Dogs Problem-Solving
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Thread: Dogs Problem-Solving

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    Senior Member Melle's Avatar
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    Dogs Problem-Solving

    I hear people sometimes talk about encouraging their herding breeds to problem-solve for mental exercise, or food toys, etc, but I've never had the chance to watch Nina problem-solve on a bigger scale, or in a way that was eerily human in just how quickly she solved her dilemma.

    Two nights ago I was getting help with twisting my hair since one shoulder as tendonitis, and it was getting pretty late, around midnight. Nina was restless to get upstairs to bed, and kept going up and down my bedroom stairs, whining and moaning for me to follow her. She accidentally closed it the next time she made her rounds, and getting positively fed up, just huffed about it, slid out the draft guard with her paw, used it to pull the door open, slid it back under the door, got up on the first step, and then pulled the door as shut as she could behind her and went up the stairs.

    I don't know, maybe dogs do stuff like this a lot or something, but she's no Border Collie so I was pretty impressed that she didn't even seem to think about it, just decided, "I mean, I GUESS you're not coming to bed. Letting myself in, ma, bai."

    Do your dogs problem solve things themselves?

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    Senior Member gingerkid's Avatar
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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    No... Snowball's biddable and pretty quick to pick up on new commands/tricks when I put in the effort, but he's not very good at abstract problem solving. I'm looking forward to reading about other people's experiences though, and I do have a story to share...

    A friend was eating tortilla chips from a bowl on the kitchen counter, and he left the room for a second... and he came back in time to watch his mom's golden retriever puppy (~6 mons, I think) use her nose to push a piece of paper under the bowl, and then proceed to pull the paper, with the bowl full of chips, onto the floor where she enjoyed a nice snack.
    Snowball CGN NTD, American Eskimo Dog - Est 2004
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    Senior Member Remaru's Avatar
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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    When Blue was younger we had already sent Foxy (her mother) and her brother on to their forever homes but we still had her sister here waiting. Hubby tried to convince me that we really wanted to keep both of them but I was fairly firm in the decision that we did not (litter mate syndrome plus two pups with a toddler...yeah no thanks). They were about 4months old at the time (took forever to get them well enough for even two to move on to new homes) and I had to step out of the room for a moment with my youngest son who was in the midst of potty training. He left his lunch, a corn dog, sitting on the table with Duke "guarding it" (read snoozing on the floor). I popped back around the corner in time to see Blue's sister propping the wrapper and stick, the remains of the corn dog, against Duke's leg as he continued sleeping soundly next to the table. Blue was licking her chops. I have to assume that Miss Trouble (what we typically called her) hopped up in the chair to retrieve the corn dog and then shared it with her sister. It was really the fact that they were trying to set Duke up to take the fall that shocked me.

    I had a dog that could un-zip the tent we camped in and let himself out in the morning to go get breakfast from our camp kitchen. He would wait until he heard my friend wake up (he knew the sound of everyone's foot steps) and then quietly unzip the side door of the tent and let himself out to go sit at my friend's feet and wait for his serving of sausage and eggs. After he ate he would come back , crawl through the door and wake me up to let me know it was breakfast time. When we camped over New Year's in the snow and he lost me (he slept through me leaving the fire circle to go to the lady's room) he checked all around the circle, walked over to my tent and then proceeded out to my car where he sat and waited for me until I came to find him. I could follow his tracks in the snow. He also knew how to work the radio and AC in my car. He would change songs he didn't like and the AC had to be set on high and blowing directly on him.

    Freyja has learned to work the AC in our van. She will climb to the front and press the buttons with her paws. She is also fast to reason out what I am asking from her if I demonstrate vs needing to rely on luring.


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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    Maggie is a smart girl, so my wife bought one of those expensive dog puzzles to keep her engaged in something other than demolishing our house. Silly us, we built the house out of sticks.

