Every dog owner knows that dogs can be easily scared by random things, and even things they are familiar with. Over the last weeks we had several things sir Oliver had issues with. It went from being surprised to almost too scary.
On our morning walk we walk on a dike with dike houses on it. The facade of the houses is on the dike and the rest of the house is descending proportionally downwards to the dike. Every few houses there is an alley downwards. In one of those alleys there was an outlet of steam of the heating system. This produced on a cold morning little warm bubbles of steam coming up the dike about a meter/39 inches high. We passed the steam cloud when it was still in the alley and just behind our backs the cloud came out off the alley. Sir Oliver noticed the cloud and stood transfixed, to then move quickly away from it, looking backwards to see where the cloud still was. If he were human I could hear him think: where the hell came that from? And what the hell is it? Run, run for your life.
Then we were walking in the park, no one there, just sir Oliver and I and the red ball drifting in the canal. We were not close by yet, though sir Oliver wasn’t sure about this absolutely scary thing. When we came closer he growled at it. I tried to divert his attention and move on and after a bit it worked. Then the next day this very same ball was lying next to a garbage bin, I dropped a poop bag in the garbage bin and expected sir Oliver to move back from the red ball. He didn’t, I’m pretty sure he didn’t make the same connection as I did. For me it was the same ball that we found drifting in the canal. For him today it was an entire other object that gave him no fear at all.
There are 2 herons in the canal we walk along. One on each end of the canal, that normally are in the canal watching for fish. This time the heron was standing on the lawn, almost on the pavement. These herons are pretty big birds if you are a Beagle. So while passing by it, I placed myself between the heron and sir Oliver. Sir Oliver was nervous and started growling at the bird. The heron moved as slowly as possible towards the canal, probably fearing for his life, while staring at us. Sir Oliver was pulling the leash and I had to pull him away from the bird. This was not so much an attempt of sir Oliver to attack, but more to show off how big he was and saying, no one can mess with me. All the other occasions where we passed by a heron standing in the canal, there was nothing to be scared about.
The last example is about my partner going out the kitchen door into the shed in the garden. It is already dark outside, and when my partner comes back into the kitchen, just visible through the window of the door, sir Oliver starts barking or howling as Beagles do. Alarm phase one, an intruder at the back door! When my partner enters the kitchen, sir Oliver is still scared by him. Only when no one is giving attention to the situation anymore he calms down. That was the first bark/howl we heard from sir Oliver.
Then there are also men in general or especially men with suitcases or bags, women on high heels, men on high ladders and a lady with a cardboard box in her hands. Where I would expect him to be scared about cars and buses driving by, fire crackers or other dogs.
When I come to think of it, whenever I am scared or fear something it mostly isn’t rational. It might seem rational in the moment where it looks real, but when looking back at it, I mostly laugh about it. Sir Oliver seems to not like the dark and for many years I wasn’t fond of it as well. Mainly because I do not have a good night vision, so every shape or shadow that I saw, as out of the ordinary, would give me the creeps. I mean the list goes on and on where I am afraid of something to do or really fear something. Knowing that animals are not burdened with emotions and feelings like us, there is still enough for them to get scared by.
At this point I know and experienced already enough to say that it mostly doesn’t make much sense to me why today something scares sir Oliver and the next day it is perfectly fine. The only thing I know is, that animals can live much easier in the moment, and have not such vivid memories like we humans do. We humans can be scared and then upgrade the fear for a next occasion. Animals are lucky they don’t have our minds, it would make a dog’s life.