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Category Archives: Dognition

It’s what makes him charming

Fooood Ladeeee!, calls Micron from the backyard. I can’t find my fish!

Oh for the love of Cat, says Bodine.  What the heck are you on about now?

Hey Bodine, I say. I thought you were in the basement taking care of, um, your business. Lookit, it’s fine if you want to hang around and watch, but please don’t be underfoot. I set down the two red plates we’ll be using for the next set of Micron’s Dognition exercises. I look up with a mixture of dismay and dread to see the cat doing his signature Saturday Night Fever Tony Manero strut across the kitchen floor. He sits down on one of the red plates and proceeds to clean his nether regions.  

Like I said, cat o’mine, I need you to be somewhere else right now, I say.  As in, anywhere but right here would be great. Your options are wide open.

Oh, you weren’t using this, were you?  Yeah, I didn’t
think so.

Well, I sure can’t go back down to the basement right now, says Bodine. Actually, you probably shouldn’t either. Not for a while anyway.  In fact, I’d recommend you give it a full fifteen, then head down there with a big scooper for the poo. . .

Stop!, I say. You’re making me woozy just thinking about it.  Why don’t you head out to the living room for a while then.  I don’t want any distractions for Micron.

Good luck with that one, Sparky, says Bodine.  Isn’t “Distractible” his middle name?

Right, I say. And “Look A’Squirrel” should be his last name. Micron needs to focus on his Dognition exercises, so I can’t have you in the kitchen. I’m sure you understand. I’d say it’s nothing personal, but you know it really is you.



Just pretend I’m not here, Micron.

Yap on all you want, Food Lady, says Bodine.  But I’m not going anywhere. Even your puny hooman brain has to have figured out by now that nothing happens in this house unless I either cause it or approve it. And, heh, just the mere mention of Micron and cognitive exercises has my keen feline senses intrigued. 

The cat moves to resumes his personal cleansing ritual while waving a front paw at me. 

Carry on, says Bodine in a muffled voice.

Memory • Storing past experiences to make future choices

Taken directly from last week’s blog post (It’s all fun and games), here was my prediction for Micron’s results in the Memory module for his Dognition profile.

“Ok, so my prediction for the Memory games, you ask?  Judging from the results of my last two guesses on Communication and Cunning, I don’t have any confidence about playing the lottery anytime soon. But here goes anyway.

“The scale for Memory goes from 1-Present Minded to 10-Retrospective.  I can play it safe by predicting Micron will fall right in the middle of the scale. Again. But I’m not that kind of girl. 

“Considering that my food motivated friend will likely be encouraged to recall where a treat has been placed, I’m gonna say the mighty Micron will be a 6 on the scale.”

I admit I was being overly cautious on this one. As much as I wanted to believe that the mighty Micron would do well on the Memory exercises, I just wasn’t feeling the vibes that he would actually excel.  Middle of the road is where I thought the big guy would flomp himself down on this scale.

We started with a warm up game to see if Micron had an understanding that a treasured item still existed even if he couldn’t see it.  We showed him that, yes indeed, a dog cookie was taking space within his immediate universe. And then, right in front of him, hid the thing under a red Solo cup.

Easy ’nuff, right?  But what if we made him wait for a minute or two before he could claim it? How about two and half minutes later . . . and we were using two red Solo cups?

[yawn], says Micron. Give me something tough here, willya?

So here’s where we came out on Memory – note the green bar below. See it down there? It’s the one that is going all the way to Retrospective.  Micron’s kinda off the charts on memory, do you think?

But before you go getting all impressed with this dog and those sharpened neurons snapping about in that golden cranium, let me stop you right here.   Yes, it’s true Micron did go a full two and a half minutes totally remembering which red Solo cup held the awaiting treat.  But one dog’s stellar feats of memory is another dog’s, well, fixation.

Micron does remember things when he wants to. Like the Nerf ball we keep nearly, but not quite, out of reach on a file cabinet in the office. Or the verboten stuffed toy on a co-worker’s desk requiring only a two-legged circus dog stance to reach. He knows precisely who is good for a treat and what is expected of him to score a second one.

