Sit. Down. Stay. Think. Good Dog!
May 24, 2012 1:36 PM   Subscribe

"When your dog gazes up at you adoringly, what does it see? A best friend? A pack leader? A can opener?" Gregory Berns of Emory University decided to put a couple canines in an MRI scanner to try and find out what goes on inside their heads (adorable news footage here). The results have recently been published in PLoS ONE.
posted by Panjandrum (63 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
"The dogs were trained to wear earmuffs..."

Five bucks says this was considerably harder than getting them to stay still.
posted by griphus at 1:40 PM on May 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


I absolutely love it when academic papers say things like: "Considerable effort was spent fitting and training the dogs to wear earmuffs..."
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:43 PM on May 24, 2012 [17 favorites]



It's not that hard to get a dog to wear adorable headwear....
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:46 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately nobody is going to get the answers here. What they've done is demonstrated the feasibility of brain maps on unrestrained, randomly selected dogs. That's a long way from answering all of those hypotheticals that the article opens with.

Still, interesting, and promising for the future. Thanks for attaching the actual academic material, that's always my favorite part, and it helps the community to stand out from all of the link bait and poorly researched tripe online.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:47 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Who's a good test subject..! WHO's a good test subject..! You are! Yes you! YES YOU! Awww who's a good test subject..!
posted by pyrex at 1:48 PM on May 24, 2012 [52 favorites]


When my dog gazes up at me, she sees God, ironically, it is exactly opposite to what I see when I gaze at her, I see doG.
posted by HuronBob at 1:49 PM on May 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


The dog in the video did indeed look quite happy and at ease. The researcher also showed body language and vocal signals of pleasure ;-) Probably feels like a kennel/crate to the dogs once they've been familiarized!

This bit from the first article is an interesting perspective:
"It's possible that dogs have even affected human evolution. People who took dogs into their homes and villages may have had certain advantages. As much as we made dogs, I think dogs probably made some part of us, too."
*closes eyes halfway, sighs, stretches* Cats too, methinks.
posted by fraula at 1:50 PM on May 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Indeed, as Stagger Lee said, this study doesn't seem to answer the question posed at the beginning of the FPP. If I'm reading the linked study correctly, the results they got answered the question of whether the 'reward centers' of the dogs' brains lit up upon seeing a hand signal indicating a forthcoming treat. The answer, in alignment with our already fairly extensive understanding of conditioning, was yes. Meaning when a dog sees a hand signal indicating a treat is on its way, the dog feels pleasure. I'm under the impression that the main innovation of this study was in its development of methodology for MRI scanning dogs' brains.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 1:52 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Both dogs were trained over several months to walk into an fMRI scanner and hold completely still while researchers measured their neural activity.

Um, you guys...
posted by R. Schlock at 1:52 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for attaching the actual academic material, that's always my favorite part

Mine too, can't stand science articles/posts that leave off the actual paper. This in particular is what caught my eye when a co-worker told me about the study:
Although it is technically possible to implement a wide range of restraints, from harnesses to implanted fixation devices, we believe this violates a basic principle of self-determination that is normally reserved for humans, but in this case should be extended to dogs: they should be free to exit the scanner at all times. Similarly, this means that purpose-bred laboratory dogs should not be used as they have no choice.
That's really going above and beyond current standards for animal research and is actually quite radical. I totally agree with your first point though, the paper mostly shows that you can get dogs to sit still in a scanner wearing adorable earmuffs.
posted by Panjandrum at 1:52 PM on May 24, 2012 [38 favorites]


Academic 1: What're you doing?

Academic 2: Nothing. Why?

Academic 1: Some of us were gonna get together and put a dog in the MRI machine. Wanna come?

Academic 2: Sure. Sounds a lot safer than the time they put a badger in the particle accelerator.
posted by dortmunder at 1:53 PM on May 24, 2012 [58 favorites]



Unfortunately nobody is going to get the answers here. What they've done is demonstrated the feasibility of brain maps on unrestrained, randomly selected dogs. That's a long way from answering all of those hypotheticals that the article opens with.

Well, that they got results they expected from this is novel in and of itself.

