Cue n. A stimulus, either consciously or unconsciously perceived, that elicits or signals a type of behavior.
Our dachshunds, Chloe and Molly, are very adept at discovering, learning, and reacting to certain cues in our behavior. Many actions that we take during the course of a normal day elicit excited responses on their part; most of them involving the notion that something exciting is about to occur or that they are going to get to go somewhere.
It is important to note that our dogs can usually be found in the same rooms as we are. If Greg or I are in separate rooms, the dogs usually choose to be in whatever room I am located in. This propensity of following me around means to them that no room is sacred or off-limits and I usually have at least one dog accompanying me even to the bathroom. If both dogs don’t make it into the bathroom before I manage to close the door, I will have a doggie nose peaking under the door with an occasional whimper or scratch at the door (especially if the banned party is Molly).
Anyways, on to the cues. One of the first cues I noticed them responding to was the sound of Microsoft Windows being shut down on our computer or us pushing in our keyboard trays. This usually indicates that we are done sitting at our computer and are probably going to leave the room. As soon as they hear either of these noises (even if we are just shifting our position and bump the keyboard try so it slides to its closed position), the dogs will immediately wake up from what had previously appeared to be a sound slumber and run to the doorway. At this point, they turn around and look at us expectantly, waiting for us to join them. Written all over their cute doggy faces is the expression of “Hooray, maybe they will let us outside now! I love going outside! Going outside is my favorite!”
Another common and newly acquired cue is the turning off of the television. As soon as the tv is off, both dogs jump up (again, usually from a dead sleep) and are off the couch in a second and run to the backdoor. Once again assuming that this indicates that they are going to be let outside.
I think dogs understand more than we give them credit for. While they do take a lot of verbal cues from us based on tone of voice and inflection, there are certain words that they do understand regardless. The main recognizable word being, you guessed it: outside. I can throw the word “outside” into an ordinary sentence and not even be looking at the dogs and Chloe’s ears will raise to their topmost position and she will cock her head to the side and look at me as if to inquire “Outside? Did I just hear what I think I heard? Did she say outside? I love outside! Please let her mean that I get to go outside!”
A fun game we like to play with Chloe and Molly is “Get the Kitty“. Get the Kitty is fun for all parties involved, except perhaps for the poor kitty on the other end of the getting. Chloe especially has a knack for knowing where a kitty is at almost all times, even if she outwardly has not shown any signs of paying any attention to said kitty all day. When told to “Get the Kitty” she usually goes right to the kitty’s hiding spot.
Get the Kitty is also a very helpful tool for me whenever our cat, Petey, runs into the house and hides before I can get to him. (Petey is an outdoor kitty.) The dogs absolutely love playing this game with Petey. Poor Petey takes it in stride.
Speaking of cues and kitties, the dogs observed that whenever Petey would scratch on furniture that he would get yelled at by Greg or I. Pretty soon, we didn’t need to yell at Petey anymore – the dogs became reinforcers and would chase Petey off when he would scratch on furniture. Very useful these dogs are. This did get Chloe into trouble once though. She observed Kristi’s cat, Rosie, scratching (like a good kitty) on her scratching post. Chloe doesn’t know the difference between furniture and a scratching post. She went after Rosie like she does Petey, but Rosie would have none of it. She scratched poor little Chloe on her face. Chloe and Molly are learning to respect Rosie and to give Rosie a wider berth. 😉