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Doggie Day Fair 2

The “Marshmallow Test”

This post was filed under Dog Ownership, Dog Psychology.

Do you remember the TV commercial where a series of kids were asked to have the “Marshmallow Test,” which tested the kids’ response to delayed gratification? I think it was some kind of a milk commercial.

Ever tried doing something like that with your dog?

Testing a dog’s patience with the “”Marshmallow Test”

We did last year. Only Spike and Sheero passed (that’s Sheero waiting patiently for a piece of pizza on the picture).

Having a lot of dogs, there are canine behaviors that you can’t help but notice in a dog pack—it’s easier to compare their personalities when you know all of them. It’s so easy to see who the alpha dog is, but tests like this “Marshmallow Test” really helped us know more about our dogs.

Discipline-wise, I would say that they rank the same. All of them know they are not only part of a dog pack, but also a small community within the bigger pack that included us humans. They know their place. The human pack ranks higher than their dog pack, so even their alpha dog Spike knows that he has to obey. This is actually the most effective way to discipline your dogs—by letting them know you’re the boss.

Now, back to the Marshmallow Test we did. My sister and I tried the test in two different scenarios. One was when each of them was alone with us in room with no other dog around, and another when they’re accompanied by two other dogs. All of them responded well when they were alone with us—which I strongly believe that their consideration of us as having higher “ranks” played a big role. They did not touch the meat-laden pizza, because me and my sister, having higher ranks, had “first dibs” on the food.

It was a different thing when there were two or three dogs in the room. All of them failed the test except for Sheero and Spike. I think they felt some imminent threat from others who “had the same rank,” so they didn’t wait patiently. They made sure they got the food first before the other one did. It’s basically survival of the fittest.

I think that the reason Sheero and Spike responded well was for the simple reason that they had confidence the other dogs didn’t have. Spike, being the alpha dog, knew the others wouldn’t dare touch the food—they were his subordinates, they should wait when he’s done.

Sheero, on the other hand, wasn’t an alpha dog. To be honest, she was a bit of an “outcast” in their doggy community for being my favorite. But she knew she always had first dibs on anything I would give. She was confident she would get the food even if there were other dogs in the room with her, or at least she knew she’d be given the food first. The other dogs would give way for her, for they knew (and she knew) she was special to me. Call it overconfidence, but hey, that’s Sheero for you 😛

Dogs are interesting, aren’t they? I myself never got bored observing them.


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