Working Breeds Have an Inner Time Clock … Until it Runs Out

"female American Staffordshire terrier pit bull terrier"Once Gracie settled into our weekday schedule, it didn’t take her long to figure out when Alex would be walking in the door after a grueling day at work. Most days, he follows a 10AM – 7PM schedule. One day out of the week he works from 7AM – 4PM. She gets it right regardless of which day of the week it is, relying on an inner time clock of expectation that a gambler could cash in on.

She’s like every working breed dog we’ve had over the years: her inner time clock kicks in and she just knows. I can see that awareness on her face and in her body language. If I’m outside in the back yard with her, she goes to the corner of the yard that runs parallel to the driveway and stands, looking down the street, just like my husband’s Great Danes used to do; and very much like Siouxy, our German Shepherd/Norwegian Elkhound did all those years ago.

If Gracie and I are in the kitchen, she settles into that waiting space – she pays attention to whatever is happening in the kitchen but, part of her focuses on that expectation (that knowing), that Alex will be home soon. Usually, this waiting game begins 30 minutes before he walks in the front door.

My sighthounds didn’t do this – or, if they did, theirs was such an elegant, subtle way of knowing that it defied my powers of observation.

It’s one of the things that never ceases to amaze me about living with working breed dogs – this unwavering inner awareness that binds them to their person. What must it be like to have that certainty yanked away because your person decides to dump you at the nearest animal shelter because you’re “too much dog to handle,”  “we can’t afford the vet bills,”  “we’re moving,”  ” … too big,”  ” … no time.”

And, suddenly, there is no time. Your days are numbered as a different kind of clock starts ticking. You get fed into a system of checks and balances that can spit you out if just one person misinterprets your behavior or an incoming dog needs your kennel space. Nice dogs don’t always come out alive. And, that’s a sad fact.





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