How Much Do You Believe A Dog Can Learn???

Discussion in 'Off-Topic & Chit Chat' started by Gripster, Aug 10, 2012.

  1. Gripster Active Member

    I see so many amazing behaviors being taught to dogs on this forum that I can't help but wonder about the upper levels of their potential. Have we tapped it or is it maybe beyond our imagination?
    I talk to my dogs and I'm sure a lot of what I say is interpreted as 'blah, blah blah, blah, BALL, blah, blah, blah, blah"; but I also believe they are capable of understanding a lot of words and phrases and an even more impressive amount of body signals we give. They seem to understand our emotions = certainly anger, and they have similar emotions of their own. They understand voice inflection even when they might not understand every word. We are, after all speaking a 'foreign language' as far as our dogs are concerned and the truly impressive thing for me is how much more our dogs understand what we are saying than we understand what they are saying. When I look at it that way, I have to ask myself, who, then, is the more intelligent being?? I find myself kindof awed.
    We teach them how to learn, and who knows what the 'ceiling' is for their potential -- maybe there isn't a 'ceiling' - maybe like human children, the capacity is limitless -- and both we and dogs quit learning when we lose our curiousity and sense of adventure.
    I'd love to hear what others think about the capacity of a dog to learn and when or why they seem to stop learning.

  2. southerngirl Honored Member

    I think dogs learn things through out they're whole lives like people can. I have a sixteen year old dog who I just started teaching tricks. I don't think dogs understand words they just associate a word with and action, not understand what it means. You could call your dog stupid idiot, retard Btch in a sweet or excited voice and they would wag their tails, they don't know that your insulting them.
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  3. Gripster Active Member

    Thanks for your response southerngirl! I hear what you're saying and I have to say, it sounds totally rational. The 'jury is still out' for me. I'm not sure of anything when it comes to animal intelligence. Everyday, I read or hear something that makes me think we may only have 'scratched the surface' when it comes to understanding the intelligence of our 'dumb' animals.
    I recently saw a video of a Border Collie that had over one hundred 'words' or names of objects that she understood. I don't know if you saw it -- I think it was on the National Geographic cable channel. The trainer, her "Dad' was a retired scientist, just wanted to see how many words she could learn and kept adding toys and naming each one something different. He actually had to start naming some of the balls by their colors because he couldn't even recall all the names for everything. Too Funny that the dog could remember better than he could! Anyway, a camera crew came in and they had a little stuffed Einstein doll that the dog had never seen. They hid it it the middle of her huge mountain of known toys and brought her into the room, telling her to retrieve the "Einstein" which was not in her know vocabulary at the time. She went to the pile of toys and nuzzled through all of them until she found the one toy for which she did not have a known name and she retrieved that to them. It was the Einstein doll. So I guess she also had an amazing ability to reason that if she didn't know an object called "Einstein", she needed to retrieve the object she did not know or had never seen. It was interesting to watch, because when the trainer told her to get Einstein, she looked at him quizzically, as if to say, "What is an Einstein?" I don't know Einstein. " But she finally went to the mountain of toys and tried to figure it out. I can't imagine what she was thinking. Did she go to the mountain of toys because she had already reasoned that if he asked for an object she didn't know, it would be there and she would be able to find it by her power of elimination. Or was she just being 'blindly obedient', or what??
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  4. Anneke Honored Member

    I don't think there is a limit to what a dog can learn. As long as it fun for them. And as long as we don't overload the brain, by doing too much at once(too manytricks at the same time)
    Like Southerngirl, I have had an older dog, that learned a lot. He had to cope with becoming blind and still learned new tricks.

    I am also a "Talker":D
    I swear my last dog understood a lot of what I was saying. I used to take him with me to the stores a lot. And I would tell him we were going to go to the bakers, the butchers and then to the petstore. But when I changed the order of those shops, for some reason and, I would go to the butchers first, he would pull me towards the bakers(who is located in another street):)
    Ah, but well, he was a one of a kind dog, a once in a lifetime dog, truly my soulmate.

    No as long as you are willing to take the time to teach, the dog will learn;)
  5. Dogster Honored Member

    I think dogs will never stop learning. Dogs have an infinate learning capacity, just like human beings, to learn new things, IMO. It surprises me too, sometimes I wonder if dogs are smarter in some ways, than humans. They can't understand us, the words we say, but they can read our emotions,they can understand hand signals and facial expressions,and understand how we feel or what is going on by our tone of voice. They can even manipulate us! LOL:pI think dogs can learn just about everything. they can know tons of commands (like Jesse), they can perform human tasks, like riding a bicycle, the list goes on. It never ceases to amaze me how smart dogs are. Training tricks, agility, disc, doggie freestyle, etc. just showcases how smart dogs are, and how much they can learn.
  6. southerngirl Honored Member

    I believe I've seen that dog before. About the Einstein maybe she found it cause she could smell the people on it or maybe she really was able to figure out that she needed to find the toy she never saw before maybe will never know. I would never refer to a dog as stupid.
    Here is an interesting article.
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  7. Gripster Active Member

    I love it Anneke! I feellike taking your last sentence here and using it as a signature!!
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  8. Gripster Active Member

    Great link! Thank you so much for sharing. I was disappointed that there wasn't a single terrier breed listed among the top smartest dogs. I guess Jessie is an anomoly??!!!
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  9. Anneke Honored Member

    The dogs in the top 5 are dogs that are bred for working WITH the humans. They have a task to perform, like herding a flock of sheep, guarding the sheep, find and get the prey. For this, they need to think for themselves and solve problems.

