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Thursday, January 10, 2013

How Smart is Your Dog?

I didn't need a book to tell me that my Malti-Zhu is not considered one of the brightest dogs around, but it did reinforce what I had already discovered -- Corgis are smart and Shih-Tzu's, not so much. My daughter had given me "Understanding Your Dog" for Christmas which I found to be very informative. Although I was using it as research for an upcoming story, I also found that our newest edition to the family behaves pretty much the way the book says she'd behave. Well, they didn't specifically mention Malti-Zhu's, but did mention Shih-Tzu's, which is a breed in the bottom 10 of intelligence.

According to the book, "Breeds in the bottom 10 often require up to 100 repetitions to understand a new command and will obey a known cue the first time it is given only 25% of the time. Even if they know how to sit, they may need to hear the word four or five times before they plop their rear ends down." Now, I didn't know this, but can attest to the truth of it. When I take Bella out I say about 15-xxx times, "Go ahead, go do it, be good girl, c'mon, do it, do it, do it! You want a treat? Then you have to make pee-pee. C'mon, do it, do it, do it." Eventually she does "do it" all the while looking at me and lifting her leg. Yes, she is a female, but she lifts her leg. When she's done she'll come running, "Look what I did, lookie at me, aren't you proud, now where's that freaking treat?"

The book mentioned a few ways to figure our how smart your own dog is:

"The Towel Test" -- When your dog is lying down, drape a large bath towel over his head and time how long it takes for him to lose the towel. Smart dogs master this in less than 15 seconds while slow learners can take more than 30 seconds. I tried it with Bella. If I didn't physically remove the towel, she would still be under it.

"The Bucket Test" -- Line up three lightweight buckets. Show your dog his favorite treat and let him watch you place it under one of the buckets. Divert his attention away from the buckets for a few seconds and then ask him to find it. A smart dog makes a beeline for the correct bucket while slow learners may knock over the other two before finally finding the prize. I tried it with Bella. She didn't knock over any of the buckets and began looking for the treat in another room! So, I tried it again without the "distraction" part. Still, she couldn't find the treat until her back leg accidentally knocked over the correct one.

"The Leash Test" -- Pick a time that you do not customarily walk your dog. Without saying anything, pick up the leash and your house keys in full view of the dog. A smart dog associates the leash and keys with a walk and becomes excited at the prospect of going out. A not so bright one will need to hear "Want to go for a walk" before jumping for joy. I tried it with Bella. Fail, but in all fairness that's because Bella has never gone for a walk on the leash. Why? Because she freezes in whatever position she's in when I put one on her. It's like her feet are cemented in the ground. I can tempt her with treats, balls, toys, even paper towel rolls, and she will not budge. Clearly, if she moves with the leash on her she will die immediately.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a dumb dog. I love my dumb dog because the one thing she "gets" besides whacking her empty dog dish against the wall or my head to tell me she's hungry, even if it's the middle of the night, is how to show love, which is way more important than the number of brain cells she possesses. Besides a bottle of wine, there is nothing that calms me down more than hugging that little baby girl or being smothered with her kisses.

When my daughter (who is second in line in Bella's world) is feeling down, all she needs to do is pick up Bella, "this little girl makes me feel so much better."

My husband is third in line, and Bella gets all crazy and happy when he comes through the door...her chew toy is home! Even if he goes out to just throw garbage and comes right back in, it's like he's been gone for days. "You're back! I've been waiting so long! Let me show you how much I love you...give me that hand so I can chew on it!"

Unfortunately for my son, Bella still thinks he is an evil stranger that comes to our house every evening with the sole purpose of killing mommy. "Who are you? Get out of here! What is that thing on your chin? You must be the biggest dog ever. I'm going to bark at you and scare you until you look at me, then I will hide behind mommy. A treat? You think I'm taking a treat from you? Do you think I was born yesterday?! Clearly, you're trying to poison me!!! that a French fry you're eating? Sure, I'll take that, and another one, and another one. What? There's no more??? Who are you? Why are you here? You're going to kill mommmy!!!!"

At least she knows what "It's bath time Bella!" means...

Well, sorta...

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