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
Petco says it has pulled all Chinese-made dog and cat treats from store shelves, fulfilling a promise the chain made to customers last May.
“We know some pet parents are wary of dog and cat treats made in China, especially chicken jerky products, and we’ve heard their concerns,” Jim Myers, Petco’s chief executive, said Monday — a good seven years after complaints first surfaced about chicken treats made in China sickening and killing dogs.
The FDA has been investigating the treats since 2007, but has yet to yet to establish a definite link to the deaths and sicknesses.
Thousands of pets have fallen ill — hundreds fatally — leading to 5,000 complaints of pet illnesses suspected to have been caused by chicken, duck, and vegetable jerky treats made in China.
Despite steadily rising concerns, American companies continued to market the treats (under the names Waggin’ Tail and Milo’s Kitchen, among others), and the country’s largest pets stores, including Petco and PetSmart, continued to sell them.
Petco,which has not sold China-made dog and cat foods for several years, announced last May that it would clear store shelves of the jerky treats. (We’re still not clear on why doing so would take seven months.)
PetSmart, which, like Petco, operates more than 1,300 stores nationally, has pledged to remove all Chinese-made pet treats from its stores by spring, according to the Washington Post.
Nestle Purina and Del Monte, which own the brands such Waggin’ Tail and Milo’s Kitchen, stopped selling chicken jerky dog treats made in China back in 2012, calling the shift precautionary.
The Petco announcement applies only to treats made with jerky and rawhide, according to Lily Gluzberg, a spokesperson for the company.
The FDA has been unable to tie the illnesses specifically to Chinese-made pet foods, despite testing more than a thousand samples and inspecting factories in China. But it continues to investigate.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 9th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, chicken, china, chinese, dog, dogs, fda, health, jerky, milos kitchen, pet products, petco, pets, petsmart, removed, shelves, treats, waggin train, warning
After thousands of reported illnesses and 1,000 dog deaths, PetSmart and Petco have announced they will stop selling all dog and cat treats made in China.
What took the retailers so long to reach the decision, and why it will take them seven to ten months more to purge store shelves of such items, remain questions worth asking.
So too is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has been investigating the treats for years — without determining what about them is making dogs sick — can’t tell us much more than “CAUTION,” with an exclamation point.
PetSmart said it will pull from the shelves all of the China-made treat it sells by March 2015.
Petco said it will accomplish that by the end of this year.
Both retailers have about 1,300 stores nationwide.
The two national pet retailers’ decisions came after seven years of complaints to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about jerky treats from China making pets sick, or worse.
“We know some pet parents are wary of dog and cat treats made in China, especially chicken jerky products, and we’ve heard their concerns,” said Jim Myers, Petco CEO, in a statement.
A PetSmart spokesperson, meanwhile, told USA Today it has been working toward this goal “for some time, and feel it’s the right thing to do for pets and our customers.”
Taking questionable Chinese-made treats off the shelves strikes us as a pretty simple task, as opposed to “a goal to work toward.” You just pick them up and put them in the garbage. And while “hearing customer concerns” is commendable, it shouldn’t take three or four years for them to sink in.
The move comes as sales of Chinese made jerky treats diminish, amid increasing public concerns about them.
Five years ago, 90% of the pet industry’s jerky treats were made in China, said Lisa Stark, spokeswoman for Petco. Currently, about 50% of the jerky treats sold by Petco are from China.
Since 2007, the FDA says it has received about 4,800 reports of pet illnesses, and 1,000 dog deaths, possibly related to the consumption of jerky treats. The FDA, while issuing warnings, says it has yet to establish any direct link between the pet illnesses and the China-made treats.
Most of the complaints involved chicken jerky, but others included duck, sweet potato and chicken, according to the FDA.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 23rd, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, canyon creek, chicken jerky, china, china-made, chinese, complaints, deaths, dog, dog treats, dogs, duck, fda, health, illness, industry, jerky, jerky treats, kingdom pets, made in china, milos kitchen, national, nationwide, petco, pets, petsmart, pulling, removing, safety, sales, stores, sweet potato, treats, vitality, waggin train
It has been a year now since Ace and I moved into a little house in Bethania, North Carolina, and we’ve made a home improvement or two – even though we just rent.
One issue I hadn’t figured out though was what to do with the big tree stump in the front yard – which many might view as an eyesore.
Two years ago the whole property was an eyesore. The house was heavily damaged by a fire – a fire that, I’m told, killed two or three of the dogs that lived with the person who rented it then.
The little white house on Main Street sat vacant – amid a neighborhood of historic, pre-Revolutionary, mostly meticulously kept homes in Bethania, a community settled by Moravians in 1759.
It was purchased and renovated by the man who’s now my landlord, and since I moved in – and without spending too much of my own money – I’ve tried to make some little improvements here and there to the grounds.
As for the tree stump, I contemplated hollowing out the center and turning it into a decorative planter, but that would be a lot of work.
I thought about putting a plaque across it, the sort that a lot of the truly historic homes in town have. Mine’s just 1940s vintage, though.
I considered carving a Moravian star – sort of the town symbol – on the top of the stump. But that would be a lot of work, too.
For a good long while, I was stumped. Then it came to me. Rather than cover it up, I should use the big ol’ stump as a focal point – as the foundation, or pedestal, if you will, for some artwork.
And that’s how my dog became a decorative lawn ornament.
You know those big mansions you sometimes see – the ones with big cement lions on either side of the driveway? I’m not sure what message those big cement lions are supposed to send – other than “Yes, I’m rich enough to afford big cement lions.” Or maybe, “Enter at your own risk; this area patrolled by big cement lions.”
Having no big cement lions myself, and having a pedestal on only one side of my driveway, I decided upon a variation of that theme, and called upon my big ol’ dog.
It took only a day to teach him, with help from treats, to “Get on the stump,” and then sit still, and then stay there when I walk away.
(Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks, and even learn some your old self.)
Now, I can sit up on the front porch and command him to get on the stump, and then watch as people in cars whizzing past my otherwise nondescript house do double takes and point.
(Just as a reminder the speed limit is 35 in front of my house.)
Being a living lawn ornament, and given he has come to expect some treatage for getting on the stump, he’s not entirely motionless. If you watch carefully you can see the flow of drool that often cascades from his mouth while he’s up there, knowing that, in exchange for his toil, there’s a treat in his near future.
He’ll sit there for 10 minutes or more, though I usually don’t make him stay that long.
Of all the yard improvements I’ve made – flower boxes and flower beds and distributing pine needles to cover up the weeds on the front bank that’s too steep for me to mow – I think the Ace lawn ornament is by far my biggest achievement.
He is after all, the finest work of art I own, and I like to think – whether he’s up on his tree stump pedestal or just hanging out in the yard – he makes the bucolic little town of Bethania even more beautiful.
(Photo and video by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 22nd, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: ace, animals, behavior, bethania, dog, dogs, gardening, historic, historical, home improvement, landscaping, main street, moravian, new tricks, north carolina, old dogs, pets, settlement, stump, teaching, training, treats, tree, tree stump, tricks, yard
No longer do those of us who like to watch our dogs catch treats in mid-air have to go to all the effort of tossing them.
New from Purina, Beggin’ Party Poppers have hit the market — bacon and cheese-flavored treats that come in a canister with a lid that resembles a pig face.
Push in the pig’s nose, place a treat inside and, in a matter of seconds, the treat will be popped into the air for your dog to catch.
Sure, it may be easier to just toss the treat yourself, not to mention more of a bonding experience with your dog. But why bother with that when, for $18.97, you can let the canister launch a dog treat skyward for you?
That’s the price listed for the product — treats and canister — on Amazon. A refill bag of treats, meanwhile — and we hope this is a mistake — is listed at $26.86 on Amazon. Other online sources have the refills in the $6-7 range. You can learn more at www.pighead.com.
It seems, at first glance, an over-priced little gimmick, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it evolve, perhaps into an app that allows you to shoot your dog a treat while sitting in your workplace cubicle, or a self-loading version that shoots out a treat every hour for dogs left home alone.
Imagine that. Your dog, if he’s anything like mine, would spend 59 minutes of each hour staring at the machine, one minute of each chasing, catching and eating the treat. Dogs would begin to worship the treat machine even more than they do us. They’d sleep next to the treat machine. They’d bark at anyone who threatened the treat machine. They’d follow the treat machine — once a moving version, like those robo-vacuum cleaners, was perfected — everywhere it went.
And we’d have nothing to do but lay alone in our cold beds and look at our arms, grown flabby after we stopped tossing treats ourselves.
Yes, we’re stretching to make a point, but, propelled by technology, the pet industry does seem to be going in that direction — coming out with products that make it easier than ever for us to pamper our dogs while ignoring them.
Purina’s treat-launching pig is a harmless novelty, kind of fun, and it still requires a human’s involvement to work.