    Terriers are dogs that were bred to work FOR the humans. Mostly rodent killers. So a human points a hole in the ground, sets the dog off to hunt the prey down and kill it. This is much closer to the basic instict of hunting for food. These dogs were not bred to think, but to hunt.

    So a terrier is not less intelligent, he was bred for a simple task. Because of this he has a very different character, stubborn and persevering.
    In other terms, a border collie has a lot of "will to please" and a terrier doesn't.
    It only means that a border is easier to train, because he is bred to look to his human for directions.
    But by no means is a terrier less smart, he will learn a bit slower, compared to a border.

    So actually, the "smartlist" is a "how fast does a dog learn list"

    But we, humans, see the speed of learning as being smart.;)
    By the way, the Australian Shepherd, is in 42nd place on the smart list:rolleyes: So talk about dumb dogs....
    Find the smart list here:
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  10. southerngirl Honored Member

    Both of Missy's breeds are in the top ten. Border collie and Labrador.:D
    I thought that Australian Shepard would be way higher on the list. :confused:
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  11. Dogster Honored Member

    Lab is 7th on the list, and Whippet is 51st.:confused: Umm... Then she's pretty smart for her breed.:)
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  12. MaryK Honored Member

    Personally, I think ALL dogs are as smart as their owners allow them to be:D In other words, those owners who love, care and take the time to work with their dogs, will end up with a smarter dog than those who don't bother. Just like human kids, take the time, put in the effort and they will reward you. Dogs have much more capacity to learn, understand and think than many give them credit for and I agree, they are often smarter than we are.

    Sure some breeds, like BC's etc. do learn faster, because as Anneke said they are bred to work WITH humans and other breeds are bred to work FOR humans.

    Not so sure I agree with dogs being as smart as 2.5 y.o. human children, I think dogs are SMARTER!!!!!!!!! Ask my boy where is his lead and he can show you instantly, doubt that a two year old could manage that BUT then I haven't had much experience with the human kids:D Sorry kids if I've insulted your intelligence :D

    Animal communicators will definitely say that dogs understand our language. When my beautiful German Shepherd had to be assisted across the Bridge I was so upset and wondered if I had done the right thing. A friend, who is an animal communicator, told me she had spoken to Jacques across the Bridge and he told her I had done exactly the right thing. She emailed me and call it co-incidence if you will, but at the exact moment her email arrived (I checked the time) I felt an immense joy, pure wonder and happiness, yes I was still grieving but I 'knew' Jacques had spoken to me to let me know he was well and that I had done the right thing. Oh the joy was NOT when I read the email, but 'before' it wasn't till I read the email I checked and realized it had arrived exactly at the same time I felt the joy.

    So I personally feel our dogs (and all animals) can speak to us in ways which exceed the human language. Plus I had a dog which I could communicate with using telepathic communication.

    We have only just began, especially in the Western World, to understand the intelligence of dogs. I believe that they are even more intelligent than the scientists give them credit for.
    Dogster likes this.
  13. Anneke Honored Member

    I know exactly what you mean, MaryK. In the first year after my Shane passed away, I had a really hard time. I missed him so, so much. I was doubting weather we had made the right choise to let him go. I cried my eyes out every time I looked at his pictures.
    I had the weirdest dream three times... We were already looking for a puppy and had a hard time finding the right breeder.
    In my dream, Shane came to me, led me up three steps(we don't have that), he showed me three dogs(not clearly visible but silhouttes) and then I would wake up with the words "it's ok" in my head. And I would feel relieved and very sure that he agreed with my decission to let him go. Each time I had this dream, I had gone through a terribel time, missing him. Something that puzzled me was that he showed me three dogs, in three dreams.

    Now I am not a strong believer in these kind of things, but I am open to it.
    And looking back.... Jinx her breeder was the third breeder, I contacted, the third litter. Now I don't know if she was born third, but I wouldn't be surprised.

    And I am convinced, that he led me to her. Sounds strange, but The first time I saw her, she was only one week old. And I fell in love with her right there and then.
    I didn't make the final decision, until she was 6 weeks old, but in my heart I knew.

    Anyway, I know Shane is still with me. It doesn't happen so often anymore, but I sometimes see him coming down the stairs.
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  14. Dogster Honored Member

    Oh guys, you made me cry.:cry::D Such beautiful stories.:love:
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  15. MaryK Honored Member

    Anneke, I know just what you mean. And yes Shane did let you know he was fine and you'd made the right decision. And I wouldn't mind betting she was the third born either.

