If you have a dog in your life, you already realize that they can be pretty amazing. They provide us with companionship, unconditional love and sometimes, a lot of enjoyment on a daily basis. For the people who adopted this dog, however, they got a little more than they bargained for. It turns out that she has a skill that is quite unusual for a canine.
Her name is Penny and she was found wandering the streets when she was a puppy. After being taken to a local animal shelter, she was adopted and returned a number of times. It started to look like she was not going to find a forever home.
That was when Leonora Anzuldua entered into the picture. It was a matter of love at first sight and it looked like Penny may have finally found her forever home after all. She had been returned to the shelter a number of times because she exhibited some destructive behavior, but Leonora had something up her sleeve. She was going to provide stimulating toys for Penny and plenty of activities that would keep her busy and curb some of the behavior that used to be a problem.
It was then that Leonora discovered something unusual about her new dog. Anytime she tried to teach her a command, Penny would catch on so quickly it was shocking. That is when Leonora decided to take things to the next level. She bought some letter toys and decided to check if Penny could recognize shapes. Not only could she recognize shapes, she could even pick out the letters by name. It didn’t take long before Penny learned how to spell.
There is no doubt that Penny is extremely smart but she isn’t the only dog to ever learn how to spell. Pat Curry also found out that her dog has this special gift as well. She tried to outsmart her dog by spelling things out but the dog caught on quickly.
Pat described it in the following way:
“If we weren’t going to take her with us, we would spell B-A-N-K. It wasn’t long before spelling the word got the same reaction as saying it. So, we actually started saying ‘the place where we put money’ instead. Even that didn’t work for long. As soon as she heard me tearing a check or a deposit slip out of the checkbook, she headed for the door.”
The experts had something to say about this situation as well. This explanation comes from Brian Ogle, lead instructor of anthrozoology at Beacon College, Florida. He said the dogs don’t realize they are spelling and they don’t know the letters. They just learn to associate the letters with the words. In his words:
“For example, instead of asking if Fido wants to go for a walk, every time say W-A-L-K instead. Then go grab the leash and take the dog on the walk. Most dogs will quickly learn to associate the spelled-out word with the activity or object. When they learn that W-A-L-K means that you’re going for a stroll around the neighborhood, they’ll start getting excited about the spelling.”
Someone else who had something to say on the subject is Sally Morgan. She is a holistic physical therapist and she gives an explanation as to how dogs learn to respond to words, letters and even our tone of voice.
“Dogs learn our language over time, without us even trying to teach them specific names. … This is why it is most effective to speak to your dog in a whole sentence, using as well ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ It is incredible how using polite language results in the dog doing what you ask nearly every time.”
Dogs have an inborn desire to make the humans in their pack happy. When we talk to them on a regular basis, they start to pay attention more closely and they pick up what we are saying to them.
“When we speak to dogs in full sentences, we are more likely to pause and gaze at them, stimulating the trust hormone oxytocin between us and within each of us. This establishes a connection between dog and human, and again, increases the tendency of the dog to do as you requested.”
We may find this interesting when it comes to words, but how can they learn to spell?
According to Penny’s owner, it took a lot of practice. It also helped that she was a smart dog to start with. Regardless of her abilities, which are amazing, we are very happy that Penny now has a forever home.
Check out this video of Penny spelling her name: