Friday, April 1, 2011

The Treat Under the Jar Trick

I recently tried the “get the treat out from under a cup” exercise with Ivan and Dasa. In this exercise, the dog is supposed to overturn the cup and claim the treat, thus proving his problem solving skills.

When we tried this with Reno, he grabbed the cup and ran off with it, sure this was a game of chase. We chased him and rewarded his cleverness. (Our standards for awarding treats are somewhat subjective. Does the subject look cute, does he appear to be trying, paying attention, is he in the same room?)

Eric said the treat under the jar trick does not take into account the dog’s point of view. From their perspective, we are the source of treats and food, aka human Pez dispensers. The treat under the jar trick was illuminating and revealing. It revealed that I’m very well trained.

I showed Ivan the treat and then put it under a plastic storage container on the carpet. This posed no real difficulty as he was able to scoot the container over the treat and gain access. I then tried a tall cylindrical container. This tipped over fairly easily and his attitude about the whole thing became more enthused by the minute. I then tried a sturdy drinking glass. This also tipped over with minimal fuss. Ivan was happy to try any type of container I wanted. These science experiments are fun, Mom. Dasa was content to nibble treats from the hand behind my back while we were in pursuit of excellence and expanding the body of knowledge, as it were.

Then we moved into the kitchen with the sturdy drinking glass. While I praised his efforts, Ivan pushed the glass along with his nose. It scooted across the floor. He looked at me as if to say “hmmm.” Then he pushed it to the edge of the rug and tipped it over. I tried this again, and he pushed it straight to the rug and tipped it over, this time with no side trips around the kitchen.

Later when Ivan was downstairs napping, Dasa and I tried this test in the bedroom. I used a lightweight plastic cup over her treat. I showed Dasa the treat and then put the cup over it. She tilted her head and looked at me. I kept up a steady stream of encouragement as she pushed the cup across the carpet. She stopped and looked at me. I picked up the cup and treat, once again showed her the treat and put the cup over it. At my urging she pushed the cup around a bit more, clearly humoring me in this waste of time. She stopped and sighed. I showed her the treat under the cup again. She pushed it over to me, sat in front of me and placed her little paw on my arm. I immediately gave her that treat and several more, apologized for putting her through this exercise, and told her she’s brilliant.

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