Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dog Games

Cadence got an early birthday present last night. We kept hearing about these Nina Ottosson dog games and how fun and great they are. Since we have more dog toys than we know what to do with, we decided Noodle's birthday was a good excuse to splurge and try one of them out. After watching the many videos on-line, we decided to try the Dog Finder game, which has a series of plastic bones in tracks. You hide treats under them, and the bones need to be moved to the end of the track before they can be lifted out and the treat revealed. To make it harder, you can also put a second bone in the track, so they need to remove the first one, then slide and remove the second.

It arrived last night, so we decided to give it a try. It proved to be an entertaining evening and it was fascinating to watch all their minds at work. You learn a lot about how each of them thinks and how they solve problems.

Cadence surprised me the most. He is a fast learner, and very "operant" in that he has been trained almost exclusively using shaping so offers behaviors pretty readily. However, he isn't quite the intellectual that Tristan is - not really a "thinker". I wasn't sure how good his problem-solving abilities would be, or how long his little noodle-brain would stick to the task. So, I was delighted to see him figuring the puzzle out, thinking about it, not getting distracted, and he did quite well uncovering the treats.

Jade tried next, and as predicted, he was the most successful at getting the treats, but primarily because Jade, with his way-high prey drive, tends to resort to violence fast. A couple violent whacks with his paw did a lot to dislodge the bones, and fortunately, prove the manufacturer's claim correct that these things are very durable. Next time I might try to not allow so much paw use, and see if he can think it through, but I was curious to see how he would initially approach it.

Tristan was next. We expected he would be the best at it, and so were not surprised to watch him problem solve his way through the puzzle. He was the first one who I think was comprehending the pattern and starting to figure it out.

Surprisingly though, Django was at least equally good as Tristan, if not better. He also figured out the pattern and a fairly systematic approach to getting the bones out. Tristan, like Jade, did resort to some paw use to help further his efforts, but Django slid and removed the bones almost exclusively with his mouth, which I think took more thinking and patience. Django is the only one we've really taught a formal retrieve to, and I have trained him to hold and fetch a lot of strange objects for fun, so I think he tends to use that as a tool more often. In fact, the first few times he removed the bone, he sat and held it for us waiting for praise, rather than pouncing on the treat revealed in the track.

Maebe was last, and I think we finally found something that she doesn't just excel at. She dislodged a few, worked at a few more, than tried to resort to her usually-effective Princess problem-solving method which involves batting her eyes at her daddy waiting for him to just give her what she wants.

The games are pricey, but I think well worth it if you want to have a fun, indoor activity for your dog. It was fascinating comparing their various methods and seeing how their minds work when they have to figure something out on their own. We learned a lot about all of the dogs and laughed a lot.

Of course, the batteries on the video camera were dead, but we'll have to tape our next game night.

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