All of this knowledge is stocked away in the memory brain cells like well-labeled boxes.  And I believe this Memory skillset has a kissing cousin relationship with that blue bar up there on the scale that is edging towards the Wily side.  Hand in sweaty hand, those two skills.

Reasoning • Inferring the solution to new problems

From Micron’s Dognition profile . . .

Micron is the kind of dog that likes to see all the pieces before he solves the puzzle. Reasoning is the ability to solve a problem when you can’t see the answer and have to imagine the solution. 

Micron scored more towards the impulsive end, which means he doesn’t get caught up in the details – especially details that aren’t right in front of him. There is no shame in this. The reasoning games are the most difficult in the Toolkit and most dogs find them extremely challenging.

From Micron’s performance in the Communication dimension, he relies on you for help when making decisions. He obviously sees you as his best bet when solving a problem.

I showed Micron two red Solo cups, both empty and upside down. Then I let him see I had a treat. Blocking my hand with a sheet of paper, I didn’t allow him to see under which cup I hid the treat. And lastly, I picked up the empty cup to show him there was no treat there.  And . . . Micron, release! In doing this exercise, Micron was challenged to understand the relationship between the empty cup and his treasure.  To rule out what is not to determine what is.



Red Solo cup.  I fill you up.

And that, people, is a whole ‘nuther way of thinking for a canine noggin. According to Dognition, this is a difficult task for many dogs. In fact, crows do better at this type of reasoning, which is something I could have gone the rest of my life without knowing.

That’s right. A corn-eatin’ crow is smarter than my dog in the red Solo cup game.

I’m told there’s no shame in how Micron thought this one through, but instead that I can appreciate he relies on me for assistance in solving problems.

To which I will say, you’re not kidding.  Micron’s cup choice was determined by which side of a central placemarker he positioned himself. When tasked with making the impossible decision — right cup or left cup — the yellow dog sat on the center placemarker directly in front of me, connected with eye contact, and barked.

Get your treat, I told him.

I can’t, he said.

He didn’t know the answer. And he didn’t want to risk being wrong. Because you see, from completing the memory tests he knew if he went to the wrong cup that he wouldn’t get the treat.  So when he wasn’t sure which side to choose, he trusted me to guide him to the answer.

That’s how we’re bonded, me and him.  You see what we did there? We’ve blended English and Doglish into our own special language.

You know what? That’s deep, y’all. 

Nine Dognition Profiles 

With the completion of all the Dognition exercises, Micron’s results put him neatly into one of the nine profiles:



Go ahead and take a wild guess. I had a feeling about where Micron would land on this grid of Social vs Independent Problem Solving. As every other prediction I’ve made since I started on this Dognition journey, I can enjoy the pleasure of being consistent.

Consistently wrong, that is.

Here ya go . . .


Micron can work a problem out on his own as well as anybody, but he prefers to rely on his secret weapon – you. As a Charmer, Micron has exceptional social skills, which means he can read your body language like a book. He is not above using this information to get his own way. Micron is no fool when it comes to independent problem solving, and his scores reflect a keen understanding of the physical world. However, Micron’s real genius is that he sees you as an ally and partner, and he will usually turn to you for help before trying to figure out a problem on his own.

Now take a look at the photo at the top of this post.  You didn’t get that caption before reading all this, did you? And now it makes sense.

Yep, our mighty Micron is indeed a Charmer. I know, I know . . . tell you something you don’t know. Myself, I was leaning towards thinking he might be a Stargazer, yet I can’t deny the Charmer profile is a tidy fit for his golden personality. 

His full profile can be found here on Dognition.

I’m relieved there’s not a set of games for cats. I don’t think I want to know Bodine’s profile. Because, sure as shootin’, it will end in something-path.

It’s all fun and games until somebody gets tired

On your mark . . . get set . . . Release!

Oh, Micron, I sing song. Here, big guy. Let’s play some games.

I’m interrupting Micron as he’s having another Zen experience with the sofa. He is at One with the thing in a deep meditative state.  This period of restoration is needed after napping on the cool floor in the foyer.

Whu? says Micron, blinking.  Games?  I’m in!  Wait a sec, lemme find my special tennis ball.

Not necessary, I say. We don’t need the ball for this. Let’s do something a little different. This will be so much better than fetch.

Oh, ok. Different, huh? he says. He thinks about this. The tail of wondrous beauty starts to wag.  Oh! Is it the cat? Can I play with Bodine on my terms for once? oh please oh please oh please?

You know what?, I say. I don’t even want to know what that means. On your terms? But no, it’s not tormenting the cat. What’s your very favorite thing? I mean, besides napping?

Ah, gotcha! I know, I know! says Micron, with a quick tongue flip to lick his nose.  Play time with dog cookies. You know, I kinda wish they’d make tennis balls out of food. Now, that would be my favorite game, I think.

And that would be the shortest game ever, I say. Ok, now look. I want you to sit on this rug until I release you.  I’ll be over here with the treats. You just come on over and get a treat when I say Release.

Is this some kind of trick, Food Lady? He squints at me.  I’m not allowed to eat off the floor, you said. And getting yelled at doesn’t sound like a fun game. Can I go get the cat now?

The treats aren’t on the floor, I tell him.  Lookit, we have these red plates.

I can’t see red, says Micron.

You can see the two plates though, can’t you? I ask.

Well, yeah, he says.

Then there ya go, I say. This ain’t rocket surgery, Copernicus. I think you’ll get the hang of this just fine.

So we begin with the warm up exercises for the Communication section of our Dognition exercises.  We completed the Empathy sessions last week with games involving contagious yawning and timing how long we can maintain eye contact.  I wasn’t surprised to see Micron off the charts on Bonding; we do spend a lot of time together me and him.



Micron’s Dognition results

I’m feeling pretty darn confident about this next section then. I know my dog real well, I do. And honestly, Micron’s not too hard to read.  It’s almost like he has a cartoon balloon floating over his head with his thoughts. I’d predicted his results on the Communication session to put him well over on the Collaborative side of the scale.  In the image above, imagine the scale as 1 to 10 with Self-reliant being a 1 on the right, Collaborative a 10.  My guess? Micron would fall about 7.

The warm up exercises were interesting to see that Micron, when faced with a choice of selecting a treat on the right or left, always went to his left.  Huh. Well, that’s my right of course. The treat pocket is consistently on the right and cookies distributed from my right hand. Is that what’s happening here or is my creative dog actually left-pawed?

And when we move through the exercises where I point to the treat, alternating left and right, Micron always moves to his left to collect the cookie from the red plate. Except when he doesn’t.  A couple of times, he actually does move to his right. But usually not at same time I’m pointing at it.

What the heck, Micron? We have a bonding here. The dog can soak up emotions like a sponge, but my hand pointing to the cookie provides nary a clue?  So yeah, here’s where he came out on this one.

Micron’s Dognition results

Right smackeroo in the middle.  What is that anyway?  A personality split between unstable and indecisive?

Well, the ill fated Communication session didn’t take very long and since Micron’s still awake we move onto the next session of Cunning.  And, important to pause here to note, that last sentence is the first time I’ve ever used the words cunning and Micron so close together.

The Cunning results have a scale of Trustworthy (that’s our 1 on the scale) to Wily (and that’s the 10, people). Oh heck yeah, Micron.  Here’s a chance to redeem yourself.  This dog o’mine is highly trained, don’t you know.  Micron and trustworthy can be said in the same sentence with straight face.  See, there I said it.  Micron is trustworthy.

The results here will show us how Micron “uses information from others to avoid detection” according to Dognition.  Ok then, Dognition researchers, cinch up your suspenders and prepare yourselves to be wondersmacked by the mighty Micron. Here we go . . .

Three parts to the Cunning exercises.  In the first, I direct Micron to his rug, then set a treat on the red plate a few feet away with a Leave It command. I step back while maintaining eye contact.  We time how long until Micron breaks down from the pressure and takes the treat.  The timer stops at ninety seconds; a good thing because we don’t have all day here. Micron is a rock.  I allow him the treat as a reward for his stellar self-control.

Next is the same concept, except that now I turn my back.  Humming the Jeopardy theme in my head, do do doo do do do do, the yellow feller and I allow the obligatory ninety seconds to elapse. And well done, my amazing dog. With all this mad bonding and training going on, of course he waited.

