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Old 12-15-2013, 02:45 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Merciel's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: Philadelphia
Posts: 1,399

I do think dogs are capable of a lot more imitative learning than we sometimes give them credit for.

My last foster dog started teaching herself to go up the stairs backwards after watching Crookytail do it (and get cookies for it). By the third or fourth time she saw him doing it, she was orienting herself on the stairs in the start position. By the sixth or seventh exposure she was capable of imitating half-steps backwards and was occasionally doing complete steps, although I don't think she had the hind-end coordination or core muscle strength to finish the behavior (her previous owner gave the dogs no exercise at all, so this foster dog came to me with basically zero strength or stamina and she just wasn't capable of hoisting her back legs up consistently).

Anyway, if a dog can learn that level of strange and artificial behavior via imitation, I am dead certain they can learn things like barking at squirrels through windows or jumping on their owners for attention, so yes, I'm sure there are dogs who can be "bad influences" on others.

On the flipside, though, maybe your dog can be a good influence on someone else's.

edit: here's a video of the foster dog teaching herself the stairs thing. Without having seen the full context of her behavior developing over time, I don't know if it's as remarkable as it appears/-ed to me, but hopefully it's enough to see what I'm talking about. The main thing is that I never tried to teach her any of this; it is purely self-directed learning that I then gave her cookies for because it made me laugh.

ARCHMX TDCH Pongu the Insane, CD-C, RA, RL1X5, RL2X4, RL3X2 (GSD mix, b. Apr 2010)
Crookytail the Tigerwuff, RL1, NTD (Akita mix, b. Jan 2011)

Last edited by Merciel; 12-15-2013 at 02:49 PM.
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