Pets Taught Each Other to Get More Treats!

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I hear and read a lot about human-pet interactions, but today I’d like to talk about pet-to-pet interactions. They’ve been teaching each other new things – better ways to manipulate me! Of course, I oblige them, so this only reinforces their lessons.

Three dogs are laying about on the floor. A medium shaggy tan and black dog, a small shaggy all-black dog, and a standard poodle. All eyes are on the cameraman!
Tribble, Garnet, and River watch me get ready in the morning. Tribble is warming up to wink at me!

The dogs and I have time together in the morning as I get dressed and go through my morning routine. This happens to be next to the cabinet where I keep the treats that I give the dogs with their medicines. One morning, Tribble watched me intently, and I winked at her. After a few days of this, she winked back at me. I laughed and gave her a treat. Then, since the other dogs didn’t know what was going on, I gave them treats, too. I had to be fair, after all. Tribble is very food-motivated, and she did this fairly frequently, and all the dogs approved.

An apricot standard poodle lays with her stuffed toy tucked under her chin.
River is a real love-bug (they all are) but I get the feeling she thinks she shouldn’t have to wink for a treat. I should just hand her the entire container just because she wants it!

Then one day, River walked over and sat right in front of me, looked me in the eye, and winked at me! Out came the treats. Garnet has even winked at me once or twice and gotten treats! I didn’t even think she could see far enough to observe what was going on. Since the non-winking dogs were several feet away off to the side, I was surprised that they saw what caused me to pass out treats, but I accepted that they all learned from Tribble.

A grey cat crouches, looking left. Her eyes are luminous. They are greenish-blue near the iris and fading to a light green at the edges.
Gracie always seems to be hanging around, asking for “more”!

I about fell over laughing the day that Gracie winked at me! She is very food motivated and clearly wanted a treat. I was not obliging her, so she decided to try out the winking trick. It worked like a charm!  It makes me smile, too. I see cats blink all the time; it’s their signature move. But wink? Never. Until now.

When we got Gracie three years ago, she was four months old. She was born to a feral mother and taken to a shelter as soon as she was weaned. When we got her, she was eerily silent. I have heard that cats only meow or verbalize once they have lived with humans. They don’t meow at each other, just at the humans. Eventually, we heard a few little squeaks and mews from her. She often used a sweet one-syllable commanding mew that I thought meant “give me another treat!” Then I heard her use it when I was petting her, and she wanted more pets. Clearly, the word was a command for simply “more.”

A Bengal cat sits in a broad windowsill, sun shining on her. She's looking at the viewer with large green eyes.
I don’t know how Nami got up to this second-story window in our vaulted ceiling, but she is still athletic. She rules the house with an iron paw!

My senior kitty, Nami, will be 18 in February. She has an extensive vocabulary, including several cuss words; she is quite vocal when she is angry or demanding. This morning while she was sitting in my lap, I idly petted her. Lost in my thoughts, the petting slowed and stopped. That’s when she turned her head toward me a little, and I heard it. The one-syllable mew for more! She said it just like Gracie would, but I had never heard it from Nami before. I suppose that she watched me petting or feeding Gracie tidbits of salmon and heard Gracie use the word to successfully coax me to give her more pets or more food. It was effective. I resumed petting Nami this morning, scratching her jaw in that one place that seemed to always need it. She was satisfied, and I suspect I’ll hear that word from her again.

A black miniature schnauzer mix sits in a blue fleece sweater.
Garnet is our senior dog, probably around 13 years old or so. As a rescue, we aren’t sure, but we’ve had her about 10.5 years. She is sweet and shy. She’s Tribble’s mom, and the two are inseparable.

I’m wondering what they’ll teach each other next. I expect them to pick up the house customs and routines from each other, but this seemed a bit different. What have your pets taught each other?

24 comments

  1. This is hilarious. And yes, they do learn things from each other. One of our cats is a talker the other is not. The not-talker noticed the talker gets what she wants when she vocalizes loudly so the not-talker started being loud. Sometimes I get tricked into thinking the quiet not-talker is the talker because she has learned to be so loud.

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    1. They pick up on our behavioral cues, but not always the ones we intended (like the whistle). If I’m working in my home office and change my computer glasses for my regular glasses, my poodle jumps up and runs to the door. That is her signal that I’m about to leave the room! I had wondered for a few days how she always knew my intention to leave the room, so I started watching for what alerted her. Clearly my work in the office is so boring that a little detail like that is big to them.

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  2. How adorable! You know they share advice on how to con mom outa treats whenever you leave, don’t you? At least I’m convinced they do that-mine sure do. They’re all too cute. No wonder they’ve learned how to get the treats a-flowin. Happy New Year!

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  3. I think the most important thing Millie & Walter have learned is how to manipulate their father (my husband) to give them more treats. In the past year or so he added a treat after they go potty after we finish our dinner. All they did, after they came in from doing their “business”, was sit by the treat jar and my push over husband just handed it over. Now it’s a required part of our daily routine. I tried to not let this become part of the routine, but I was out voted. 😉

    Cindy

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    1. It sounds like Millie and Walter have excellent non-verbal communication skills – and your husband does too! He knew exactly what they wanted. Ha, ha!

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  4. Nami even knows a few cuss words, haha! I laughed out loud. This was delightful, and amazing! My 18 year old Penny is very manipulative and expressive, too. She yells at me sometimes. I always tell her, “I’m happy to talk to you about your feelings when you stop yelling at me, please.” Her favorite ploy is to cry. Full-on CRY. It’s impressive! She gets a lot of feedback on it, and I always get a good chuckle. I teach her how to apply dialectical behavior therapy, and invite her to “observe your thoughts without judgement,” or I ask, “Have you examined your thoughts and feelings for accuracy? Is there another, deeper need informing your desperation?” And sometimes I just tell her, “I don’t know how you bear it.” Naturally, I pet and pamper her while she cries. The more dramatic her mew, the more effusive I am. She makes me laugh so hard! Yours did, too, today. Aren’t they wonderful?

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    1. They are wonderful! Nami is a wailer more than a crier, breaking out her best voice at bedtime right after we pull up the covers and turn out the lights. This morning, she even winked at me! She wanted cat food rather than treats, so she may still be learning what that means.

      I love your question: Is there another, deeper need informing your desperation?” I think I can use that with Nami and our parrot Hannah. She’s often angry too and cussed in bird language.

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  5. Sasha has taught Gus how to line up for treats. She also presents her head for washing to the other cats. If they don’t oblige her, she will head butt them. She also sounds the siren (a loud meow) for dinner time. They all come running then. (For perspective I have 4 cats.)

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  6. How interesting. 🙂 I’ve never heard of pets teaching each other tricks of this nature, but then I don’t have pets. Well, I did have a thing for goldfish many years ago, but that’s not the same as canine or feline creatures with their intelligence.

    My brother and I did have white mice, a budgie or two and my father always had a dog around when we were very young. But never 2 dogs at the one time who could teach each other tricks.

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