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I think dogs have some understanding of time, such as certain things happen at certain times of the day. But I think their view and experience of time is very different. Based on what I've read I would guess their time is made up of smells, sites and sounds. For example, 6 o'clock might be "the sun is setting and the air smells like exhaust from all the people commuting home" while 7 o'clock might be "sun is set, the air smells like food, my people are home" etc. By the changes in sunlight, in smell and sounds a dog might hear outside they are obviously capable of figuring out when things are likely to happen in a day.
 

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Temple Grandin is a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior. She is also a very high functioning autistic woman. She says that she thinks in pictures, not words, and that she is very sensitive to sensory stimulus. She compares her experiences to those of animals with tremendous success as an authority. She has published a few books that you can read for more detail.
Yep, I've read that too. Things call up "images" of what the thing or behavior is and they carry it out in "real life". So like if I say "on your spot" Wally tries to come up with the picture of "the spot" and how he gets there, then carries that out.

Scent also relates to this. If they smell it - they get an image in their head and thing it "should" be there. It's so funny, he'll look at me like "I know you have a doughnut up there." because he can sniff the doughnut scent coming from the top of the table.


So, my opinion:
1. Dogs reason in the present: When this happens, I with get a snack. When I do this, I get scratched.
2. They don't think about the future: If I eat the garbage, I will throw up and when my owner comes home, he'll be angry.
3. They don't reason about the past: When I ate garbage, my owner beat me... therefore I will never eat garbage (I've oversimplified).
4. Most organisms respond to classical and operant conditioning - behavioral psychology. No thought is assumed.
5. However, they do expect consistency and patterns unrelated to time: I've slept on the couch, therefore I can sleep on the couch now.
6. I think that their thoughts are "complex" by your definition... but I don't consider those to be complex thoughts... More like thinking at the level of a 3 yo - a 6 yo human child.
7. BTW, Some dogs can count up to 5 (Retrievers know when multiple ducks have been shot and where they fell), they have some understanding of time -knowing when it is time to eat, and they seem to know right from left.
1. Agreed to the point that it is how they select the behavior they undertake at that specific moment. They also relate to things that's happening to them/around them at the moment, causing them to choose a certain tactic/course of action.

2. Disagree. Yes, they don't think in terms of what you said, but I do think they can think "near future". (If I flip this object over, the food will come out). Some might argue that's "present", but technically, if it's even 25 seconds from the present - it's the future. (If I go to the end of the hall, get the ball, and bring it back, I'll get a steak.) - That's thinking in the future. The dog doesn't have the ball NOW, so going to get the ball is thinking in the future in the hopes of a past reward pattern (he gets a steak) occurring once again.

The goal objective is also in the future (otherwise, it would already be achieved - he'd have the ball - he'd be at end of the weaves - he'd have the bird, etc), so they are able to hold an objective in mind to work towards - the ability to have a goal and maintain effort towards it. That's a future-aware behavior, imo.

3. I disagree with this because of #4. Dogs have an understanding of reward history, which means they remember past consequences. It's the reason why punishment even works. "Every time I do X, bad thing Y happens to me, I'm going to stop doing X."

It's also part of why shaping works. Wally is thinking about what did bring a reward, didn't bring a reward, and used to bring out rewards in the process. Stuff that didn't he stops trying, stuff that did, he'll repeat, stuff that did and now doesn't bring reward, he'll do harder (extinction burst, because it's "supposed to" bring about the reward - i.e. he knows that in the past, he got rewarded and now the pattern isn't following and he's trying to make it happen).

This carries over from session to session. It's why the next session we get farther than the first since of him re-doing all that initial stuff. He remembered it didn't work in this situation, so he's going to start as far forward as he can remember.

Likewise on the emotional level. If I were cruel and when Wally would tentatively sniff something, I make that something hurt him/scare him badly, chase him around with it, etc, he would avoid that thing. Why? Because the last thing he remembers happening was him getting hurt and scared out of his mind. That's reasoning past events in the present situation, imo.

