Farm Shepherds Magazine

I only have two pairs of shoes with laces.  I have an old pair of black skateboard shoes with flat shoestrings, and a newer pair of brown hiking shoes with round laces.   But it doesn’t matter which pair I’m wearing. My English Shepherd Hawkeye knows how to untie them both.

The first time Hawkeye untied my shoes, I got quite a kick out of it.  There was no apparent purpose to his action, no puppy agenda.  He just walked over and looked down at my left shoe, like a child studying a puzzle for the first time.  And then he pulled the string.  He didn’t fumble with the loops or even paw at the eyelets.  No, he very directly took one of the draw strings into his big maw and pulled it straight up.  It was a precise act, as if he’d done it one hundred times.  And then he just sat down.  He tilted his head and studied his handiwork.  My untied shoe.  I laughed, causing him to look up at me with the same stoic expression he’s had since I met him.  After a second, I decided to praise him.  “Good boy,” as I scratched his furry neck.  Still laughing, I guess I had decided to encourage his talent.  After all, who doesn’t want a dog that can untie shoes?

I’m always thrilled to see one of my dogs offer a new behavior.  When it happens, I’ll usually sit and think about it for a bit.  I’ll ask myself why the dog decided to act in that manner.  I’ll think about what might have led to the presentation of the new behavior.  And finally, I’ll decide if I’m going to encourage the act, or discourage it.  In this case, I have no idea why Hawkeye decided to start untying my shoes.  I don’t even untie them myself, usually.  I just slip them on and off.  So, I really don’t know where he saw it or picked it up from.  But he did.

Since then, Hawkeye has untied my shoe several times.  Well, four times to be exact.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t keeping count.  I must admit, I’m still amazed by it.  But now he does it for a reason.  He has decided that untying my shoe is a great way to get my attention.  So now if a soft nudge or a lick on the hand doesn’t work, he just unties my shoe.  Which always works.  It is a weird feeling, to be focused on reading a book and suddenly feel your shoe being untied.  It grabs me every time.  And I think wow, what an amazing dog.   Then I re-tie my shoe, and we go play.

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