Home > Cupcake, Daisy, Dog Behavior, Jasper, Pet Ponderings, Pet Topics > What has your dog learned by watching other dogs and you?

What has your dog learned by watching other dogs and you?


DSC08195In my early days with Daisy, I often would think refer to her as my tabula rasa, my little blank slate. Being a “normal” dog was so completely foreign to her back then that I’m not sure she even knew how to be a dog. Meeting other dogs (and people) was so new to her that when other dogs came up to her to say hello she would just stand there with a distant look in her eye. More often than not, the other dog would end up walking away with a noticeable air of disinterest. She was so completely foreign to them, like an alien from another planet. She just didn’t speak their language.

But, over time, I started to notice that Daisy was actually learning how to be a dog in the same way children model after their parents. She was watching what other dogs were doing and taking note. Whenever we went to the dog park, she would watch other dogs playing and try to mimic their behaviors. She made it her goal to learn as much as she could from them.

Of course, there was always an up and down side to that. She might be learning how to be a dog, but she was also learning some bad dog behaviors along the way. I was on constant guard to make sure she was surrounded by dogs I thought could show her the best way to be a happy and healthy dog. I didn’t want her learning behaviors that other dogs would find annoying or ones that might make her a less than desirable dog at the park. I know it sounds silly, but I am being completely serious when I say she watched how others dogs acted and tried to copy them – ALL OF THE TIME.

You may already know this, but dogs are observing a lot in their day-to-day lives. They are very keen on picking up on new behaviors displayed by other dogs. But they are just as keen on picking up on our own behaviors. Think your dogs don’t observe you? Try picking up your keys and walking towards the door. What did your dog do?

I think I was more aware of my dogs observing me and my behaviors than I was about them observing other dogs and their behavior. It wasn’t until Daisy that I began to realize just how much dogs observe other dogs and how much they learn from them.

When Jasper came into our lives at 9 months of age, he chewed on everything he could get his little teeth on. He tore up stuffed toys with a vengeance. He destroyed plastic toys and left little bits of them all over the house. Until Jasper came into our lives, Daisy never chewed up anything. Ever. Suddenly, she was chewing up frisbees and other plastic toys. She learned by observing Jasper.

When I started taking boarders into my home, Jasper learned from them just like Daisy learned from him. From Tuffy, he learned that a raised paw flicking in the air would get him a belly rub. He discovered the joys of squeaking a tennis ball over and over again from Maggie, who also seemed to savor her tennis balls in the very same way. He learned carrots could be quite tasty from our friend, Buddy.

When Cupcake joined our family, she learned new behaviors too. She learned from Jasper that putting your paws on my lap would get you lots of love and attention. From Daisy, she learned that running around in excitement would get me up off the couch to let her outside. She learned from both of Daisy and Jasper that stealing each other’s toys was okay and even acceptable behavior here. There is no hard and fast rule that what’s yours is yours. Everyone shared here.

Watching my own dogs has made me realize how much dogs are really observing in their environment. They are constantly watching us and other dogs, and they are constantly learning from those observations.  They watch and they learn.

It made me wonder… What behaviors has your own dog learned by watching another dog?  What behaviors has your dog learned by watching you? I would love to know. 

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  1. martie13
    April 9, 2013 at 12:40 AM

    Like your Daisy Molly didn’t know how to be a dog. She still doesn’t exactly. She came to me almost 2 yrs ago as a very fearful shut-down dog who spent the first 3 yrs of her life on a chain with 16 other dogs, none of whom ever got any socialization and very little attention except for harrassment from kids. Molly was afraid of everything and still is to a certain extent. She is comfortable in 1 room in the house where we spend all our time, and comfortable with me, the foster dog and the cat. She had no personality of her own but did begin to play a bit with a favorite toy, a stuffed angry bird with a squeeker. Actually, she has the softest heart and hates to hear the the bird “cry” and becomes very protective of it. But she began to play with it a couple of months ago by tossing it and retrieving it…which she does very gently. Anyway, she never showed any emotions (like joy) until the foster taught her get excited when I began preparing their food. From me she learned that when I closed the top to my laptop it meant I was leaving or going to bed and she immediatly goes into her crate. Her crate is her safe place. She does like other dogs but we don’t meet many as she is most fearful to go outside so we never go anywhere except to the vet, where she enjoys meeting the dogs in the waiting area. Oh, she did like playing with a former foster dog but the current foster is a senior and doesn’t like to play.

