one smart mutt

I have tried to teach my dog all of the commands and tricks that a good dog should know.  I even compiled a spreadsheet of words she understood and added columns to signify if she knew them by hand signals and even by whistles.  Making sure there were no duplicates, I added a column just for synonyms since we alternate commands.  I came up with 37 unique commands.


She knows the basic commands:

Sit
Stay
Lay Down
Come
Take
Give
Drop
Leave it

Then there is the slightly more advanced list of commands:

Biscuit/Treat
Prarie Dog
Roll Over
Play Dead (more like Zombie Dog)
Shake + Other (paw)
Inside
Outside
Walk
Go Home
Go to/Where’s
Out

She knows our names, she knows the cat, and she knows the names of her toys:

“Okey”
“Polly”
Cat
Bone
Duck
Weasel

I was impressed by her intelligence with these commands that, in my opinion, are more abstract or require thought to get the right answer:

Good girl
Bad girl
What do you want? (Out/walk/treat/lovings)
Upstairs
Downstairs
Get/Fetch
Up
No
Foot
Shake/Other (paw)
Get ’em/Give ’em (kisses)

The best command for her since she’s not a small dog is “manners.”  This one instructs her to immediately be aware of her surroundings to not hurt me.  It is useful on walks or taking the stairs.

There were other tricks I tried to teach her that she never could do completely.  For example, fetching a soda from the fridge.  She would take the bottle or can, which was wrapped in an insulating cover, and carry it downstairs.  At first, she would give it to whoever she was instructed but eventually she started taking it into her kennel or just flinging it down the stairs.  (Ah, the teenage years of rebellion.) Sometimes the results of tricks ended up being disastrous.  Her yawn sounds like a “meow” and we thought it would be cute to have a dog who sounds like a cat.  However, she repeats her most recently learned trick constantly as a way of testing it out.  She was “meowing” worse than a cat in heat.  We dropped the use of that command, and eventually she stopped being annoying.

There was one trick though that I wished she could have learned.  It was “turn around.”  Imagine how much easier it would be if she could wipe her own paws by turning around!  Alas, she just couldn’t get it so that was it.  I was happy enough with what she knew and left her at it.

Today, though, she impressed me again so much.  She wanted a treat.  She wanted it badly.  She knows that she’s not allowed to beg, and she needs to have “manners,” so she sat by the treat drawer patiently.  Finally, I told her she would have to do something more impressive than simply sitting for a mid-day snack.  She cocked her head at me, imitating intelligence I think.  Then I said, “If you want a treat, you’ll have to turn around.”

I’ve been told that dogs don’t like sentences.  Simple key phrases are best otherwise they don’t know what to listen for.  This dog is not like those other dogs.  Let me tell you, she turned around clockwise and I gave her the treat immediately.

Okey and I were stunned.  How could she know this?!  We decided to test it out to see if it was a fluke.  We needed to know if she turned around in impatience or frustration so I told her again “turn around.”  She turned to the right again.  This was getting comical.  Our dog knew how to “turn around” but could only go clockwise!  I took this opportunity to prevent her from turning into Zoolander who is not an ambi-turner and spent time with her teaching her to turn.  She would only go to the right, though.  I finally remembered the “trick” we taught her for shaking paws.  The trick is simply “paw” for any paw that she’ll give me, and when I say “other,” she offers the alternate paw.  So I told her to “switch” and she went counter-clockwise!  I just can’t believe it.

I don’t know if you can teach an old dog new tricks, but they can definitely surprise you by showing off when they need the treat.

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7 thoughts on “one smart mutt

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