What unique thing is your pet trained to do?
May 25, 2020 3:09 PM   Subscribe

What unique and useful thing is your pet (or wildlife) trained to do? Your pet may have taught themself when they figured out it was useful, or you may have taught them. How did they learn it?

For example, harvesting and bringing you the freshest tomatoes when you go out to the garden.
posted by aniola to Pets & Animals (62 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
One of my cats will usually come to me when I tap my thumb and middle finger together. I find that other people have trouble making the tapping loud enough but even when they do the cat won't come to them. The usefulness of it is that if he's somewhere he's not supposed to be like the dining table or doing something he isn't supposed to be doing like bothering his sister then I can get him to at least stop without having to call his name out or go over to him.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:27 PM on May 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

I had a ground floor bedroom as a teen. If our cat wanted inside (early in the morning), he would put his claws into my window screen and lean back until he lost his grip and drop to the ground. The screen would smack loudly again the glass. He'd keep doing this until I woke up and opened the back door, which he would then walk very, very slowly towards.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:45 PM on May 25, 2020 [6 favorites]

My cat is trained to bite my elbow on command (the command is "ebow") and to shake paws and high five. For varying understandings of "useful".

I actually don't even know how I trained her to bite my elbow other than maybe shoving it in her face and then praising her when she bit it? This one has waned a bit as she has gotten older because I think her teeth hurt and I miss it because it's so ridiculous.

She also sits in a very specific position next to me at certain times a day to get hugs (particularly when I get home from work and first thing in the morning).

She will begrudgingly pose for photos while wearing costume elements if I praise her enough.

Yes she is the best .
posted by urbanlenny at 3:53 PM on May 25, 2020 [25 favorites]

I wipe my dog’s feet off when he comes inside. Now he lifts each foot, always in the same order, so I can wipe them. It makes me wonder how much he understands..
posted by dianeF at 4:06 PM on May 25, 2020 [17 favorites]

I’ve taught all my dogs to spin in circles on the doormat so they can wipe their own feet. In the taught themselves category, my current dog noticed that every time he was outside barking at squirrels I would call him inside so we didn’t piss off the neighbors, and then I would give him a treat for coming when called. Predictably he figured out how to game the system and now he’s come up with an obviously fake bark to get me to call him in. He sounds like he’s imitating a dog barking. Hilarious.
posted by HotToddy at 4:21 PM on May 25, 2020 [48 favorites]

My dog Ollie (dog on the right) only vomits on tile floor. When he was a puppy and was urpy, we'd shoof him into the kitchen, hold his ears up, and pet him until he stopped. Now we're in a different house, but if he has an upset stomach, he'll vomit in the bathroom. It's VERY NICE.

Murphy (blurry dog on left) vomits at will, likely because he is GROWLY when he's not feeling well, so we are disinclined to shoof him anywhere, much less hold his ears up and pet him.
posted by kimberussell at 4:25 PM on May 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

I knew someone (an old boss, actually) who tied a rope around their refrigerator door handle and taught their dog to bring them a beer on command.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:25 PM on May 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

Long before social distancing, I began moving our dog off the sidewalk when someone approached from the other direction. It didn't take too long before he began moving me off the sidewalk, preemptively. He comes across as extremely polite and a very good boy, which he loves to hear from the people as they pass.

And at night, I can send one of our cats out to bring home his brother. Works about 75% of the time.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:26 PM on May 25, 2020 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I taught our dog to take a deep breath using Dr. Karen Overall's method, available here. It's not necessarily that thrilling to watch, but over time, it can really help your dog relax; once they realize it feels good, they can learn to do it themselves when they feel stressed.
posted by MeadowlarkMaude at 4:26 PM on May 25, 2020 [16 favorites]

My dog taught herself that she can become a "new dog" by wagging her tail differently. So, she goes up to someone in the dog park for a treat (it doesn't work with me) and she wags her tail to the left. Then she wanders away while other dogs get treats and she goes back up to the same person and wags right and gets another treat. Repeat up to 5 times. Note that when other dogs try to get a second treat they are told, "No, I already gave you one!"

