DOT: Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks
My sweet Chloe is 9 years old this year. Chloe is the smartest dog I've ever had. I attribute this to her Border Collie genes. She can do 13 different tricks, almost all of which she learned within 3-5 attempts. She's such a ham and loves to show off for people. She could have learned more, but I ran out of ideas.
She also understands an amazing variety of words and non-verbal body language. The other day she was "cleaning the floor" after I spilled some cat food (I think every dog knows how to do this trick) and I saw she had missed one. So I said (with only the smallest head nod), "Chloe, you missed one over there", and she immediately turned around and scarfed it up. I was impressed.
When I'm looking for Mr. C, I'll tell her, "Show me Daddy" and she will take me straight to him. If he's outside, she takes me to the window closest to him.
She is also incredibly obedient. We've never raised our voices with her ever since we first got her, because we quickly learned even a stern "No!" would have her peeing on the floor. (I guess she's taught us lots of tricks, too.) She's just obedient because she wants to be. She will sit in our front yard and if we tell her to stay, will stay in the exact spot until we give her a release command. We can go off on a walk around the block and come back and she still will not have moved. She never gets up on furniture without permission, always comes when called, stays out of the cat food and cat box - well, you get the picture.
Unfortunately, her sister Abbie Bad Beagle does not come close to Chloe's intellect or compliance. In fact, Abbie is the complete opposite of Chloe in these ways. It's a good thing she's so damn cute, that's all I can say.
Lately, Chloe has picked up a new behavior that I find fascinating because she has figured out how to break a rule while not breaking it at the same time. She has learned to be devious, while not technically breaking the rules.
We give each dog a Science Diet bone after they potty outside in the morning. These are medium sized bones. Chloe belongs to the "eat it now" school of thought, whereas Abbie likes to save her treats for later. One day we noticed Chloe going about her usual doggy routine of trotting around looking out windows, checking out the cats and following us around, but her mouth was partially opened. It just looked weird. Mr. C realized she had something in her mouth and told her to drop it. Normally she will immediately obey, but this time she was very reluctant, just like a little kid who thinks they're about to get in trouble.
It turned out to be one of their treats. We knew she had eaten hers and figured out it was Abbie's. We gave it to Abbie, who finally ate it and that was that. Or so we thought. It started to become a regular occurance. Chloe never got in trouble, but she was never rewarded by getting to eat the treat, either.
Last weekend, I thought it would be fun to see how long she'd carry the treat around without eating it. The answer: all day long. She did put it down (in her treat-eating spot under the dining room table) to eat her dinner and hid it somewhere when she was napping, but otherwise, that treat was in her mouth! She didn't take even a little nibble from it, although it was kind of mushy on the surface. She knew she wasn't supposed to eat it, but nobody ever told her she couldn't carry it around, so technically she was following the rules.
Who knew that dogs could figure out how to push the envelope?
Mr. C and I had a good laugh over this, and decided to let her have the treat. And realized that nobody can be perfect all of the time, not even the world's smartest dog.