And then on the counter with desensitization. Every time he was faced with something that scared him, I bring out the rewards. Over time, that thing predicts (a future-looking thought process based on data from past events) a reward maybe occurring, instead of something ominous about to go down.


5. That's referring to the past. Just because there's no human-like defined segment of time doesn't mean it's not referring to a past event/sequence/pattern. A pattern, by definition, exists because of events that happened before, i.e. in the past.

6. I think dogs are capable of complex thoughts/solving complex problems. It's draining for them, but I don't think it's impossible.

7. Agreed on all counts.
 

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I think dogs have some understanding of time, such as certain things happen at certain times of the day. But I think their view and experience of time is very different. Based on what I've read I would guess their time is made up of smells, sites and sounds. For example, 6 o'clock might be "the sun is setting and the air smells like exhaust from all the people commuting home" while 7 o'clock might be "sun is set, the air smells like food, my people are home" etc. By the changes in sunlight, in smell and sounds a dog might hear outside they are obviously capable of figuring out when things are likely to happen in a day.
Agreed, and also probably internal rhythms in the body, chemical changes, etc.
 

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An odd topic, yes, but sparked an interesting discussion between the bf and me last night.

Obviously, dogs go through some sort of thought process. They learn and associate places and people with different actions.

How do dogs think though? I'd think not in verbal language as people do (unless I'm missing something very big). Personally I think it's a mix of emotions and memories.

But also, how complex are these thoughts? Simple and childlike-I'm happy, I'm content, This hurts, I don't like that, etc. Or more complex-there's mommy and daddy, do they have treats? There is that dog that is always mean to me, what do I do?

I remember reading somewhere that dogs live (for the most part) in the present, but has this been proven or it it false?

Ok I'm losing steam...but yeah, I'm interested in what everyone has to say. This topic utterly fascinates me.
It's hard to say if dogs have an internal dialogue, in the way that we can, as you said, think verbally, but they clearly have cognitive processes as well as we do. Ultimately I don't think there's much difference in the way in which they think as compared to us, only that the way we think is much more complex, and, of course, powered by our predominant usage of language.
If you think about it, it's entirely possible that dogs think in smell. That is to say, they take in so much sensory information through their sense of smell, and clearly pattern recognition has to be happening in their minds, so we could consider how it'd be for their thoughts to be based in smell just as much as ours are our based in sound.
 

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If dogs think in pictures like Temple Grandin, then they do not have an internal dialogue (according to her).

I do think we miss the boat by focusing only on behaviorism and ignoring cognitive learning theories. In fact, breaking with conventional knowledge, I believe that a dog does Not perform a behavior for the reward (simple behaviorism). I think the dog uses the reward to 'realize' that he's done the correct behavior. Dogs with lots of positive training will 'perform' without the need for treats. Treats and praise help, but are not mandatory... as behaviorism implies (There are complicated ways to explain this within behaviorism, but cognitive processes make a simpler explanation.

@KBLover: I agree there is some future and past thought - My dog remembers where a cookie was dropped yesterday, but not two days ago. And I think he 'plans' to run around the playground to come back to get that cookie, today. Also, he will run 100 yards to the gate to go get something on the other side of the fence. But I don't think that he 'considers' more than two days in the future or past, if that. I still consider that present. But I do agree that he holds an objective in mind for that short period of time.

BTW, Wally, especially....I think that you could do more shaping with Wally... without a reward! You might consider that praise is still a reward. But, I think that if you had a neutral marker(like a clicker without the loading) that indicated Correct! then you can train without a reward. It can be argued that this is an internal reward... and I argue that this is thinking! ;-)

@CrimsonAccent: #3 I don't believe that dogs can do complex reasoning or planning based on distant past. Training provides continuous, near term reinforcement, above a learning threshold. #4 I don't think a dog reasons that he won't get a treat (Civil Disobedience ? :) ) I think he sometimes may decide that he does not want to do the behavior (such as no Sit Stay on an ant bed ... not all dogs will reason this out.) # 7 The test for counting was to show dogs some treats, hide the treats, then give the dogs some. When the number of treats given equaled the number seen, the dogs didn't 'react.' However, when the number was less, then the dogs indicated, in various ways, that they expected more treats. I don't have a reference, but may have read this in one of Stanley Coren's books (How Dogs Think?). I know that my Lab can respond to 5 objects, 3 is obvious... not sure that I can prove more than 5... although I sometimes get recognition (?) of 10 objects.... but 5 is repeatable with errors and 3 is reliable... in an anecdotal way.
 