She wags these different ways: left to center and back, right to center and back, right to left, helicopter (in a circle), and relaxed without a wag.

My previous dog could do anything I tried to teach it. I basically ran out of tricks. I clicker trained him. Yet, the current dog who figured out the tail trick? Only thing I've trained her to do is sit. Nothing else, though I've tried.
posted by dobbs at 4:41 PM on May 25, 2020 [12 favorites]

I had a cat that would play fetch. I also had a galah that would call the cat & dog we had at the time to his aviary then laugh like crazy with my Dads laugh when they got there.
posted by wwax at 5:14 PM on May 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

Our dog will get up and move if you say "excuse me!" Mostly we use this when she's in my or my husband's seat on the couch (and then she moves over to sit between us), but it's also great for getting her out from underfoot in the kitchen. We didn't train this behavior intentionally; she just started doing it on her own.
posted by cellar door at 5:19 PM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

To keep me company and make me happy.
It’s not unique to my pet, but it is unique in my life.
posted by Neekee at 5:23 PM on May 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

My daughter trained her two cats to come when she rings a small 'teachers' bell. Paired it with treats, and they reliable come to the bell. Useful when we have to 'count the cats' to make sure no one is trapped in a room/closet when we are heading out. The tricky one will even sometimes come to it when she sneaks outside...helpful!.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 5:23 PM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

My dog will spin and wipe her front paws on a mat on cue (both intentionally trained) and go walk through her kiddie pool when asked (picked up on her own after many times luring her through). In combination, it makes a small dent in the springtime mud!
posted by randomnity at 5:36 PM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

One of my dogs will run to and then jump in the bathtub when she’s muddy after a walk. We did not train her to do this, but it’s very welcome behavior since it limits the muddy dog tracks through the house.

Our other dog will not do this but he’s trained himself to avoid mud and puddles, also a win.
posted by lepus at 5:44 PM on May 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

I taught my dog to only 'beg' at mealtimes while lying down with his chin on the ground. He lies absolutely still for most of the meal, occasionally getting up in order to lie down again theatrically and thus reset his 'beg'. It's wonderful - I eat at friends' houses with dogs who paw at you or bark or bother you while you are eating and by comparison it's awful.

I taught him by first teaching him lie down, then by asking him to lie down while I was eating and only ever giving him a treat when he was lying down. He hasn't had a mealtime treat while on his feet in five years. He practically THROWS himself onto the floor to lie silent and polite while we eat. Mostly he only gets his own dog treats but sometimes he's so cute he gets the pizza crust.
posted by DSime at 5:49 PM on May 25, 2020 [12 favorites]

I had a college girlfriend (alas) who had a parakeet. She taught it to say Led Zeppelin. Took two years.

My friend in Mexico City (I'm ready to go back when this shit is rightly done for), has a beautiful mutt of a cat named Théo. He will come to you immediately if you call him. Seriously, if you - a stranger - walked in and said, "Théo", he'd just come right over.

He will also play fetch with any arbitrary cat toy. When he's the one who starts it, he'll bring you the hollow ball with a bell in it.

Edit: sry, didn't see the 'useful' criteria. I'm leaving it tho.
posted by j_curiouser at 5:50 PM on May 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

I taught my cat to go up on a little stool when the dog is eating (because he used to try to steal the dog's food, and dog was not thrilled with that). I'll also send him over there when I'm cooking in the kitchen so he doesn't jump on the gas stove (again).

I had already taught him the command to jump up and jump down (just by tapping the surface and giving him a treat). He's very smart, and motivated to please, so he picked that up quickly.

He learned very quickly to just jump up on the stool himself when the dog gets fed. If I want to send him there, I usually just point in that general direction.

He does other tricks too, but not sure they really count as useful (giving his paw, standing on his bag legs, sitting, etc).
posted by litera scripta manet at 5:51 PM on May 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

My cats all just jump off my lap when i double pat their side / ribcage. Sometimes I say "come on, get up" but not often - its the double pat that does it. Pretty sure it just took me doing that without thinking a million times before just unceremoniously dumping them off my lap myself.

