Most of us have probably tried a version of this at home — be it with the fake tennis ball toss, the hidden treat or the imitation door knock.
How easily, and how many times in a row, can we fool the dog?
For some reason — maybe to test their intelligence, more likely because of the puckish tendencies of our own species — we seem to like to prank our pets.
Even many of your more admirable dog owners aren’t above punking their pugs, confusing their corgis, tricking their terriers or discombobulating their dachshunds.
My dog Ace has fallen victim to most of them. I’ve rapped against the wall to make him think someone’s at the front door. I’ve pretended to throw sticks and balls and hidden them behind my back as he gives chase. (This may explain why he’s not great at fetch). And, in perhaps the cruelest torment of all, I’ve made him think I’m holding a treat in one of my hands, holding out two closed fists and letting him pick one, then the other, only to find both are empty.
With each, he quickly caught on to the fact he was being played, and, despite my attempts to continue teasing him, moved on to something more interesting than me — like a shrub, or a rock, or the couch.
Dogs, due to their trusting nature, can be pretty easily fooled the first time. But you’re not likely to fool them with the same trick more than once or twice, according to a new study, published in the journal Animal Cognition.
Thirty four dogs were involved in the study, conducted at Kyoto University in Japan. One at a time, they were taken to a room where a researcher pointed to where food was hidden in a container. All the dogs followed the cue and got the treat. The second time around, the researchers pointed to an empty container, and all the dogs followed the cue , only to be disappointed.
The third time around, when the researcher again pointed to a full container of food, hardly any of the dogs bought it.
When a new experimenter came in to try again, the dogs initially trusted him — at least until he duped them, too. (Thank you, dogs, for not judging our entire species based on the acts of one.)
The leader of the team that conducted the study, Akiko Takaoka, says its findings suggests dogs are pretty good at determining how reliable an individual human is.
“Dogs have more sophisticated social intelligence than we thought. This social intelligence evolved selectively in their long life history with humans” she told BBC. Dogs understand what it means when a human points at something. If a dog’s owner points in the direction of a ball, stick or food, the dog will run and explore the location the person is pointing to.
But Takaoka said she was surprised that the dogs “devalued the reliability of a human” so quickly.
I wonder if the results might have been different if dog owners — rather than strangers — were the ones trying to fool them. Would they, based on the bond they have with their owners, be a little more trusting, and follow the cues a few more times before giving up?
Maybe … assuming their owner hasn’t raised them with a steady diet of pranks.
Fun as they may be, they should probably be done in moderation, and not during puppyhood. And, when it comes to training, it’s probably best to avoid duping our dogs into doing what we want them to do — as in tricking him into a bath, or into the crate, or using the word “treat” to get him to come. Deception — with the possible exception of putting his pill in a shroud of cheese — shouldn’t be something we regularly practice to control our dog.
Dogs like things to be predictable, John Bradshaw of the University of Bristol notes in the BBC article, and not knowing what’s going to happen next can make them stressed, fearful or even aggressive.
“Dogs whose owners are inconsistent to them often have behavioral disorders,” he said.
Still, many of us (perhaps due to our own behavioral disorders) persist — even those who know fooling the dog runs counter to good training, and works against building a relationship of trust.
Why we’re that way might be equally worthy of a study. Why, long after the dog has lost interest and moved on to something else, do some of us humans continue to try and amuse ourselves by tricking them?
Maybe those people are scientists at heart, and want to test their dog’s cognitive abilities. Maybe they justify it by telling themselves — as I did when teasing my little brother — that it’s building character, or teaching our dog that life isn’t always fair. Maybe they’re trying to establish their dominance, or at least their feeling of mental superiority, or re-establish the fact they are in control. Maybe they have a tiny cruel streak.
More likely, they are just seeking a laugh, or feel the need to confirm how much their dogs trust them.