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I think that people process information differently, and we've just begun to scrape the surface of how that works. I think dogs process information differently too, and their thoughts/memories/reactions are based on different senses than ours. Mostly pictures and smell would be my guess/experience. But we haven't even started the surface level work on that. My guess is that the more we learn, the more complex we'll discover they are.
 

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Here is another question along the same lines; do dogs "feel" grief? Do they "miss" a companion dog who has passed away? Having lost Izze it makes me think (tho I think she's gotten over it now) did Jo feel any grief initially, being where her pen is located, she had to see whatever happened to Izze. Does that effet her?
For sure. When Dexter's best friend got killed, he took a long time to get over it. He'd cry and refuse to continue walking every time we'd walk by his best bud's place. It lasted for months and months.

And my dog did something quite strange/ smart two nights ago. We were on our usual evening walk. My friend was telling me a story and it was about something pissing her off. When she got tad too much into her story, Dexter switched spot. He suddenly decided to walk between the two of us, walking against my friend's leg and randomly touching her mitten with his muzzle. He stopped and resumed to his normal position when we switched topic.
 

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@KBLover: I agree there is some future and past thought - My dog remembers where a cookie was dropped yesterday, but not two days ago. And I think he 'plans' to run around the playground to come back to get that cookie, today. Also, he will run 100 yards to the gate to go get something on the other side of the fence. But I don't think that he 'considers' more than two days in the future or past, if that. I still consider that present. But I do agree that he holds an objective in mind for that short period of time.
But does the dog consider it present. I'm trying to break out of the human constructs and frame of reference and look at the dog's angle. To a dog, 5 minutes could be the equal to a week to us. That doesn't mean the dog thinks only in the present, it means their temporal frame of reference is different. Since I'm relating to a dog, I want to key on his frame of reference without respect to what is "present" to a human.

And, even on a strictly technical temporal basis, having an objective for what you will do 2 minutes from now - that's in the future. So whatever I plan on doing, say, after I'm done with this post (put the kettle on for tea, play a game of Madden, and then play some Dissida: Duodecim) is in the future.

And it's funny you mention the cookie. One time I was grilling hamburger and a small chunk of the raw hamburger fell in the grass. I let Wally try to find it, he did. Every time we went out back, for TWO WEEKS after that day, he would check that EXACT spot and some of the nearby area. Now, I don't know how long hamburger smell lingers on grass at a level the dog can smell it, but that struck me as rather odd, especially smelling areas where it didn't drop.

He does it in the house too. Sometimes I toss bits of food all over the room. While he's finding one, I'm throwing another and constantly going "Find it". Then when he's just doing his own thing or whatever, he'll get up, search the room, and search the exact spots stuff was before, often times days/weeks later. Sometimes I'm like "why's he looking there?", but then I realize he remembers there was food there one time and he decided to go back and look this time. He doesn't check every spot every day, but he checks the same spots when he does check them. It's weird.

BTW, Wally, especially....I think that you could do more shaping with Wally... without a reward! You might consider that praise is still a reward. But, I think that if you had a neutral marker(like a clicker without the loading) that indicated Correct! then you can train without a reward. It can be argued that this is an internal reward... and I argue that this is thinking! ;-)
I can try that. I could use a foreign word (like "bueno", good in Spanish or maybe "bene" for a Latin flair), that has no connection/connotation to him either way and give no other reward. I can set up the usual "shaping puzzle" where I put out a bunch of stuff, but he has to figure out what I want. I mix it up - sometimes involving the objects, sometimes they are just decoys and want a behavior without an object. Sometimes it's a position, sometimes it's a vocalization, sometimes it's a location, sometimes, it a combo (like sit on the mat and bark/whine).

