October 30, 2017 – Learning Puzzle 4

Day two of working through the learning games from Brain Games- Puzzles for Canines  course. We have to skip around the order a bit, because our yard is flooded out (also meaning no rally for Perrin today, so he played this game with Sei and I instead). I figured that snorkling for cookies might disrupt the intention of the outdoor experiment! So today we are doing Puzzle 4, which is a barrier challenge like yesterdays puzzle.

To complete this game, I set up Sei’s x-pen in a V shape against the wall, with a gap on one side. This is done in a different room than the first game. Several variations are completed:

  1. A cookie is dropped on the inside of the x-pen while the dog watches (handler stays outside the x-pen). The dog is then timed for how long it takes them to find the gap in the x-pen to get to the cookie.
  2. Exercise 1 is repeated, but the side of the x-pen that the opening is on is switched while the dog is out of the room.
  3. The handler walks around the barrier, puts the cookie inside the x-pen, walks back to the dog and releases them to go get the cookie. The dog is again timed.
  4. Exercise 2 is repeated, but the side of the x-pen that the opening is on is switched while the dog is out of the room.

During the experiment, I also added my own scenario out of curiosity. I pulled the x-pen away from the wall so that the dogs could go either way around, then let the dog watch while I walked around, placed the cookie and walked back. I was interested to see if they went the same way I did when they had the option to go either way.



Sei really only looked at me at first to see if I was going to be the source of the treats. After he figured out the game he searched very independently without any input from me. For the first set up, he had times of 20 seconds,  and 10 seconds. He also cheated once, by pushing the x-pen in until he could reach the hot dog bit through the bars. I added an old frying pan to contain the treat after that to prevent it from happening again.

Because Sei’s sit stay isn’t quite up to snuff for this yet, my partner held Sei while I set the cookies, then let him go once we were ready. For the second set up, he had times of 3 seconds, and 14 seconds.

The part of this that is really, really interesting to me is that during the alternate set up, Sei consistently went around the same way I did. Out of 6 trials, he went around the same way I did 6 times, even when I mixed up the order.


Please excuse Sei’s noise. He gets very upset when it is his brother’s turn to work.

Perrin looks at me a lot, and requires some encouragement to keep searching instead of staring at me. I suspect that this is partly personality (his brother Dex would definitely just stop and look at you to make something happen), and partly a factor of training impulse control around food and eye contact. He took 28 seconds, 13 seconds, and 38 seconds to solve the first puzzle.

The second puzzle he was considerably faster with times of 5 seconds and 20 seconds. He also doesn’t want to get out of his sit stay to find the cookie in the x-pen because I had more treats in my hand. I think he needed convincing that this wasn’t some sort of proofing exercise before he went off exploring.

With the alternative set up, there wasn’t a strong pattern to which side he was choosing. It was about 50/50 with the side I came around, and he seemed to have a slight preference to the left side. I would have to do more trials to get any useful info.

His tail just looks so happy whatever we are doing!


Perrin and Sei had very different approaches to the puzzle. Which is not surprising given how different in personality and thought process they are. Perrin definitely wanted more handler support than Sei needed, and I think Perrin was a bit confused about what he was supposed to do with the set up (should I get the cookie or ignore the cookie? Which is the purpose of this exercise?). I will be interested to see how/if this changes as Sei ages and we work more on impulse control around food (of which he currently has very little as we haven’t worked on it much). Sei clearly was doing some sort of tracking of me, because even when he could go around the barrier either way, he always went the same way as I did. Perrin did not have a strong pattern of doing this. Perrin usually solves puzzles that involve me (shaping), and doesn’t opt into much puzzle solving on his own (trying to get things he wants around the house for example). This is consistant with him looking to me to solve the food problem rather than going off to figure it out himself immediately.


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