Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dog Smarts

Our golden retriever Daisy is not entirely smart.

She's also not entirely dumb.

So when she's either smart or dumb, it still surprises me.

When she was a puppy, she ate rocks. And socks. And mulch. This did not bode well for her intelligence. She still eats socks and other textiles when she can get them. This, combined with the fact that so many people in this house leave socks on the floor, means poor Daisy has to stay in the crate when we're not home.

On the other hand, last year, Daisy was trained to the invisible fence in lickety-split time. The collar was on its lowest setting, which was startling but not painful (as I found out for myself), but Daisy learned VERY quickly that she did NOT like being startled and will not go near the boundaries of her realm.

Of course, she is a dog and is easily distracted. Nick accidentally threw a tennis ball for Daisy across the invisible fence. "Oh, a BALL! Running away from me!! I must RETRIEVE it!!!"

"Yip, yip, yip, yip!!!!"

And now Daisy will not retrieve balls in the yard.

At all.

One day, I let her outside through the garage. After she'd been out for a while, I called her in from the front door. No dog. I called some more. Still no Daisy. I started to panic, thinking maybe she'd run out of the fence, but then a small voice of reason inside my head whispered, "You let her out through the garage. I'll bet she's there."

I walked through the house to the garage and opened the door, and there she was, staring at the door expectantly. When she looked up at me, she seemed to say, "Oh, hi! What took you so long? You kept calling and calling, and I've been right here."

Oh, Daisy, my golden-butted ray of sunshine. The breeder said you'd be sensible.

When Daisy wants something off the kitchen counters or table, she's smart enough to wait until no one is around. I've sneaked peeks, and she actually looks around for people before putting her paws on the counter. She's eaten kale, guacamole, lasagna, cheese, egg shells, sticks of butter, chicken bones, napkins (used and unused), and an entire tub of Brummel and Brown yogurt spread.

It's surprising how rarely she barfs.

Eventually, we learned to build impromptu barriers between Daisy and food on the counter using large bottles of olive oil, wine, the toaster, the knife block, the coffee pot...whatever is at hand. She has us reasonably well trained by now, although occasionally we get distracted and walk away from the kitchen and ohmygosh! A doggie feast!

"No, no, no! Bad dog!"

Monday this week, I let her outside through the sliding glass door in the basement. (Our basement has a small walk-up beside the deck, which comes off the main floor of the house.) After a while, I needed to leave to pick the boys up at school, so I called Daisy inside through the same door since, well, that's how her brain usually works.

She did not come. I called again and heard a noise. Looking up at the deck, I saw her looking down at me. Expectantly.

"Daisy, come here!"

She cocked her head and looked at me, puzzled. Her tail wagged.

"Come here!"

Her expression clearly said, "I want to come down there, Mom, but I don't know how!!!"

When she came inside (through the upstairs deck door), she was very excited to be reunited with me. I said out loud, without really thinking and in a very cheerful voice, "I'm going potty and then you're going in the box!" She got even more excited and ran straight to my bathroom, occasionally glancing behind her to make sure I was following.

You see, she often accompanies me to the potty because I'm just sitting there so I might as well pet her, right? But I had no idea she knew the word in relation to that room. She knows it in relation to the yard--her potty--and when we say "Do you want to go potty?" she runs for the front door. This time, however, she understood the context as it related to my potty habits and went straight for my bathroom.

Smart dog.

Daisy is the sweetest dog we've owned. She loves everyone and assumes everyone loves her right back. She's also on her way to having the largest working vocabulary of any dog we've owned.

But when it comes to spatial relationships and problem-solving that does not involve food, she's got a long way to go before she's even sensible, much less smart.

She makes us laugh, though, and that's a pretty smart thing for a dog to do.


  1. Just gotta love that Daisy. Hugs, Daisy.

  2. Great post, Susan! Pet her for me too!!!

  3. What a fun and interesting post! Furry friends bring so much love and laughter.

  4. Oh, I want one! My husband wants some coon dog, which sounds slobbery, and ahrd to keep in the yard.


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