A couple Christmases ago, my brother and sister-in-law got Barley and me a Dognition assessment. Through a series of different games, we discovered different elements to create a personality profile for Barley. The assessment is put together by scientists, trainers, and behaviorists, including Dr. Brian Hare, the director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center. After you complete 20 different games, you'll get a profile report that discusses the way your dog bonds, communicates, and problem solves among other things.
Doing the games with Barley was fun, but I don't know that I learned a lot of new information with her because I'd learned so much training with her for years before taking it, but I did learn that she prefers to work with me as a team rather than making choices independently. Rye and I are still learning about each other and it has not taken long to figure out that she is a very different dog from Barley. Winter has returned--with cold rain and wind--so I decided it was the perfect time to spend some of that forced indoor time learning about Rye and I purchased a Dognition assessment for her, too.
The first set of games is empathy. When Barley and did the assessment, our empathy results said, "Barley's empathy scores were off the charts. . . . If most dogs are bonded to their owners, Barley absolutely adores you." This was no surprise. I'm not sure I believe in soulmates, but if they do exist, Barley is mine.
Completing the empathy games with Rye was a very different experience with very different results.
I've often said that I'm not always sure that Rye likes me. She is far more independent than Barley is. She doesn't have to be close to me and doesn't seem to enjoy snuggling (except first thing in the morning). It was reassuring to read that her independence doesn't mean she doesn't love me. I've seen her solve problems herself--like when I first brought her home an we had to keep her quarantined for the kennel cough; I'd take her in the front yard on a long line attached to a tree. She'd get tangled up between all of the trees and the light post out front and just as quickly she'd untangle herself, unlike Barley who just stands and waits for me to help if she gets stuck.
Another set of games relates to a dog's memory. These games involved showing Rye a treat, putting it under a cup, having another cup a few feet away, and seeing if she could remember where it was. Some games were done right away, others involved a delay of anywhere from 30 seconds to 2.5 minutes.
In one game, we also tested memory vs. communication. I'd hide a treat under a cup and point at the other one that didn't have a treat to see if Rye would rely on her memory or on my communication. Every. single. time. Rye chose the cup with the treat and ignored my communication. After the game, the score pointed out, "This shows an independent thinker: you should be aware that in other situations Rye might not listen to you if she thinks you are wrong."
After we finished the memory games, our scores pointed out that "For Rye, out of sight is definitely not out of mind." This rang very true--in fact, minutes after completing this assessment, she ran to the closet where I'd stashed Barley's agility bag because Rye kept stealing chapstick and bags of treats out of the bag; Rye slid the closet door open and took some chapstick out. She also does this when I hide toys that need to be stitched up before she can play with them again. She also remembers every. single. house. where she's seen a dog on a walk and loses her mind regardless of whether the dog is actually outside when we walk bye.
Once all of the games were completed, we got our personality profile, which was a 16-page PDF file. Rye was a match with the Renaissance Dog profile. She's good at a little bit of everything--she has good social skills and good independent thinking skills.
This was a big contrast from Barley's reports. Where Rye's good at a little bit of everything, Barley excels at working as a team.
I've gotten so used to working with a dog that excels at team work that Rye and I have struggled with some of our training. Games have been easy--she loves mat work and our self-control games--but some obedience training hasn't been as easy for us. She's struggled with things like loose-leash walking and extended stays. There's always something more exciting than what we're working on when it comes to those types of activities. She doesn't think twice about getting out of a stay and going to find a toy or seeking out Soth.
The Dognition results have given me more information to be a better trainer for Rye. With her crazy good memory, I've learned that if I don't want her to lose her mind when we have to walk by a yard where she's seen a dog before, I need to have a full treat pouch and start dishing out the treats long before we get to that yard so she can keep her focus on me instead of that yard. With our empathy results, the profile said that playing with Rye is a great way to make us feel more bonded--that's a big deal for us because Barley isn't a huge playful dog, so play hasn't been a regular part of our relationship; Barley and I bond by being together and gazing lovingly into each other's eyes--Rye and I are going to have to find a new way to build our relationship.
This is a really eye opening experience and I'm glad I decided to repeat the assessment with Rye. We had fun playing the games and I learned a lot about her. When we signed up, we were given an invitation link to give our friends 20% off their own Dognition.com purchase. Regularly, assessments are $19 per dog or $79 for an assessment + a year of extra games to play with more expert feedback in tailored training tips plus 50% off additional dog assessments, so the code takes 20% off of those different prices. If you want to do your own Dognition assessment, feel free to use our invitation to get a discount--I think if two people sign up, we get a free dog ID tag or something, but we're covered on those, so we really just wanted to share a discount with our friends!