Problem Solving Preferences

A dog by any other name is an enigma wrapped in a question seasoned with a conundrum and smothered in cute. As similar as they are to each other, they still a variegated bunch of personalities and individual quirks. Take for instance, the way they solve puzzles.

Our current gang of four consists of two Aussies, a terrier mix, and a spaniel mix. Like many people, we use treats as puzzles to occupy them from time to time so we can make our way, unperturbed, between one room and another. To accomplish this, we normally stuff a bone with a bit of biscuit and peanut butter and give one to each dog. The way in which each dog solves the problem speaks volumes about their personalities.

Our Aussie, Gavin, has been with us the longest. He is secure in his status as the chosen one and he acts accordingly. As I have discussed before, my wife made a mistake with him one time, and she’s had to pay for it ever since. What Gavin figured out, is that he didn’t have to figure it out. After about a minute of probing the bone on his own, he resorts to dropping the bone at your feet and staring at you with his “We are not amused!” look. My wife reinforced this behavior once by pushing out the makeshift marrow. Ever since, he knows that if he drops the bone at her feet enough times, she will eventually get tired of the noise, or the smashed toes. Either way, problem solved.

My spaniel mix, Annie, was the next dog welcomed into our home. As I’ve discussed before, she is very fearful and she is least interested in the bone. Annie almost never truly relaxes unless she is playing ball or working on a behavior she has down pat. Her approach to the bone is very nonchalant at first and she will even abandon it to be close to Jackie or I. Especially if she is feeling particularly out of sorts at that moment. On occasion she does seem to abandon her worry over all the outer stimuli and get lost in the bone long enough to solve the puzzle on her own.

Next in line is our other Aussie, Tosha. Tosha, was rescued from a hoarding situation. While you can see some her past in her personality, her approach to the bone surprised us. We half way expected her to be very protective over her bone but she’s just the opposite. She quietly works on her bone with little care to the proximity of the other dogs or their bones. Sometimes she gets the surprise inside and sometimes she doesn’t. If she doesn’t get it, she just lies beside the bone; if you decide to poke it out that’s fine, if not, that’s fine too.

Elbee is our resident street urchin and terrier mix. He’s the latest addition to the house. His approach to the bone is very much reflective of his breed, pure tenacity. He attacks the bone and is very intent on getting the prize inside. The bone can keep him occupied far longer than the other dogs. I suspect that most times he is just not willing to accept defeat and will work on the problem on his own. Funny thing is that he knows the Gavin trick. He knows that dropping the bone at mom’s feet will normally result in getting the treat out. He just prefers to do it all by himself.

Regardless of the method used, it’s fun to watch the nuances of each dog as they attack the problem. Occasionally, each one will come upon a new and novel way of trying to solve the puzzle. And when they do, you can always see a bit of their past and their personality in the attempt.

We’d love to hear some of the creative ways that your dogs choose to attack puzzles and what that reveals about the personalities within.


The 20 legged team of Dog Lover’s Digest

One thought on “Problem Solving Preferences

  1. LOL – loved this post. I can just see them all taking part in their bone-chewin’ in their own way.

    Bizzle’s the tenacious chewer – blowing air out of her squished nose as she reaches for the marrow like a lizard.

    Sarah tries to swallow anything whole – as long as it’s smaller than a 2-liter bottle of coke.

    And Kuna? Since he’s the baby, he’s a little protective and less likely to share his bones. He will grumble and protest, but if you’re Sarah you just take it anyway 😉

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