People are curious about their dogs. Sure, dogs exhibit some pretty serious curiosity themselves, especially when they become magnetically attracted to someone’s crotch or emotionally invested in a pile of dessicated poop in the park; when they enthusiastically knock over the trash can to get to a tampon or a rotten chicken bone; when they treat the kitty litter as their own personal buffet. We people outdo them, though, because OUR curiosity goes beyond simple instinct.
Here’s an example. My sister was curious about the genetic mix of the dog she adopted from the shelter. And who wouldn’t be? Is there maybe 2% of Sheltie in her paws? Does her nose look 4% Lab? It was keeping Maria up at night, probably, and so she decided to get a genetic test to find out exactly WHAT her dog was made up of. Here’s what she found out, and keep in mind that you can do this for your dog, too, and amaze all of your Facebook friends with the results. I’m planning to do this for my dachshund, because I suspiciously suspect that he’s not 100% PURE dachshund, no matter what the teenager at the run-down pet shop told me! It’s not like it matters, but — I’m curious. And the technology exists!
And here is what Maria reported on Facebook a while back:
“The results for Foxy are in!
According to the Wisdom Panel 2.0 DNA test, she is a true mutt. She is a Labrador Retriever, Rottweiler, Cocker Spaniel (lol!) mix with lots of of other mixed breeds that could not be detected with accuracy. One of her parents was Cocker Spaniel and Labrador Retriever mixed with other breeds. The other was a Rottweiler mix. We totally guessed the Rotweiler part, mostly because of her coloring.
This was really fun! If you have a mutt, I recommend it. Not sure about the accuracy of it all, but the entertainment value is up there.”
Maybe you think that is too much to learn about your dog. You’d be wrong, though, because there is a LOT more you can glean from careful, scientific observation of your dog’s behavior. For example, what is your dog’s favorite food? Maybe you THINK it would be steak, or chicken, or pizza. But how can you be SURE? This was keeping me and Amado up at night, so we — with Isabel’s help — devised the following very unscientifically accurate experiment to determine it more precisely.
We had ordered pizza last week and Pablo was whining and begging frantically, as he always does when pizza comes, and suddenly one of us asked, “So, is pizza his favorite food? Or does he like steak better?”
Isabel said, “I think pizza is his favorite!”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “He really loves steak, and chicken, too. And sausage. And salami.”
“But he must have ONE total favorite,” Isabel insisted. “I wish we could ask him.”
“Maybe…we can!” I suggested. “Let’s do a Food Line-Up to see.”
“What’s a food line-up, Mama?” Isabel was intrigued.
“Well, let’s see! How about we put all of these things down on the floor and see what he goes to first. Pizza, salami, chicken wing meat, stuff like that.”
Amado said, “Yes, but we’ll have to let him see them all first, so he doesn’t just go to the first thing he sees. That way he’ll KNOW what’s there, and he can choose his favorite first.”
I agreed. “Yes, they’ll all have to be equidistant from him, and about the same size, so he doesn’t go to the biggest one just because it’s larger.”
We thought. “Well, to be statistically significant, we’d have to repeat the experiment many times, ” I said. “And we’d have to control for food location by varying which food was in which spot. And we’d have to do it at different times of day. Amado, how many times would we have to do it for 5 foods?”
Amado thought. “Let’s just do it once,” he said. (Our curiosity knows SOME bounds, even if it means sacrificing statistical accuracy.)
“It will be like the Olympics!” I said eagerly. “One time, one winner. No statistics.”
Amado put Pablo on his leash while Isabel and I arranged small piles of food onto squares of white paper. Our selections were: BBQ chicken wing meat, pizza, salami, unsalted almonds, and his dog biscuits.
To keep it interesting (as if it wasn’t thrilling already), we decided to rank the foods in the order we thought he’d choose. Here’s how it looked:
It was getting intense, because we each thought he’d choose a different food first! After Isabel carefully lined up the foods on the floor, Amado lead Pablo over on his leash and let him sniff at the offerings.