The occasional prank, I think, is OK, but pulling too many of them might be an indication we’re not worthy of that trust, leading it to erode, as maybe — based on the experiment in Japan — it is already.
Dogs are continuing to figure us humans out (no small task). They learn our schedules. They predict our actions. Apparently, they have also learned when, amid our trickery, to turn us off, in which case the joke just might be on us.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 4th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, behavior, bond, cognition, cues, deceiving, deception, dog, dogs, evolution, experiment, food, fool, fooling, fooling the dog, intelligence, pets, relationship, reliability, science, social, study, training, treats, tricking, tricking the dog, trust, trusting, university of kyoto
Nobody knows how Sissy did it, but we’d guess it was with her nose.
The miniature schnauzer ran away from home last Saturday, and showed up about four hours later and 20 blocks away — inside the Iowa hospital where her owner was recovering from cancer surgery.
Nancy Franck has been recovering at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids for two weeks, and apparently Sissy got tired of waiting for her to come home.
“She missed mom, that’s all I can tell you. She missed mom,” Franck said.
Hospital security snagged the dog after she entered through the automatic doors and began wandering through the lobby.
They called the number on Sissy’s ID tags and only then learned, from Franck’s husband, that Nancy was a patient in the hospital.
“I thought she just wanted to go someplace, but I didn’t know where. She’d never run away before,” said Dale Franck.
Hospital surveillance tapes show the dog entering, and making her way to the elevators, where — momentarily puzzled — she paused.
“She wanted to see her mom. She was on a mission, but she didn’t know which elevator to take,” Dale Franck told ABC 7 in Chicago.
Family members arrived at the hospital, and they were allowed to take Sissy to Nancy’s room for a visit.
According to the family, their home is about 15 to 20 blocks from the hospital. Sissy had never been there before, they said.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 13th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, bond, cedar rapids, dogs, finds, found, hospital, iowa, locates, mission, nancy franck, nose, owner, patient, pets, schnauzer, security, sissy, sniffs, surveillance
Out of work and out of money, Pete Buchmann could no longer pay his rent. So the Claymont, Del., man and his dog Buster moved to the back yard of a vacant home nearby and pitched a tent.
Even during the warmth of July, the novelty of that wore off pretty quick — perhaps quicker for Buster, who is nine and arthritic, than Pete, who is 54 and able-bodied.
“It was kind of fun for about a week,” Buchmann said, “but it wasn’t good for Buster.”
Buchmann moved to Delaware less than two years ago from Long Island, where he cared for an ailing mother and sister until their deaths. He got by on part-time jobs, but when even those ran out he was forced to sell his car, then give up his $800-a-month pet-friendly apartment.
Realizing life in a tent wasn’t going to be good for him or his dog, Buchmann asked police for the name of animal shelter where he could take Buster — and maybe get him back once he was on his feet and employed again.
He was given contact information for Faithful Friends Animal Society in Wilmington.
After leaving a couple of phone messages, and details on where he and Buster could be found, Buchmann received a visit from a shelter official.
“We drove out and found them,” Lou Henderson, manager of the shelter’s dog department told the Wilmington News Journal. ”We also took Pete a goodie bag with some food and things in it to help him.”
Buchmann said his goodbyes and Buster, a Rottweiler-boxer mix, was taken to the shelter.
But neither the story, nor Pete and Buster’s relationship, ended there.
While Buster is enjoying the hospitality of Faithful Friends, Buchmann is now residing (though not in a private room) at the Sunday Breakfast Mission.
And every day, he walks five miles to visit with and walk Buster.
He helps out with the shelter’s other dogs, too
“I am just amazed at his attitude,” Executive Director Jane Pierantozzi said. “He walks two-and-a-half miles each way every day to see Buster, and then he spends two or three hours helping us walk the dogs. Most people in his situation would be depressed and angry, but he isn’t.”
Pierantozzi says she has been so impressed with Buchmann, she’d hire him if the non-profit shelter had the money. Instead, she’s reaching out to her contacts in hopes of finding him a full-time job.
