I'm convinced that canine intelligence is much more complex and nuanced than folks give due credit. We blindly believe in Pavlov's Dog theory; Condition the pooch to follow basic commands by rewarding him with a tasty tidbit.There's some truth to that and if you've ever attended obedience classes, you know what I mean.
"Sit" - treat.
"Heel" - treat.
"Come" - treat.
Do it enough over an extended period and you have a trained dog.
But what about when you have a dog that's an independent thinker? Like a border collie, a sheltie, a terrier and many other breeds and mixes?
A herding breed like the border collie must behave more like a field marshal; corralling, badgering and manipulating the flock across great expanses of terrain. He can't run to Master for help every time a brazen sheep bolts away. The dog must somehow figure out how to drive the sheep back into the herd while maintaining herd cohesion, something I couldn't do with a four-year college degree.
And what about terriers, the group of dogs bred to seek, hunt and kill wily varmints like badgers, weasels, foxes and rats? Those wild critters are not only sharp as knives, but just as dangerous. Think of all the split-second decisions that the dog makes while ferreting out those furry pests. Find the scent trail, check out the multi-complex burrow, snag the beastie in their own den or in the field. A terrier must be part-Clouseau, part-Terminator, but primarily an independent thinker.
And while these sophisticated skills are impressive, they can also be a pain in the butt if you own such a dog like I do - that's DJ, my Welsh terrier. He even manipulates me into feeding him his favorite food du jour.
Example: DJ recently went on a kick of feasting on Lamb/Blueberry, which is fine by me. But after 5 days in a row of indulging my scruffy beast with his newly rediscovered fave meal, it was enough. (I usually feed him something different every day and wanted to get back on that right balanced diet). I plunked a few chunks of Balance Mix (beef, chicken, salmon) into his bowl and gloated.
"You're not gonna be like my son and eat mac 'n cheese all week," I said in shame in my role as a parent. "You will eat a balanced diet whether you like it or not!"
Upon which, my wiry-coated 22 lb. imp lifted his leg and promptly proceeded to pee on my pants. Then he made a mad dash to the basement. I kid you not.
I may have fumed with smoke billowing out of my ears, but I keeled over in laughter. It was so obvious and mischievous what he just did that I was dumbstruck and somewhat in awe of his evil intelligence.
So while I've been a dog fancier all my life, the wonder of canine intelligence never ceases to amaze me.
Even when a scoundrel pees on my pants!