Friday, September 12, 2014

Miscues (or Missed Cues?)

The other night, Elka asked to go out, so I sent her to the back door. We have a routine, she sits and waits, and I either snap the leash on and have her wait some more, or I let her blast out the back door. I thought maybe I'd seen a deer or something out back, so I wanted her to wait after the leash was on. Typically, we hold up a finger, like "wait a minute", for signal purposes. I held out my palm instead.


(just a picture of Elka sitting, not from "The event")



Elka looked at my palm and started to lift her paw towards it, for you see, a palm out means "high five" (or "paw", depending on paw position, you understand). Midway through the paw lift, though, she looked at my face and realized that wait, I wasn't asking for a high five at all, my attention was elsewhere. She put her paw down again, looked away, and kind of dipped her ears, as if to say "Aw man, I can't believe I misread that."

I kind of laughed and said "It's okay, honey" and put out my hand again. She wouldn't high five me, though, she would only "touch" with her nose, and still without looking at me. We went outside after that, she pottied, I let her off the leash inside the fence and we were done with it. But it was an interesting situation. I wasn't angry or even disappointed that she misunderstood what I mean, just amused. How adorable, she thought I wanted  high five (protip, I typically always want the high five)!  Elka reacted with her embarrassment, or shame, or whatever emotion we want to tack on here, before I realized she was even miscued.

It was my fault (wrong cue) and while Elka reacted correctly to the cue she perceived, she then realized, correctly, that it was not situationally what I actually wanted. We don't high five at the back door, before going out on a potty break, and Elka knows that. There are times I ask her for things she doesn't understand (what dog owner doesn't, right?) but this was not one of them.

It's kind of like the tremendous mistake of using "okay" as a release word. We've all done it, right? "Okay" comes out of our mouths so many times a day, so carelessly. "Okay, let me figure this out..."  or "Okay, now we're going to...." It doesn't always mean "Okay, your stay is done" or "Okay, it's safe to cross the street." Human error is a real thing, big and small. Canine error, with and without correction...well, they're not always so aware. I'm aware I think Elka is remarkable, perhaps more remarkable than she really is, but there are times the understanding she has and connections she seems to make just blow me away.

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