If you have worked in marketing or done any blogging or ecommerce on your own, you are familiar with the concept of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. If you’re not familiar, it’s all based on keywords and phrases to get your content to the top of the Google or other search engine results.
As I sat in the living room drinking my coffee this morning my dogs were fast asleep as they do each morning during human coffee hour. Like many dogs, mine keep a strict schedule, which is a whole other blog topic, and from the time they wake me up at 5 or 6 until about 10:30 they sleep like furry black angels.
This morning, however, I was having a conversation with our youngest human child about the Finding Dory ice cube tray that was a free gift in the box of cereal that she had just opened. “So you freeze your milk in that and then have a frozen milk Dory floating around in your cereal? I don’t know if I would want frozen milk in my bowl!” I said.
As soon as the word “bowl” left my lips, Tinkerbell jerked her head up from a sound sleep and stared at me intently, head cocked and ears up in intense listening mode. “What did I say, Tinkerbell?” I laughed. A second later Jackson, who had crashed in his kennel around the corner, came running into the room, also on full alert with his head cocked and his intense eyes boring a hole into me.
“Bowl?” I asked them.
Tinkerbell jumped up and ran to me and Jax trotted closer, laying his head in my lap and looking up at me longingly. “You guys learned what bowl means?” I asked them. They both inched closer, Jax thumping his head on my leg and Tinkerbell giving a little groan to tell me that they did indeed know what bowl meant and that they wanted me to get their bowls and put something in them.
I have had no lack of intelligent dogs throughout the last forty years as a dog owner, but I can say that Jackson and Tinkerbell have hands down the largest vocabularies of any dogs I have lived with. Some of the words that they know are ones we taught them, and others they figured out all on their own, like bowl.
I am a little mystified by how they learned that particular word because it’s not one that I use often to them. Perhaps they picked it up because I run their bowls through the dishwasher at least once a week. They know the sound of their bowls being picked up off the tile floor and come running when I pick them up and place them in the dishwasher, staring at me curiously as I place their dishes among the human dishes. “Yes, I’m washing your bowl” I explain to them as they stand and watch me shut the door on their bowls into the bowels of the dishwasher.
Of course we have taught them the normal obedience words like Come, Sit, Stay, Down, Heel, Good, No, Off, and then some fun tricks like Speak, Shake and Touch. We’ve taught them a reliable recall word and worked on all of our names in the house. “Where’s Mommy” my husband will ask and they run or look to me. “Where’s Daddy” has the same response only they go to him. They know the names of their three human siblings and that the cat is Kitty.
They’ve learned Carrots, Pumpkin, Peanut Butter (also known as Puppy Butter or Dog Butter), Cookie, Cheese and Sweet Potato which are their favorite words in the world, apparently with Bowl added to the list without my knowledge. I figured out that they learned Food at some point, too, after a human discussion about dinner one night, as in “I don’t care what we eat, I just need food!” which brought two Labradors running into the room, again from a sound sleep. They know the names of all three of their daily feedings: Breakfast, Puppy Lunch and Supper. Why we feed three times a day is also a topic for an entirely other blog. They also have earned Eat at some point along the way.
They know the names of their different toys like Antler, Ball, and Toy. Of course there is Inside, Outside and Bed, which means to go upstairs to our room regardless of the time of day. Zoomies, Play and Go Potty are all familiar and very handy to have at our disposal as well as Off the Deck, which we use frequently to tell Jackson that we don’t care if the grass is wet and his big webbed feet might get wet, he has to go off the deck and do his business.
Just like a Search Engine, I love how tuned into these words they truly are. Throughout the day it seems as if the dogs are just doing their dog thing and not paying attention to us but during the course of human conversation a word will come out and we will see two silky black heads perk up and turn toward us with great interest. Of course the words that catch the most attention are food related, so things like “Do you want to go out for breakfast” or “Hey, add peanut butter to the grocery list” are amusing because of their response and because they prove that neither of the dogs have the hearing issues that one would assume that they have when it is five in the morning and my neighbors windows are open and I’m trying to get them to stop grazing on grass and go inside the house and they are ignoring the “come” and “inside” commands. Of course the next time I may just bust our their new favorite “bowl.”