Penny has mastered 'paws up', where she puts her front paws up on either my arm or another object.
In the new trick,I turn my back on her and she jumps up to put her two front paws on my arm, which is behind my back. The idea is that I will take a few steps eventually and she will follow, keeping her paws up.
When one of the group said she's not interested in tricks and neither is her dog, we started to discuss why people teach tricks to their dogs. Some said they like tricks because they are just fun, others because it raises the level of behavior generally. I agree with both of these opinions, but my main motivation is that I believe it increases Penny's intelligence.
Having taught human children for many years, I am convinced that it's a case of 'use it or lose it', Children who grow up with a stimulating environment develop a higher level of ability than those who do not.
In an article about raising children in an enriched environment, Dr. Spencer Kagan & Miguel Kagan say:
In classic studies, brain scientists have raised rats in different types of environments. The enriched environments were filled with toys and other rats. The impoverished environments were solitary, with no toys. Can you guess which rats were smarter? You guessed it. The rats that were raised in enrichment environments. They could figure out the twists and turns of a maze faster and better than the deprived rats. Perhaps even more important was what happened to their brains. Scientists found a number of changes to the structure of their brains. The brains of rats raised in the enriched environments were much more fully developed and actually weighed more!
Recent brain research on primates and humans confirms the principle of neural plasticity. That is, following enriching experiences, our brains become more fully developed. What this means is that we can actually grow better brains in our children by providing them with enriching experiences
Likewise for dogs, I believe. They, too, are
Kagan and Kagan describe a variety of resources you might use to enrich your child's environment and finish with this advice:
Reviewing the list of resources you might think, “I already have a lot of this stuff.” If that’s the case, great! Your child’s living and learning environment is already well-equipped. If you are missing some resources in the key categories of intellectual development, you may want to take this imbalance into consideration as you select your next gift or plan your next investment in your child’s education and brain development. Many of the suggested resources are available at little, and some even at no cost.
Remember: the most important element in raising a smarter child is altering his or her experiences within his or her environment, not merely altering the environment itself. It’s what your kids do and what you do with them, not what they have.
How true also for dogs! In my opinion it's not a matter of buying a Kong toy and wondering why your dog just chews on it, or leaving a tug toy lying around for the dog to play with. It's a matter of you interacting with the dog in a play or learning situation and making the best us of the toys and other resources you have.