    So the wife is filling the puzzle from a big plastic jug and Maggie is staring from the puzzle to the jug, and back again, the whole time. Wifey puts the jug down and places the puzzle in front of the Beige Menace. Maggie bounds past puzzle and wife, launches herself 3 ft in the air in a classic coyote pounce, and comes down all fours on the jug of treats. The lid popped off the treats and treats sprayed all over. Wife naturally starts scooping up dog treats, so Maggie snatched up the jug--still about half full of treats--and scoots back to her crate to enjoy the bounty.

    Perhaps not genius-level problem solving but good enough to make saps out of two humans.
    If I have to give my dog treats for obeying commands, then the terrorists have won.

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    Senior Member JohnnyBandit's Avatar
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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    I have ACDs... they have learned to open doors... On their own. If you want them out, lock the door. Open the Fridge, Mine has a latch on it.

    They even problem solve to force me to do something. They want to play with me... I do not recipricate.... they roll a toy under the stand the flat screen is on.... I ignore their barks and coaxing.... After a while they are like... No problem, I will just push the stand out of the way and get the toy myself. They then start pushing the stand with their bodies.... At which point I jump up and retrieve the toy...
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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    Originally posted by JohnnyBandit

    I have ACDs... they have learned to open doors... On their own. If you want them out, lock the door. Open the Fridge, Mine has a latch on it.
    Odin is not an ACD, just a mutt but he has learned to open doors on his own. The first time I had to leave him alone to go to work for 8 hours straight I closed the doors to the bedrooms and bathrooms but I didn't put the lock on the door to the back yard. He was not crate trained at this point. When I came home I found all the doors open, including the door to my backyard. I was relieved and surprised my cats didn't run away. All of the door knobs had teeth marks on it. I imagine he had to put a considerable amount of pressure to turn the knobs. The next day I made sure to put the lock on the back door and just in case I put a chair with a toolbox sitting on top in front of the door. I left all the other rooms' doors open. When I came home the chair and the tool box were moved. The door to the back yard remained closed but it had considerable damage from him scratching it.

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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnnyBandit View Post

    They even problem solve to force me to do something. They want to play with me... I do not recipricate.... they roll a toy under the stand the flat screen is on.... I ignore their barks and coaxing.... After a while they are like... No problem, I will just push the stand out of the way and get the toy myself. They then start pushing the stand with their bodies.... At which point I jump up and retrieve the toy...
    A lot of dogs problem solve by manipulating people! Mine have quite polite ways to remind me its feeding time, little barks that they use to tell me they are frustrated with something (come and help, please), not to mention puppy wants to play antics such as you describe. And they are absolute geniuses when it comes to begging. When I hire tradesmen, they always manage to beg a substantial share of the guys' lunches.

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    Senior Member WonderBreadDots's Avatar
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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    My current dog hasn't done anything yet that I consider complex problem solving, but when I had Dobermans...

    The female Dobe (Kuba) could open the patio screen door by sliding it with her nose so we started using the sliding lock on the handle, she figured out how to unlock the door, then showed the then puppy (Brocco) how to do it when he was tall enough. If Brocco wanted to lay on the couch where Kuba was laying he would bark in the farthest room of the house like someone was outside so Kuba would get up to go investigate then he would take her spot on the couch. The dogs would work together to hunt rabbits and gophers in the yard, usually Brocco and the vermin would get into a staring contest and Kuba would circle around the target, out of its peripheral vision and come up behind it and get it.

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    Senior Member Shell's Avatar
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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    I had a foster (Alma) who could open her latched crate by actually lifting and sliding the latches (not just muscling out of it) and go get her leash and ask for a walk. She would go and get her dinner bowl and take it over to the door of the spare room with the dog food is kept and bang the bowl against the door. She also figured out how to lift the gate latch and to open the screen door; not push it open which all of them figure out but wrap a paw around the edge and pull it open towards her.

    Tried a wooden kibble puzzle with Chester and he watched a friend's dog slide open each tray slot and get her treat. We refilled it for him and let him at it. He flipped it upside down and slid it back and forth once on the ground (which opened all the tray slots) and then picked it up and all the kibble fell out at once.

