So everyone knows that dogs get the basics of life. I think most sites say the average dog has the intelligence of a typical 1 to 2-year-old child.
So not geniuses by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly not stupid.
Herding breeds are a little bit more intelligent than that. And I’m no different from any other owner of a herding dog. It’s really funny, because if you are not raised around these dogs, you really don’t think that they are all that smart. Their adorable puppy cuteness just muddles your mind and you think ‘oh how could something that fluffy be so smart?’
Let me tell you, as a first-time owner, they are flipping smart.
I mean look at this face! This face says, ‘oh I’m just a cute little fuzzball’ not ‘I’m going to grow up into a dog who can open doors without training.’
But what really made me realize that my dog, particularly his breed, was intelligent was the ‘Great Cheese Incident of 2016’. Or the 3 weeks my dog tricked me into giving him cheese.
He was about 6 or 7 months at the time which is kind of terrifying that he’s grown in intelligence. But he had just had a bath and I had already dried him off as well as possible with his towel (Micro fiber, a godsend to dog owners!) and he was just ‘putting’ around the house just air drying what I had missed.
Not a big deal, this was normal bath time routine.
Now one thing that is very important to know is that Merlin is very quiet on his feet, most herding dogs are. Also he didn’t have his collar, which jingles with his rabies tag and dog I.D., on.
I stated above that he was ‘putting’ around the house, that’s a code word. Anyone who has an Aussie I’m sure knows that they go bonkers after a bath most of the time. If your Aussie doesn’t, then that’s just amazing.
So while he is in the living room doing the run/roll of freedom I decided to go make lunch. I’m standing at the counter making a sandwich when I step back to go put something in the pantry. Now at the time it never occurred to me that I didn’t hear him going berserk in the living room. Or that he really was a Velcro dog.
I stepped back and I tell you, do you know that split moment when you know you’ve stepped on something you shouldn’t have and you jerk your foot away so fast you lose your balance and hit the ground.
Well I had my moment, I hit the ground with a thud and a puppy yowl ringing in my ears. Sometimes I think I will one day make a terrible mom because I’ll step on my child, but other days I think I’ll be super mom, because I had never moved so fast in my life. They say having a dog is good practice for a baby, but if my baby is ever remotely like my dog then I’m doomed.
I had that puppy up and on the couch in moments, checking his leg and calling the vet all in one go. Now I won’t say I’m an expert on messed up legs, be they dog or human, but I do know what a broken bone feels like most of the time. That was my biggest worry at that moment.
The vet had me bring him up and he was examined for any serious damage, thankfully there wasn’t anything. So the vet felt that it was probably a sprain, and while very painful was easily fixable with proper care for 48 hours.
This meant no running around and jumping, lots of rest, ice and heat packs and baby aspirin. So he was confined to his kennel and went on a lot of leash walks and the application of a frozen back of peas and a hot compress.
But the baby aspirin, he would not take. We tried just about every method known to man to get him to take the pill without putting it in food. But alas, I finally had to relent. I rolled up the pill in a small piece of cheese and at first he didn’t want it. Then grudgingly he took it.
Of course I thought it was grudgingly.
So 48 hours roll by and the limp is still there, so off to the vets we go, this time for x-rays. Was I thrilled about this? Not really. But you say, ‘It’s for your dog! Practically your baby!’ At the time, you’d be right, I was just worried about my pup, I wanted him to get better. After the Great Cheese Incident of 2016 I could have strangled him. Like any parent would when they discovered their child doing something stupidly intelligent.
X-rays come out and guess what? Nothing there. Not a single thing. So the vet gives me some medicine that will help with deep tissue inflammation, and I go and pay for all this and we leave.
Let me tell you, I had to go each of the three weeks to get this medicine for my dog, and that is expensive. But it was for my dog, who was hurting, from a mysterious leg wound, that no one could find…
Wait a minute. Something just wasn’t adding up. So one day I tested out a theory.
I let Merlin out of his kennel and we went into the kitchen. I set the pills on the counter and the small piece of cheese. He sat there as attentive as always. So far no difference. Then I popped the pill out of the package and proceeded to pretend to put the pill in the cheese. I rolled up the cheese and knelt and held it out in the palm of my hand. He sniffed it, looked at me with the same disgruntled look he had been giving me since this all started and took the cheese.
I put him back in his kennel for about half an hour to let the ‘medicine’ kick in, then I took him out for his walk and bathroom break.
He didn’t limp.
Not one bloody time.
Merlin ‘slayed a dragon’ alright.
He played me and my parents like a finely tuned violin. All for cheese.
It took another week after that for him to realize that he had been caught and he was not getting any more cheese, no matter how he ‘limped’. Finally he stopped altogether and that ladies and gentlemen ended the Great Cheese Incident of 2016 and I never felt dumber in my life.
Thankfully he hasn’t tried anything like that since then, for which I am most grateful and so is my bank account, but he still does incredibly intelligent things, like opening the door, that sometimes make me wonder.
Just how smart can my dog, or any dog for that matter, be?
The Owner (Who will admit to getting played very well)