The chess hound: A tail of tactical brilliance

Most people train their dog to sit, but how many of them teach their dogs to play chess?

It’s no secret that I’m a big advocate for dog training. I’ve always enjoyed working with my dogs and teaching them new things, it helps to strengthen the bond and build trust between us. Deb Gordon has taken this to the next level with her Red Heeler Bindi however. When she discovered how intelligent and receptive to training she was, she not only taught her tricks, but also how to play human based games like Chess and Jenga. This has taken her to the dizzy heights of TV and film stardom, and a healthy following on instagram.

I met Deb at dog training when Rustie was in the advanced group at North Coast K9 Academy. Since then I have done several portrait sessions with her and her two dogs Bindi and now Gracie. Bindi was always the superstar dog at class. She nailed every exercise they did and was the first dog to pass the advanced test at the school. Deb is a devoted dog owner with an incredible understanding of canine behaviour. I have loved spending time with her and her pups over the years and thought it might be interesting for you guys to hear what she has to say about her beloved chess playing Bindi and wiggle butt Gracie.

Hi Deb, tell me a bit about Bindi, how old is she?

Bindi is now ten years old, l’ve owned her since she was a little pup. Bindi was dog reactive from a young age and we did training three days a week trying to work on this issue. Of course she was learning lots of commands along the way but her reactivity wasn’t improving. 

We eventually found Dave at Dog Man Australia and this is where Bindi’s journey really began. Dave got us started in a different direction and shortly after we began training at NCK9A which was the perfect place for Bindi and l to improve and grow

What’s the best thing about owning a cattle dog?

It’s hard to pinpoint the best thing about owning a Cattle Dog. They are loyal, protective, intelligent and great company. 

So Bindi is really famous for the video you made of her playing chess, what has happened since that video?

After the chess video went viral l was approached by a media group in the UK and they now promote and manage the video. It has been purchased by several media groups and has had over 5 million views worldwide. We will receive payments from them for this and any future purchases. 

Chess is the only board game Bindi plays however she also plays Jenga, quoits, noughts and crosses, 10 pin bowling and loves to shoot hoops. 

Wow, she’s clever, but of course she wouldn’t be able to do those things without your excellent training skills. What is her favourite trick and what do you use for reinforcement?

I think Bindi’s favourite trick is probably opening the pantry door and getting her treats out for me. When doing training l use cheese, Bindi will do anything for cheese and l have her full attention. 

As a result of her talents she has been noticed in film industry too. What has she been up to in the world of TV?

Bindi was in a short film called “The Gathering”. The requirements were for a dog that could sit, come and bark on command. It ended up being a bit more complex than that and Bindi just took it all in her stride, she totally amazed me that she just knew what was expected of her. So it was pretty much on the job training. 

She has also been on TV and done some ads on social media for pet products. 

Bindi now has a sister, tell us a bit about her and how she is fitting in.

Gracie has been with us for over a year now, I’ve also had her since she was a very young puppy. She had a rough start to life and nearly didn’t make it but she’s fine now. Bindi had a lot of adjustment from being an only child, to having to share her human and home with a pesky puppy. Gracie has worked her magic and found her way in to Bindi’s heart. It’s awesome watching them interacting and playing together now. Bindi is still pretty quick to put Gracie in her place or tell her off when she’s doing something she shouldn’t be. Their friendship has definitely grown in this time together and will continue to do so over the years to come.

Is she showing the same kind of prowess for training as Bindi?

Gracie is a very smart little girl. I feel that l have so much more understanding of body language and training experience to be better equipped with her. I think Gracie will excel at any area that we end up following.  She’s very friendly, loves everyone and is food, toy and praise driven. 

So is Gracie smarter than Bindi, time will tell, but so long as she is enjoying her life, that’s what really matters. 

Do you have any advice for people when it comes to dog training?

For anyone wanting to further their training, your dog will thank you. Whether it be tricks, obedience, agility, nosework, flyball. Work out what you enjoy together and get involved. You’ll make new friends along the way and your dog will be much happier. 

Let’s finish with the age old question, can you teach an old dog new tricks?

Well at 10 year old Bindi certainly has more tricks to show you, and Gracie has a few of her own now too, so watch this space

To view the video of Bindi playing chess – click on the link below.

If you want to check out Bind and Gracie, check out their instagram

Thinking about getting a photography session with Rustie and co?

Contact Emma on 0432 428 002 or send her a message.

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