I'll have to do this next time and see how it goes.

I can't use any of my other repeatable sounds (I only have one clicker, snapping figures and clapping hands has meaning to him, and I can't think of any other vocalizations I can make that are repeatable other than language (no sound effects, choral notes, etc)).
 

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As far as temporal life, I don't know if dogs really live faster :) Altho my dog can read, I never taught him to tell time. And he does know when it ... was ... time to eat, reminding me when I'm late, apparently independent of other signals. He does adapt to change meal times when we change to daylight saving time.

My dog does look forward to his walks, and sometimes tries to encourage me to take a second walk... implying ability to 'think ahead' 10 - 15 min. ????

Re: Wally - my only point is to use no food rewards, so a smile or praise might be an adequate "Correct behavior" marker.
 

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As far as temporal life, I don't know if dogs really live faster :) Altho my dog can read, I never taught him to tell time. And he does know when it ... was ... time to eat, reminding me when I'm late, apparently independent of other signals. He does adapt to change meal times when we change to daylight saving time.

My dog does look forward to his walks, and sometimes tries to encourage me to take a second walk... implying ability to 'think ahead' 10 - 15 min. ????

Re: Wally - my only point is to use no food rewards, so a smile or praise might be an adequate "Correct behavior" marker.
I would think that's "thinking ahead". After all, he's wanting to walk some more, but isn't walking now. It's similar to how Wally stands by my shoes (in the exact spot I stand to put them on) when he needs to go out. He's trying to initiate a chain of events that he knows should lead to us going outside. Seems like observational learning, understanding the past pattern and trying to use that info to create a future result (going outside), not to mention communication in the way dogs can, through behavior.

Oh, and if you just mean using praise/reward marker with no food rewards, I do that all the time (I say "good boy" when he's completely done and something like "keep going" to encourage him mid process if he seems unsure or I just want to up the intensity of whatever he's doing). I thought you meant to also use an unknown marker as well, making him think about what that marker might mean and without the obvious "hint" of handing him a primary reinforcer.
 

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Let's throw intelligent disobedience into the ring. Dogs, (mostly working dogs), or biddable dogs who will break a command if the conditions are not right to perform the task and then wait for those conditions to be right and carry out the command. Dogs who learn spacial awareness and will walk around a low hanging object in order to prevent their owner from hitting their head on that object. I'm talking of working dogs who's owners rely on them to carry out certain tasks.

Other than a form of conditional response, how would you classify this thought pattern? Or would you simply say, it is nothing other than some form of conditioning where no reasoning or complex thoughts are required?
John Bradshaw addresses this in Dog Sense, he likens it to "out of the box thinking" or problem solving. and I think he's spot on, my dog is a WAY better problem solver than most of my coworkers!
 

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Temple Grandin's books are excellent, anyone interested in thoughts and emotions in animals should read them. I do think they have more going on in their noggins in both thoughts and emotions than most people give them credit for, but I also think it's nothing like what is going on in most humans' noggins.

As far as time... I don't think dogs necessarily have a sense of the future or "later" as much as an excellent capacity to learn patterns - that is, D always follows C which always follows B which always follows A... so if A,B, and C have happened then D is going to happen next. I don't think they know whether D is going to happen in a minute or an hour, just that it comes next in the sequence.
 

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@KBLover: I agree there is some future and past thought - My dog remembers where a cookie was dropped yesterday, but not two days ago. And I think he 'plans' to run around the playground to come back to get that cookie, today. Also, he will run 100 yards to the gate to go get something on the other side of the fence. But I don't think that he 'considers' more than two days in the future or past, if that. I still consider that present. But I do agree that he holds an objective in mind for that short period of time.
their memory might be even longer than we give them credit for! there were studies in the early sixties to see if 2 year old labs recognized their litter mates and mother. They gave blankets to each of the dogs to sleep with for a time, then they mixed them in with blankets from unrelated dogs. All the pups expressed more interest in the blankets belonging to their mother and litter mates.
 

