Home > Dog Behavior, Jasper, Pet Ponderings, Shelties > Observation Skills and Car Commericials – What does your dog notice?

Observation Skills and Car Commericials – What does your dog notice?


Earlier this year, there was a Hyundai car commercial that played with great frequency for a few months. The reason I remember this specific commercial is because it had a distinctive “beep” that would sound throughout the commercial. It sounded like the beep given off by a smoke alarm when the battery is dying.

As you can imagine, it was quite unpopular in our house, especially with Jasper, who has a profound fear of smoke detectors and the noises they make. Whenever the commercial would come on, he would immediately wake up and go into the bedroom – his safe spot, with Daisy. I started to anticipate when the commercial would be on and start muting the TV just in case. It just upset him too much.

We haven’t seen this commercial in about a month now, but it appears it was not just the beep that Jasper picked up on in that commercial. It was the background music too. Earlier this week, and again last night, Jasper stopped in the middle of playing with his ball to stop and look at the television as a new commercial came on. It uses the same background music (sans the beep) as the Hyundai commercial.

I watched as he came to a complete stop, turned his head slowly towards the television, and waited. A few seconds later, when it was evident there would be no beep, he again resumed playing.

I love studying dogs and watching how they figure things out, but even I am surprised by how observant they really are to the sights, sounds and smells around them. I can drive the same route every day and not notice a new sign or building until many days or months later. I have walked my dogs in the neighborhood and been completely oblivious to the sight of a squirrel on the ground until my dogs alerted me to it.

It makes me wonder how much more we notice in a given day if we had our dog’s attention to detail. If you get a chance today, observe your dog for a few minutes. What noises causes their ears to twitch? What movements or sounds cause them to turn their head? What smells excite them? I would love to hear what you noticed or observed about your dog’s own observation skills.

  1. January 14, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    It’s funny that you bring this up right now. I posted a video on my facebook page last night, it was a dog that had been living on the streets that an organization rescued. When they examined her after she entered the trap, she recently had a litter of puppies. The rescue worker wanted to have her show him where they were so he played a recording of puppies whimpering. Delilah happened to be passed out cold on the bed next to me, but as soon as that first whimper came out, she snapped up to attention, looking over at my computer, ears on alert.

    Since she’d had a litter of puppies before she came to us, I wondered what had coursed through her mind.

    It definitely showed me that they pay more attention to our surroundings then we think they do.

    • Mel
      January 14, 2013 at 9:39 PM

      Well isn’t that interesting Jodi! I wonder if it was a memory of her litter? Or, just the urgency of the sound that got to her? I think it’s interesting that she was sound asleep, but it woke her up completely. I have had Daisy react when she has heard puppies on my computer before, but usually it’s when they are really squealing, other wise she doesn’t seem to notice much. I do remember one time playing a video of a coyote howling and Cupcake stood straight up from a sound sleep and got a worried look on her face. I never played it again. I think she may have heard them many times when she was lost. :(

      • January 16, 2013 at 11:17 AM

        It definitely made me wonder about her and her puppies.

        Poor little Cupcake, I imagine she did hear it. :-(

  2. Will and Eko
    January 14, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    The one that always amazes me is that Eko can tell the difference between when I’m zipping up my hoodie (which I only wear around the apartment) and when I’m zipping up my jacket (to go out). He will snore right through the first, but is instantly alert and up at the second!

    • Mel
      January 14, 2013 at 9:36 PM

      Now THAT is impressive Will! Seriously! How does Eko know the difference? That is so cool!

  3. January 14, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    I just played the commercial and watched Georgia. She didn’t stir from her spot on Cushion’s bed. Door bells on telly get her barking, they sound so real they sometimes trick me. As do mobile phones. I think Georgia’s favourite sound these days is the timer. We set it for one hour when she comes back from her walks so we know when to feed her, and also to stop her from pestering us for food immediately. It worked! Now when she hears the beep beep, she’s up like a rocket and waiting at the kitchen door.

    Apart from that, she’s most observant about food and remembers where she last found anything to eat. Also what appears to her to be strange actions…like someone unloading a boot, or standing still on the pavement, or a chicken in the backyard. That makes her come to a complete standstill and bark. she’s a weirdo :D

    • Mel
      January 14, 2013 at 9:36 PM

      I love that the doorbell gets Georgia, but I love it more that she knows the timer means food. How very smart of her Typist to do that. :)
      My mom’s Sheltie Jake knows that when the Wheel of Fortune tune comes on that it is dinner time. He can be sound asleep, but he as soon as he hears the tune he bounces right up and barks at my mom. They are all weirdos. LOL!

  4. January 14, 2013 at 3:15 PM

    I just played it and Kobi didn’t react…..he hates the smoke detector. But ours sounds a little different, and a woman’s voice says “fire, fire, fire”. It’s almost like he knows what that means! All the dogs will bark if there is a doorbell on TV though. We have never had a doorbell! Possibly Kobi heard one years ago when he stayed with our neighbors sometimes. I think their memories are pretty amazing too.

