I was curious myself, given that the force behind the product is the work of scientist Brian Hare, whose relevant claim to fame is his research on the ability of dogs to inherently understand a person’s pointing gesture.
I had planned to finish the games with Willie today, but realized that rather than looking forward to it I was… “Dreading it” is too strong, but it felt like a great burden that I would have to slog through.
Then I realized that I didn’t need to finish the games with Willie at all; I already had learned what I needed to know to make my own evaluation of the project for this post, and didn’t have any expectation that I would learn anything especially useful about Willie that I didn’t know before.
Before I continue, let me be absolutely clear: Others might find the exercises great fun and the eventual evaluation extremely useful in improving their relationship with their dog.
But all I can give you is my honest assessment of my own experience, for whatever it is worth.
I haven’t read the book yet, but was intrigued by a set of games he has developed that are supposed to increase one’s understanding of their dog’s personality and cognition style. Even better, the website explains that all the results will be aggregated and used as an example of “citizen science.” It says: I signed up Willie, Tootsie and Katie’s dog Leo at $59 each, passing up the $129 offer of the toolkit + one year’s annual membership.
Katie and I began the games last week, and finally finished with Tootsie yesterday.
I say “finally” with intention: I want to tell you that the games were incredibly fun and that I learned oodles that I didn’t know about Tootsie.
Alas, here’s the bottom line: Sometimes the “games” were fun, sometimes they were tedious, sometimes they were mildly aversive (more on that later) and I’m afraid I didn’t learn much about Tootsie that I didn’t know.
Here is a bit about how the program works: There are five categories of games, labeled Empathy, Communication, Cunning, Memory and Reasoning.
Before playing the games one fills out an extensive questionnaire.
I’d give it kudos for being thorough, but many of the questions should be answered with “I don’t know” (which, good for them, is always an option).