This morning, I was struck yet again with how absurdly foolish our small Bichon Frisé can be. On our morning walk, she cowered submissively for the half block as a Doberman approached, then barked and leaped at the Doberman as it walked past us. I apologized — the Doberman could have swallowed Bea whole without even noticing. Then, as if to adjust her standards, she tried to pounce on the next dog we saw, a miniature poodle that walked by us (again after crouching in submission). The poodle was actually Bea’s size, but the poodle was behaving herself.
With all this manifestation of her diminished capacity, I reflected that she had no problem at all with what seemed to me an impressively abstract problem. When she’s on the leash, whenever we pass a tree, street sign, lamp post, or whatever, she always walks on the same side as I do.
The leash hangs behind her head, so she doesn’t have visual stimulation telling her she’s tied to me. I’ve never scolded her or deliberately given training relative to tree navigation. The concept of “connectedness” is pretty fluid and elusive. Yet even though she would walk out in front of a moving car, though she would challenge a Doberman, though she treats her red doggie toy as a great threat to family security, yet she understands not to try to walk around the opposite side of a tree when she’s on a leash. Strange dog.