  2. April 9, 2013 at 12:57 AM

    I am with you. TeKeela and Bailey learned to walk off-leash following a pack of dogs. We joined a group of well trained dogs. They learned commands such as ‘this way’ to correct their direction, ‘drop it’ when they pick something off the trail and my favorite ‘too far’ and they will turn around and run towards me. The only one the other dogs master and mine just will not do is to ‘go by’. They want to greet and bark to other dogs we run into!

  3. April 9, 2013 at 2:17 AM

    Our Newfie was growing up with a lab – he picked up ball chasing, stick fetching and barking like mental when someone is at the door. Breeder said that he will not bark… ohh how wrong was she
    Also our lab Lilly started to make a cat-like sounds when she noticed that cats are allow on the bed and she is not… cat wonnabe :-0

    • April 9, 2013 at 6:25 PM

      Oh that’s too funny!!

  4. April 9, 2013 at 3:39 AM

    When we visit our parents who have two weimerarners, Del mimics their barking at any noise whatsoever. They bark constantly, and any tiny noise will set them off. Usually, Del will only bark when he sees a cat out of the window, but when he’s around them he joins in when they bark. It’s kind of like he’s trying to get them to like him, because they’re very disinterested in him. Bless 🙂 It’s really interesting to watch. Great post:) x

  5. April 9, 2013 at 5:13 AM

    Great post! We’ve talked a lot about how our adult dogs raise the puppies. We have no counter surfers here. Why? Because the young dogs never get the idea, since they’re watching the older dogs who are sitting. I could give a zillion examples, which even include helping to housebreak. Rosie was 9 weeks old and housebroken. Seriously. Yes, we humans have a bit to do with that, but it was watching Rudy and Jeffie that made the big difference.

  6. April 9, 2013 at 6:24 AM

    Oh, we learn lots from watching mom and we also learn from each other. Not sure if I have learned much from my cats, though 🙂

    • Mel
      April 9, 2013 at 7:15 AM

      LOL Emma! Laughing about the cats. I’m guessing they are too independent to copy one another. 🙂

  7. April 9, 2013 at 6:41 AM

    We recently brought two nearly 1-year-old Chinese Cresteds into our home. The youngest one came with perfect manners, never getting into any trouble at all. That is until she’d have “meetings” with her new sister, 2 months older that she was. The older one was typical puppy, getting into everything and chewing everything in sight. Within a couple of weeks, the younger one was doing the same thing. Now I have to teach them both how to behave. It hasn’t been too bad because lately they’ve been chewing on each other and playing so hard that they get too tired to get into trouble.

  8. April 9, 2013 at 7:49 AM

    Lacy also learned how to be a dog from Max. She was clueless when she first came here. I call her Max’s mini me as she copies everything he does. Luckily she has not picked up his barking inside, maybe because I correct him and she sees that it is unwanted behavior. She is a very smart girl and it still amazed me how far she has come from the scared shut down mill survivor she was.
    The car keys is funny. We can’t touch them without a reaction. The other thing is the poop bags, they hear me touching them and they know a walk is coming and get all excited.

  9. April 9, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    We always watch mom. What shoes is she putting on, did she get our leashes, and of course, the treat cupboard.

  10. April 9, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    Great post! I have to say, Bella has been teaching Tavish all sorts of things. He definitely models off her behavior, which has been both great and not-so-great. It’s great because Bella is a really well-behaved dog, and he generally just falls in line with her routines. This modeling helped Tavish fit seamlessly into our house. It’s not-so-great because she has taught him some less desirable things, including the art of waking me up in the middle of the night to eat. For example, she used to pound the side of the bed with her paws when she wanted something – now she sits off to the side and watches as her student takes care of it instead.

