A woman has used the lockdown to teach her dog how to count till ten, answer questions and solve addition problems in English and Japanese.
Monica Elkhalifa taught her six-year-old Shiba Inu at a time when long walks at the park seemed impossible due to the pandemic. The dog can easily identify the correct answer to Monica’s question when shown a number of different flashcards featuring colors, numbers, and shapes.
Akira knows more than 90 words and can do simple addition problems by pointing to the card with the correct answer. He can even add the number of drawings on a card, like 3 apples—and select the number card which matches—and answer yes/no questions too.
“I just thought it would be fun to teach him a few numbers—just an exercise to keep him busy. I was overjoyed when he learned the number four. After that, he quickly learned five to ten and as he mastered each stage or level, I had to develop new ideas to keep him mentally active and build on the earlier lessons.
“This included teaching him counting, addition and mixing colors and objects, and the yes and no cards.”
They live in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with Monica’s husband and their other dog Miko, she trained him when he was young with games like finding treats in toys. “Shiba Inus are very independent and clever. I really felt that he needed something extra apart from his physical exercises,”
“He often looks behind the TV to see where the people or animals are. When he was little he would go under glass tables and look at things on them.”
Five years ago, Monica decided to push her pooch’s mind further, but couldn’t find any methods to purchase and decided to make her own flashcards with shapes and commands which she admits she wasn’t sure her pet would be capable of.
Akira learned to tap the card on command, then Monica familiarized him with the shape of a number or image by tracing it with her finger and saying it out loud. She then taught him to count by holding a flashcard with a number on it next to a card with that number of tennis balls on it and counting them out loud.
Many people think that dogs are color blind, but Akira has been trained to recognize different colors. He now knows nearly 90 words, and when told a sum will point to the numbered card that is the solution, even after the cards are switched over or changed.
Akira has a training session that lasts for 10 minutes five times a week, and his dog-mum said it is making him calmer and he looks forward to it. The next challenge is to master subtraction.
Monica calls her method The Professor Akira Method: Brain Training for Dogs, and pet owners can train their pets with a set of flashcards and a handful of treats. She sells them using Paypal for £20.00 on her website, ProfessorAkira.com. “It is also such a great way to bond, especially during these challenging times when walks might be fewer.”