I know of labs that do scans of non-human primates and one of the big problems is that the animals have to be anesthetized to do it. You don't get much functional data, and mostly it's entirely structural. That's not worthless - for example if you want to study what genes ar expressed in animals with large amygdala, the MRI will tell you. But if you want to know what parts are involved in choosing one reward over another, it's not so good. An MRI is a freaky, loud, and claustrophobic thing - even studies with children usually require a fair amount of training and practice in a simulator before they ever get in one. It's usually just not possible with un-sedated animals.

Getting an awake, non-sedated, animal into the MRI and performing tasks opens up a whole new avenue of research. Of course, some of it (like with other animal studies) will be varying degrees of palatable to the general public. But the ability to see further and better into the brain offers real promise for a better future for a lot of people.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:00 PM on May 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm sure I saw an academic study a while back that concluded dogs have only two meaningful brain states:

1. I will eat that thing.
2. I will move my body over there.
posted by colie at 2:01 PM on May 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah One Second Before Awakening, that's my understanding as well. They got some baseline scans and demonstrated feasibility, now future researchers can do what they want with this.
I'm not saying that to diminish the achievement at all, I thought the article was really interesting, and this is promising.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:03 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]




Getting an awake, non-sedated, animal into the MRI and performing tasks opens up a whole new avenue of research. Of course, some of it (like with other animal studies) will be varying degrees of palatable to the general public. But the ability to see further and better into the brain offers real promise for a better future for a lot of people.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:00 PM


I'm imagining all of the industry benefits, it's not just academia that could run with this:

"Hey cool, cattle are calmer when they're wearing adorable earmuffs, and now we can get them to lie still until the conveyor belt gets them to the stunner and the kill floor!"
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:05 PM on May 24, 2012


Your dog wants steak.
posted by jquinby at 2:06 PM on May 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Obligatory Larson
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:07 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


A portion of a cat's brain, in assembly:
JMP oncounter
...
oncounter: JSR preen
snaxloop: JSR searchsnax
JSR counthumansinsight
LDA humansseen
BEQ snaxloop
JSR evadepursuit
JMP naptime

A portion of a dog's brain, in assembly:
mainloop: DOG
JMP mainloop
posted by JHarris at 2:08 PM on May 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


1. I will eat that thing.
2. I will move my body over there.


3. Can't talk. Pooping.
posted by R. Schlock at 2:08 PM on May 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


4. Can't poop, something smells like a thing.
posted by griphus at 2:13 PM on May 24, 2012 [24 favorites]


"Hey cool, cattle are calmer when they're wearing adorable earmuffs, and now we can get them to lie still until the conveyor belt gets them to the stunner and the kill floor!"

I'm not disagreeing so much as wondering how they might get a cow into an MRI to even find this out...
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:26 PM on May 24, 2012


CAPS LOCK IS HOW I FEEL INSIDE. ALL THE TIME.
posted by basicchannel at 2:29 PM on May 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


For my money, there is no greater insight into how the dog brain works that is ever going to be more accurate than HyperboleAndAHalf.com's Simple Dog.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:30 PM on May 24, 2012 [27 favorites]


I don't need an exhaustive scientific analysis to tell me that when my three dogs gaze up with wet eyes at me they're just trying to tell me, "Freaking feed me already."
posted by blucevalo at 2:31 PM on May 24, 2012


Okay, fine, I'm impressed with the dogs' ability to be trained to go into the MRI scanner. But I bet I would be just as impressed with your average cat's ability to avoid going into it.
posted by jocelmeow at 2:37 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know of labs that do scans of non-human primates

I see what you did there.
posted by Lou Stuells at 2:37 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


dogs have only two meaningful brain states

Not counting the apparently unique ability to understand human gestures.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:40 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


5. Hey!
posted by infinitewindow at 2:41 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am pretty sure when my dog looked up at me he saw the total pushover who was also prone to dropping taco fixins on the floor.

I'd love to see them do cats next but seriously, lol not gonna happen.
posted by elizardbits at 2:42 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


6. SQUIRREL!
posted by briank at 2:46 PM on May 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's easy to get a cat into an MRI machine, just put an empty cardboard box in the middle of it.
posted by jamaro at 2:51 PM on May 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


I can't believe we've gotten this far without a "I have no idea how these people got their dogs wedged into their MRI scanners, or why."
posted by Panjandrum at 2:51 PM on May 24, 2012 [18 favorites]


Not a breakthrough until they do the comparison study with cats... But how will they train the cats??
posted by Bwithh at 2:51 PM on May 24, 2012


There is a precedent for putting animals in fMRI machines ...

