© Gaye Wilson 2009

There are two dogs in our family, Meri and Gypsy. Both dogs are elderly, and they have totally different personalities. Watching and interacting with them is a joy, and very interesting in terms of not just animal behaviour, but human behaviour as well.

meriMeri is nearly 15 years old. She’s been an outside dog all her life. She has to sniff everything. Food offered by someone other than me must be thoroughly but politely sniffed before she will accept it. She starts to yell for dinner about an hour before it’s time. She sleeps a lot. But her most interesting behaviour is her procrastination.

Gypsy is about 11 years old. She, too, has been an outside dog all her life. She loves to run, and dig, and loves to cuddle. Her biggest achievement is to make everyone who meets her fall in love with her on the spot. She’s an action dog – once she knows what she wants, she does whatever is needed to accomplish it.

Both dogs live outside, but in wet or cold weather they are put into dog crates in the garage to keep them warm and dry. They are, after all, old ladies.

When I come to collect Meri to put her inside, she knows what’s coming and is waiting for me. But she insists that we are going for a walk, and invariably overshoots the doorway into the garage. It’s only with coaxing and pulling that I can get her inside (often when it’s freezing and raining, and I’m getting cold and wet too!). That’s not where her procrastination stops. She must sniff everything in the garage, to avoid going into the crate. When we finally arrive at the crate, she will go past it, or attempt to go backwards, or even, cunningly, ask for a cuddle in order to delay the inevitable. When I can finally get her to put her front paws in the crate, she procrastinates even further by sniffing every inch of the crate before she puts her entire body inside enough for me to close the door. The whole performance is classic procrastinatory avoidance behaviour.

gypsyGypsy, on the other hand, waits impatiently for me to come and get her, then hauls me towards the garage at full speed and makes a beeline for the door. Once the door is cracked open, her nose is immediately stuck in the gap to open the door faster, then she scurries inside, races for the crate, barrels inside, and turns around to grin at me. She’s where she wants to be. Mission accomplished, and in the shortest time possible.

Both dogs know what the end result will be. Both dogs are happy when they finally get there. But one dog will do anything to avoid the end result until it’s impossible to avoid it any longer, and the other goes straight for the goal.

Does this sound familiar?

Which dog are you? The one who will do anything to avoid action that will result in the end goal, or the one that goes for it in the fastest way possible? The first one provides endless frustration amongst everyone around her, but still ends up in the same place in the end. The other is a joy to work with, and accomplishes the goal with speed and focus.

So which one are you?

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3 Responses to “A Tale of Two Dogs”

  1. Hez on June 20th, 2009 10:21 am

    I find that whether someone behaves more like Meri or more like Gypsy depends on the purpose of the task. If you’re doing paid work or housework or study then it can be more tempting to be Meri but more practical to be Gypsy. If you’re doing something for pleasure then it may be better to stop and smell the roses (all of the roses down to the roots, according to Meri) than get carried away and have it all over with sooner. If you are approaching a task for the first time, though, some investigation may be warranted – did Gypsy barrel straight in the first time you put them in the garage during rain? Or did she check the place out a bit the first time, which may have looked like the same thing as Meri’s procrastination?

  2. Gaye Wilson on June 20th, 2009 10:28 am

    Did Gypsy barrel straight inside the first time? Yes, she did, because she had watched Meri going in many times before (when Meri was ill), and she had been in there herself when recuperating from an operation. So she knew what was in there, and that she would be comfortable.

    And of course, your comment about procrastination does depend entirely on what the task is. Often procrastination happens when you are unsure what to do, or it is uncomfortable, or you’re more interested in doing something else at that moment.

    But the times when the end result is inevitable, and procrastination still occurs, are probably the problem procrastinations.

    Sometimes procrastination is the right thing to do …

  3. Maria on June 24th, 2009 2:23 pm

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