  11. April 9, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    This is lovely. Our Lovie also had to learn to be a dog – a happy dog. And she has … I think what she has learned from us is calm and peace. She lost her fear of Humankind. Watching us, she sees that people are good. People are kissable and huggable, it’s OK to dance around and be goofy, that there is safety in the humans of her new world … there is safety in boundaries. She was terrified initially of other dogs as she had been a victim of the savagery of a few – so we took her to the dog park and just let her watch the dogs there from the car. She trembled and shook, but less each day we visited, until she was willing to step out of the car and make her way to the enclosure. What she had observed there were happy dogs, doing happy things! Soon she was one of those happy dogs, doing happy things and now her (daily!) trips to the DP are a source of great joy for her. I think it is there that she found her freedom. Interestingly, it is there that she first started to lose her fear of people – a person attached to another happy dog was no threat to her at all. She never ceases to amaze me … we love her so.

  12. April 9, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    My mom’s dog Scout refused to go through the dog door until she first saw that Eko could do it. Only once she saw another dog survive the trip unharmed was she willing to go through!

  13. April 9, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    From what I can tell Gizmo has picked up barking from the other dogs in the neighborhood…He was pretty quiet till we had some barkers move in..He knows my every move…he knows what shoes means work versus which ones mean hiking…he know swimsuits and purses and keys and sunglasses…he knows ahead of time when he’ll get to come along and when I’ll be leaving him home…He knows everything

  14. April 9, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    I don’t know what they learn when they observe other dogs but I know they are very observant. Gracie will stop walking and watch a plane flying overhead or follow the flight of a bird. She sniffs a lot when we walk but she’ll just stop and watch stuff too!
    Henri cracks me up and has recently reached a … milestone? When he peed he always squatted, in the last few weeks he’s discovered scents high up on poles and street posts so now he lifts his leg. It’s kinda funny because he is a small dog and in the beginning he was toppling over! Gracie and I LOL’d!

  15. April 9, 2013 at 10:32 PM

    Max (St. Bernard/Lab cross) and I do pack walks on Sunday with my friends and their greyhounds. There are usually 4 or 5 greys and two of the males have a habit of scuffing the dirt with their back feet after they do their business. I have noticed that Max has starting doing it too but only when we are with the greys. He never does it when we are alone or when he is at the dog park with his other mixed breed friends. I wonder if he realizes how different he looks from the greyhounds and is just trying to fit in.

  16. April 10, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    I wish that Dexter would learn to be less of a spaz by watching Jersey. However, Jersey barks more with Dexter in the house. She used to *maybe* bark once every few months, now she barks at least once a week.

    • Mel
      April 12, 2013 at 7:10 AM

      Once a week???? OMG Karen. Wanna trade? Once a week???

  17. April 10, 2013 at 7:34 PM

    Wow! Those are great questions! Unfortunately, it’s hard for me to say what Taylor has learned from other dogs because she is not around many dogs throughout the week! 😦 However, she has learned quite a few behaviors from watching us! For instance, during one movie night, Taylor sat in front of my husband, Jeremy, and began to whine and whine. This resulted in Jeremy picking her up and Taylor resting on his lap. Guess what Taylor now does at the beginning of EVERY movie night? 🙂

    • Mel
      April 12, 2013 at 7:09 AM

      That’s funny Jessica. Maybe my next post should ask how has your dog trained you? LOL!

  18. April 11, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    Well just recently Delilah has begun lifting her leg to pee on trees. I kid you not. She’s done it twice, but I’ve yet to capture the proof!

    I had hoped that some of Sampson’s good behaviors would wear off on her, you know like NOT picking through the garbage, NOT taking food from the counter, COMING BACK when called. Still waiting.

    She has picked up some of his traits though, she mimics the way he lays on his back to get rubbies. She greets me at the door and gets a toy in her mouth (he’s stopped doing this) and she tries really hard to roo like he does, but so far she can’t. 🙂

    • Mel
      April 12, 2013 at 7:08 AM

      Lifting her leg on trees??? LOL Jodi! I have only seen one other female dog do that. I am wondering if it is some sort of competitive thing with the male dogs? So bizarre. It appears that Delilah has chosen which of Sampson’s behaviors she would like to mimic. It looks like the three you mentioned weren’t at the top of her list. 😀

      • April 14, 2013 at 9:01 PM

        I gasped the first time I saw her do it. I’m still waiting to catch it on video. No, sadly she picked up none of the traits I wanted her to. 🙂

    • April 12, 2013 at 2:05 PM

      Oh my female dog used to try to do that too! She’d watch the boys (much much smaller than her) and then go stand next to the tree like they did to lift their legs. I guess she didn’t notice they lifted their legs after standing next to it so she’d just stand there for a minute and wait. Then walk off, satisfied she’d done what she was supposed to!

