I hear a small jingle; it is barely audible but there. Everything else goes silent as I listen for that one single sound. Is it getting closer? Quickly I turn around to see a medium sized scruffy dog charging our way. Instantly I scan the horizon; no owner in sight, great. I throw my dog reading skills into high gear so that I can assess what is coming next. It all plays out like I knew it would. Luke is mad and Elsa is thrilled by the appearance of this Benji look alike. I can deal with it because I knew it was coming. Had I not known, not heard the far off jingle, I would have been flustered.
Situational awareness; is a very important part of our life and the day to day with our dogs. Some folks have none, others have a bit and then there are the very aware. Just like us there is a huge difference in situational awareness in our dogs. Elsa, like me has extreme situational awareness. I don't like surprises and neither does Elsa. If she happens to let her guard down which happens very rarely, things like Dove's end up fluttering close by startling her. Lesson learned. Of course everyone has their guard down sometimes; an interesting conversation with a neighbor can knock it down a few. Perhaps an incident unfolds in the distance; drawing your full attention to it. Life itself can get in the way of situational awareness but you must still be aware.
These days cell phones are a huge culprit to the dissolving situational awareness. Many people who become involved in a cell phone conversation lose all awareness of their surroundings. I run into these folks all the time. For us it can make the difference between an incident going well and things going very wrong. Dogs with great situational awareness can be more of a challenge as far as learning to deal with the surrounding environment. Of course that all has to do with how they react; how you react to each new thing and how much socializing they have had. Dogs with no situational awareness can end up being hurt; due to the fact that they just don't notice things.
For dogs like Elsa; each new element in life is noticed, assessed and stored for later recall. How you react to those things will be the determining factor as far as association. It is very difficult to remain calm when you yourself are startled. I do not like to be startled; not too many people enjoy it. Being startled gives you little time to act in a calm and collected manner. Everyone performs at a much better level when they know what is coming; situational awareness. Given the appropriate information (that you noticed) you can then act of that. With no information (because you were not aware) you have nothing to help in dealing.
The same goes for dogs. Although most dogs are much more aware of their surroundings versus humans. There are dogs who are not aware; Penny is one of those. She could be on the edge of a cliff, at the beach or at the mall and not know the difference. She often sends her body hurling at something that excites her with no sense of what might happen when she lands. Although these type of dogs may be easy as far as not having to deal with big life reactions they can get hurt simply by not being aware. Jessie was also one of these type dogs. She was triggered by motion and always on the lookout for just that. Much of the regular mundane life stuff passed her by without notice. These type of dogs need to have a human watch out for them. I was constantly protecting her from herself. What a little fireball she was.
Both Luke and Elsa are extremely aware dogs. Only now as Luke ages are there things that go unnoticed by him. I like my dogs to be aware but calm having been socialized to the max. If something should come upon us without their notice I will do my best to give them a heads up. It is important that they have time to react; time changes everything. A dog running at us can turn into a tension filled event if no one sees it coming. Versus a dog running up on us that initiates a great game of chase because the dogs had time to read the signals.
We should always be aware. If you are not the aware type, you can train yourself to be aware. Being situationally aware is important. Not only for your own safety but your dogs. It is always best if you see something before your dog; of course this can be tough with the very aware guys like Luke and Elsa. Our outings have me scanning the horizon constantly. I find it hard to have a proper conversation with anyone while out with the dogs because I am always watching. I keep my eye on the horizon, on my dogs and any other dog that happens to be around. Having a good conversation if you can is an added bonus.
Situational awareness; do you have it?