Saturday, October 27, 2012

Puppies in my iPhone

Our little Kirby believes there are teeny puppies inside my iPhone. At least I think he does. I showed him a video of the 2-week-old puppies that was posted on Facebook by the breeder. He watched intently for quite a long while, then he walked around behind where I was holding up the phone and looked at the back, puzzled.

Interestingly enough, the exact same puppies are being kept inside my iPad and my desktop computer, and when I watch videos on either, Kirby jumps into my lap, whines and tries to sniff the screen.

Boy, he has no idea what he's in for next month when that puppy enters our home in three dimensions!

As we prepare to bring a new puppy into our home I find myself wondering what kind of teacher Kirby will be. When we brought Kirby home as a puppy six years ago, Baxter was a bit annoyed at first (after seven years as an only dog, that's not surprising). But Baxter made the best of the situation and became a wonderful teacher for Kirby (something I wrote about at the time). In fact, we seldom had to teach Kirby anything directly. He would just watch Baxter do things and copy whatever his big brother did. Breeze. It helped that Baxter was a very patient, mellow, easygoing dog -- a nice counterpoint to Kirby's less patient, jumpy nature. It also helped that Kirby was a quick study.

But even though he learned commands, Kirby never really picked up on the larger behavioral things, such as Baxter's big dog mellowness or his complete lack of fear around loud noises. Without any training, from the get-go, Baxter's natural reaction to a loud noise was first to look at Jamie or me for a cue as to whether it was life-threatening or not, then to run and investigate whatever it was. Exactly the behavior one would expect from a hunting dog breed. Kirby's response to loud noises, in contrast, has always been to engage in intense (and inconsolable) barking while running to hide under the sofa.  It's just one of those dog-wiring things, the nature that nurture can only do so much to shape.

For the better part of six years, the combination seemed to work well for the dogs, particularly as Baxter got older and his hearing began to fade a bit, enabling him to sleep through the occasional knock at the door or the sound of the neighbor's grandbaby crying in the front lawn. Kirby, being on alert 24/7, would sound the alarm then run and hide while Baxter went to investigate the source of concern. Kirby would calm down, knowing Bax was on the job. (Incidentally, Kirby seems to be missing his big brother the investigator...and the intensity of his alarms seems to have cranked up a notch as a result.)

So this brings me back to Kirby as teacher. While Kirby has many fine qualities I would be delighted for him to teach the little one, I find myself wondering if the forthcoming little Wirehaired Pointing Griffon puppy -- the same breed as Baxter -- will default to his or her little goofy-mellow-brave Griff nature and overcome any of the little dog habits Kirby might inadvertently teach...such as "Sound the alarm, the UPS guy has come to kill us all!" or "Eek! Thunder! Run and hide!" or "Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey that big mean truck is stealing our garbage!" (Ok, in all fairness Baxter also objected to the big mean truck stealing our garbage, he just did it with a couple of deep, loud woofs that let the guys know they were under surveillance.)

Will the puppy pick up on Kirby's reactions or will he or she tap into the Griff nature and be the brave dog in the face of danger? And what, if anything, can (or should) we do to intervene? 

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