However the one things I'm most "proud" of is teaching my senior IBS cat not to puke on my bed. She's sick, she pukes a lot. It's definitely not pleasant, for her or me. In the beginning the unmistakable sound of a cat about to vomit would wake me up, and I'd half asleep just dump her off the bed, sometimes mid-puke. My poor girl. But eventually she began jumping down all on her own and I haven't had cat puke on the bed in ages, so yay. Beside the bed is another story, but...

So basically all I can do is train my cats to get off things by throwing them off myself until they get annoyed. Hmm. My cats however have trained me to do lots of things. Double hmmm.
posted by cgg at 6:06 PM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Rosie rings a bell at the backdoor when she wants to go outside, whether to potty or just to fart around.
posted by honeybee413 at 6:19 PM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ours knows "fix it" - to lift up his paw if it gets tangled in the leash. He also knows "go around" if he gets on the wrong side of a pole while walking.
posted by lab.beetle at 6:29 PM on May 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

I trained my cat to give high fives. She is the dumbest cat who ever dumbed, but click training really works. (Linked is the exact strategy I used).

She's dumb enough that the first few months after she learned the trick she spent a lot of time high fiving the wall, random furniture, and people's legs. But now she does it properly. I've tried to teach her other tricks but she only has room in her head for one at a time. This video is from the stage when she still remembered how to high five but was just on the cusp of learning to jump through a hoop (mostly she high fived it). Once she had the hoop jumping down properly she stopped doing high fives. I've gone back to reinforcing high fives and forgetting about other tricks now because it's super cute.
posted by lollusc at 6:31 PM on May 25, 2020 [7 favorites]

I had a very special cat years ago who house trained herself. We eventually put the litter box away because she never used it.

The very best thing she did, though, was if she needed to go out during the night, she always woke Mr. Dolley, and never woke me to let her out. It was pretty funny, at least I thought it was, because she adored me and other than the middle of the night wake-ups, rarely gave Mr. Dolley more than a passing glance. He was a good egg about it.
posted by Dolley at 6:38 PM on May 25, 2020

I had two parrots I trained to poop on command. I would ask them to poop before I picked them up, and they very quickly learned to request getting picked up by pooping and then putting a foot up and saying "up-up!"
posted by MonsieurBon at 6:41 PM on May 25, 2020 [7 favorites]

My family had an indoor/outdoor cat who had bells on her collar to warn birds etc. of her presence. She learned that if the back door was closed, she could bat at the bell on her collar to get the attention of one of the humans to let her in.
posted by Cheese Monster at 6:42 PM on May 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

We trained our cats to go to the toilet in our toilet. So convenient! There’s an actual system sold of rings placed on the toilet that teaches you how to do it. When I was a child, my cockatoo taught himself to drink from the tap and would only ever drink that way. One of my dogs is obsessed with my shoes and keeps taking them downstairs where I can never find them. If I could teach her that trick in reverse, ie, to find my shoes and bring them back, it would be really helpful.
posted by Jubey at 6:44 PM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

You know those plastic rings left on a milk jug when you crack it open? Our last cat loved to play fetch with them. We’d toss one over his head, he’d leap in the air to knock it down, pick it up in his mouth, trot it back to us, and drop it at our feet for us to toss it again.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:48 PM on May 25, 2020 [6 favorites]

My late cat, our beloved Tigger (AKA Miss Tigger, Tigger-Pooh), taught herself how to keep track of days, when we would be away travelling. We would notice when we went away for a long weekend, that there would be several socks carefully placed over the edge of the bin-drop feed bowl, in a fan-shaped pattern.

It took several of these trips before we realized that there were always exactly as many socks as days that we would be gone. In other words, she was counting the days with socks, much like prisoners in movies scratch a mark on the wall!

Once when we were gone for about a week and had my best friend come by every 2-3 days to check up on the cats and take care of their needs -- she noticed this again, and even found a sock halfway down the hallway, presumably on it's way to the food dish, but not actually there, since it was only early afternoon. She actually dragged her Dad (her driver to our place) in to see as proof, because nobody would believe her!

