Friday, April 23, 2010

What Do Dogs Pick Up?

closeup of Alfie's face; he's lying on some pebbles and looking down as he noses them intently
Well, I'd like to pick up one of these rocks, but you won't let me.

No, I'm not talking about what dogs grab in their mouths! I'm talking about what dogs learn...without your intentionally teaching them.

Alfie demonstrated his ability to "pick up" on things when we were at a state park not long ago. The kids and I had gone to the car with Alfie to get a drink, while Tim stopped off at the visitor center. Walking up to the visitor center after our water break, I couldn't see Tim anywhere. For that matter, I couldn't even really tell which was the front or the back of the building (poor signage)...sigh! Then it occurred to me that Alfie's canine superpowers could come in handy in locating our "missing person."

"Alfie...find Daddy!"

Alf responded immediately, tail wagging. Nose to the ground, he led me to a door; but then instead of asking to go in, he switched over to scenting the air, mouth open...leading me around a corner and down some steps to a covered area with picnic tables where Tim was sitting. You should've seen his happy prancing! Tim told us later that Alfie followed his exact path.

Of course I've never actually taught him to find people; but we do "find" a lot of other things in the course of our training (doors, stairs, trash cans, elevators, name a few). Since he also knows who "Daddy" is, he could easily figure out what "find Daddy" means. This can't be all that unusual a thing for dogs to "pick up", because our last two GDTx puppies picked up on finding family members also. It can be used to extremely unfair advantage in a game of hide-and-seek, for one thing!

I'd love to get some reader response on this one. What has your dog "picked up"? Come on, brag on him (or her) a little, you know you want to! I'd be very interested to read your comments. Our dogs' intelligence and adaptability are a big part of what make them such good helpers...and interesting companions!

Alfie is looking intently off to the left, mouth open, as he lies amongst some leaves
You only think I'm not paying attention...really I'm learning all the time!


Becky said...

You are so right - they are incredible and always watching for clues of what is next. Let's see Cricket knows find steve which I absolutely love! She runs to the front window when I pull out cab coupons (promise!), the watering can = she runs to where the treats are because she knows that we will be doing obedience before I water plants, when I put the curling iron away she starts hanging closer to me as she knows that is kind of the end of getting ready, purse is definitely stay close by, yoga gets a tail wag, when we drive through the dry cleaners she starts breathing heavier in the back (my thoughts are she is trying to get our attention and make sure we ask for a doggy treat there as they always give her one). Just a few that came to mind. Goo job Alfie on finding dad.

Sierra Rose said...

Yay Alfie!!!!
Sierra Rose and I have recently been playing 'find it' with her Wubba or whatever toy I have. I wanted to work with her in the snow, by burying the toy, as we are so amazed at the wonderful avalanche dogs that we meet. We're running out of snow time, but I do think she knows 'find it' 'toy' and other words, and definitely picks up on my walking patterns...etc. It is amazing and really interesting to watch them as the grow and become personalities!!

Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
Sierra Rose

Natalie said...

Bob knows that we're going to go somewhere when I pick up my backpack or purse, he follows me around like crazy - he's tripped me tons of times because he pretty much hugs my feet.

Mimi and CC Cabana said...

When I first read your post, I couldn't think of a thing that Cabana has "picked up". I thought, wow, my dog can't do anything! Ha ha.

But reading the other comments, I thought of something (phew, what a relief).

Cabana likes to lay on the bath mat while I take a shower. When I'm done, I open the shower door slightly and reach for my "turban" towel to wrap my hair in, then I open the door again to get my regular towel. The third time I open the door is when I actually step out of the shower. Cabana always waits until the third time I open the door to get up and move out of the way so I can step out onto the bath mat. I guess she can count to three!

L^2 said...

Good job Alfie!

Willow picked up on so many cool, helpful things over the years, I probably couldn't even list them all here. A few of the ones that stand out in my mind are her always showing me where my favorite Cheerios were at amongst all the other boxes in the cereal aisle at the grocery store and also always guiding me straight to the banana display in the produce section (easy, since it is both her and my favorite fruit). She learned to find all of my family members, and she also quickly learned to identify my Mom's car from all the others anywhere it was parked and would take me right to it.

Hen Jen said...

oh wow, Alfie is sooo cute! We have a 1 year old F1B labradoodle (which means she has a labradoodle mom and a standard poodle dad) she is very smart. She does find people, the kids play hide n seek in the house all the time with her.

She picked up on what "home" means, and when out walking, if you say lets go home, she will pick up part of her leash in her mouth for some reason, and run home. She also picked up "lets go for a ride" and will go straight to the van. She has playdates with 2 dogs, and knows their names, if one of us says the dog's name, she will rush around the house whining, looking out the front window. We have to spell the dog's names now. She also learned "lay down, go night night" I just started telling her that when she'd nudge me early in the morning to get up, and she goes to her dog bed.

I am constantly amazed at how smart she is.

Alphini's Puppy Raiser said...

WOW, what fun stories from everyone!! I just got back from my trip, & how fun to read about your wonderful dogs. :-) Thanks for sharing!

Lisa, Ellie and Hosta said...

GREAT JOB ALPHIE!!!! That is awesome! I know if we play hide & go seek with Ellie's toys she'll follow the path I take to hide it after I have released her to seek it. What a big brain Alphie has!