Shayna’s tricks


One of the things that makes Shayna a “miracle dog,” at least in my opinion, is her seemingly unlimited ability to learn or to teach herself new tricks.  She is so inventive and wily that it’s often hard to think of her as “just a dog”; she is clearly much, much more.

If you go to the top menu and select Videos —>Shayna’s tricks —> and hold your mouse over that category, to the right will appear the five main categories of tricks that she’s taught herself, or has been able to learn:

  • Frisbee skiing
  • Retrieving toys by name
  • Retrieving toys using flash cards
  • Understanding “one ball,” “two balls”
  • Retrieving two balls at the same time

Below is a brief description of each trick.  Click the link at the top or bottom of each to see the videos.

“Frisbee skiing”

This was one of the first indications I had of how inventive Shayna really is.  She’d never been particularly interested in catching a frisbee. but was fascinated by its shape.

Then one day when she was about six months old, she decided a frisbee could be used as a “skiing” device:  she turned it upside down, put it on the ground, backed up, then ran up and put her front paws into it, and pushed herself along.  She found this to be endlessly amusing. Keep in mind that she taught this to herself in the summertime, on asphalt and concrete.  The real fun started when she got the chance to do this on the snow.

See videos of Shayna doing her “frisbee skiing” in summer and winter here.

See pictures of her “frisbee skiing” on the snow – and in the sand, at the beach – here.

Retrieving toys by name

This is the trick that Shayna is best-known for doing.  Basically, she has now memorized the names of 28 of her toys, and can retrieve and put them away by name. This is a skill we began working on in 2005, when I discovered how much she enjoys playing memory-type games.

Here are a few pictures of her showing off how well she learned the “hold” command way back then, with (clockwise, from top left) “spike,” “egg,” “collar” and “Kong.”

 See videos of Shayna retrieving toys by name here.

“Retrieving toys using flash cards”

As Shayna got better and better at retrieving her toys by verbal identification, I saw a video of a Border Collie whose parents were using flash cards with pictures of his toys on them – meaning, he had to associate a two-dimensional picture with a three-dimensional toy.  I began to wonder if Shayna was capable of this, and although it took a while for her to grasp the concept, she’s coming along.

See videos of Shayna retrieving toys by name here.

“Understanding one ball, two balls”

One day during her first year, Shayna taught herself to hunt down and bring back two tennis balls in her mouth at the same time.  She got so good at it that in 2004, she won a local dog trick show for it.  But then, I saw something on TV that discussed how hard it is for animals to understand the concept of numbers.  And I began to wonder if Shayna could learn to retrieve one ball, or two balls, on command.  Once again, she blew me away with her ability to learn these kinds of high-level concepts.

See videos of Shayna retrieving one ball, and two balls, on command here.

Retrieving two balls at the same time

You get the idea from the above picture.  See videos here of Shayna displaying the first original trick she taught herself.