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if you have no access to a clock, do you take note of time or do you think in linear terms?

if you smell better than you can see, do you take note of physical arrangements of things or in terms of localized area of scent?

if you have no hands, how do you spacially relate to your environment in terms of physical manipulation?

if you want a way to answer your question, you need to understand just what it is that a dog's body allows it to do because the structure of conciousness is influenced by form and it's function. you can try to do this for any animal. think in terms of four footed herbivores with their eyes situated on the sides of their head and vision that allows them to see a full 180 but their depth perception sucks. they would live in a world that looked vaguely like the inside of a cylinder with a moving painting on it. so you can extrapolate from something like "no depth perception" that a grazer like that's concepts of distance in relation to current position...would be expressed in the brain in terms we dont have words for most likely.

it's not an easily answered question.
 

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As far as time... I don't think dogs necessarily have a sense of the future or "later" as much as an excellent capacity to learn patterns - that is, D always follows C which always follows B which always follows A... so if A,B, and C have happened then D is going to happen next. I don't think they know whether D is going to happen in a minute or an hour, just that it comes next in the sequence.
Patterns, by definition, are things that happened in the past. So the dog has to even remember that in the past D followed C, etc.

The dog also uses C to predict D, i.e. using past information to expect a future result. When you start him on A - he's know it leads to D, even though D is somewhere in the future. (Whether it's 30 seconds or 30 minutes - it's in the future.)

If I go to my shoes, Wally will get up. He's expecting a future event - us going outside. That, to me, is future awareness. He knows he's not outside now, but he's expecting to go outside "soon" (whatever time frame that is at the moment, and it depends on his emotional state/pent-up energy/if I've hyped him up/etc.)

I believe dogs try to build these "predictions" when they can to help the make sense of the world, but I view it as their way of understanding when future events occur, even though they have no idea of the humanity's arbitrary demarcations of time.
 

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if you have no access to a clock, do you take note of time or do you think in linear terms?
I think of dogs having partly a "chemical clock" as well as using event predictions to understand when things "should" happen.
if you smell better than you can see, do you take note of physical arrangements of things or in terms of localized area of scent?
Wally seems to use physical arrangement as well as scent. I think he uses one to guide the other. If he can see the whatever, he'll use his eyes to find it, but if he can't or he gets to where his eyes told him and it's not there (like...I moved it real quick) he'll sniff the heck out of the spot trying to find where it went or where it is). However, if I tell him to say, get a ball - he looks around for a ball and I don't see the nose twitching or his sides rapidly moving like when he sniffs.

When I play "Find it 2.0" where I send him to find something, then I'm throwing tid bits of food in other places for him to find - I notice he's sorta half-looking, half-sniffing. His nose won't be all the way to the carpet, and he's looking around. Then if his eyes tell him nothing, he'll stop and sniff the air a bit, then sniff the floor.

He'll also sniff if his search pattern comes up empty, he'll go to a spot, look, then put his nose down.

Seems to also depend on the size of the object. If I use bigger bread balls - he can see them and go after them. Just like he can see his Dora tennis ball super easy. But if I use, say, a small piece of cheese nearly the same color as the carpet, he has to do a lot of sniffing.

if you have no hands, how do you spacially relate to your environment in terms of physical manipulation?
I notice Wally uses his paws like "pseudo-hands". He's always trying to reach with his paws, even if the object is right there. I don't know if that's something he's learned because I make him grab and catch and pick up things moving things and that's an adaptation or if he's just pawsy ever since I taught him "shake". It's like "oh, my paws do things" and then he uses them for everything...
 

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I think of dogs having partly a "chemical clock" as well as using event predictions to understand when things "should" happen.


Wally seems to use physical arrangement as well as scent. I think he uses one to guide the other. If he can see the whatever, he'll use his eyes to find it, but if he can't or he gets to where his eyes told him and it's not there (like...I moved it real quick) he'll sniff the heck out of the spot trying to find where it went or where it is). However, if I tell him to say, get a ball - he looks around for a ball and I don't see the nose twitching or his sides rapidly moving like when he sniffs.

