By Nancy Carlson • Columnist • 

Carlson: Is mischievousness in your dog

It is with a sigh of relief I report my basset hound puppy, Beau Dacious, now 18-months-old, but still very young at heart, has slowed down somewhat — quite a bit actually — with his destructive chewing behavior.

I don’t know if it’s because he is getting to an age when he no longer needs to constantly have something in his mouth, or because he has finally trained us to put our valuables out of his reach. But we haven’t lost any reading glasses, remote controls, phones or phone chargers in almost two weeks.

Happy Tails

Nancy Carlson has an enduring interest in the bond between humans and animals.

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Of course, I worry that writing this will jinx it and when I next go to the living room I’ll find him happily munching on yet another electronic device. But, fingers crossed, we are making progress.

Beau Dacious has not in any way, shape or form morphed into a poster puppy for a well-behaved dog. He still gets into plenty of mischief.

Here’s an example — I use a small travel clock to wake up in the morning. Early in Beau’s tenancy, I found this clock in his mouth, and the clock was not looking better for the experience. But on closer examination, Beau had just eaten the back off the battery compartment, and when I put the batteries back in, the thing miraculously still worked.

I considered buying a replacement but realized it would just meet the same fate as the first one, so why bother? But here’s the thing — Beau Dacious still loves to steal the clock from wherever I put it, but now he just takes the batteries out.

I will walk into the living room and there he will be, gazing up at me, tail wagging, clock between his paws and batteries scattered over the floor. I have to admire his dexterity — I mean, these are AAA batteries and he doesn’t even have thumbs!

But I also have to ask, why? He’s already figured out the clock is not edible and the batteries must not taste good. So why does he spend his time seeking out and dismantling my clock? I look at him with his ridiculous yet adorably slobbery face and wagging tail and the only thing I can think is he just does it for fun.

So Beau and the mischief he gets into — of which the clock is only one example — is the inspiration for this week’s Happy Tails. Do dogs do things just for the fun of it? I guess what I’m asking is, do dogs have a sense of humor?

If you have had dogs in your life for a while you are probably now thinking, “Well, of course they do!” We all have anecdotes — many of them hilarious — of pranks our pups pull on us. But I have a column to write, and a simple “yes” will not fill the space. So I’m going to look into this a bit more elaborately.

I Googled “Do dogs make mischief for fun?” and, of course, found a dozen or so sites willing to give me an answer. I decided on my old friend, Dogster Magazine, and an article from October 2012 by Kelly Pulley, “The 10 Naughtiest Dog Breeds,” for my source.

I’ll grant you, the word “naughty” has negative connotations, but as a woman who has to put her alarm clock back together on an almost daily basis, I can live with it.

The article begins with the question, “What are the characteristics of a naughty dog?” I was curious to know if anything mentioned in the list sounded like my beloved basset (and maybe your dog, too). The first characteristic of a naughty dog, according to Dogster, is charisma. Bingo! Beau is a people magnet. Folks cannot resist him. I have yet to visit Lowe’s, Petco, or any place on Third Street in McMinnville without at least one person telling me how adorable he is and asking to pet him.

The second characteristic is a bit counterintuitive — naughty dogs desire to please us. Do I seem happy to Beau when I’m down on my knees fishing my clock batteries under my bed?

OK. No. 3 nails it: The third characteristic of a naughty dog is willingness to disobey. Beau wastes no sleep worrying about whether I am annoyed. He does love me, I’m sure, and (see No. 2) he does desire to please me, unless of course there’s something better to do.

No. 4 is a sense of canine humor, and No. 5 is a sense of human humor. Our dogs figure out that we like to laugh, and it’s only a short step to figuring out things to do that make us laugh, and many of those things could be called mischievous. I suppose if I burst into tears every time I found my alarm clock dismantled, Beau might stop. But I don’t — I roll my eyes and write columns like this one.

“Why are some dogs naughty?” is the next question Dogster asks. The reasons listed are to get attention, prove a point (for example, maybe if you take me to the dog park once in a while I’ll stop unraveling your toilet paper), and to cheer us up. Dogs seem to innately know that laughter is good for us.

And, finally, we get to the list of the 10 naughtiest breeds of dog: 1) Dachshund, 2) Bull terrier, 3) Jack Russell terrier, 4) pug, 5) Maltese, 6) American Pit Bull Terrier (who knew?!), 7) Yorkshire Terrier, 8) Labrador retriever, 9) English bulldog, and 10) beagle. What!! Basset hounds didn’t make the list? I’ll bet they are No. 11.

I would love to hear stories of your dogs’ tricks and pranks. Please tell me if you have time.

Nancy Carlson can be reached at


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