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Somehow Dogs Know When the Money and Bragging Rights Are On The Line

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164 – July, 2021

By Chris Robinson

May it please the court. How many times after an abortive run or go in some dog sport have you heard someone say or possibly said yourself, “Wow, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen him/her do that” or ‘Well, that’s a new one.” Animal behaviorists contend that dogs are not capable of complex thoughts such as determining that they’re at a test or a trial, and they can get by with goofing off or playing the clown. They say when dogs are naughty, it’s because something has happened to upset them or they feel ignored. They further state that when a dog acts up, they aren’t doing whatever they’re doing in the hope of getting a reaction from you or from the gallery.

Well, to those behaviorists, I say “Bushwa!” Actually, I’d say something a lot stronger but before this august body I’ll exercise restraint. The people making those assertions must subscribe to the same school of thought as those epidemiologists who were making pronouncements about the origin of the Wuhan Virus. What’s more, they have clearly never run dogs in a test or a trial. I’ve seen many, many instances with my own dogs, friends’ dogs, and dogs I was judging that you couldn’t get to make a mistake in training only to have them don the cap and bells of a court jester the minute they got to a test or trial and the money and/or bragging rights are on the line. I offer the following four cases as evidence:

I remember a yellow Labrador that I watched train on nearly a daily basis. The dog was absolutely flawless in training. He was a joy to watch with pinpoint marking and never so much as a hint of a cast refusal or taking a wrong cast in training. But, get him to a hunt test and he immediately became the canine version of one of the Marx Brothers. Harpo, I think, must have been his idol because he performed all of his tricks silently. Every test ended the same way with the gallery practically rolling on the ground from laughter at the dog’s antics and the dog’s owner pleading with the judges, the marshal and the gallery to stop because laughter only encouraged the dog.

The owner contended that he spent ten grand in entry fees alone; and while that was obviously an exaggeration, it likely wasn’t by much. Finally, probably for the same unknown reason that had caused the dog to become a clown between finishing his senior title and starting his work toward a master hunter title, the Lab suddenly became the very serious, flawless performer at tests that we saw in training and breezed through the five master tests he needed for his title with nearly perfect scores.

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164 – July, 2021


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