And yes indeed, upon our return, there were 7 socks for 7 days, carefully arrayed in her trademark fan-shape, with the tips of the toes all stacked on top of each other!
posted by Jade Dragon at 6:51 PM on May 25, 2020 [47 favorites]

Thank you for this extremely lovely thread that allowed us all to post and see the best pet stories and pictures, aniola
posted by moonlight on vermont at 6:57 PM on May 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

I was going to post an ask-me for this as my dumb dumb dog knows how to open doors (lever is easiest, knobs take her far longer to turn with her paws) and will go in and out of rooms. I want her to learn to close doors so she stops leaving them all open. She will open doors for the cats to get into rooms that don't have catdoors.

My daughter taught one cat to jump and butt your hand with his head as a high-five. He does this only for her. I had one cat who when you patted your shoulder, would climb up your pants/shirt to sit around your neck and purr.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:00 PM on May 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

Oh, and my cat also has a cardboard box in one particular spot (which is in my line of sight most of the time I'm at home), and when he wants me to play with him, he jumps in that box and just stares at me. I definitely did not train him to do that. He trained me.

Also, today he wanted me to come hang out on the couch with him, so he went to his box, and I got his toys (those kinds with a feather attached to a stick), and as we were playing, he slowly inched us closer and closer to the couch, until suddenly he stopped playing, jumped up on the couch, and started purring. (This was after about an hour of him sitting on the couch by himself, staring at me. I think he was upset I didn't take the hint.)
posted by litera scripta manet at 7:01 PM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

With the help of Metafilter, I trained my dog to tuck herself in under a blanket because she loved it so much. She died in December, but she stayed self-tucked until her last day on earth. I even got a STAY TUCKED tattoo to memorialize her. There are some pretty cute photos in my follow up comments on that post.
posted by quiet coyote at 7:16 PM on May 25, 2020 [25 favorites]

Our dog knows " think about it" means to go around the tree/ pole/ stump/ bush the other way if her leash is wrapping around something the wrong way. Lots of repetition in walks and using this phrase only in this instance naturally taught her. She also knows to sit at intersections before crossing the street, because she gets a treat if she sits, waits, and walks nicely to cross the street. Lots of repetition was the key to both.
posted by shortyJBot at 7:23 PM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Our golden retriever from my childhood (early 70's) taught herself to ring the door bell when she wanted in. Somehow our cat learned to ring the bell from watching the dog (unlike the dog who could reach the bell by getting on her hind legs, the cat had to climb up and shredded the door post). All well and good, except when the cat wanted in at 2 am. My dad had to install a switch to turn off the bell at night.

The dog (when asked) would also knock down my wandering little brother and sit on him until my mom would come. The dog also loved the mailman. She would wait at the green mail box (a "postal relay box") for the mailman and walk his rounds with him every day. On Sundays we would have get her from the green mail box or she would stay there all day. We later moved to an adjoining state with stricter leash laws and the poor dog was miserable. We ended ended up giving the dog to the mailman.
posted by gingerjules at 7:23 PM on May 25, 2020 [9 favorites]

For wildly varying degrees of useful... almost all taught by capturing and rewarding the action.

Couch! (yes, I ask my dogs to jump up on the furniture -- don't you?)

Wild rumpus! (my crazy hound will give me a downward dog and stay in that pose for scritches.)

Wheeeee! means I just tossed a treat and it's time to hunt it out.

Happy dog! means jump with all four feet off the ground.

My blind girl hound knows go left, go right, step up, step down. Both hounds know back it up, which is very useful in the kitchen.
posted by vers at 7:30 PM on May 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Luce learned to come when she heard only my whistle (distinctive because I whistle through my teeth, not my lips). It was useful at the dog park when I wanted to extract her from the herd.

