Canine Cognition Game

Always learning new things

Monday, November 7, 2022

Thank you, Dog Lovers, for another year of dog! It’s a fun journey to be in this with you and I wish you the very best as we all continue to learn and grow from our lives with dogs.

As 2022 comes to a close and we look toward flipping the calendar to another year (and in some cases, enthusiastically flipping this one away!), let’s have some fun together by playing a canine cognition game.

It’s always good to be curious, ask questions, and put on our critical thinking caps, right?

Select the response that most accurately answers the question.

1. Canine Familiaris (dog) has existed as a species for how many years?

a) 500-5,000

b) 5000-15,000

c) We are still unsure

2. What is the definition of “people food” when it pertains to feeding our dogs?

a) Anything that people eat

b) Anything that doesn’t come in a package labeled “dog food”

c) Whatever you want it to mean; there is no accepted definition

3. A wagging tail indicates (select the one answer that is most accurate):

a) A friendly dog

b) It depends on the rest of the dog’s body

c) An overly aroused dog

d) A confident dog

e) A fearful dog

4. Once you’ve trained a dog to do a behavior on cue, you don’t need to reward her for that behavior anymore

a) True

b) False

5. “Natural” as an ingredient signifies:

a) The ingredient is organic

b) Nothing; there’s no actually definition for “natural”

c) Humans can eat it, too.

6. The click of a clicker (or a verbal marker):

a) Tells the dog “bingo!” You will be paid for what you did when you heard it.

b) Cues the dog to do something

c) Indicates a reward is forthcoming

7. Dogs have the innate desire to please humans

a) True

b) False

8. Grain-free diets can cause heart issues in dogs, therefore dogs require grain in their diet:

a) True

b) False

9. When you meet a new dog, you should allow her to come up to you rather than you moving into her space. Assuming she approaches you, what part of her body should you touch first?

a) Whatever part she presents to you to touch, if any

b) The top of her head for a nice scritch

c) Her chest

10. If a dog pulls while on leash, he's trying to be alpha

a) True

b) False

11. A single litter of puppies may have more than one father

a) True

b) False

12. A puppy shouldn’t be allowed off your property until he’s fully vaccinated

a) True

b) False

13. The term “socialization” refers to:

a) Interacting with other dogs

b) Interacting with other people

c) Careful and positive exposures to novelty of all types

14. Kibble was first introduced to the market in what year?

a) 1850

b) 1956

c) 1920

15. A pregnant dog can pass long fearful characteristics to her puppies

a) True

b) False



2.(c) “people food” is a widely-embraced, imprecise term that seems to indicate that people have exclusive rights to certain foods. Carrying this further, many dog owners interpret its meaning to be, “don’t feed your dog anything that doesn’t come packaged specifically for dogs.” We do not need to subscribe to the "no people food" myth, nor do we need to only feed our dogs from a package labeled "dog food."

Just like us, dogs benefit from real foods; a variety of fresh, natural foods to help support optimal health and a robust digestive system. There is tremendous pressure to be "brand loyal", but do you survive on one brand of food? Chances are you don't think of yourself as consuming a "brand." The concept of brand loyalty is one of the most successful marketing achievements in the history of capitalism (my personal opinion), right up there with embracing breakfast cereal as the best way to start the day.

3.(b) Any of the options could be correct, but the most important message is that a wagging tail doesn’t always mean friendly

4.(b) if you want to keep the behavior strong, it will have to be rewarded frequently enough to maintain it;  

5.(b)  6.(a)  7.(b) Dogs do not do things just to please us; if there’s something in it for them and it pleases us in the process, it’s a win-win! We like to think we are at the top of our dogs’ worlds and they’d do anything to “please” us, but, to use one of my favorite quotes, “the concept that dogs have the innate desire to please us is a direct result of our desire to be demigods.” If it were true, that dogs did have this innate desire to please humans, there would be no need for shelters, for dog trainers, there would be no aggressive dogs, no dog-dog problems, etc.

8.(b)  9.(a)  10.(b) Dogs pull because it works…and because walking on leash is a very unnatural thing for them to do. Leash walking is a complex behavior to train and challenging physically for our dogs: they are being asked to walk at our pace (which is generally much slower than theirs) and look up at us instead of surveying the environment. Puppies learn very early that they can get where they want by pulling, so we unintentionally train them to pull just by moving with their pull. Don’t blame the dog; he’s a clever problem-solver and figures out quickly what strategies work to get him what he wants.

11.(a) Yes! This is true!

12.(b) Some dog professionals, including some veterinarians, still embrace the very outdated and harmful practice of keeping young puppies secluded until they are “fully vaccinated.”


Exposure to new people and dogs is just a drop in the bucket of the whole socialization effort: positive associations with novelty is the key! “Novelty” may mean walking on a different surface (slippery, unstable, uneven, etc.), seeing kids run, smelling something different, etc. First impressions need to be good ones and we only get one chance at that.


History of Dog Food

Kibble wasn't invented until 1956. "In 1964, The Pet Food Institute (a group of pet food industry lobbyists) launched a series of ad campaigns to convince consumers that commercially prepared dog food was the only option to feed." (Note: this link is not an endorsement of The Farmer's Dog). I venture to guess that the term "no people food" became an industry tagline around that time, tens of thousands of years into dogs' existence. No species on earth has the exclusive rights to any one type of food, so "people food" is a silly concept.

Know what you are feeding your dog, what he needs to thrive (vs. simply survive) and how to provide more nutritious meals even if you decide to feed kibble.


“We have to assume that canine mothers also pass along information about their environment to their pups in utero. And sometimes that information is wrong, predicting a life of stress and hardship when the puppy instead ends up loved and coddled. Such a puppy would be tuned to react strongly to stressors.”