“Pete has been so resilient through all his trials,” she said. “It’s bad enough to lose your home, but to not know what’s going to happen to your pet is horrible. I just hope there are people out there that can help.”
While the organization commonly helps find new homes for pets surrendered by financially-pinched owners, Buster wasn’t adoption material.
“He’s old, he has arthritis, and he’s protective of and attached to Pete. Dogs like that can go down fast in a shelter. We knew if he went to a kill shelter he wouldn’t survive.”
Meanwhile, at the Sunday Breakfast Mission, Buchmann has been getting to know his fellow shelter dwellers — many of whom, like him, don’t fit the homeless person stereotype
“I don’t drink, and I don’t do drugs. There are a lot of very smart people living at the mission who are just down on their luck,” he said.
Buchmann said he’s grateful to be able to visit his dog, and looking forward to living together with him again.
“He’s my buddy; he’s been with me through everything,” he said. “He seems content here, and he knows now that I’m coming back, that he hasn’t been deserted.”
(Photos: Jennifer Corbett / The News Journal)
Posted by John Woestendiek November 21st, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bond, boxer, buster, buster and pete, delaware, dogs, faithful friends animal society, homeless, homelessness, humans, mix, no-kill, pete and buster, pete buchmann, pets, reunion, rottweiler, sunday breakfast mission, visits, walks, wilmington
Mason County EMS technicians loaded Nicholson aboard, shut the doors of the ambulance and pulled out for the hour-long ride from the ranch in Mason County to the hospital in Fredericksburg.
It was 20 minutes into the ride that ambulance workers noticed other drivers on the highway waving and pointing: There was a dog on the small step on the side of the ambulance.
Buddy, a 35-pound beagle mix, had jumped aboard the moving ambulance sometime after it had left the ranch, and had been riding along since.
Tanner Brown, one of the EMT’s aboard, said the ambulance pulled over. “We didn’t have anything else to do but to load the dog up and put him in the ambulance and take him to the ER with us,” he said.
The San Angelo Standard-Times reported the story last week, after learning of the October incident from EMTs.
Nicholson was released from the hospital later the same day, and while he was there he got a couple of chances to step outside and see his dog, who was apparently tended to by EMTs and hospital workers.
“It was kind of weird,”EMT Brown said. “I guess the dog wanted to be with his owner.”
Meanwhile, back at the ranch … ranch hand Brian Wright looked around for Buddy after the ambulance left. Wright, who had called the ambulance when Nicholson began complaining of dizziness. Buddy had wandered off, which he does from time to time, so Wright wasn’t too worried.
Not until Wright got to the hospital did he learn the EMS crew had the dog — and about the dog’s 20-minute ride on the step of the ambulance.
“Two things go through your mind in a split second,” Wright said. “First, what could have happened to (Buddy), and second, you realize he is quite an animal.”
“I was impressed,” said Nicholson, the dog’s owner. He adopted Buddy about four months ago from an animal shelter in Mason.
“He didn’t have to go to the hospital with me, but he did.”
Posted by John Woestendiek November 18th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ambulance, beagle, beagles, bond, buddy, dog, dogs, ems, emts, follows, fredericksburg, hitches, hospital, jumps, mason, master, owner, paramedics, pet, pets animals, ranch, rancher, ride, tanner brown, texas jr nicholson
It may only be a short-term one, but a dying man in a Kentucky hospital seemed to have a new lease on life after a visit from his Chihuahua.
And ditto for the dog.
James Wathen, after a month in the hospital, wasn’t doing well, and had stopped eating, hospital workers say.
Social workers at Baptist Health Corbin, trying to lift his spirits, talked to him and learned he was troubled by the loss of his dog, Bubba, who had been picked up by animal control after he was hospitalized.
Between hospital staff and workers at the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter, Bubba was tracked down at a foster home, and — despite rules forbidding dog visits — one was arranged at the hospital earlier this month, WKYT reported.
