Leap of Faith

This article caught my eye. A police dog on the scent of a burglar jumped over a wall with a 40ft drop at the other side. This triggered a number of thoughts.

Ruskin was very rarely on a lead, even though I estimate we walked about 75,000 miles during our time together, probably only 1% or less would have been on a lead. It was then only out of politeness, because it was expected or a sign said “all dogs must be on a lead”. My own personal view was, it was demeaning to Ruskin to be on a lead.

The article has triggered vague memories of an incident in Wales or somewhere, which wasn’t really all that significant at the time. We were outside a cafe or something similar. Ruskin was mooching round as he did. I saw him run. A woman screamed while Ruskin jumped on to a wall about a 1 metre or slightly more high. My concern was this lady screaming “Oh My God, Oh My God”.  Ruskin quite unperturbed, is walking up and down the wall like an alley cat.

To cut along story short, the woman had seen him run and thought he was going to jump over the wall. I had seen him run and knew he was going to jump on the wall. The source of the panic was because there was a 40ft sheer drop at the other side into a stream. I knew this, the lady knew this, Ruskin knew this when he jumped on to the wall.

Now Ruskin from an early age had to do a window cleaning round so from 14 weeks we had been climbing over walls all day, day in day out. Ruskin knew there were drops at the other side of walls, so he would never ever have jumped over a wall without knowing what was at the other side. It could have been anything, a glass topped cold frame in someones garden for example. He would never be so stupid to jump over anything without knowing what his landing was.

Just allay on confusion with Beardie owners. Ruskin was a working Beardie. He was only 19 inches at the shoulder, less than the standard for the show spec, and weighed just over 40lb, again less than the pedigree spec.  This meant he could go where a mountain goat or sheep could go. They are ‘Huntaways’.

They don’t need people to tell them not to jump off a 40 or 1000ft drop. It was a few years later before I found out he was a working Beardie. Now a working Beardie which jumps over things without knowing what is at the other side is soon going to have that trait removed from the gene pool. The occasional 1000 ft cliff in the Highlands, the fells or the Welsh mountains is a force of natural selection, to remove stupidity in a breed of dog. 

Was the fact that Ruskin would never jump over anything if he didn’t know what the landing was, nurture. He had spent so much time with me climbing over and on walls. Or was it nature. Beardies are adapted to their environment and for the job they do. They are hill, mountain and upland dogs. For survival the last thing they would ever do is jump over something with out knowing the landing.

So why has this police GSD jumped over a wall with a 40ft drop at the other side. Was the dog just stupid? Does the breed not have a survival instinct? Or is their a flaw in police dog handling techniques and philosophy? Have they trained the dogs in such a way, that somehow the very basic safety and survival instinct of the dog has been over written by, possibly in this case, an over confidence in what there handlers have taught them or trained them to do. Has the training conditioned basic survival out of them?

I’ve handled other peoples GSDs, taken them for walks, but I have never got ‘inside the head’ of the breed, and I have no knowledge or experience of training police dogs. Which is why I have made liberal use of question marks.

If this had been an incident with human police personnel involved there would be a Health and Safety inquiry, which would have looked at operating procedure. Because Vader is a dog, will this be be overlooked. Did Vader jump or was he ‘pushed’?  Certainly he might have a crisis of confidence.


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  1. #1 by pochp on January 27, 2009 - 11:57 pm

    I once had a baby Labrador which calculated his fall then tried to jump from a 2’6 feet table. Luckily, I got to him first.

  2. #2 by celticlion on January 28, 2009 - 12:48 am


    Thanks you have brought back memories, but with a different punchline. I know quite a few people are reading so don’t want to give away plot lines. But you have made me realise that something was significant.

    While I am here, to the emails I have had, yes Ruskin’s story is true.


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