Can someone explain this to me?

JoJoGal

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#1
I just came back from the beach with my dog, Millie. My friend John and I try to take her there in the evenings every couple weeks or so as she just loves it. Anywway, where we go, we usually do not see a single person as it is after dark, and kind of a secluded area. Tonight was different. First of all, Millie is a Golden Retriever (mom) / Chow (dad) mix. She just turned a year old on the 19th, and full grown is just under 50 pounds. I have always known she was extremely intelligent, and have taken advantage of that by teaching her as many things I can think of to teach her.

I have 2 others, but little chi's (mom and son). Anyway, back to the beach experience.

Tonight, we had been there about an hour, when a fairly large group of people came down the footbridge behind us. They were obviously tourists, as all of them were wearing headbands with the lights on the front. (Florida, LOL). The tide was just going out, and they must have been coming to look for starfish, etc, that come in with the tide. Anyway, I don't know how many people total, but seems it was somewhere around 20 altogether, in 3 different groups.

Now, Millie is a timid dog, so when strangers are around, she comes and sits next to me for her cue on what to do. I had no cue for her tonight, just figured they would walk down the beach, and she would continue playing until they came back. She did not go back to running around and playing. She laid at my feet, for almost an hour. In 4 groups, all those that had come down, came back up and crossed the footbridge. Once the last 3 people went over the footbridge, she went back to playing, running, etc. We did not realize until almost another hour had passed that there were no more people on the beach.

Please keep in mind... it was extremely windy, chilly, in soft sand so hardly any sound when walking, and no lights (I have a lighted collar and tag on her).

HOW did she know when the last person went back over that footbridge? I just cannot wrap my mind around this at all. She watched all 3 groups come down, and watched the 4 groups go back. Once the last 3 were over the footbridge, she started running around again and playing, not a care in the world! If she were a herding dog, I might be able to come up with a "maybe explanation". Tonight, though, I learned that she is willing to protect me... which is why I got her in the first place. I have had her since Feb 9th 2009, she wasn't quite 8 weeks.

I have just never seen this happen before, and don't know how to explain it. She is obviously (to me) always been much, much smarter than the average dog, but how did she know they were the last people to come back?

Sorry, I keep going on, but I saw it happen, and I still can't believe it.

Anyway, if you are a behaviorist, trainer, whatever, that can explain it, please do...

Thanks!
 

Paige

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#2
Bandit hits the ground whenever someone is near and it's dark. If they get too close he growls. This is my sweet darling dog that let's little girls at the fair run up to him, grab his ears rather harshly and forcefully smooch him all over. He can hear/smell them I suppose. He always knows when there are people around. Sure makes me feel safe when I am walking him alone at night.

I always thought it had something to do with their senses are different than ours. We rely a lot on eyesight. They don't.
 

lizzybeth727

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#3
Dogs definately use their senses differently than we do. For one thing, they actually can see better in the dark than we do, especially if there's some light (full moon, flashlights maybe, etc.). In addition, they have much better hearing than we do, so even if you couldn't hear the people walking on the beach, I'd bet than your dog could. And of course, their sense of smell is WAY better than ours is. They get so much information about their surroundings through their sense of smell, there's no way we can even imagine what that's like.

It doesn't sound to me like she was doing that to "protect" you, but if she's shy around strangers that would probably be intensified at night since she can't see as well. Because of that, she would probably be hyper vigalent about where the people were and when they left.

If she were a herding dog, I might be able to come up with a "maybe explanation".
I don't really understand why a herding dogs would do this sort of thing more than yours.... But you have to remember that ALL dogs are herding dogs, some are better at it than others. ALL dogs are hounds, and retrievers, and whatever, because all of these behaviors are linked back to instinctual behaviors. My chihuahua herds me; she also tracks and retrieves. Is she as good at herding as a border collie? No, of course not, but you can tell that that instinct is there.
 

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