Category Archives: Skidboot

Do Dogs Understand Human Speech?

By Langley Cornwell

Most dog people believe that their pets can understand them; some say their pets are in tune with their moods and emotions, and some even go so far as to say that their pets understand their actual words.

Nonetheless, scientists have yet to conclusively determine how much human speech dogs can truly understand. If you have a dog, you know they are able to link sounds with actions (let’s go for a walk, get in the car, lay down, shake, bow, etc.) but they struggle with concepts. For example, if you say, “Go get a toy” the dog will do just that. But if you have a ball and a rope side by side and you say, “Go get the rope” the dog may have a hard time determining which toy you are asking for.

There are exceptions to this. In fact, my friend’s yellow lab has 5 Frisbees, each a different color. If you tell her to get the pink one, she does. Likewise, if you ask her to bring you the red one, she does. Clearly, my friend’s dog displays a high level of cognition. And all of this is without any training!

Research confirms that dogs can functionally understand and use concepts like larger and different with a good bit of training with high value rewards like Canidae Pure Heaven treats, but my friend’s dog simply has this ability. Most dogs can label objects but have problems with differences like color or size (bring me the red Frisbee, bring me the big ball).

A well-known experiment conducted by German researchers confirmed that a Border Collie named Rico had a vocabulary of over 200 words. The researchers started by validating Rico’s vocabulary in a controlled setting. To do this, they collected 10 items Rico was familiar with. They had Rico’s owner issue a verbal command for the dog to fetch a specific item from another room. Rico performed this task perfectly. Next, the researchers wanted to take the experiment a step further so they placed another item –  one that was unfamiliar to Rico – among the familiar items. The owner requested the new item by name, even though Rico didn’t know the name of the item, and Rico brought the new item back to his owner.

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Skidboot, the World’s Smartest Dog

By Linda Cole

Skidboot became famous as the World’s Smartest Dog because of his amazing tricks. However, this is not the story of Skidboot and his wonderful bag of tricks. This is a story about mutual respect, understanding and love that transformed a bored and out-of-control dog into the World’s Smartest Dog.

I spoke with Skidboot’s owner, David Hartwig, and found a heartwarming story about unconditional love shared by a man and his dog. We like to think we train our dogs, but dogs can also teach us a little bit about ourselves and life.

David resides in Quinlan, Texas and lives the modest life of a farrier (a specialist in hoof care who trims, balances and shoes horse). It’s hard work and takes a steady hand and a gentle, calm demeanor around the horses. On Christmas Eve in 1992, David was working on his friend’s horses when he noticed a litter of pups in the barn. “I didn’t think you liked dogs,” David said to his friend. “I don’t. This stray female blue heeler came over here on Thanksgiving and started dropping puppies all over the yard. So I just picked them up and put them in the barn.” David hadn’t gotten his wife a Christmas present yet and decided a puppy would be perfect, so he picked one out and headed home.

Sometimes things happen in life we can’t always explain – a gut feeling that causes you to change your mind. David was half way home when he had second thoughts about the pup he had chosen. He turned around and went back to the barn. That’s when he picked out a pup standing by himself away from the other ones. At the time, David had no idea how that puppy was going to change his life.

Skidboot’s mom was a Blue Heeler, but the breed of his father was unknown. He was named after a protective boot horses wear on their hind legs to protect the area above and behind the hoof during activities like barrel racing. Skidboot was a natural at working on the ranch with David. “He did his job. He did it perfect and I didn’t have to teach him.”

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