Do it again, says the Dognition program.  You got it, I say with a flip of my hand.  No worries here.

Sit, Leave it, turn around – we repeat the drill. And do do doo do . . . click click. What’s that now? Did I hear doggie toenails on the kitchen floor?  Naw, wonder dog is just shifting his weight, that’s all.  I glance at the timer and see that only thirty seconds have passed. And very slightly, very slowly I turn my head to make sure the treat’s still in place on the red plate.

can’t . . . move

There’s my dog right behind me. Staring at my back, licking his chops.

The treat is gone.

Really, Micron? You’d do me wrong like this? I thought we had something special happening, me and you.

Fine. You know what? Just fine. One more set. Same thing, but instead of turning my back, I face Micron with my hands covering my eyes.  Let’s see how wily you are now, smart guy.

About a minute in, the moaning starts. No, not me, of course. But I appreciate you wondered that. The dog is doing that passive aggressive thing he does to get attention.  It’s a deep, low sound, this groan.  mmhhhnnnnnuh. Like a very tired lawn mower with sleep apnea*. He is not going to make me look at him.  He is not.  We’ll make it through the ninety seconds.

mmhhhnnnnnuh. Oh for . . .  I part the index and middle digits to peek out.  Micron is still on the rug, but prone on the thing looking like it’s all he can do to stay conscious.  I do believe he’s hit the wall here. After this we’ll be done for the day. 

If there’s one thing this dog has, well it sure ain’t stamina.

So how’d we come out with the Cunning results with the opportunistic cookie thief? Yep, right in the middle again.  I suppose it could have been worse, if he hadn’t been too exhausted to get up on that last set.  It’s a rather rare occurrence, but it seems Naptime trumped the Cookie.

Next on deck is the Memory section.  This is the longest set of games in the program, so it’s obvious what needs to happen here, right?

A good night’s sleep for the big guy and some better treats to keep him going.

Ok, so my prediction for the Memory games, you ask?  Judging from the results of my last two guesses on Communication and Cunning, I don’t have any confidence about playing the lottery anytime soon. But here goes anyway.

The scale for Memory goes from 1-Present Minded to 10-Retrospective.  I can play it safe by predicting Micron will fall right in the middle of the scale. Again. But I’m not that kind of girl. 

Considering that my food motivated friend will likely be encouraged to recall where a treat has been placed, I’m gonna say the mighty Micron will be a 6 on the scale.

Which is not the middle, by the way. The middle would be 5.5, of course.

___________________________________________

*The only thing harder than describing the passive-aggressive moaning phenomena as a snoring two -stroke engine with a hangover is typing the sound out in letters like mmhhhnnnnnuh.  Then I recalled the Yummy Sound from Young Frankenstein (1974).

Watch the volume on your speakers for this clip.  It takes you through to the It’s Alive! scene with Gene Wilder going all climactic over Peter Boyle. I wouldn’t suggest that he’s overacting in this scene, because I’m saying it outright. The man is way over the top and it’s wonderful.  What a classic, this movie.

That dessert, by the way, is Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte.  Black Forest Cake to the likes of us. Now ya know.

Wordless Wednesday: Dognition Profiles

I say I’m a Stargazer, says Micron. But Food Lady
told me not to stare at the sun. She just doesn’t get
me sometimes.

An Einstein or Maverick?  Charmer or Socialite? 

I’m curious which of the nine Dognition profiles will identify the mighty Micron’s sunny personality.

In our last post, Micronition, we covered our experience in completing the first set of exercises in the Empathy set. 

We yawned and locked eyes and barked.  Well, the golden boy and me are bonded, to be sure. But maybe not that much. He didn’t yawn and I didn’t bark. But the eye contact thing indeed have us in a mind meld kinda thing.

The next section of Communication is coming up in our next Story Sunday post. But in the meantime, I’ll share with y’all the options awaiting us when this is all completed.

Dognition will tally up the responses we’ve provided from each set of exercises and then give Micron his final assessment. Along with a detailed report, he gets a personality badge of sorts.   

Take a look here and let’s see what you think.  I’m taking a wild guess myself at where Micron may end up. 