      And I’ve noticed they seem to mostly pick up the bad habits. Not so much the good 🙂

  19. April 11, 2013 at 10:53 PM

    I’m a week late to the party but…this is such a great post for us. When we got Felix, he had no idea how to be a dog. As far as I could tell, we brought home a small human with a hair growth problem and a speech impediment. After working with a trainer for several months, she suggested we get him a pupp to “show him the way”. Within 6 weeks of getting him a Kolchak, he was running around, playing with toys and acting like a dog.

    On the flip side, instead of easing Felix’s separation anxiety, Felix may have shared it with Kol. Felix is no longer so stressed he vomits when I leave, but now BOTH dogs sure make a ruckus when I arrive and when I leave.

    • Mel
      April 12, 2013 at 7:05 AM

      Okay. Best line ever… “As far as I could tell, we brought home a small human with a hair growth problem and a speech impediment.”OMD Jodi. That one made me laugh so hard.

      I am so glad that Felix learned how to play and have fun from Koly. Daisy learned from Jasper, and now Cupcake. I am so sorry to hear about the separation anxiety. It can be so hard to treat and handle. At least Felix isn’t overly stressed. That would be hard on him and you.

  20. April 12, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    Oh Huffle’s been taking dog lessons from his cousins we visit from time to time. He did the EXACT same thing you describe when we brought him home. His levels of excitement are still really moderate but compared to when he first came to us when he would just stare into the distance without any expression in his eyes, it’s like night and day. He was like a living dog statue: food was nice but not terribly important, treats weren’t interesting, he just liked to lean on people or be near their feet but that was about it.

  21. April 12, 2013 at 10:41 PM

    It really is so important to socialize your dogs, and I find your point of view interesting. It reminds of what a friend of mine says often”more is caught than taught”

    I remember when I was trying to house train my puppyCappie. She didn’t figure it out on her own, but by watching my other dog Sarge go out and potty.

    I recall when I got my first dog and I never had him around any dogs… Yeah that wasn’t a good time:( we ended up getting some professional help. That’s what lead me into dog training myself.. Anyhow thanks for the post.

  22. April 13, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    Been so busy this week, we missed this great post! I couldn’t begin to tell you all the stories I have that show this behavior from the litters of puppies we had to our current dogs Jack & Maggie. I guess I’ll just say how thankful I am that it happens. With Maggie – she was shut down – former breeder mom from terrible environs. It’s absolutely by watching Jack that she’s learned the joys of the world, food, her yard, walks, and humans…thanks Jack and all who came before you.

  23. April 29, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    I can’t believe I missed this! When we got Felix, he gave us no indication that he was not a small human with a hair growth disorder and a speech impediment. He didn’t do any “dog things”. Any at all…expect pull on his leash. LOL. After 3 months of working with a trainer on his fear issues, his lack of any idea what to do with a toy (he would let a ball hit him squarely between the eyes if you threw it to him). Our trainer’s suggestion was to get him a puppy, a dog that new how to be a dog and was ready to show him the way. It worked, within a few weeks, Felix played with toys. He played with them with an excitement he had never shown about anything. To this day, Felix LOVES stuffed toys and it still bring a tear to my eye. Another gift Kolchak brought Fe was his unabashed love for everyone. Felix had a lot of fear issues, but Kolchak loves with abandon. He’d snuggle anyone who came around, even the Daddy who Felix was quite wary of. After seeing Koly play with him and get snacks and wrestle and cuddle, Felix started wading into the fray. Now Daddy is his favourite person. (Bah on that part! I’ve been abandoned!)

  1. April 29, 2013 at 7:12 AM

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