    If Brocco wanted to lay on the couch where Kuba was laying he would bark in the farthest room of the house like someone was outside so Kuba would get up to go investigate then he would take her spot on the couch.
    Chester does this to humans, he'll run up to the window and bark once and look at you like it is very important and then the human gets up and he steals the seat. My friends that visit every couple months always fall for it because they forget from last time.

    I think both Eva and Chester are quite good at figuring out logical sequences of actions by people, its more an observation thing then a solving thing I guess but they're quick to catch subtle changes.
    Like, Chester knows that if I leash him up and pick up my house keys, that it is only a walk. If I pick up my car keys, its a car ride and a walk so he gets far more excited. But if I pick up my car keys but don't yet have shoes on, he doesn't even bother to get off the couch.
    If I get up in the morning and put my eyeglasses on, they get out of bed because it is "real" morning, but if I get up and don't put eyeglasses on, then don't bother to move because I'm going to be heading right back to bed after like getting some water or such.

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    Senior Member Amaryllis's Avatar
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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    Have you ever gotten a sandwich from Dominos? It comes in a self locking cardboard box. My husband locked up the end of his sandwich in the box, put it on a shelf that should have been out of Kabota's reach and left the room. I walk into the room to see Kabota trying to open the box. He drops it to the floor while standing on the floor. Then he hops up on the couch and drops the box to the floor. Then he stands over the back of the couch and drops it from this greater height, almost opening the box. At this point, I stepped in and took the box away.

    This same dog is mystified by doors and assumes anything he can't see has ceased to exist.
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    Senior Member Flaming's Avatar
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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    Manna opens way too many things.
    Doors with round and lever knobs, refrigerators (yes multiple, thanks dad, bear proof garbage cans, chest freezers, babygates (both tension and the adult proof gate thing. ) , fence gates, car doors even unlocking them if on the inside, backpack zippers and plastic clips, she can turn on the tv though channel surfing hasn't been figured out yet.

    And she turned off my phone alarm this morning for the first time!

    This from the dog who can't figure out how beds or blankets work.

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    Senior Member Amaryllis's Avatar
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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    Quote Originally Posted by Flaming View Post
    Manna opens way too many things.
    Doors with round and lever knobs, refrigerators (yes multiple, thanks dad, bear proof garbage cans, chest freezers, babygates (both tension and the adult proof gate thing. ) , fence gates, car doors even unlocking them if on the inside, backpack zippers and plastic clips, she can turn on the tv though channel surfing hasn't been figured out yet.

    And she turned off my phone alarm this morning for the first time!

    This from the dog who can't figure out how beds or blankets work.

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    My Muggsy could open anything and had the tenderest belly ever, so I spent $120 on a pet and child proof (guaranteed!) trash can. He was stymied for all of 2 days, at which point he realized he could rip the lid off by pure, brute force. (He was a 90 lb GSD mix.) After that, I kept the garbage out on the deck.
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    Senior Member Laurelin's Avatar
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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    Um... Mia.

    She can unlock doors she can reach. Thank GOD she is not tall and cannot open actual doors. She can climb pretty darn well and is fantastic at figuring out how to get her little butt on places she can't reach. Like jump from chair to table to counter to big table to food. That kind of thing.

    She can unlock crates which impresses a lot of people. One of my nosework friends actually videod it and was showing all her friends. She understands how to first lift the latch then pull up and then sideways.

    My favorite story was when Mia locked Summer in the crate. I would never have believed it if I hadn't seen it. Summer walked in the crate and Mia walked behind her and shut the door and locked it. I am not convinced she meant to lock the crate but she did. Poor Summer cried and cried. She had no idea what hit her.

    She also was eating bags of food that were in the middle of a locked crate and it took me a long time to realize how she was getting to them. I'd put a bag in a bag in the middle of a crate (that was locked) and somehow the bag would stay in the bag in the locked crate and I could NOT figure it out. I just couldn't. Well turns out I didn't realize there was a side door on the crate (which was pushed up against a wall) and she was opening the crate from the side and eating everything then closing the door. I did not think she could fit between the side door and the wall but she did...

