Friday, 21 December 2007

highly successful canine brains

Penny's had a very boring time today because it teemed most of the day and she couldn't get outside much. (Well, there was one definitely non-boring moment when she jumped into the raging creek on our early morning walk, chasing a ball that I stupidly threw too far. What is it about me this week? I can't seem to do anything right. Looking on the bright side, it was a good physical workout for her, swimming across the current to reach land, and a good workout for my heart as I raced along the bank.)

Anyway, back to the boring aspect of the day... I try to include some interesting activity for her each day, because, as I've said before, I believe it's a case of 'use it or lose it' in terms of developing her brain power. On Boing Boing I read two of the "10 Habits of Highly Successful Brains "by Alvaro Fernandez, co-founder of cognitive fitness firm SharpBrains.
Number One is: Learn what is the "It" in "Use It or Lose It". A basic understanding will serve you well to appreciate your brain's beauty as a living and constantly-developing dense forest with billions of neurons and synapses.
I'll have to think what the 'It' is that I don't want to lose, and then consider what 'It' would be for Penny. Perhaps mental flexibility?
Number five is: Thrive on Learning and Mental Challenges. The point of having a brain is precisely to learn and to adapt to challenging new environments. Once new neurons appear in your brain, where they stay in your brain and how long they survive depends on how you use them. "Use It or Lose It" does not mean "do crossword puzzle number 1,234,567". It means, "challenge your brain often with fundamentally new activities."
It's lucky for Penny that she lives in an environment where there are so many interesting and challenging activities available to her. I'm thinking doggy dancing, agility, tricks, and, best of all from her point of view, a walk up the main street where the outdoor diners drop so many fascinating food scraps. It's a wonderful challenge for her to snaffle as much as possible without the accompanying humans noticing what she's up to.

I went over to SharpBrains to have a look around. The points are great for us humans to keep in mind, but I think number seven would also apply to our dogs:
Explore, travel. Adapting to new locations forces you to pay more attention to your environment. Make new decisions, use your brain
Now I've got a justification for going to interesting places with Penny.


mary said...

I am travelling at the moment, having just been is Spain for 14 days. It is a constant time of watching what people do in certain situations so that you know what is going on. You realise how much you use body language to communicate. I have been using my minimal Spanish and realise that i would love to maintain it but probably won't as there is not all that much opportunity to use it in Australia. We have seen lots of people out walking their dogs in the busy city parts. There are lots of gardens and inviting walkways that have grassed off areas where the dogs sniff around and relieve themselves. I have to say, we tried not to walk on the grassy areas as we only saw a small percentage of people picking up after their dogs. Lots of shaggy dogs that i have not seen in Australia. I will have to do some research when I get home to see what sorts they are. Many more men walking their dogs than women. Siesta time seems to be a good time. It has been interesting to see the different lifestyles while we have been travelling. We have been constantly working out how to do things, how to get to places, how the transport systems work, etc. has been fun.

parlance said...

Maybe the Spanish dogs are shaggy because it is winter?
I'm certainly glad most people pick up after their dogs here!

curator said...

Hi, curator here from The Pet Museum. Thanks for visiting me! I like your blog very much and will go check out thst link you sent me. Merry Christmas to you!

parlance said...

Curator, your blog is one of the first I visit each day, to see what interesting snippets of info from the past you have unearthed. I love history and I love animals, so your blog is just right for me.