She used to know how to flop over when I ask "Would you rather be a Packers fan or a dead dog?". Not exactly useful, but a good icebreaker when we'd meet wisconsinites.
posted by Gray Duck at 7:32 PM on May 25, 2020 [7 favorites]

One day I found a whole roast loin of pork in the middle of the kitchen floor. Our two cats were happily munching away on it. I had no idea how they managed to get it out of the fridge, but they had. So I kept watching and food kept going missing and one day I caught them. They worked as a brother and sister cat burglar team. They stood in front of the fridge, then one of them jumped on the others back, reached up and put their claws into the rubber seal of the fridge door. Then he twisted his whole body around until the door pulled open and presto, everything a cat could want right there for the taking. I was very impressed, bengal cats are so smart.
posted by Jubey at 7:33 PM on May 25, 2020 [13 favorites]

My dog has trained himself to do several useful things!

When he finishes going potty, he spins in a few circles on the rug to wipe his feet. The spinning/bouncing in a circle is something he naturally does when he's excited, and I trained him to do it on the command "let's dance!" (What he actually does is variable, but he spins/jumps/gets on his his hind legs/some mix of those things and continues to do so as long as I "dance" with him.) I kept asking him to do it when he'd come inside for foot-wiping purposes and now he does it mostly by himself or with very minimal prompting.

When he's sitting on your lap you can get him to jump off by saying "hop up!" We didn't teach him that on purpose, we just talk to him like he's a person all the time and he learned that it meant "lap is about to disappear." He's gotten even better now where he can kind of tell you're gonna get up by a tension/weight shift so sometimes by the time I tell him to hop up he's already leaving.

And ice cubes! He loves eating ice cubes, but he's slow and they melt, so the first few times I gave them to him I insisted he eat them on one of the little area mats in the kitchen, not on the living room carpet, so now no matter where you give him an ice cube, he will bring it to one of those mats to enjoy.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 7:36 PM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

When I was in high school we had a dog that loved the hard toffee flavored gold wrapped candies my mom kept in a little tray on a tall table. She learned to get them down one by one and pull on one end with her mouth and the other with her front feet until it untwisted itself and she got a snack. More than once we can home to a neat little pile of gold wrappers.

Our newest found by the road hound can get his skinny ass out if Any normally Locked cage and actually unzipped the cover on one of my sofa cushions the other day. I can see how the escaping is useful to him but the unzipping is just impressive
posted by domino at 8:16 PM on May 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

My elder chihuahua loves to play a game called Treat Detective, and when I say those words, he will go stand in the bathroom and allow me to close (but not latch) the door while I hide treats around the bedroom at a low level for him to find. When I'm done hiding the treats, I say "come out for Treat Detective!" and he nudges the door open, then does a clockwise search of the bedroom for treats placed on dresser drawers, inside shoes, on baseboards, etc., and then that's that.

During and after a game of Treat Detective is the only time that he ever respects when the treats are done for now, or exhibits anything resembling impulse control.
posted by witchen at 9:04 PM on May 25, 2020 [13 favorites]

My cat had diabetes and he got the whole insulin shot routine down pretty quickly just from the repetition. The part that really impressed me though was that he would wait patiently for another ear prick if the glucose meter beeped "sorry try again" and would immediately start squirming for his treat as soon as it beeped a successful reading.
posted by yeahlikethat at 9:56 PM on May 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

Things I have taught* my german shepherd:

*I didnt teach him these things, but rewarded them as they were demonstrated. He mostly figured these out on his own and I'm very grateful

1. The difference between inside and outside toys, and to move them to the correct location when requested if misplaced

2. Rolling only in clean grass or fragrant bushes (lavendar/rosemary are his favorites)

3. Not to walk through mud or puddles

4. Not to look at people while they're eating

5. Only play with / chew on things that are given to him directly as a toy (i.e. socks he is given are ok. My socks on the floor are not toys)

6. Lay down when interacting with smaller dogs, cats and house rabbits so as not to intimidate them

7. Chase deer off the property only during the fall, and only to the property edge (in spring and summer deer and fawns can die from been run down by dogs)

8. Know how to get back to the trailhead via alternate routes we have never walked on before

9. Enjoy and request baths and make friends with the vaccuum cleaner

He is a Very Good Boy and I love him.
posted by ananci at 9:58 PM on May 25, 2020 [12 favorites]