“One of our social workers realized it was mourning the loss of the dog that was making our patient even worse and emotionally unhealthy. We pulled out all the stops and found the dog,” Kimberly Probus, chief nursing officer at Baptist Health Corbin, said.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” Probus said of the reunion.
Wathen, 73, began to cry when he saw his elderly, one-eyed Chihuahua, and then his mood began to brighten.
Bubba’s condition — he’d been emotionally distraught since their separation, and had stopped eating, too — also seemed to improve.
Hospital officials say they plan to have Bubba visit Wathen regularly, and — based on what they saw — they are also looking at implementing a new pet visitation policy.
“To see James and Bubba get back together. It was heartwarming. It’s why we do what we do,” Mary-Ann Smyth, Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter President, said.
Smyth said Bubba seemed sad on the way to the hospital, but perked up about 20 steps from Wathen’s room.
“The dog quit eating a week ago, which is very strange,” she told Today. “The dog didn’t know where James was and James didn’t know where the dog was and believe it or not, they both stopped eating at about the same time.”
By the time Bubba returned for a second visit on Oct. 14, there were visible changes in both Wathen and Bubba’s conditions.
“He’s done a complete turnaround, Smyth said of Wathen. “He’s speaking, he’s sitting up, he’s eating. He doesn’t look like the same guy. And the dog is eating and doing better now, too.”
Posted by John Woestendiek October 24th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, baptist health corbin, bond, bubba, chihuahua, dog, dogs, health, hospital, james wathen, kentucky, knox-whitley animal shelter, loss, mourning, patient, pets, reunion, separation, shelter, visits, wellness
No surgical procedures were involved — thank God — but Japanese artist Aki Inomata and her dog, Cielo, have exchanged hair.
As an artistic exploration into the relationship between pets and their owners, Inomata has made a coat out of her own hair for her dog to wear, and a cape out of her dog’s hair, which she can be seen modeling above.
An art installation that displays both coats, and a video of the process, is entitled, aptly enough, “I Wear the Dog’s Hair, and the Dog Wears My Hair.”
The coat exchange was an exercise in empathy, Inomata says.
“I have had various pets, and do so now as well,” Inomata is quoted as saying in an article on DesignBoom.
“I believe that all people who have pets wonder at some point whether their pet is happy, and I face the dilemma of whether it is right to make a living creature into a pet. Within this context, I have had these animals appear in my artwork.
“My works take as their starting point things that I have felt within everyday experiences, and transplant the structure of these experiences analogically to the modes of life of the animals. The concept of my works is to get people to perceive the modes of life of various living creatures by experiencing a kind of empathy towards them.”
Posted by John Woestendiek August 12th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aki inomata, animals, art, artist, bond, cielo, coats, connection, dog art, dogs, dogs and humans, empathy, exhange, fur, hair, humans, i wear the dog's hair, japan, pets
Hang around long enough — whether you’re a YouTube video or a Labrador retriever — and you might find some love.
This video of a yellow Lab persistently trying to gain the attention of a three-year-old boy with Down syndrome, was posted on YouTube in June 2012, but only recently has its popularity soared, topping 4 million views.
Ana Marta Vegas says her son, Hernan, usually avoids any kind of physical contact.
In this video, shot by his family, you can see the boy, after grabbing the dog’s paw, continuously backing off and at times seeming to push her away.
But the Lab is calmly persistent — nuzzling, licking, nibbling, pawing and inching ever closer to the boy.
At one point, she sits and gently puts her paw on his shoulder.
Eventually, nearly four minutes into the video, Hernan responds and gives the dog, named Himalaya, what appears to be a hug.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 27th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: affection, animals, attention, bond, boy, dog, dog and boy, dogs, down syndrome, friends, hernan, himalaya, hug, humans, labrador, making friends, persistence, pets, retriever, vegas, video, yellow lab