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Cognitive Limits

Posted by kernelbob on March 31, 2009

On Sunday, Riley the Wonder Dog gave me a little insight into the limitations of doggie thinking.

We were at a house with an upstairs deck. Stairs at the west end of the desk lead to the lawn.  Riley and I were on the east end of the deck, and I had his squeaky toy.  Riley really wanted his toy.  I threw it off the deck onto the lawn.  Riley had already been down the stairs, but did not have any idea how to get to his squeaky toy.  I led him down the stairs, and he found the toy.  He was quite excited to have it again.

We went back upstairs, and I threw the toy off the deck again.  Once again, he really wanted the toy, which was in plain sight below him, but he couldn’t figure out how to get it.  I led him to the top of the stairs, and then he remembered and ran down and brought the toy back up.

The third time I threw the toy off the deck (yes, I’m cruel), he only hesitated for a moment before running down the stairs.

I haven’t postulated any grand theories of doggie intelligence from this story, but it was fascinating to me that moving away from the toy to get the toy was hard for Riley to figure out.

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