December 25, 2008

Reporting From The Battle Lines

An 8 year old Male Fox Terrier of the common '...Image via WikipediaI am filing this report from sidelines of a heated battle being waged in my home office. No, this is not about any ludicrous "war on Christmas." The combatants in this case are my two dogs, a 10 year-old Toy Fox Terrier and a 1 year-old terrier mix I recently adopted from the shelter. And no, they aren't really fighting but playing as intensely as dogs do. It has been a hilarious distraction at a time when I am plenty busy without distractions, and I must say that I am now convinced that dogs are much smarter than I realized.

The prize in this particular battle is a stuffed George W. Bush dog toy we received as a gift. It is fairly mangled at this point, but that just seems to make it more appealing. The fascinating thing is not so much the frantic running around, wrestling, biting, growling, or even my destroyed scanner (both the USB cable and power supply were chewed through by the puppy). No, the part I have enjoyed more than anything has been the use of strategy.

While the younger dog is pure chaos, flying all over the place, crashing into furniture, and biting at everything in sight, the older one can be observed doing what I can only describe as planning and executing a form of strategy. The skeptic in me says that this is unlikely, but I'm not sure how else to explain what I've observed.

When the puppy has a desired toy, the older dog will come to me, pace back and forth, whine a bit, and look up at me. When I do not intervene, he finds another toy - sometimes one he has not played with in years - and carries it back and forth in front of the younger dog. The moment she drops the toy that is at the center of the conflict to investigate, he drops his and pounces. She ends up with the less desirable toy, and he gains possession of what he wanted all along. I'm probably over-interpreting what I'm seeing, but it sure as hell looks like he's using a decoy to trick her into giving up the toy that he wants.

I've seen him execute this trick again and again. Since it continues to work, I expect he will continue. With entertainment like this, it is no wonder I haven't been very productive lately.

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