That’s what I’d like to know! You’ll have to ask Eddie, though, and he’s not talking – only barking at the recycling bin sculpture my neighbor created on the curb this morning. Trash day is the highpoint of every Cantabrigian canine’s week, but usually it’s the trashy fragrance that attracts them, turning a short walk around the block into a marathon of tugging and sniffing. In this instance, the unusual sight of two recycling bins stacked atop a large wheeled barrel aroused Eddie’s deep suspicion, triggering a bout of alarmed barking. Try as I might, I couldn’t cajole him into coming close enough to sniff down this grave threat to homeland security. Go figure.
I always thought dogs weren’t particularly observant animals, what with their acutely sensitive noses and ears and all, but Eddie also appears to be highly attuned to changes in his visual environment. For example, he doesn’t like it when my husband and I change how we park our cars in our driveway. Normally mine is closer to the front porch, but one time we switched spots, and Eddie noticed immediately and gave both cars a width berth, growling under his breath in passing.
In puppy kindergarten last summer, the trainers devoted one session to desensitizing the dogs to unfamiliar sights by parading around the classroom in outrageous hats and flowing capes while opening and closing umbrellas. We were instructed to give our puppies praise and treats when they stopped reacting to the unfamiliar visual cues. I guess Eddie flunked that lesson. Be forewarned: do not dress in period costume when you visit our house.
Reader poll: what sorts of unusual visual stimuli trigger a flight or fight response in your dog?