    She also tore out my drier vent going after a mouse and frequently pulls clothes out of the hamper looking for treats in the pockets. She likes to fill shoes with tennis balls and then carry the shoes around? Then she will unload them and then reload them and carry them again. She also likes to walk around with shoes on her face. I kind of think she's one of those creative genius types. She's real weird. Haha She also has these flurries of complete and utter destructive behavior.

    She also likes to take your clothes out from under the bathroom door. How many times have I come out of the shower to find no clothes or towels?

    She also knew how to roll the soft crate around the house. She can unzip things. I used to have to padlock the x pen because she let all 5 papillons loose one day. Her recent one is figuring out despite being all of 8 lbs she can pull my baby gate down with her teeth if she works long enough. I swear if she gets a thing in her head... she will not stop till it is done. She also rolls down car windows purposefully so they're always on baby lock.

    Poor Summer has zero problem solving skills. The only thing she does that makes me think 'Huh,that's smart' is that she fake potties when she doesn't need to go. Mia just blows me off but Summer will go out and fake poop or fake pee. That seems like a pretty advanced train of thought to me.
    Last edited by Laurelin; 06-11-2014 at 01:25 PM.
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    Senior Member Laurelin's Avatar
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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    Mia patterns very very well. Like in clicker training we were teaching her to back up but Mia thought back up meant spin, then bark once, then hop once backwards because that was what I clicked.

    She predicts behavior very well too. Like for example, I screamed the last time we had a mouse in our house (that was the double mouse murder that happened via Mia). So a couple weeks ago on our porch a junebug flew in my hair and I screamed and Mia started looking for the mouse.
    Mia CGC (9 year old papillon)
    Hank SCN CAA TKI NW1 IN EN CN DDCN RATI RATN (4 year old Spotty Dog)
    Summer TG3 TIAD (14 year old papillon)
    Fable TKI (baby border collie)

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    Senior Member Hambonez's Avatar
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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    Hamilton has problem solving skills, even though a lot of the time his solution is recruiting a human to come help him. He will come find you, walk away, look back, come back, walk away, look back etc... until you get up to follow him, walk behind you and nudge you in the back of the calves in the direction he wants you, then look at what he needs to you to do (e.g. retrieve single kibble from under couch), look at you, look at it, look at you, bark if you aren't responding to what he wants.

    He also does things where you know he's thinking and problem solving, even if the solution doesn't reflect higher understanding of the greater situation. He'll ask to go out at the back door, you open the door, it's raining/snowing, he won't go out. Then he goes to the front door, rings the bell, as though "ok it's raining in the back yard, let's go out front!" At that point I just force him to go out, cause if he needs to go that bad, it isn't going to wait out the storm!

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    Senior Member Melle's Avatar
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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    I've come home on weekends several times to find all of my bags unzipped in search of food. Just completely open, and usually they're filled with heavy schoolbooks. Of course she never does this in my presences but I'm assuming she's pulling the zippers open with her teeth.

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    Senior Member DaySleepers's Avatar
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    Re: Dogs Problem-Solving

    I haven't seen Sam do any serious problem solving yet, though I bet if we had latch doors he could open them. Isn't quite tall enough to get leverage on the round knobs. Our cabinets have baby locks on them... but that's because my parents' balinese can open them, not Sam! He has gotten out of his crate twice, with no damage to the crate and when he was alone, so we're not sure if it was deliberate or a fluke. He's also started looking at/going to my mom and doing an emphatic sit-down if he hears the word 'cookie', which we never taught him, but he sure knows who the 'cookie lady' is!

    Now my future in-laws' dachs... this dog is purportedly incredibly lazy (unless she gets to go hunting, but sadly she's not a very good tracker, even though she loves it, so she doesn't get to go much). One might even think not very bright. But when they still had Leonbergers, and all three were enjoying chews/treats/attention/etc, the dachs would sometimes let out this quiet little alarm woof, which was her usual cue for 'I hear something interesting outside.' The two Leos would take off, barking excitedly at the super cool, yet nonexistent, thing the dachs had alerted too, leaving her to gather up all said chews/treats/cuddles for herself XD.

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