Tuesday 1 August 2006

A canine thesaurus.

Monty the dog has been living with us for a while now, and he's settling in nicely. He no longer tries to climb on top of people all that often, doesn't jump up quite as much as he used to, and doesn't usually have sex with visitors, though he does still like to burp in people's faces and is very bad at not getting in the way. Pretty much a model of good behavior, then, by his standards. He's thick as a plank of mince, and we love him for it.

Phoebe the first dog is highly intelligent, and was very easy to train. She worked out what various phrases meant simply by listening in on our conversations. Imagine our amazement when she started getting out of the way when she heard us say "Excuse me" — she was learning commands that we weren't even teaching her! Fantastic.

Monty, on the other hand, may be very very stupid, but he wants to make everyone happy and be a good dog, and he's got a Staff's stubborn streak, so he gets there in the end. While Phoebe can pick up a new command in a few minutes, Monty can do it inside three months, with luck. And I am pleased to say that he does now understand a wide range of common English phrases.

The interesting thing is that an unlikely consequence of his being so bloody stupid is that he's ended up with quite a large vocabulary. We talk to dogs much like they're people in this house, but we also go with what works: when Phoebe started obeying "Excuse me", of course we started using that phrase deliberately to get her out of the way. And because we started using "Excuse me" almost exclusively, there were no other phrases being bandied about with the same meaning for Phoebe to overhear and figure out. That process never happened with Monty. His extreme stubbornness and stupidity could be rather exasperating, so, when one command didn't work after twenty attempts, we'd add hand gestures and try another.

As a result, he now knows and obeys all the following commands:

  • Excuse me.

  • Out of the way.

  • Get out of there.

  • Piss off.

  • Sod off.

  • Fuck off.

  • Fuck away off.

  • Get the fuck out of the way.

  • Fuck off out of the way, you stupid fat bastard.

Interestingly, he even understands the way "the fuck" increases a command's importance, so if he feels like ignoring "Get down from there", "Get the fuck down from there" will get results.

Of course, Phoebe now understands all of them as well. Just from reading this blog.

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