Just noticed the second part of the question: As far how he learned, they were really good treats that he only got after his shots.
posted by yeahlikethat at 10:01 PM on May 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

The most useful thing Jasper the simple dog has learned is how to go downstairs. I guess I'd call that unique because it took him 3-4 weeks, with a lot of treats and coaxing. In between there was a week where he'd worked out a method where his back legs just bounced down each stair behind him as he hopped down on his front two legs.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:55 PM on May 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

One of the best things I’ve taught this sweet, good girl is to shake off water only on command when playing in the water. On the basis of a child therapy hospital dog, I also taught her “snuggle,” which is to put her head on you gently.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 11:56 PM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

My dog's best tricks include high fiving, sitting pretty (which takes some abdominal strength), "parking it" on his dog bed, and ringing a bell to go out. You can teach him anything with positive reinforcement -- that is, clicker and treats.

My cat comes when called and sits on command. Again, key is positive reinforcement. For him, that's his favorite cat treats. On the other hand, his brilliant sister will do zip on command.
posted by bearwife at 12:32 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, and that cat fetches his toys for us. He taught himself that.

Among the tricks my dog has taught himself are lifting his paws in order for drying, pushing open my study door, remembering where every bone is buried, and the special smile that gets him some cruciferous veggie. He has trained us to do many things on command and I wonder sometimes if he is bragging about that to the other dogs in his orbit.
posted by bearwife at 12:47 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

I taught two kittens to play the piano. Over a few days, before they went home with their adopter, who was a musicologist.
posted by amtho at 1:40 AM on May 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

I hate being stared at while I eat. If I tell my dog to ‘get’ she will turn around so her back is to me.
posted by InkaLomax at 4:04 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Very quickly after we got the dog, we taught her Wait by saying the word and gently pulling on the leash until she stopped moving. I wanted to make sure she wouldn’t cross the street without explicit permission. Now, it doesn’t matter how agitated she is, if I tell her to Wait she completely stops moving until she gets the ok sign. But she’ll only do it while she’s on the leash.

We also taught her to get out of the way of mountain bikers. If one is coming up the trail, she’ll step off the trail and sit down until they pass. However, if we tell her it’s ok, she’ll keep walking with us. She didn’t like bicycles at first and would panic if one came towards us, so this makes everyone a lot safer even though she’s more comfortable with them now.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:40 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

My dad taught my childhood dog to sneeze when she wanted to go outside. He tells me that he did a fake sneeze by the door and opened it a few times and that she caught on pretty quickly. He did it to avoid the whining dog sound, or her jumping on the door. It was a good trick, as even us kids knew what was going on and could easily let the dog out.
posted by chiefthe at 6:21 AM on May 26, 2020 [7 favorites]

We've taught Bootsy to shake, sit up, turn in a circle and jump through a hoop. I can't say any of it is really useful, unless we want to win a bet against someone who says cats can't be trained, or run away with the circus. But since we taught him to raise his right paw to shake and be rewarded with a treat, we've noticed that now he sometimes raises his right paw when he wants to be petted or fed, as an all-purpose "I want a thing" signal, so I suppose in terms of improving communication between two species there's that.
posted by jocelmeow at 8:22 AM on May 26, 2020 [6 favorites]

A roommate had and Australian Shepherd that of course was pretty smart and a great frisbee dog / chick magnet. Her most useful trick was telling her to "go get the cat" and she'd fly out the door and a few minutes later the cat would come dashing in. Then she just wanted you to throw a couple cans wort of tennis balls so she could bring them back one by one.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:43 AM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

One of my cats (Zeke) likes to watch the toilet flush. I didn't (purposely) train him to do it, but at my previous apartment he figured out how to flush the toilet on his own. Freaked me out pretty good the first couple times it happened, since I lived alone aside from the cats!