    • Mel
      January 14, 2013 at 9:34 PM

      Your smoke detector actually has a voice Jan? How very interesting!
      How weird that Kobi knows what a doorbell sounds like if you have never had one. Do you think that the bell sound just triggers dogs, even if they haven’t heard it before? Maybe something in the pitch of the sound?

      • January 15, 2013 at 7:20 AM

        Yes, and that voice really is annoying, to all of us! One smoke detector is very close to my oven….you should see the antics we go through to keep it from going off when we’re cooking! :) I think you might be right about the bell sound….perhaps that and beeping sounds sometimes have a pitch to them that triggers something in dogs.

  5. To Shea
    January 14, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    Our girl Penny had done the same thing with the same commercial and many several commercials. God Forbid our actual smoke alarm goes off telling us to replace the batteries. Penny becomes terrified. We really feel bad for her.
    Its very strange that some dogs are so afraid of some noises.
    Alex and Penny

    • Mel
      January 14, 2013 at 9:32 PM

      Poor Penny! Yes. Daisy and Jasper both shake when the smoke alarm goes off. I once set it off when I burnt some bacon this summer. Now Jasper won’t come in the house in the morning if he knows I am making bacon. Bacon = burnt bacon = smoke alarm = fear

      Penny would be very happy to know that at least she doesn’t have to fear bacon. It is funny what things dogs notice isn’t it?

  6. January 14, 2013 at 7:44 PM

    What an annoying beep in that ad! That would have made my Mom’s old dog nuts. She hated the smoke alarm beeping. I played it and Rita stopped walking by and looked at the computer/me. If it was on TV, she would probably look at the TV and watch the commercial. She actually watches every once in a while, although mostly when it’s animals on.

    I read somewhere a little while back that commercials have started intentionally putting doorbells and other sounds in that attract the dog’s attention, because if the dog stops to watch the commercial, the people will too!

    • Mel
      January 14, 2013 at 9:30 PM

      That is so interesting Jackie! SO maybe the beep is intentional? Hmmm…. Darn ad agencies. :)

      So interesting that Rita noticed the noise too. I think I am even more intrigued by the fact that she watches animals on TV. None of my dogs do that. Some of my old clients did, but none of my own. I wonder how much they see and how much is the noise? Very interesting!

    • To Shea
      January 15, 2013 at 12:15 PM

      Jackie…You are probably correct about the ad agencies intentionally putting those sound in. The only bad thing is that many dogs are afraid of the sounds like my dog Penny and we wind up turning the channel or turning the TV off. The ad agencies should not have put those sounds in the commercials.
      Our girl becomes so frightened of them…we really feel bad for her.
      Alex and Penny

      • January 16, 2013 at 2:31 PM

        I know – they must not be dog owners themselves, or they’d know that a lot of dogs are afraid of the beeps and bells. Darn ad agencies indeed! We usually record stuff and buzz through the commercials anyway. We only stop when we see cute dogs! (They get us one way or another!)

        And, Mel, it’s funny with Rita. At first I thought it was the sounds, but she seems to watch even when the animals are quiet. So funny to watch her watching the TV. She even watched UP! with me when the cartoon dogs were on screen. She’s a funny girl.

  7. January 14, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    Gracie is very observant, she’ll stop to watch birds or a plane fly overhead. She’ll watch some tv, once I was watching Criminal Minds and someone was screaming, she looked up at the tv but I covered her eyes, I didn’t want her to see the violence! Oh and when that Sarah MacLachlen commercial for abused dogs comes on I cover both dogs eyes, I don’t want them seeing such cruelty :(

  8. January 15, 2013 at 2:11 AM

    Dogs sure pay attention to circumstances. They notice and file away everything which “means something”. It’s very obvious with Jasmine. She knows exactly what EVERYTHING means. It’s also very interesting to watch when she encounters something knew what may or may not have a unknown significance and how she tries to figure that out.

    • Mel
      January 15, 2013 at 6:38 AM

      I agree. They do notice everything. I love watching them exploring something new. Puppies are especially fun to watch when they encounter something new. :)

  9. January 15, 2013 at 8:31 AM

    wow, that is so neat that you were able to pick up on that Mel! Leroy is the only one of my dogs that pays attention to sounds on the TV and usually it’s only when a dogs bark. I think I’m going to zone in on him a little more today!

  10. January 16, 2013 at 6:04 PM

    Dexter always barks when he hears the 60 Minutes ticking clock. He is also *very* interested in the ravens on Game of Thrones. So much that he will go up an sniff the TV.

    • Mel
      January 16, 2013 at 10:38 PM

      I wonder what it is about the ticking clock? I can’t get over his interest in the ravens though. That is so interesting and intriguing. I wonder why?

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