Drop a comment with your prediction.  I’m really curious to see where this all shakes out.

Dognition Profiles

 

From the Dognition website:

Why 9 Profiles?

Micronition

 

What can Micron do? asks a co-worker. How many commands does he know?
 
Well, I say. That’s two entirely different questions now. 
 
Like many of my cube partners, she knows that in his prior life Micron was in the Canine Companions for Independence puppy raising program and went through an impressive three months of Advanced Training to be a service dog. Though he was later released due to . . .  well, I prefer to say that he just loves people too much.  CCI’s official word was Micron exhibited a high level of distractibility.  He was unpredictable in his unpredictability, I was told.  If the golden boy determined that someone wanted to greet him, and who wouldn’t, he would drag his trainer across the room to see said person.  Hi! he would say. I’m Micron-DON’T. And I think you love me.
 
And that, people, is not becoming behavior for a service dog.
 
So he was released from the service dog program and CCI graciously allowed us to adopt him as our beloved pet. But considering the eighteen months of raising him to be a service dog and adding in those three months with a professional trainer at CCI, you would expect him to recall the thirty-some commands he was taught.
 
And you would be mistaken. Because you see, recalling and performing are two different kinda things.  Micron has three commands he will do with proficiency:  Sit, Down and Extreme Down. 
 
Look at his back legs. No, I mean, just look at them. This dog is like a
Black Belt in Relaxation.
Naw, just kidding.  He knows Speak, too. And sometime you can get a Shake from him, if the mood strikes. Everything else requires inspiration in the manner of a dog cookie. Pull out a favorite treat and he’s your wingman. Robin to your Batman. Tonto to . . . .well, you know . . . he’s your ever-lovin’ partner. Just putting my hand in my right jeans pocket, the magic treat pocket, allows him to instantly recall all thirty commands we taught him.  On his best days, he’ll perform a series of them all in a loop, too.  Sit … Speak … Down … Sit … Shake … Speak … and so on until you give him the treat or he short circuits.  Either one.
Past experience suggests that problem
solving may not be his strongest skill set.

So we say that Micron has a hidden intelligence, even with hints that he is edging towards cleverness.  My co-workers share their beliefs that Micron actually worked it out to arrange himself the honorable discharge from CCI.  He wanted to be your dog, my cubemates say. So he flunked out on purpose. That’s how smart he is.

Ah, my flunkie dog. Yeah, but we don’t call it that in the CCI world, actually.  Micron is a Change of Career Dog. 

But are they right, my friends at work? Is Micron using more canine brain cells than I’m giving him credit for? 

Wouldn’t it be interesting to take a closer look and understand more about how the neurons are clicking in that gorgeous golden noggin of his?

I think so.

So I signed Micron up for sessions with Dognition*, an online program designed with a set of activities with your dog to give insight on how they see their world.  This isn’t just some silly personality test that you see on Facebook, I want to be clear on this. The developers of the program read like a Who’s Who of experts in canine cognition.  My respect of these folk are giving this a solid dose of street cred, in my humble-ish opinion.

From the Dognition** website:

_____________

What is the Dognition Assessment Toolkit?
Each online Toolkit includes: observations you share about your dog through your canine personality questionnaire, science-based sets of games to play with your dog and a friend, and your dog’s resulting Dognition Profile report. The report details the strategies your dog uses to solve everyday problems and tips on how you can apply this new perspective. See more in How It Works.

_____________

The Dognition program has five components: Empathy, Communication, Memory, Cunning and Reasoning.  Each set can be completed in a comfortable time frame, but Dognition recommends breaks between. Even performing the activities should be spread over more than one day to avoid fatigue.  And on this I would agree. 


Dang, I hope there’s no math on the test.

After completing Micron’s profile and initial questionnaire, we got things rolling.  Empathy is the first evaluation.  No prob here, I think.  My dog’s got him some mad empathy skills alright. He’s a certifiable pet therapy dog after all. 

Micron has this remarkable thing he’s done enough times to show that it’s not just something I’m imagining. When among a group of people, he places himself nearest to a person who is stressed.  I’ve observed this in meetings when I’ve allowed him to walk freely about the room. He’ll work the room, greeting folk for a few minutes, then will flomp his mass down on the feet of a chosen troubled soul. Even if they are a self-proclaimed “not a dog person.” 

