A video proving you can teach a dog new tricks, and for absolutely no reason, has gone viral on TikTok with more than 625,000 views.
In the video, Bailey the fox-red Labrador can be seen expertly demonstrating tricks such as “twist and spin” and “whisper.” There is also an “orbit,” which involves the dog walking backwards around a person’s legs, and a “rebound,” where Bailey jumps and bounces off a human torso. The text reads: “Useless tricks my dog knows, because I was bored.”
The original poster, @belongingwithdogs, also revealed in an earlier video that Bailey is a qualified therapy dog.
A study from 2018 by researchers from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna found that you really can teach old dogs new tricks, and you should.
Between 2010 and 2017, the study tested 265 dogs and 20 wolves at facilities in Austria and Hungary. The animals, mostly pets, were encouraged to push their noses against a touch screen in response to certain images, to receive a treat. It may have taken weeks of training, but eventually, the older dogs were able to reliably press the correct button to get a treat.
The study’s findings showed that training is an essential part of a dog’s life from puppy to senior animal. It could be an important tool for staving of cognitive difficulties in older canines. In a written statement, Dr. Ludwig Huber, a cognitive biologist at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, explained: “Regular brain training shakes not only us, but also dogs out of their apathy in old age, increasing motivation and engagement and thus maximizing learning opportunities.”
Another study by the University of Buffalo demonstrated a further layer of the intelligence of dogs. It found that it is possible to teach them to repeat an action they have never been trained to perform. How many times has your dog done a cute head tilt, or put its paws over its eyes, and just as you reach for your phone to take a picture, it moves?
According to the study’s corresponding author Allison Scagel, “We found that dogs could be trained to repeat specific actions on cue, and then take what they’d learned and apply it to actions they had never been asked to repeat. Our findings showed that they were able to apply the concept of repetition to new situations. More generally, we found evidence that dogs are capable of forming abstract concepts.”
The dogs used in the study, including Scagel’s own, were all taught traditional tricks including how to lie down, or walk around in a circle. The dogs then learned a separate repeat cue, the word “again” accompanied by a hand gesture, which told them to repeat the trick they had just done. The test then asked the animals to repeat actions they had never been asked to do before, using the command and hand gesture. Despite never being trained in these actions, the dogs passed this test.
One user commented, “Twist/spin and bow is not useless. It’s a good way to make them stretch,” while another user agreed, “No, they love working their brains, good on you, I’m too lazy.” “That dogs got more moves than Michael Jackson!” wrote a third.
Newsweek has reached out to @belongingwithdogs via TikTok for comment.
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