In the fMRI scan, it looked like the dead salmon was actually thinking about the pictures it had been shown ...
posted by memebake at 2:53 PM on May 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Another Larson about understanding dogs
posted by memebake at 3:00 PM on May 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sure. Sounds a lot safer than the time they put a badger in the particle accelerator.

Research badger don't care.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:03 PM on May 24, 2012 [4 favorites]



There is a precedent for putting animals in fMRI machines ...

In the fMRI scan, it looked like the dead salmon was actually thinking about the pictures it had been shown ...
posted by memebake at 2:53 PM on May 24 [1 favorite +] [!]


"To illustrate the magnitude of the problem we carried out a real experiment that demonstrates the problem of not correcting for chance properly."

That doesn't really apply to what we're looking at here, although I suppose the concerns could very well apply to future research.

The headline of the Wired article, "Scanning Dead Salmon in fMRI Machine Highlights Risk of Red Herrings" is exactly why I hate science journalism.
posted by Stagger Lee at 3:14 PM on May 24, 2012


Five bucks says this was considerably harder than getting them to stay still.

Actually... I doubt it. "Stay" is a pretty basic command that most dogs can master with a minimum of effort for all involved. My parents' dog will stay absolutely stock still while we hide a toy elsewhere in the house until we tell her to go get it. Minutes at a time.

Dogs just love working. What we think of as tricks, they seem to think of as stuff to do that humans like, which is AWESOME. The difference between training your dog to sit, stay, and fetch and training them to sit in an MRI for a bit isn't actually all that big.

So to me, this looks like a slightly more intense version of your standard obedience or work-dog training. Probably took a few months, because that's about how long it takes to really teach a dog something, i.e., get them to get what it is that you want.
posted by valkyryn at 3:15 PM on May 24, 2012


Cats too, methinks

I'm pretty sure that I evolved specifically to perform the function of Cat Concierge.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:44 PM on May 24, 2012




6. SQUIRREL!

My son will get the dog in a bear hug, then holler "there's a squirrel!" the ensuing tussle as the dog tries to break free and make for the yard is one of the most hilarious thing either of them does.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:00 PM on May 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


colie: "I'm sure I saw an academic study a while back that concluded dogs have only two three meaningful brain states:

1. I will eat that thing.
2. I will move my body over there.
"

3) Laugh at the hunter who can't hit the duck.
posted by symbioid at 5:32 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder what cognitive category a cat places a human who feeds/plays with/takes care of it. Mother? Particularly dull/clumsy kitten? Inanimate object with useful properties? Or something bizarre like a special case of a unit of territory?
posted by acb at 5:43 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Despised god.
posted by R. Schlock at 5:45 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was a little disappointed that we're really just at the start of this research, as it's of particular interest to me.

I can't say precisely why. I do know that, if there is ever a documentary about me, and they ask if there is something about me that might surprise people, everybody who knows me will say "Well, he spent a lot of time wondering about dogs."

My girlfriend caught me changing the subject of a discussion yesterday. She saw some twins, and she said "I wonder if it is weird for them to be twins." And I said "I often wonder if dogs don't find it weird to be dogs." I was in earnest. I think both the comedy and tragedy of dogs is that they try so hard to fit in in the human world, and fail so much. You can tell that they know when they have messed up, and are hideously ashamed of the fact.

I means, twins? All they know is being twins. They aren't going to find it weird, because its just how they are.

But dogs? Dogs are creatures that want to be humans and aren't. So, yes, I think dogs find it weird to be dogs.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:47 PM on May 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


When I lost my Shar Pei/Lab mix back in 2009, I decided that I needed to have two dogs the next time around, because I always felt like I'd set my poor dog up to be lonely when I was working. I ended up with a definitive odd couple, with a beagle and a Carolina Dog.

The beagle is an unusually tiny beagle at twenty pounds, but he's just...beagley. Not super smart, easily misled, ready to bay with his pack, and stubborn as a goddamn mule. He's adorable.

My Carolina Dog, on the other hand, is like a Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom DVD box set with fur. The whole discovery of Carolina Dogs as a distinct landrace of dogs that predate European colonization of North America is a story unto itself, with the enormous reservation of land set aside for the Savannah River Nuclear Site figuring into the survival of an ancient breed left to evolve into a new environment. As a branch of the "pariah" or "primitive" family tree, they're very close to what a dog becomes when they're not bred for human uses.

