about not having enough time for the dog in your busy daily routines, but he has had the time for you,. He's been watching you and reading your moods and your body language. In his own subtle way he has been conveying his feelings to you - perhaps that's why you suddenly feel pangs of guilt out of the blue!
After a surprising short time of being together, your dog will know what you are going to be doing next. He will know when you have time for him and when you are going to go out and leave him in alone. He will know when your attention is going to be diverted away from him towards something else and reacts accordingly.
You may have heard of or experienced the dog that starts to get demonstrative just as your favourite soap comes on the TV. He may start hassling for attention. He may go and stand right in front of the telly. He may start to bark or 'sing along' when the theme tune comes on. He may simply lay down or go off to his bed. What he knows is that your whole attention is about to be focused on something else for a period of time and will react according to his character.
You may have seen people demonstrating their dogs wonderful ability of 'singing along' to a soap theme on certain TV programs. We can all watch and have a good laugh at the dogs' antics as he is triggered into a stress reaction by the music and howls his distress in a plea for attention.
Border Collies are good at watching - it is part of what they are bred to do!
 
Something to bear in mind!
For a deaf dog, particularly a deaf BC, watching you is a great part of their lives and input of stimulation. They pick up on a lot of things on levels that hearing dogs don't, so it is all the more important to be constant and 'black and white' with hand signals and sign and to be very aware of your body language when you are training
It helps if you exaggerate the difference between your signed commands and don't rely on the dogs enhanced sight skills to get it through ambiguous gestures or you will be working against your training and causing the dog confusion as he seeks to interpret vague gestures.
What we are trying to avoid is allowing the dog to make up his own conclusions due to his enhanced ability to observe. We need to carry through and show the dog the clear meaning of the instruction and the right response to it, rather than let him draw his own conclusions from his own experiences.
Think of it as if you were telling a child 3/4 of a bedtime story and then wandering off and leaving it to work out the ending for itself!  The conclusion to the story the child will reach will depend on the child's mood and previous experience of stories and their endings. The child may fall asleep with the words 'they all lived happily ever after' ringing in its ears. On the other hand if they have been sneakily reading your collection of James Herbert books, you may find yourself woken in the middle of the night by screams of horror and tears!
 
Is this telepathy or is this just 'magic'?
You may have seen TV shows about highly skilled magicians who seem to be able to read peoples minds. They interview strangers in the street or sitting around a table and ask them questions, occasionally touching them and then proceed to tell them whether they are lying or telling the truth or what they are really thinking.
Some of these magicians can tell people intimate details about themselves. Private personal things like their credit card PIN or driving licence number.
"That's incredible", say the people involved. "I have never met him before now and there is no way he could have found out about the particular incident he described or my personal details. He even knew my PIN, how personal is that"?
Of course this is not telepathy or magic, however it is a greatly enhanced ability to read body language and micro expressions that we all display and that can give away our innermost thoughts to the skilled observer. To most of us this is 'magic' enough!
We can all do this to one degree or another. We may not know we are doing it, but we sense the results in our subconscious and it affects our everyday lives, our decisions and our relationships with people we meet. Dogs also have this ability to read micro expressions and subtle body language. In a deaf dog this ability is further enhanced.
On a less subtle level, most of us are aware how our dogs will make associations with some of our actions, although we have not deliberately taught them to do so.
If we pick up our walking boots the dog will become excited and fetch its lead or go to the door - it anticipates a walk and can be rather confused and disappointed if we them merely clean the boots and put them back.
When the postman comes to the house, the dog may be there at the door waiting for the mail to come through the letterbox, yet if  a new postman comes at a different time, the dog may not react in the same way as it has not recognised the particular footsteps it has come to associate with the routine.
The doorbell rings and the dog rushes up to the door, excited and barking, anticipating the door being opened to reveal a visitor that it will then either fuss or fight according to its inclinations.
We start to pack for a holiday away, not just a weekend off with the dog but this time the dreaded shape and smell of the suitcase comes out. The dog starts to look worried and slinks around concerned that this could be the odd occasion that he is not going to be invited along.
Pick up the car keys and your dog will either get excited because it like to go out in the car or slink off and hide because it hates the infernal machine.
Pick up the shopping bag and the dog will understand you are probably going out without it. Put on your gardening hat and it makes for the back door.
 
Nicki Oliver, our National Co-ordinator recounts the following case.
"One of the things I was taught some years ago came from a particular white deaf dog we took into care and he was the first to bring this to my attention.
All through each day I had been making great efforts to involve him in my routines along with the other hearing dogs in the 'pack' I was looking after. Different sections of the day had been dedicated to training, exercise, play, chill out and so on, until, very tired at the end of the day, I put all the dogs to bed in their different areas that they preferred, some kennelled outside in a dog house and some indoors. The deaf dog was placed with a companion older hearing dog in my kitchen.
I tucked him up in his blanket bed, late night biscuit, water in bowl, Kong nearby - night night, small fuss and lights out and upstairs to bed.
On many occasions I would come down in the morning and find the kitchen light had been left on overnight. Funny, but I could have sworn that I switched it off.
On one occasion I went through the same routine - late night biscuit, water in bowl, Kong nearby - night night, small fuss and lights out but on this occasion I was longer in the sitting room than usual, collecting some papers and things I would need in the office the next day. I heard a 'click' and the light came on under the kitchen door.
I opened the kitchen door and everything was normal so, assuming I had left the switch half off and the spring had made it come back on, I firmly switched it off again and went upstairs. When I went to draw the bedroom curtains I saw that the light was back on in the kitchen below and illuminating the garden.
Intrigued by this I went back downstairs and switched off the light for the third time, but this time I went out through the French doors in the sitting room and, standing well back,   looked in through the kitchen window.
I saw the light come on again and a very long stretched white pup reaching up to the light switch with its paw. In a tired and weary way he dragged himself back to his bed and lay down, curled up and went straight to sleep. He must have been saying to himself  'is she daft or something, doesn't she know by now that I want it left on'!
I realised, rather abruptly, that I was closing of his already limited world by plunging him into darkness and going to bed - after all how would you like your world turned off by a switch on the wall! I then enquired of his previous owner as to whether they had found the light on in the room they used to put him in to sleep. They said they had and it had puzzled them at the time.
The use of a small plug in night light solved the problem for him and for us and allowed him to relax and go off to sleep in a secure frame of mind. It taught me how important the visual accent was in his quiet little world."
 
So, deaf dog or hearing dog, watch out for those little glances - those slight nods of heads - those little finger movements, because someone is looking at you closely and reading your very thoughts.
 
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Border Collie Rescue is a UK based charity, working Internationally to Rescue and Re-home Border Collies and Working Sheepdogs and promote a better understanding of the breed and its Welfare.

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