But with automatic feeders already a reality, automatic treat dispensers can’t be too far behind. Once automatic ball tossers and automatic ear scratchers hit the market, we dog-owning humans could find ourselves out of a job.
It’s nice for our dogs to stay occupied, but we shouldn’t turn too much of that job over to machines and robots.
That will only make our dogs, and us, more robot-like.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 3rd, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, bacon, beggin', beggin' party poppers, canister, catch, cheese, convenience, dog, dog food, dog treats, dogs, industry, launch, market, marketing, new, pets, pig, pig head, poppers, products, purina, throw, treats
Not since a cooler full of Omaha steaks showed up on our doorstep last Christmas has Ace been so excited about a box.
He gets highly curious about any package that to the house — be it a suitcase or paper bag — but when I brought a BarkBox inside with the rest of the mail, just before Christmas, he went bonkers, and he seemed to know it was intended for him.
It was a gift from his dachshund friends, Frank and Bogey, and their owner Faren, and while I fully intended to enforce the do-not-open-until-Christmas rule … well, it didn’t work out that way.
Given how much most of us spoil our dogs, BarkBox was a pretty smart idea — intended to get us, and our dogs, hooked on receiving a monthly box of treats, toys and goodies.
Then you start receiving a monthly sampling of items you might or might not like.
Dogs being far less picky, BarkBox might be an even smarter idea.
It was started by three New Yorkers — Henrik Werdelin, Matt Meeker and Carly Strife, who were trying to come up with a way dog owners (or dog parents, to use the term they prefer) could delight their dogs on a regular basis.
“There’s a difference between a dog owner and a dog parent,” Werdelin told New York magazine. “Dog parents are people who really love their dogs. Unfortunately, there aren’t many places they can go to find new ways to delight their dog. BarkBox is full of those things.”
The items change monthly, and subscribers can choose one-month ($29), three-month ($24 per month), or six-month ($19 a month) plans. The company donates a portion of profits to animal shelters.
According to the BarkBox website, plans automatically renew, unless you cancel.
(I’ve never liked that kind of marketing — not since, as a teenager, I ended up in debt and with a bunch of albums I didn’t want thanks to a record-of-the-month club that refused to stop sending them until I informed them in writing that I had died.)
The genius of BarkBox is that — unlike humans who get an unrequested Perry Como album — dogs aren’t likely to turn their noses up at anything included in their packages.
Ace loved everything his contained — four types of treats and a floppy turkey toy made of cotton, jute and rope.
Once he got hold of a beef bladder chew from Barkworthies, there was no letting go — though I did put the rest of the treats aside for later.
It was a lovely and thoughtful gift, and hopefully a one-time one. I’d hate to think the gift giver might, through automatic renewal, be sending Ace a monthly box of treats for the rest of her life, or worse yet, that I might be held accountable for covering that expense.
If that happens, they can expect to be paid off with lightly-used Olivia Newton-John albums.
Posted by John Woestendiek December 26th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, bark box, barkbox, box, christmas, dog, doggie, dogs, gifts, marketing, merchandise, merchandising, online, package, pet, pets, products, subscription, toys, treats
Ace dragged me down to Bethania’s annual Black Walnut Festival over the weekend, but I don’t think the nuts were the reason he was pulling so hard on the leash.
More likely it was the smell of barbecue that had been wafting up the street since the night before.
We both ate well, him especially.
In addition to getting half of my barbecue and half of my cole slaw (but none of my macaroni and cheese), Ace worked his magic to get frequent hand-outs from the crowd of festival goers — everything from Moravian sugar cake, to slow-cooked pork and beef, to hamburger buns, four of the latter from one table alone.
He got to meet a few dogs, including Roxy, shown above, who is the mascot for Pooch Couture, one of the vendors on hand for the festival.
Wearing sunglasses and a tutu, Roxy immediately attracted Ace’s interest.
So did a poodle, at least until Ace realized she was made of wood — one of many arts and crafts on display.
Walking through the crowd, his eyes would latch on to anyone carrying a plate. Every time someone stopped me to ask what breed or breeds he was, he’d get tired of hearing the explanation — it takes a while – and tug me toward the barbecue tent.
Based on the amount of food and attention he got, I’m sure Ace will want to go back next year.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 30th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, barbecue, bethania, black walnut festival, clothing, dog, dogs, festival, food, north carolina, pets, pooch couture, travels with ace, treats, vendors, winston-salem