By Pam Hogle
A guide dog partner, Deni Elliott, devised a dog version of the marshmallow test for her guide dog. She administered it to her guide Alberta a few years ago. Alberta did well; she actually did many of the things that children who take the marshmallow test do — she looked away, she distracted herself. She didn’t use her toes as a piano or sing a song, but she did distract herself from temptation. In her case, temptation was a bowl full of dog cookies.
We were delighted with her response, and, accepting much of the conventional understanding of the marshmallow test, believed that it indicated strong self-restraint and the ability to delay gratification.
Alberta unfortunately had to retire last year, and Deni got a new guide, Koala. Both girls were raised and trained by Guiding Eyes, in Yorktown Heights, NY; both are bright, funny, smart Labradors.
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By Susan Claire, CPDT-KA
This very fearful dog is showing that he does not want to be approached via his hunched position, flat ears, whites of the eyes and very slight curling of the top lip. Ignore his signals and you may get bitten. Photo: Susan Nilson
If you own a dog, then you teach English as a second language. A dog’s native tongue is body language. Yet, dogs adapt and learn our English words with remarkable ability. There are many emotions that we share with our canine friends, and some that we project onto them. It’s in our best interest to learn about how our dogs really think and feel and learn. If you insist your dog learn your language, then it’s only fair you make the effort to learn his. This will facilitate mutual understanding and communication.
The Myths of Spite and Guilt
Humans love to attribute these two motives to dogs. In reality, dogs experience neither guilt nor spite. When returning from a hard day’s work, you might get annoyed walking into a foul-smelling house and finding a cold pile on the floor. Perhaps you yell at the dog and punish him by rubbing his nose in it. Or maybe you’re more evolved than that, and just scowl, sigh, and complain loudly as you clean it up. Either way, your dog knows you are angry and it’s scaring him. He has no idea why, however, because he had that potty accident hours ago. And he did it simply because he had to go and no one was there to let him out. That’s it- no ulterior motive. How very silly to imagine dogs would use their urine and feces to make a point, or “spite” us. Really, what species does that? Oh, that’s right, primates do.. ( ever been to the zoo?) Luckily for us, dogs are not spiteful, as they’d have all day to plan their revenge- and I imagine it would be far worse than a little potty accident on the floor!
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by Pam Hogle
Photo by Nancy Garrett
A few weeks ago, I was part of an amazing experience — the first-ever continuing education weekend seminar for guide dog teams that included trainers and puppy raisers, as well as 80 teams. The weekend was organized by the Guiding Eyes for the Blind graduate council. Actually, it was two members of the council and their partners (including me). It was a lot of work to pull it off, and as the teams started arriving, we all had a moment of panic. But the weekend was an enormous success — and it made clear how much of a need and desire there is for continuing education among these teams.
Eighty grads attended. They traveled from all over the U.S. and Canada. The registration filled up within days, and that was more than a year before the conference. Even with inevitable cancellations, every grad space was filled. There was a waiting list. We limited puppy raisers to one per region (40 total). We could easily have had many more.
The school was generous, offering some funding and lots and lots of staff assistance. More than thirty trainers attended. Every grad team had the chance to work on issues they were having, whether with dogs being too interested in food on the ground or other issues common to working Labrador teams. Most of the teams are Labs; a few are German shepherds.
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by Pam Hogle
More than fifty years ago, Jane Goodall made a discovery that shook some scientists — particularly those that had long lists of all the things that made humans unique and superior to nonhumans. She saw Chimpanzees using tools.
Since then, other researchers have found other nonhumans using tools, from dolphins who use sponges to protect their beaks to elephants using tools to scratch itches, reach food, and plug water holes. Even crows use tools. But, as far as I know, no researchers have studied whether dogs use tools.
I’d argue that Koala, a guide dog educated at Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, New York, uses tools.
Koala had a problem. When she tried to chew on her antler, it would move. Sometimes it would slip out of her paws — oh, if only she had thumbs — and skitter across the floor. She loved the noise it made (especially when Deni was on the phone), but it was not efficient. She wanted to chew.
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