Daisy, my CD, is absolutely fascinating, and having Lou (beagle, esquire) as a sort of control group makes for really interesting observations about the intersection of dogs and humans. Lou's cuddly and food crazy and seeks out attention of the traditional dog-human sort, but Daisy's more aloof, more independent, and has odd quirks like how she responds to being petted.

Wait, what's your hand doing? Oh, you're going to pet me.

"How's it going, buddy?"

It's fine. Yes, you're petting me. Are you done yet? No? Sigh.

"Jeez, you're as fickle as a damn cat," I'd mutter, because she actively avoids petting, preferring to bring me the large shaggy mass of knotted rope that's her favorite thing in the world.

Here. Take this. No—just kidding, don't take it. No, here it is—ha! I was kidding!

"I'm not going to throw it unless you let go of it, dummy."

Okay. Here. Kidding! No, seriously—here. Ha! No, come back...here it is. Nope!

The signs and actions can be a little subtle. All dogs are alert to the world, but Daisy seems to have this sort of supernatural skill, like vision in the ultraviolet or something. Lou responds to motion and familiarity, tipping his snout up to hoooooooooooooooooooooo! in that perfect sonorous beagle bay, but Daisy makes yodely whoops and gawoos and growps and a weird hoarse fluting thing that's used for very specific things. It's just a joy to watch, because so much of it is so mysterious—rooted in skills and behaviors designed for the swamps and riparian environs of the deep South.

Really? Again? What's with you and all this petting, you perv?

I really haven't ever met a dog so obviously annoyed by petting, but it's a trait common in CDs, among some of their other little oddities, like the snout pits and the snake-whipping and the constant emergence of fixations that don't make a lot of sense until you let yourself think your way into ancient history, when her ancestors first made their way across the Bering Strait land bridge.

She knows I'm the boss, though, and likes to test the boundary, but only so much. When I get home, if she can't find the shaggy rope thing fast enough, I get the Vivian-Vance-meeting-Bob-Cummings smile—an absolutely hilarious gesture where she wrinkles her nose and reveals her top teeth in what would look sort of like a half growl if I didn't know it was a submission gesture and mentally imagine her saying "Ohhh Mr. Cummings, I'm your biggest fan!"

Oh no, here's the damn hand again.

I've got the only dog in the world who can actually model the teenage eye roll, but I can't help but pet her because she's adorable and has built-in eye makeup like a young Siouxsie and those fucking insane radar ears...but I digress. Primitive dogs are just more independent, more inclined to play and run and kill things and shove that damn rope thing in your mouth while you're sleeping because they may not think they're people, but they're pretty sure you're some kind of fucked up dog who prances around on hind legs for god knows what reason, and when I think about it, I think she sees being petted in the way I see the strange fixation on nipples among the big gay bears of North America.

Oh, no. Are you going for my nipples again? Yeah, fine, whatever. You know they don't really do anything, right? Yep, now the tuning-the-radio thing. Gotcha. Ah, the biting. Sigh.

"You like that?"

Just get the damn rope toy, already.

We run together, little beagley Lou and Daisy the ancient exotic, and I don't really know how they see me, and I never will, with any certainty, but—

There's a voice I do for Lou that's somewhere between Gomer and Bill Clinton, that's always grousing and expressing funny Southern attitudes, but no matter how looney and cutesy I get with my dogs, I've never been able to come up with a voice for Daisy, because it feels like bringing a radio on a camping trip—you think it's going to be cool, and then you hear the wild woods and the birds and the wind in the trees and the brook down in the gully by the campsite and that tinny little noise just sounds so wrong. Everything she says to me is my own projection, rendered in imaginary thought bubbles in a language I barely understand, but I'm learning.

I've read a lot of theory about how humans and dogs are virtually a gestalt bonded species, with human and dog evolution a sort of push and pull that's not just the usual hegemonic master and client relationship. Dogs hung with us because we fed them, humans warmed to dogs because they watched out for us, so they got better at being dogs instead of wolves and we learned to love them and that perfect evolutionary dance drifted and dipped and spun to the rhythms of the setting sun and the shifting seasons until we arrived in the future with computers and magic and the vent in the dashboard like a ticker tape of all the wondrous scents we're rushing through at the pace of a pack chasing down the moon.

