Dogs and Toddlers Are A Lot Alike: A Case Study

 Dogs and Toddlers Are A Lot Alike: A Case Study

           Now that the Phenom is preparing himself to leave for university next week (Basketball Training Camp), I am reminded of the time 15 or 16 years ago when he began his obsession with sport. Even then he was driven to practice and play.

In a twisted sort of way we are reliving this experience at Grumpy Villa with Pumba the Farting Dog. You see dogs are really at about the intelligence level of a two year old child. Having a dog is not unlike having a toddler in the house. Pumba, as you have read, is in a permanent stage of “the terrible twos”.

Stanley Coren, PhD, of the University of British Columbia has this to say about this comparison.

“We all want insight into how our furry companions think, and we want to understand the silly, quirky and apparently irrational behaviors [that] Lassie or Rover demonstrates,” Coren said in an interview. “Their stunning flashes of brilliance and creativity are reminders that they may not be Einstein’s but are sure closer to humans than we thought.”

 As for language, Coren states that the average dog can learn 165 words, including signals, and the “super dogs” (those in the top 20 percent of dog intelligence) can learn 250 words.

Oh, my!

The bottom line is that both dogs and toddlers can provide you with a lot of grief because of the consequences attached to the utterance of the dreaded single “WORD”.

Now, I know you are shaking your head in disbelief but Grumpy will attempt to communicate this comparison to you in two parts. First we will look at the experience of the Phenom from days gone by. Then, we will look at the Pumba experience we are experiencing now.

When it’s all said and done, Grumpy will allow you to make up your own mind. He’s hoping if you agree with him he can get one of those Government Research Grant’s to pursue this thesis further.

Like these for example: Taxpayers forked out $28,000 for a study of women’s wear in 19th-century Istanbul, $75,000 went to a study on “feasting and the origin of inequity,” and another $41,000 for a treatise entitled Critical Editions of Spanish Golden Age Plays.

For a little beer money Grumpy would research – Why Kids and Canines Go into Hyper drive Over the Utterance of THE WORD.

Here is the foundation of his thesis. The two part database he promised you earlier.



 I’d like to talk about “the word”. Now don’t get yourself in a lather thinking this is some kind of theological dissertation. No, “the word” I’m speaking about is that very word one never utters in the presence of a four year old. Mention “the word” and your lovable little darling’s behavior shifts into overdrive.

You see, the difficulty with “the word” is that no one knows what it is until it has been said.

In your home the word might be “chocolate” while in your neighbor’s home it could well be “Uncle Billy”. I guess that’s why adults quickly resort to one tried and true anti-word-deflection strategy. Let’s call it the “spell it, don’t say it” technique.

“Do you want to go out for i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m, dear?”

For the alphabetically impaired, the word substitution technique might work. We might choose to substitute, “the you-know-what, the thing-a-ma-bob, or the whatch-ya-may-call-it” for the culprit word. For example, “Did you pick up the ‘you-know-what‘, honey?”

The unspoken “word” around our house these days is “baseball”. Joshua, our four year old, is a baseball fanatic. He sleeps with his ball and his glove tucked-in beside him at night. The consequence of forgetting to spell the word “baseball” at our house goes something like this.

Daughter Meghan gets the ball rolling.

“Are we going to Matt’s BASEBALL game, Daddy?”

“Shhhhhhhhsh!,” I reply. I wave my hands indicating to Meghan that she should drop the subject. Joshua’s sparkling eyes tell me that he has entered that wonderful state of one-track-mindedness.

“We go baseball?” Joshua has the face of a cherub.

“Yes, we’ll go to Matt’s game later,” I reply.

“No, Daddy, we go Matt’s baseball game NOW!” It is clear that Joshua’s mind is made up.

“No, Joshua, we’ll go to the game tonight.” I try to delineate a timeline. Joshua’s quizzical expression indicates that his mind is changing gears. He runs off room and quickly returns clutching his glove, bat and ball.

“I take my baseball gov, Daddy?” he asks.

“Yes, we’ll take it along,” I answer.

“You play catch, Daddy?” He pounds the ball into the pocket of his glove.

“Not now, Joshua, we have to eat breakfast first.” I brace myself for his next volley.

“I not hungry, Daddy. We play catch NOW.” His shrill whine is not unlike nails scratching a chalkboard.