Pablo strained mightily against his leash, whining in anticipation, his tail wagging so fast it was just a blur of energy. And finally the big moment came. The leash was released, and Pablo ran! And the winner is:
Yes, Pablo snatched the pizza and took it away to eat it in private. He wolfed it down in a few seconds, and we were eager to see what he’d choose next, but then he surprised us all. Instead of actually choosing, he just ran to the closest one after the pizza, ate it, and worked his way down the line one by one.
We were intrigued and disappointed, but you see, we’d also LEARNED SOMETHING ABOUT OUR DOG, something we had not heretofore understood: After he satisfied his cravings with the completely irresistible pizza, he reverted to a “as much as possible in shortest time” mentality and just gobbled things down as quickly as possible with minimal movement. Fascinating! Yes! What a great experiment!
Maybe you think that is too much good human food to sacrifice to a dog’s belly just to learn about his eating behavior. Once again you’d be wrong, because sometimes you need to donate an ENTIRE PIZZA to the cause. And here’s an example of how it works:
My parents had a dog named Baby (full name was Ice Ice Baby Stutson Bread, compliments of my sister Erica), and Baby loved pizza. Like, she really REALLY loved it – so much, that one time, after my parents walked a friend to the door after a lovely shared meal of pizza, they came back 45 seconds later to find the dining table completely devoid of left-overs, and Baby guiltily licking her mouth in the corner in a very satisfied way. This dog had somehow gotten onto the dining table, eaten the equivalent of a large pizza, and had then gotten back down — all in complete silence, and all in under a minute.
This was a perplexing mystery! How did she do it!? Did she get onto a chair and from there put her paws onto the table, or did she just sort of launch her body up and grab the pizza cardboard? Did she eat the sausage side first, or the pepperoni? Did she look around before grabbing it, or did she just eat?
These were serious questions that we needed answered, and so – to satisfy our curiosity – Mom and I set up an experiment in the kitchen with her Camcorder and an entire Tombstone Pizza, fresh from the oven. We were giddy with excitement. We were laughing and dancing around and I couldn’t stop giggling.
“Let’s put the whole pizza here,” Mom suggested. “Then we’ll start the recorder and leave the room. We’ll give her plenty of private time to eat the pizza, and then we’ll watch to see what she did.”
“Baby!” we called. She was suspicious, sort of. She came in and gave us a LOOK. “Hi, Girl!” I said happily, and petted her. “Ok, we’ll see you later!”
We snuck out of the kitchen, leaving Baby in there with the ENTIRE pizza, and easy access. We even closed the door to give her MORE privacy and time. We waited, hardly able to control our curiosity.
“I want to peek!” I whispered to Mom.
“No, don’t!” she said. “Give her time. Let her feel comfortable in there.”
We waited…and waited…and waited. Finally, unable to wait another minute, we peeked in. Baby was sitting calmly on the floor. The pizza was untouched. Baby gave us a look.
We were dumbfounded. What was going on? Why did she not eat the pizza? We were so confused. We left the room to give her more time.
After another few minutes, we rechecked. Baby was now scratching lazily, and the pizza was still pristine. She trotted past us to the living room without a second glance.
“Did she….KNOW we were recording her? And she didn’t want that?” I asked incredulously.
This dog — who once stole an ENTIRE TURKEY from this same kitchen table and took it into the backyard when Papa turned his back for one second to get the salt — this same dog had ignored our pizza experiment! She wasn’t sick. She wasn’t full. She just….apparently….didn’t want to play our game.
And so we never got to learn how Baby stole pizza. That was her secret, and her secret it stayed. And from this experiment we learned something new about the dog — she was very clever, and she was not oblivious to silly human antics. She had her pride. And possibly, she was a pizza snob (after all, it was Tombstone.)
Anyway, as you can clearly see, any experiment with your dog is guaranteed to deliver unexpected and eye-opening results. And it’s a fun way to have quality Family Time too! I highly recommend that you indulge your own curiosity and analyze something about your own dog, starting today.
P.S. – Because of a certain old aphorism, I can’t guarantee that such curiosity-satisfying experimentation is safe for felines, so proceed on that path at your own risk.