He doesn't seem to have figured out how to flush the toilet at my current place, although I do see him eyeing and occasionally pawing at the mechanism from time to time...
posted by Juffo-Wup at 9:06 AM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

When running, my dog understands Haw, Gee and Switch, About Face, Let's Go and Slow. Haw is take the left path. Gee is the right path. (both are from typical sled dog commands) Switch is to switch whatever side your running on relative to me to the other, but do it *behind* me. About Face is a hard 180 turn, if there's a pole or cone, he correctly recognizes that we're going around it. Let's Go means that we're officially running, and he's Working (TM). When Working you don't try to stop to sniff, you don't lunge at rabbits/squirrels, you don't stop to pee. Slow means both to slow down, but that he's no longer Working, and can stop to sniff/pee.

He also understands a few modifiers. Related to Switch, he was trained that when running he can't switch sides in front of me. Over Haw and Over Gee mean that we're just drifting a bit (if I'm going from the sidewalk to the edge of the road for instance, or if the trail has a tree in the center, it indicates which side of the tree to travel on). Hard Haw and Hard Gee means that if there are multiple left/right paths take the further one in the direction. Admittedly a lot of this is context (trail) dependent - we've learned together how to navigate trails as one.

He self-taught / understands when an obstacle is too high for his leash. For instance he'll run with a 3' tall object between himself and me. But a taller object he'll properly make sure that it doesn't come between us.

He's realized that I'll give him the Switch command as we approach a biker/pedestrian, and that I go between him and the other (I.E. keep him further away from the other). Often he'll switch sides before I need to give him the Switch command at this point.

All of this is pretty obviously super useful while running with him. The worst is during fall/spring weather changes - he'll get over excited and forget to only cross behind me. I seem to have a 20% chance of tripping over him when he crosses in front of me :/ .
posted by nobeagle at 9:08 AM on May 26, 2020 [10 favorites]

One of our cats is trained to sit. He gets a nervous stomach when he is SO EXCITED for food, and having him sit for a moment before feeding him his food helps to mitigate that.

We taught him slowly by pressing down on his hind end and saying, 'Orpheus, sit' while putting down/ and later, before putting the food bowl down.

Two of our cats are fetchers. They each seemed to have that 'bring it back' in them already, but encouraging them 'bring it back' usually results in them doing so.
posted by mcbeth at 9:10 AM on May 26, 2020

My mom hates barking, so she would throw a ball at her golden retriever pup to shut her up whenever she'd start. Pretty soon, the dog started grabbing a ball for herself whenever she felt barky, like a self-imposed ballgag. Adorable and practical!
posted by Freyja at 10:47 AM on May 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

Our French Bulldog rings the bells on our back door to be let out. And by "rings" I mean "bangs the shit out of them and stands there waiting for his inept butler to open the door."

We have always used baby gates, through generations of dogs, but somehow this particular combination of one giant Dogue de Bordeaux and one teeny Frenchie have learned to work together to McGyver the gate open like some sort of elite French tactical unit. We don't know how they do it but occasionally we will be awakened to the thundering noise of 130lbs of feet charging up the stairs to wage an assault on the master bedroom. (Alas, only one of them can actually jump onto the bed...)

Hilariously, in common with many Frenchies, ours has never been allowed to climb down the stairs and does not know how. So when he does Houdini is way up there, he has no choice but to sit at the top of the stairs and impatiently await his butler.

posted by DarlingBri at 1:30 PM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

My dog is acutely aware of when I put on shoes, more than other dogs I've had. He runs unleashed when I am outside in the front garden and I have watched him trot to the road, look for cars, then cross, more than once.

what good puppers and kitties you all have, plz pet and schnuggle them for me asap.
posted by theora55 at 3:04 PM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

My dog knows I'm getting ready to leave when I put on my belt (LOL, not a lot of that happening right now). He knows right after that he'll get a treat, so he goes to his bed to sit and wait for the treat.

He and my previous dog also learned the command "back it up" and will actually back up or leave the room—I didn't intend to teach them that but it just happened.

My previous dog, if we dropped food we'd yell "Sunny, cleanup!" and she pretty quickly learned that those words meant snacktime.
posted by radioamy at 8:49 PM on May 27, 2020

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