Has your dog been going stir-crazy because of lockdown, social distancing, and isolation from the Covid-19 pandemic? You’re not the only one!
Whether it’s a need for socialization, mental stimulation, or physical exercise, many dogs and their families have struggled to find the right outlet for pent-up energy.
Monica Elkhalifa, who lives with her husband and their two dogs Miko and Akira in Abu Dhabi, found that the time she spent at home with her pets during lockdown was a perfect chance to test their intelligence and build on their training.
Akira, a six-year-old Shiba Inu, was listless and needed more than just the brief walks Elkhalifa could provide, so she began to teach him more commands and concepts. Now, after a year, he knows more than 90 words, simple math, and even a little Japanese!
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Frustrated by a lack of dog education resources online, Elkhalifa began developing her own curriculum about 5 years ago.
The first step was teaching Akira to respond to a flashcard with the tap of a paw, then connecting the illustrations on the cards with the real world (like numbers and objects). The most intensive training started during the 2020 lockdowns, with 10-minute sessions 5 times a week.
The hard work has paid off, and Akira has proven to be a great student! He recognizes more than 90 words, including a few different colors. He can add two numbers together and indicate the correct answer using flashcards, and answer yes or no questions as well. He’s working on subtraction now, showing that his skills are more than just memorization and pattern recognition.
While his skills are definitely impressive, the controlled testing environment and even subtle things like body language and tone from Elkhalifa could be playing a role. Scientists that work on animal intelligence strive to find ways to test animals’ understanding of concepts like numbers and words in a variety of ways to make sure it’s truly understood.
Videos of her work with Akira are definitely impressive, and his eager disposition definitely makes him her star pupil.
“Shiba Inus are very independent and clever. I really felt that he needed something extra apart from his physical exercises,” she explained to the Good News Network. She sells the flashcards and method on her website, ProfessorAkira.com.
Watch the full video below to see Akira showing off his skills!
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