This is the story of my literal and philosophical journey to learn about dog minds and the relationships between dogs and their humans. It is a set of research notes, a travelogue, a training and trial log, and my reflections on the whole project. All of these together are an ode to Milo the AwesomeDog.
Milo is a lot of dog. He is big, strong, enthusiastic, and has a hair trigger. He and I had a bit of a rocky start. When he was good, he was great, but when he was bad, he was horrid. “The horrid” was not OK. Sometimes he responded to Golden Retrievers like they were hungry, angry grizzly bears. One friend of mine called him, with some admiration, a “devil dog.”
We needed to get this under control.
I had hope because he loves to learn and please me. But, it would be hard because he just wants to go. All the time. At 100 kph. God help the bunny, cyclist, other dog, or some people for that matter, who grabbed his attention. He really had to be trained. And it had to be done skillfully and in a way that made sense to a gigantic hard-headed German Shepherd Dog. We joined the KW German Shepherd Club, took a bunch of excellent obedience classes, met many people, and I studied. I found lots of scientific research on canine cognition and behavior, and human-dog relationships. The science was smart, interesting, and imperfect, and I was hooked.
I want to learn about dog-human relationships from expert handlers and trainers, from scientists working on this topic, and from my own relationship with Milo. I’ll explore the connections among these different kinds of knowledge to help answer a bunch of questions. How can we make both the expert and the scientific knowledge better and more useful? How can we best get this scientific knowledge into the hands of dog guardians, trainers, and handlers? How can we improve scientific research by getting this expert knowledge into the hands of scientists? And finally, how can we use this all of this knowledge to make better policies and laws regarding the dogs who share our lives?
Milo and I will visit Canadian veterinary schools, and talk to veterinary and other scientists doing research on dogs. I’ll take Milo to obedience trials across the country, compete with him, and talk with people who have practical expertise training and handling dogs. I want to know these scientists’ and practical experts’ thoughts about how we generate and use knowledge about dog minds and relationships.
Milo and I are going find these scientists and experts by taking our camper trailer from Ontario, to Prince Edward Island, to British Columbia, and then home again. And that will be a grand adventure. I can’t wait and I hope you like our story.
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