Is my dog smarter than a fifth grader? Is he smarter than me?

By Lyn Vandebrake

Maury Beagle’s  birthday is Saturday. We’re guessing he will be four years old and I’ve had him two of those four years, adopted from Waggin’ Tails Dog Rescue. Maury, however, thinks he’s my biological child and somehow we were separated at his birth. Don’t tell him any different.

I celebrate his birthday on March 6 because that’s the day his adoption was finalized and he came home with me and Layla, my other beagle, to my 18-acre farm.

Maury’s background is largely unknown other than he was found in a rural area without collar or tags, nor was he micro-chipped. His skeletal condition, anemic health and borderline pneumonia told animal control he’d probably been out on his own for quite a while.

The animal shelter kept him the required three days and when no one showed up to claim the little dog he was on his way down the hall to euthanasia when Waggin’ Tails Rescue showed up and took him, along with several others, into their foster care.

It took a few weeks of three squares a day of Purina, an antibiotic from the vet and the required neuter to get him in shape for adoption, but he turned out to be easily house trained, liked cats and small children, had a charming personality and slept all through the night.

When you bring an infant home from the hospital you don’t get all this so he was a bargain at the small required adoption fee.

I read one time dogs are like children except cheaper. To educate a child cost thousands. A dog can go to school for $47. Clothing a child also requires 18 years of several style changes, shoes and attire for numerous and varied occasions. A dog can wear the same winter coat year after year.

Maury fit right in with the program already established with Layla; spending his days with us in my office, taking car rides to the post office and long walks through my hay field. He is a happy little dog with a smile on his face and twinkle in his eyes as if to suggest he knows something I don’t. He might. I always wonder.

Maury is an excellent fur child despite the fact he can never be left alone with shoes, boots, electrical cords, plastic bowls, books, baskets, pens or pencils. He becomes a chewer when he’s bored. Put a learning toy in front of him and the dog immediately changes.

It makes one wonder why Fisher Price hasn’t come out with an educational toy line for canines similar to preschoolers; games that talk, sing and interact. With that in mind, I called the Dog House Etc. in Sheldon, Iowa owned by Leonard and Laura Stover, to inquire.

Laura was a wealth of information with a catalog at her fingertips. Apparently Maury isn’t the only canine with a mind that needs to be engaged lest it wander into forbidden territory such as my briefcase that holds my laptop or the stack of library books beside my desk.

Laura at Dog House Etc. tells me she has just the remedy for Maury’s overactive quest for mental activity. It’s a fabricated tree trunk with squirrels that can be rooted out from a hidden hole.  Cost is around $15.

Another option is Paw-Zzle Ball, a heavy duty clutch ball with a smaller version inside. It dispenses treats when your dog child rolls or tosses it in correct directions, similar to the toddler toy with triangles, circles and squares. Cost $15.99.

Snake-in-the-Grass Puzzle is said to be excellent for ‘challenging the intellect, sharpening cognitive skills while entertaining.’ Manufacturer says the toy is so much fun your dog will be engaged and happy for hours on end, stimulated and occupied.

Made of quality craftsmanship and durable materials, it states this toy helps to develop dog intelligence. There are days when I think I could use a toy like this, one to help me develop my intelligence. A question that came to mind was, if my dog had this toy and I didn’t would he become smarter than me?

The Snake-in-the-Grass set includes one grass container and three snakes. If your dog is really smart, the toy maker says, he can figure out how to put the snakes back in the grass box so the game can be repeated without owner supervision or re-start.

The Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug Treat Dispenser, from Premier, provides a multi-sensory appeal to keep your dog interested and motivated to play by stimulating your pet’s sense of sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste, the manufacturer says.

Fill the Tug-A-Jug with your dog’s favorite treats. It is designed for ultimate interactive enjoyment with scent holes strategically placed. It is considered a ‘smart dog’ toy that feeds your dog’s hunger for mental activity. It comes in two sizes and with directions for the owner, but not the dog. What is the manufacturer trying to tell me with that statement?

I noticed all of these have customer satisfaction ratings. Paw-Zzle Ball’s rating is in the five-star category but it didn’t mention who filled out the survey; the dog or the owner. It also mentions its Pet Approval Rating. I wondered how they got this.

Was there a team of researchers who did tele-marketing, calling around 6 p.m. asking to speak to Rover?

After speaking with Laura at Dog House Etc. I did an Internet search. Browsing through, which list 185 products, I found 65 of them to be categorized as interactive or educational.

There’s a challenging Magic Hat Trick made by Kyjen. Contents: one top hat, three rabbits. On sale for $9.99, originally $11.49. Kyjen says your canine magician will have hours of fun mastering the get-the-rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick. If he’s really smart he can also master putting the rabbit back in. I wonder how real magicians do this?

Kyjen also makes Intellibone which looks remarkably similar to Fisher Price’s toddler toy in the same primary colors with the same puzzle solving concept; the pyramid with rings in red, yellow, blue and green. Fisher Price sells theirs for just under $20. Kyjen markets the Intellibone for $6.99

I bought Maury three new toys for his birthday and ordered his ‘birthday cake’ from the butcher shop; a beef bone for $1.99. Families who are raising children should be declared non-profit organizations. Dog owners can just be declared eccentric.



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