Sure, I have no idea if this is the most stressed-out person in the room, it’s not like we’re taking blood pressure readings or something. But the person is usually sharing their frustration with the goings on of corporate life.

And the dog knows. Even more awesome, he wants to calm them. Something in Micron’s deep psyche is sensitive to human emotions.

You’re gonna ace this Empathy session, I tell Micron. No worries.

Dognition is clear on this though.  There are no right or wrong responses to the exercises.  Ok, got it, I understand. The Empathy session starts off with the Yawn game which evaluates if Micron will catch a contagious yawn from me. We try this as I pull off a few rather impressive fake yawns when real one shows up. I caught my own contagious yawn. That’s how empathetic I am, people.

The mighty Micron, not so much. He stares at me until he gets bored enough to lie down. But no yawn.

Now when I tell the kid, a double major in Psychology and Sociology, about this non-event, he tells me sociopaths don’t catch other people’s yawns. Because they can’t feel empathy. And maybe Micron’s a sociopath. I tell him that’s not very funny and yet I wonder why my sensitive and he’s-not-a-sociopath dog didn’t pick up on the yawn.  A curious thing.

The next step in this session is Eye Contact. Oh, we’re big on doggie eye contact around here. I figure if the dog is looking at me, then he is listening as well.  So I’m not surprised that Micron makes it through the exercises never breaking our staring competition. He did wink his left eye a couple times, which had me wondering if I should wink back. And about half way through, Micron got a little uncomfortable with thinking maybe he should be doing something other than looking at me.

I don’t understand what you want!, he thinks. Maybe it’s Speak.  Is it Speak you want me to do?  GerWOOF wuff wuff WOOF! Or Shake? You wanna Shake?  And he smacks my leg with his paw a few times. While barking.

The dog is confused on this one. To his credit though, outside of the occasional wink and blink, he never once looks away. 



Keep the coffee comin’. I’m gonna be up all
night cramming.

So is this proof enough of our bonded relationship?  I’m vexed he doesn’t care enough about my feelings to yawn, yet he did feel compelled to lie down.  What could that mean? Well, we’ll have to await the final results to see how this comes out.

Four more modules to complete for his Dognition evaluation.  Next up is Communication when we’ll evaluate how Micron interprets my gestures for making choices. We’ll use hand pointing and foot pointing to give instructions for his dog brain to work out. The results will be on a scale from Self-Reliant to Collaborative. 

What’s my prediction for Communication, you ask? A good question, that.  Keeping in mind there’s no right or wrong results, there’s only Micron, let’s say Self-Reliant is a 1 on the scale and Collaborative is 10.

I expect Micron to fall in at about a 7 on the Communication scale. I think the foot pointing, which is not something I do much in spite of my professional pedicure, will throw him off.

Stay tuned for the next blog post to see how this plays out.

 
No idea, really, how the dog will do, but
I should ace the Foot Pointing exercise
just for style alone, right?

_____________________________________
* When I mentioned Dognition to the kid, he said it sounded like “ignition” like starting a car. Which led us both to making rerrrr rerrrr rerrrr growly sounds like a car struggling to start, but sounding like a dog too. She won’t roll over, says my son.  We laugh and laugh like the geeks we are.  I know, you kinda had to be there.

**CCI puppy raisers and Graduate Teams, contact me if you think you want to sign up for Dognition. There may be a discount available for CCI folk.

Hope there’s no math on the test

Micron overheard something about a cognitive evaluation coming up for tomorrow’s Story Sunday dog blog post. He’s trying to play it cool, but I think he might be just a little bit worried.

I’ve tried to tell him that studying is not necessary.  He just has to be himself.

And besides, Micron reading about the derring-do of Rin Tin Tin is like me watching American Idol or something. 

We both can casually wave a paw or hand and say, sure I could do that.  But the truth is a harsh mistress. And like the proverbial “kept woman” she’s a tough bird to kick out.

So, just be you, Micron.  And it will be just fine, you’ll see.

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