At that moment, our seventeen year old, lumbers into the kitchen. Matthew’s hair is askew and he’s dragging his feet like a zombie.

“Matt, you play catch with me?” Joshua pounces like a cat.

“Get real!” Matt’s eyes are two slits.

Josh is indignant.

“I tell Mommy you no play baseball with me.”

He stomps down the hall. He’s headed in the direction of the bedroom where the good wife is catching some well-deserved R and R. I scurry after him with the hope that I can make an interception.

The remainder of the day follows a particular pattern. Joshua drags his glove around the house. Each of us take a turn playing catch with him both indoors and out. He races around the living room, jumps and then slides into a “pillow” until I shout “you’re safe.” The question, “We go baseball NOW?” gets asked at least a zillion times and to think that all of this activity was stimulated by the utterance of a single “word”.

I guess we’re fortunate. Baseball season ends in a couple of weeks and Joshua’s penchant for this great pastime will dwindle. Of course, this means that “the word” will once again go through a metamorphosis. You see, November brings us the beginning of Matt’s “b-a-s-k-e-t-b-a-l-l” season.

Now you know what Grumpy is talking about. Now you know the effect of “The Word” on the dynamics of Grumpy Villa. But, how does this ever relate to Pumba the Farting Dog?



 If you have a pet dog you know where I’m coming from when I say all hell breaks loose if you simply utter the word “walk” in the presence of your little furry friend.

Grumpy might say to the good wife, “I’m going to walk over to the store.”

The next thing Grumpy knows is that he has a jumping, hopping, whining, barking little Pumba slathering doggy kisses all over his face. And the consequence, of course, is that his furry friend will be accompanying Grumpy on that walk to the store.

Yes, you guessed it; we went through the spelling stage with our pet.

“I’m going for my w-a-l-k,” Grumpy would whisper to The Good Wife.

The result: jumping, hopping, whining, barking little Pumba slathering doggy kisses syndrome once again is enacted – big-time.

That damned dog learned to spell.

And, I’ll be jiggered but, the very utterance of, “I’m going for a you-know-what” elicits the exact same response.

Pumba the Farting dog is put into hyper drive and there is no turning back. That dog is going for a W-A-L-K because: You-know-what = WALK no matter how you spin it with that intelligent dog.

Of course, there are other words that illicit a similar response, not the least of which is the word “treat”.

Deferring to Dr. Cohen again, he states this: “During play, dogs are capable of deliberately trying to deceive other dogs and people in order to get rewards. And, they are nearly as successful in deceiving humans as humans are in deceiving dogs.”

That last line sticks like a craw in my throat, though. You see, the Good Wife claims that on good authority, Pumba the Farting Dog scams Grumpy for treats ALL DAY LONG.

CASE IN POINT: Pumba will pester Grumpy with behavior that suggests he wants to go outside to take a leak. Grumpy swears that the dog counts to ten as he sits on the front step, and then he turns and scratches the door wanting to come in.

Dogs can also count up to four or five, Dr. Coren says. And they have a basic understanding of arithmetic and will notice errors in simple computations, such as 1+1=1 or 1+1=3.

Well maybe it’s not ten that he counts to, but it surely is five. And, Pumba knows what 2 means because that’s what he expects –“two treats for a “leak”- each and every time. Such are Pumba’s standards for rewarding good toileting behavior.

Nonetheless, after this behavior repeats itself about three times in one hour the Good Wife will quietly suggest, “Grumpy, the Dog is scamming you again! Give it a rest.”

There are times when Grumpy feels that the Good Wife thinks Pumba is smarter than his master. But that, of course, is open for more study and debate.

This is why Grumpy will apply for a grant to study this phenomenon further. He has empirical evidence from experiences with both a four year old Phenom (Toddler) and an 8 year old cock-a-poo (Dog)! He has it on good authority that the Provincial Liberals are more than willing to waste a little more money.

Hey, maybe this will be Grumpy’s Doctoral Thesis. After all he keeps getting e-mails telling him that he can get a PH.D. in as little as three weeks.

That’s a WIN-WIN for the Grumpster, wouldn’t you agree.

I suspect that he book and the movie will be out in about a year.

Hey, wait a minute Pumba, why are you rolling on the ground laughing. And why is the Good Wife calling to me from the other room.

“Ah, what’s that, honey?”

“Grumpy, are you letting the dog outsmart you again?”

“No, dear, I’m just going to take him for a you-know-what!”




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