It's a cold night, one more of the perks of this inexplicable Maryland spring that's defying the usual rules about steaming us like lobsters before May trickles away, and I'm curled up with Lou snoring at my feet. Daisy usually prefers her favorite chair in the other room, but comfort trumps dignity, and I hear her nails clicking into the room on the pine. I turn on the little lamp there, and she's standing there, waiting.

"What, you want an engraved invitation?"

She stands there. Ears up, a little furrow between her perfect mascara eyes.

"Sheesh," I say, and lift the edge of the flannel sheet. Ears flip back, and she steps up with the grace of a leopard finding the right low branch from which to plan the perfect crime, the polar opposite of little bowlegged Lou, who trots around like a stevedore after a night of beer and boxing on the television. There's a step and a swirl and she finds the space that's just right, just far enough for her aloof nature, but always with one point of contact, a paw on my knee or the ridge of her spine against my shin, and that's it.

I snap off the light and the day starts to fade, and I don't know what these dogs want from me, exactly, but I know they know that we're all in it together, and that's enough.

I've always been a coward,
and I don't know what's good for me.
 
posted by sonascope at 6:36 PM on May 24, 2012 [54 favorites]


It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this research, it’s a fascinating topic. I loved my dog and with all her quirks at times it sure seemed like there was a person in there.

A few years ago I was sick with the worst flu I’ve ever had, miserable and drifting in and out of consciousness. I’d set up camp in the only place I could get comfortable, my living room recliner. At one point she dropped her ball into my lap and nudged it a couple times with her nose and then looked at me. I petted her a bit, set the ball down and told her it wasn’t a good time to play. She went back to her bed, lay down and watched me and I drifted off. When I next woke up I was surrounded by dog toys. She had emptied out her toy box and laid all her different balls, bones, chew toys and pull toys etc. in around me and she lay on her bed ears up, forehead wrinkled and watching my like a hawk. I’ve always wondered about the purpose of that gesture, was that her way of trying to comfort me or make me feel better maybe performing an experiment on her human? Or is that just silly anthropomorphization?

She also used to sulk. Any time I would pull my suitcase out of the closet and start packing she would hop up into my recliner and lay down facing the back of the chair with her back to the living room and ignore me. She only ever did this when my suitcase came out. The last time I went to Europe I was gone for a month and when I came back she spent three days totally ignoring me, it was almost like having a giant cat. On the third night after I had gone to sleep she hopped up on my bed curled up and went to sleep and everything went back to normal.

She was a good dog and I would have given quite a lot to know what was going on inside that head. I can’t wait to see if these researchers discover anything.
posted by the_artificer at 7:05 PM on May 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


You Far Side fans missed the most applicable one: How to recognize the moods of an Irish Setter.
posted by carsonb at 7:48 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sure you could get a cat to do that if it was an attractive offer.
posted by bleep at 8:01 PM on May 24, 2012


Any time I would pull my suitcase out of the closet and start packing she would hop up into my recliner and lay down facing the back of the chair with her back to the living room and ignore me.

Heh. My dog will just jump on the suitcase and say (pretty much) where the fuck do you think you're going? (And then she realizes she's staying with the neighbor, and changes her tune to "get the fuck out".)
posted by inigo2 at 8:13 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Research badger don't care.

Are you sure about that?
posted by research monkey at 8:51 PM on May 24, 2012


Yet another fucking awesome story, sonascope.
posted by nihraguk at 9:15 PM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Stay" is a pretty basic command that most dogs can master with a minimum of effort for all involved.

My dog has not received this memo. Perhaps you can send it again?
posted by spicynuts at 10:00 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would love to know what my dog Vanna is thinking. Unlike our sloppy sweet basset hound her actions are sort of a mystery to me. She is more aware of her surroundings than other dogs I've lived with. She notices even cartoon animals on TV and goes to investigate them and she is incredibly obsessed with the contrails and runs under them and barks at the sky. When I make her come inside she checks all the ceilings and windows to make sure the contrail hasn't gotten inside.

