Like many of you (great comments!) I’ve been playing this week with what words Willie defines the same as I. As suspected, most of the words I have used to communicate with him are verbs (to him), and that appears to be his “default” understanding. He HAS learned however, names for living things, me, Jim, Sushi, my other dogs when they were alive, etc. But all his toys are either “toy” or “ball,” and as I think about it that’s exactly how we used those words for several years. Go “up the hill” and “go to the barn” are effective and impressive cues, but I’d bet a lot of money that he has no idea what I mean by “barn” or “hill.” This weekend we’re going to work on labeling an object (his scorpion, Scorch, a favorite toy that is miraculously in great shape after 2 years) by holding it, throwing it, handing it to him and repeating its name. We’ll even try the “Model-Rival” method that Irene Pepperberg used to teach nouns to Alex, (except Willie won’t have to say the word to get it, but Jim or I will!).
Some of the questions that readers have brought up are extremely interesting, for example: how much does breed predisposition matter? What about the first weeks and months of training–how much does our behavior shape how our dogs perceive our words? Why do some dogs have no trouble distinguishing from a large number of objects, and others get frustrated and confused when we try to teach them to do so?
Speaking of words, I thought it might be fun to welcome the weekend by sharing some of the words that get sent in as “comments” by people trying to promote their website or blog. Those of us with blogs are used to getting comments generated by people who have no interest in the actual topic, who often don’t speak English well, and are sending comments to hundreds or thousands of blogs in order to get Google and other search engines to move their blog/website higher on the page (big companies pay people huge sums of money to manage the sites so that their businesses come up first or second on Google). These “generic” comments result in some amusing responses. I don’t post them, needless to say, but some of them make me laugh out loud and I thought it’d be fun to share. I know lots of readers have their own blogs… I’ve love to read some of your favorites. Here are mine:
Here’s a classic, ones like this come in often:
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Heyy, Sweet send! Love dgo woman athletic. I am going to definatley be coming back again quickly!=)
But here’s my absolute favorite of all time (so far, can you beat it?):
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I thirstily look forward to hearing from you with your examples, and promise to at once grab your rss feed. Just don’t let it get around.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Willie and girlfriend Lily had a great run yesterday. Willie was warmed up and ready to play afterward, Lily slept all afternoon. Lily has on booties to protect her toenails, which have been taking a beating in the snow and ice. It definitely slowed her down, enough that rather than just racing (his favorite) Willie picked up a tree branch and played “catch me if you can.”
Fun as it is, and as scenic as snow can be, I am always starved for color this time of year, so here’s a photo from New Zealand of a magically whimsical and enchanting garden, called The Giant’s House in Akaroa, South Island. The artist, Jose Martin, has created a mosaic wonderland. I could have stayed all afternoon…