Several out-of-print dog sites purport to tell gullible owners how to teach their dogs to read. Cards are made — sort of like the flash cards used in school to teach first-graders how to read. Once would say BONE, another might say WATER. In theory, your dog will learn that if he wants his bone he should approach the set of flash cards, read them, pick out the BONE card, and bring it to you. Or he might read and bring the card when you ask him BOSCO, ARE YOU IN THE MOOD FOR A BONE? In fact, can you faithful pooch learn to read?
Don’t count on it. But if you like to be silly and fool your friends, by all means play school with Bosco and teach him to “read.”
Male a few flash cards — BONE, CHEESE, WALK, TREAT, Teach one card at a time. (Notice we didn’t say one word at a time.) Keep the flash cards separate and handle them with care. Each card will be rubbed with a specific scent that your dog will associate with the reward you will give him for “reading.” First, you can rub a nice, greasy knucklebone on the BONE card. Try to find a color for the card that will not show stains. Or blame the stains on poor Bosco. Next you can impregnate the CHEESE card with the scent of cheese. Remember that your dog’s nose is far more efficient than yours. No need to smell up the whole house while doing this trick. The TREAT card can smell like any favorite treat that your dog adores — bologna, chocolate, pizza. (And shame on you! Why is your poor dog eating all that junk food anyway?) For the WALK card, we can leave this to your fine imagination. Grass, pine scent, old socks — anything associated with a walk will do. Each card should have its own little rack and not be kept in a pack with cards touching each other and scents mingling. Now, one at a time, you can teach your dog the word that goes with each smell. Of course, if you want him to bring you the card and not merely go up to it, he must know how to retrieve.
There are several approaches to this trick. The easiest would be to teach it like a variation of SMELL IT — FIND IT! Give your dog the scent of cheese. Tell him BOSCO, FIND THE CHEESE.. DO YOU WANT SOME CHEESE? Etc. Urge him forward. When he sniffs out the right card, praise him and tell him to TAKE IT. Now back up , calling him to you. Take the card, praise your dog, and give him some C-H-E-E-S-E. With motivation like this, it won’t take him long to become an A student.
Soon you’ll be able to line up all four cards in their racks and, by asking the right question, get the right card. By now Bosco has associated the smells with the new words. BOSCO, WHAT GOES WELL WITH HAM? Voilá! The CHEESE card. You and your pet ham can astound your guests with an impressive display. Play it your way. Teach him to fetch the CHEESE card on the word HAM. Perhaps he’ll fetch the WALK card when you ask WHAT DO WE DO WHEN THE CAR BREAKS DOWN? Since you’re being silly, you might as well go all the way.
But what if we are wrong! What if your Fullbright scholar does indeed learn how to read? Well c’est la vie. At least have Bosco send us a letter, Any dog that could learn how to read should surely be able to learn how to write — or at least dictate.