    Oh yes, Shane led you to her that's for sure. When I lost Tiger Lily, I was a mess (well always am after loosing a loved animal) and I KNOW she led me to Rakins. I was looking for a female dog not a male and also a NO KILL shelter. I took forever to find one here in South Australia, Moorook Animal Shelter where Rakins came from is the ONLY ONE which is no kill. I surfed their site and had a list a mile long of 'possibles'. My only criteria was they had to be good with cats as I couldn't upset my two gals. Then one night, crying my eyes out, I signed their guest book. Briefly, I said I had just lost my beautiful Tiger Lily and was looking for another dog. Next morning, checked my emails and one caught my eye, thought it maybe spam at first but something stopped me hitting the delete icon.

    It was from the shelter and the lady said they had a new puppy just arrived, way to young for shelter life, no photo as yet and she didn't even know if the puppy was male or female (she lives in Adelaide around three hours from the shelter and was/is their webmistress). I just KNEW that pup was mine. She started with it may be too soon then went on to tell me about Rakins 'history'. He was born wild, been captured by the pound. The lady who runs the shelter 'rescued' him and well, the rest is history:D.

    I did get two photos before he arrived and a lot about him, that he was divine etc. and quiet (he still is a quiet chap). We decided on his name and he KNEW his name after being with me about 10 minutes. The lady who runs the shelter was amazed and commented on that fact.

    I know full well Tiger Lily led me to him, and also helped arrange it so he arrived home before my partner, who was adamant that there were not going to be any more dogs - fat chance I never listened:eek:

    And yes, I still see and feel both Tiger Lily and Jacques, who also sent the message to me that if ever I need help or needed strength, to call on him and he would help. He's done that for me that's for sure:love:

    With Jacques, I too had a dream about two nights before he told me he wanted to cross. He had myolopathy. In my dream I was at the vets but NOT in her usual consulting room. I was in another one to the side. And I came out without Jacques, but there was a litter of new born pups in the waiting room. I woke up crying my eyes out and went for a walk to calm myself. As I was walking I heard the name ZEUS so clearly in my head the voice said "Zeus will be the name of your new puppy". I said, mentally, I don't want a new puppy I want Jacques to get better. The voice literally bellowed at me and repeated what it had already said.

    On the Sunday, Jacques told me his time had come. Rang the vets, forgetting it was Sunday and they only had one vet and nurse on duty, crying my eyes out. They were so understanding, I didn't even have to say the dreaded words. LOng story short, we went into the surgery to the left (not Rachel's normal one, fortunately she was on duty) and when we came out there was a litter of new born puppies. Even crying like mad, who could pass by newborns?. The young fellow asked it I would like one, as their birth was an accident (the Mom had come into season too soon, got out and well, always a willing entire dog around). I said yes, before I even KNEW what breed they were. He picked out one who was born in the car on the way to the vets at EXACTLY THE SAME TIME JACQUES CROSSED. Of course, I was planning on a girl and here was this beautiful little boy, hadn't got a name chosen for a boy, so asked what his Mom's name was and, maybe you've already guessed it, her name was ZEUS (seems someone got their Greek Gods in a muddle) but what else could I call my new baby but Zeus?

    I am so glad you're open to it all, I have to say I am a firm believer have had too much evidence to the contrary. Animals have souls and the love bond isn't broken when they cross the Bridge:love:
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  16. MaryK Honored Member

    Don't cry Dogster:D You'll set me off:cry: :D I'm a total water works when it comes to animals and having had a true British upbringing, it's about the only time anyone will see me cry in public! Animals have a way of allowing us to tell their stories, it's so easy to write about them, as they are so much a part of us, totally and completely:love::love:
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  17. Pawbla Experienced Member

    You made me cry! Such a lovely story.
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  18. Pawbla Experienced Member

    On the topic of how much dogs can learn, before I start crying again, dogs watch us during the whole day. Most of them don't have anything else to do but watch us and interact with us. They know every single detail about us - yet we barely scratch the surface!

    They understand a lot of what we say because they bond so much with us. I've noticed that Winston knows a heap of words I normally use, but other dogs know way less. Winston sees right through me when I want to put him in somewhere and "leave him there" (because I'm going out to the supermarket or whatever) and usually refuses to go in. Haha. Same goes for many other things! The other three don't notice a thing, but he always knows.
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  19. MaryK Honored Member

    Yes can relate totally to what you're saying, and agree with every word:D Have the same 'problem' my two boys both know when I'm 'up to something' which they're not going to be a part of, it's as if they can read my mind:rolleyes::D
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  20. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Ok, crying now.... :cry: Just caught up on this thread, must run and get a kleenex. :confused: I love all the stories, and truly believe all of them. I have my own I'll share when I have more time. Dogs are just amazing. :love:
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