When I play "Find it 2.0" where I send him to find something, then I'm throwing tid bits of food in other places for him to find - I notice he's sorta half-looking, half-sniffing. His nose won't be all the way to the carpet, and he's looking around. Then if his eyes tell him nothing, he'll stop and sniff the air a bit, then sniff the floor.

He'll also sniff if his search pattern comes up empty, he'll go to a spot, look, then put his nose down.

Seems to also depend on the size of the object. If I use bigger bread balls - he can see them and go after them. Just like he can see his Dora tennis ball super easy. But if I use, say, a small piece of cheese nearly the same color as the carpet, he has to do a lot of sniffing.



I notice Wally uses his paws like "pseudo-hands". He's always trying to reach with his paws, even if the object is right there. I don't know if that's something he's learned because I make him grab and catch and pick up things moving things and that's an adaptation or if he's just pawsy ever since I taught him "shake". It's like "oh, my paws do things" and then he uses them for everything...
The kind of thing im sort of suggesting isnt something thats going to be totally extrapolated from behavior. We cant get the whole picture because there is a necessary shift in perspective that we CANT do as of yet. We dont have the physiology nor do we have the technology to give us that shift. I mean think of somethinglike a platypus that sees with an organ completely alien to us. How we react to our sensory stim affects our emotional state and we can probably say the same safely for something like a dog right? Ive heard biologists suggest bats hear color. Thats a bit of a weird one eh? What if something like that holds true for a dog...like the intake of particles in the nose is read by the brain as color? In order to REALLY understand what another species thinks, we have to start wrapping our heads around ideas like hearing colors and seeing electricity. Or what it does to your vision if you lack depth perception etc. Because that affects the perception of stimulus and the perception of stimulus affects how an organism interacts with the world, its emotional state and more. Its speculative sure, but its a mindset that at least attempts to cut down on anthropobias. Whether its effective remains to be seen.
 

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Patterns, by definition, are things that happened in the past. So the dog has to even remember that in the past D followed C, etc.

The dog also uses C to predict D, i.e. using past information to expect a future result. When you start him on A - he's know it leads to D, even though D is somewhere in the future. (Whether it's 30 seconds or 30 minutes - it's in the future.)

If I go to my shoes, Wally will get up. He's expecting a future event - us going outside. That, to me, is future awareness. He knows he's not outside now, but he's expecting to go outside "soon" (whatever time frame that is at the moment, and it depends on his emotional state/pent-up energy/if I've hyped him up/etc.)
Honestly I think this is all possible with no "human" concept of time whatsoever. Dogs are SO good at making associations, I don't think time has to come into play at all.* "Shoes = walk", "bowl = food". I think that's part of why my dogs get equally excited when I put my shoes on whether it's time for their walk or it's time for me to go to work.

*I'm not saying I necessarily think it absolutely does not, I'm saying I don't think it's necessary.
 

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My dog clearly has some depth perception: he can catch objects that I throw to him and can adjust to catch them. He also knows when a squirrel goes "behind" an object. He does not chase after the squirrel, but goes around the other side to ambush it.

@KBLover - My point of not using treats to train Wally (as an experiment) is based on the common practice that dogs behave to get a treat. However, I believe that the treat marks the correct behavior, it is not the only reward. ... Therefore, you can train a dog and 'accomplishment' then communication is the motivation. I'm fairly positive that this is not unusual for you and Wally, although you might not think of it this way.

I ask my dog to sit and he sits. I don't reward or praise... and he doesn't seem to mind. When he comes in, I ask him to shake, so I can tell if his paws are wet, and he complies. I don't believe that he is thinking "If I don't shake, I don't come in," because that has never happened.

However, if he does shake and his paws are wet, then I will dry them... And he does NOT like that. I think he does tolerate drying to come in.

I get a better response when I use food (bribery?), but I think 'communication' may be an internal, cognitive reward ...
 

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Has anyone read "The View from The Oak" by Herbert Kohl. Lovely little book exploring the Gestalt of other creatures.
 
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