Smart dogs are a pain in the a$$.
There, we said it. And we meant it. We know from personal experience just how true this is. Simon, Fran’s 4-year-old Boston Terrier, is possibly the smartest dog we’ve ever lived with. And he’s the most trouble. Smart dogs really are a pain in the ass.
Part of it stems from the fact that dogs’ brains work differently from people’s. They don’t naturally “generalize,” it’s something that has to be taught. Generalizing means that when you know how to use a spoon, you know how to use every spoon, no matter what it looks like or the circumstances. Dogs don’t know that. Every “spoon” is a new and different experience.
How it applies
Take towels. Tango’s (13-year-old Brussels Griffon) has been fighting some kind of stomach upset for a week or so. So we’ve been covering the dog beds with old towels – they’re easier to throw in the laundry when Tango throws up on them. (A daily occurrence for about 10 days.)
Simon loves to suck on, carry around, chew on, shred material. We finally convinced him that the towel covering Tango’s favorite bed was not to be removed. So Simon went to the second favorite bed and ran off with that towel. And so on.
Brains = trouble
Smart dogs like Simon also tend to be creative problem-solvers, depending somewhat on their heritage. Almost all small dogs originally had the job of pest-control. They were bred to work independently and solve the problem of getting to their prey. Which means that Simon moves furniture to climb up and see what interesting things we left on the dining room table. Since Simon, surfaces have no clutter around here.
The most interesting part of having a brainy dog is seeing how his mind works. He’s a wonderful gauge of our training techniques. Dogs watch our body language as well as listen to our words. When we tell our dogs to “Sit!” we lean over (little dogs) to give them a treat when they do it. Sometimes we want our dogs to stay sitting – especially when we’re training for dog sports like obedience or rally.
When we straightened up after delivering the treat, Simon stood, too. He pays incredibly close attention to body language. And his interpretations aren’t always right.
Smart dogs are also fun
Taking advantage of Simon’s smarts is fun, even if it does keep us on our toes. He makes up new ways of doing things and makes us laugh. In the “Put Your Toys Away” game, he loves little plastic food storage containers. And he showed us from the start that he likes them neatly stacked in the bin. He’s a bit OCD, to tell the truth.
So we made up a new game for Simon – Stacking! It’s still in the early stages and not ready for prime time, but we’ll get there.
If you have a smart dog, you have our sincere empathy. Keeping ahead of their curiosity and mischief is almost a job by itself. And it’s also fun, funny, and so worthwhile. Let us know what clever/naughty/nice things your dog has done! We’d love to know we’re not alone.
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