I am pretty sure I could teach her to sit still with earmuffs on.
posted by Saminal at 11:57 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


colie: "I'm sure I saw an academic study a while back that concluded dogs have only two meaningful brain states:

1. I will eat that thing.
2. I will move my body over there.
"

Also, dogs view their owner as a massive salt-lick.

Owner: "C'mere.... Good boy!
Dog: SALTSALTSALTSALTSALT!!!!!!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:22 AM on May 25, 2012


"Stay" is a pretty basic command that most dogs can master with a minimum of effort for all involved.

My dog has not received this memo. Perhaps you can send it again?

spicynuts, nothing personal, but it's probably not your dog that missed the memo...
posted by IAmBroom at 1:47 AM on May 25, 2012


Thanks for sharing this, Panjandrum, it was fun to find myself equal parts fascinated and utterly unable to stop blurting out "OHHHH WOOHOO BOOGIE SNOOGIE BOOGUMS" with every link I opened. As our current dog is part Feist I was tickled to see that one of the test subjects was one of these relatively unfamiliar dogs, too (although ours would probably make a poor 'participant' if sitting still was necessary - her near-constant full-body wag makes her look like a bobblehead doll much of the time).

The author's speculation on future research directions was exciting - I was especially intrigued by his suggestion that such scans be employed in investigating how dogs process human language, and if - as with humans themselves - it's possible their brains treat it somehow differently from other types of sounds. The influence humans have had on the evolution of various animals is already interesting on so many levels, but the thought that some other creature could have developed anything even approaching a capacity for specialized processing of human speech is mind-boggling.

Thanks, too, to sonascope for such a great read (although I feel sort of cheated without pictures of the beasts in question!). I was about to give up on this thread as given over to the usual "cats are so mysterious" remarks; glad I stuck with it to your gem of a comment.
posted by DingoMutt at 2:13 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mongrels on why dogs bark.
posted by salmacis at 3:32 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


spicynuts, nothing personal, but it's probably not your dog that missed the memo...

well, the sit memo was warmly received and embraced. The "come" memo resulted in a degree of skepticism and some questions but ultimately passed muster. Likewise with the "lay down" missive. The "stay" epistle however seems to have been lost in the mail so yes if you are implying that it is the mailman's fault I am willing to concede that Kenneth holds no blame in the matter.
posted by spicynuts at 6:08 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


'silly anthropomorphization' We humans do a lot of that.
posted by judson at 8:20 AM on May 25, 2012


"The beagle is an unusually tiny beagle at twenty pounds, but he's just...beagley. Not super smart, easily misled, ready to bay with his pack, and stubborn as a goddamn mule. He's adorable."

Sounds like the twin brother our beagle never had.



Now that I think about it... no, just another beagle.
posted by howling fantods at 1:51 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


sonascope, you are the best.
posted by Philby at 6:21 PM on May 25, 2012


spicynuts: OK, here's exactly what I'm saying.

Your side of the communication is:
I told my dog to do A, and he did A.
I told my dog to do B, and he did B.
I told my dog to do C, and he did C.
I told my dog to do D, but he won't do D!
His side of the communication might be:
If Master says A, I am to do A. If my nuts itch, I lick them. bee is kinda fun, and sometimes Master says "B" when I want to do bee, so that's cool. Did you know his feet smell just like that spot on the carpet where some cat peed, a long time ago? But not like fresh cat pee! Hey, funny thing, every time he says C, and I do this thing, he gets all happy. He's cute when he's happy. I gotta try to do this thing more often. My nose itches. Ooh, and it tastes like dog food - score! Why is master still saying D at me? I know; I'll do bee and this thing; that will probably make him super-happy!
You found a way to communicate the other commands to him, but not this one. Yet. Change your dialog. It takes A LOT of training before a dog realizes that whenever you repeat a new word, it also has a behavioral meaning... and in fact, sometimes they never learn it, even if they perform it correctly 100% of the time.

For instance, I believed for the longest time my dog followed several verbal commands, until I realized I always accompanied them with hand gestures. No real problem; dogs often "get" somatics easier than verbal commands - but I wanted him to SPEAK on SPEAK, not on "I tap my chin". The changeover took longer than the original training, by far. And I spent months in the delusion that the word SPEAK actually meant something to him - only to discover that with my hands firmly at my side, he had no idea what to do when I said SPEAK.

He's still better at obeying/understanding gestures than verbal commands.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:53 AM on May 27, 2012


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