I spend a lot of time each day doing stuff with the dogs. Whether that’s feeding them, walking them, running with them, training them or just goofing around with them. Molly, the older one, is a happy-go-lucky individual, who’s always delighted just to tag along. Ozzy also likes to get involved in everything that’s going on. But, when it comes to certain activities, she exhibits an extremel level of focus and drive and won’t let anything get between her and whatever she’s trying to do. We call this ‘work mode’. And it really is a sight to behold.
I try to do some training with each of the dogs (either separately or together) every day. This might be some basic obedience on one of our walks or a specific session to work on something like a longer ‘stay’, clambering over/under things or a recall with distractions. Both dogs really seem to enjoy this, but it’s clear that to both of them it’s more of a game than a training session. Which, in my view, is how it should be. So all good there.
And both dogs are really well-behaved. They do as I ask. They’re polite with people and other dogs. And they’ve become solid members of our pack. They even got described last week by a fellow dog-walker as ‘the best-trained dogs in Nailsea’, but I think that might be going too far. And yes, they do chase the odd squirrel and roll in fox poo. But they’re dogs, after all, and that’s what dogs do.
When it comes to some things, though, it’s as if Ozzy flips a switch and takes it to a different level. She focuses intently on me. She acts calmly and purposefully. And she doesn’t let anything distract her from what she’s doing. Ever.
This switch to ‘work mode’ is most obvious when we do search dog training. From the moment I put her in the harness that we use only for that, she knows exactly what’s going on and what’s expected of her. She also knows exactly how to do it. If anything gets in her way, she’ll go over, under or around (or, on occasion, through) it. And if another dog has the temerity to try to play with her, she’ll ignore it completely.
I’ve noticed the same thing when she and I go out running. We run a few miles off-road several times a week, with a longer run at the weekend, and Ozzy has clearly decided that this is also something to be taken seriously. Which is handy, because she runs off-lead and I need to know that she’ll do what I ask (e.g. stop, wait, turn left, etc.) when I ask her. And she does. Every time.
This ‘work mode’ level of focus and drive is, I suspect, common in working dogs. And I’m glad that we’ve found outlets for it, especially ones that Ozzy seems to enjoy so much. I’m also glad, though, that she’s able to switch off ‘work mode’ as easily as she switches it on. (As I write this, she’s lying on her back on the settee behind me, asleep, with her legs in the air.) But I have to confess that I really, really do enjoy watching her work. Because it truly is something else.