Mirror mirror on the wall. Dogs and mirrors.
Yesterday Elsa and I hit an outlet mall close by our place. It is a beautiful outdoor shopping area with an ocean view. The facility is newly opened so we have yet to visit when there are many people around. My sister and I had a great shopping day there last week; but, I had something to return this week. After about twelve hours of rain I thought it might be a good time to hit it; with even fewer people than normal. Having been to the specific store just last week; I knew the layout to the cash for my return.
I decided to take Elsa with me. She'd already been to this mall once to meet a good friend of hers and have a leisurely walk. So I harnessed the lady up; strapped her in and away we went. When we arrived, I did the normal safety scan before letting Elsa out. I could see less than a handful of people; this was going to be an in and out deal.
I am not one to bring Elsa into stores often. I don't think large dogs belong in many stores; unless of course you can keep your dog in a shopping cart or bag. Being that Elsa ADORES meeting people, her body and tail become a "wreck the place" thing, or "bull in a china shop." This was a clothing store, not much to break. Knowing that I had to just go in and out and the chance of other shoppers being in the store was low, I decided to bring her with me. I was correct, there was no one in the store and the counter was just left of the door. One sales girl seemed a bit apprehensive by Elsa's enthusiasm so we kept our distance. The other one who was behind the counter and seemed well...oblivious.
The return took only minutes but what happened when I was there was surprising. Elsa peaked around the counter and discovered a mirror. She stood still looking into it; I could see the wheels turning as her muzzle readied for a bark. I called to her before the bark and she quickly came to me. Now she was intrigued and she went over and peaked around again. This time the bark came quickly; but it was not ferocious, more like "hey, you." Before I finished up at the cash I walked with her by my side we approached the mirror and knocked on it. Elsa got goofy and her loosely, goosey wagging began.
Elsa is not one of those mirror dogs. The ones who seem to always be shocked to find a dog staring at them. She sees herself all the time at home in mirrors and does not react. But this was a new place, this was not home and there stood a dog staring at her as she stared at it. Her bark was more of a warning or test. After I took her to the mirror and knocked on it; she was calm and saw no reason for more barking. I found it fascinating, because she is very accustom to mirrors.
Puppies typically have mirror moments. Some take longer than others to get that it is not another dog. The occasional puppy will keep the fascination into adulthood. But most lose it until something different occurs around a mirror, like the mall.
This was a very clear and precise moment to draw on. Dogs can be very accustom and comfortable to many things; but put into a new environment or strange and different setting and it can seem new. It is very important to remember when working and/or dealing on a daily basis with dogs. Much like dogs can be fine with people until they put a hat on. Fine with children until they see them in strollers or carriers. They can go through their learned behaviors in familiar surroundings but ask in a new and strange environment and everything changes.
After seeing that the mirror was just that, a mirror; she focused on the clerk who kept her distance. She was intrigued by Elsa and found her mirror adventure fascinating. She was now chatting to Elsa and I about her tiny pocket pooch she had at home. We said our good byes and just as I started to leave Elsa pulled around the counter and gave the mirror a final look, just in case.
Life is full of different things; more so for our dogs. We need to remember that not everything is easily explainable to our dogs as it is for humans. It is our job to show them the way. I had seen what was going on and calmly walked up to the mirror with Elsa by my side; knocked on it and simply said "see nothing," and walked back to the cash.
Lead by example, your dog is always watching.