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This can't be Sirius - Input Junkie
December 1st, 2012
02:44 pm

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This can't be Sirius


I gather this is apt to strike people as funny, but I'm curious about opinions from people who know something about music and/or animal psychology. I don't think the dog is just being random.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/998479.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:ritaxis
Date:December 1st, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
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Well I know something about dogs. And I think the dog is enjoying making sounds. Many dogs like making sounds. Wolves and coyotes do howl for pleasure and communal experience.

My own dog, when she finds a squeaking toy, will squeak it a lot, with obvious joy. The difference here is that this is a very, very clever dog who has combined howling with making sounds on the piano. Also the dog is big enough to reach the keys, that's important.

I'm impressed but not really that surprised.
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From:nancylebov
Date:December 1st, 2012 10:50 pm (UTC)
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My impression is that the dog is doing something close to the timing a human might choose for alternating voice and instrument.
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From:ritaxis
Date:December 1st, 2012 11:09 pm (UTC)
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I don't know what that means. The dog is singing and playing at the same time, sometimes, sometimes one and then the other. I think she's experimenting with the sound, and stopping to consider what sounds she's made. So that's like a person. Is that what you mean? But dogs approach a lot of intellectual problems in similar ways to the ways people approach them. It's why we can work together so closely sometimes.
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From:athgarvan
Date:December 1st, 2012 08:40 pm (UTC)
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Smashing. Love it. I've heard worse from groups!
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From:goodbyemyboy
Date:December 1st, 2012 10:28 pm (UTC)
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I have no idea if the dog knows what it's doing.

I just know that this is the greatest cute animal video I have ever seen in my life.

So thank you.
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From:ritaxis
Date:December 1st, 2012 11:11 pm (UTC)
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The dog knows what she is doing. She is making noises on purpose. She is putting some effort into making noises that she likes.

edit: I always see typoes just after I click "post"

Edited at 2012-12-01 11:12 pm (UTC)
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From:batwrangler
Date:December 2nd, 2012 12:30 am (UTC)
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The dog may be doing that on its own, but it strikes me as a trained/shaped behavior because of the way the dog seems to be looking back toward (:04, :29, :37) someone off camera. It could also easily be something the dog started and a person encouraged with training.
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From:chomiji
Date:December 2nd, 2012 02:45 am (UTC)
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Aha. And maybe the "Clever Hans" phenomenon, yes?

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From:batwrangler
Date:December 2nd, 2012 01:22 pm (UTC)
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It could be.

I tend to think of "Clever Hans" as being unintentional training (the human doesn't realize he's cuing the behavior at first and even when he does, he can't stop giving involuntary clues -- like gamblers' tells) and this dog looks like a dog that's been intentionally trained using clicker/positive-reinforcement training: It seems to be offering behaviors and then checking to see if what it has done is going to get it a treat.
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From:elenbarathi
Date:December 2nd, 2012 06:19 pm (UTC)
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"It seems to be offering behaviors and then checking to see if what it has done is going to get it a treat."

That's exactly what I was coming to say. I know quite a bit about both music and dog-training, and I surmise that this dog started off howling spontaneously at the piano's sound - some dogs do; certain frequencies seem to trigger instinctive howling behavior. It's not necessarily enjoyable for the dog, though - my neighbor used to have two huskies who howled like werewolves at every siren. On the other hand, maybe this dog really is 'singing', enjoying his own howling.

The piano-playing? Trained, probably clicker-trained - possibly spontaneously trained like Clever Hans, but I would bet not, for this reason: before the piano-playing behavior can happen, the jumping-onto-the-piano-bench behavior has to happen. Dogs don't have the kind of mental processes that can figure out "Hmm, when humans put their paws on that thing it makes sounds; if I jumped up on this thing I could put my paws on that thing too and it would make sounds." Most dogs are trained not to jump onto furniture, and a hard, narrow, slippery piano bench is not so inviting anyway; unlikely the behavior would occur spontaneously.

However, it would be simplicity itself to train a dog to jump up on the bench [click], put its paws on the thing [click] and howl [click] - all these behaviors can be separately taught, then put together. Have you seen the videos of dogs and trainers in dance competitions? It's the same thing - the dogs don't care one bit about the music they're supposedly 'dancing' to; they would dance just as well if their trainer was listening through ear-buds, because they're following her signals, not the music.
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From:siderea
Date:December 2nd, 2012 03:41 am (UTC)
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Thank you, that is what I was going to say. That dog knows exactly what it's doing: it's earning treats.

More fool the human involved; good luck extinguishing that behavior.
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From:batwrangler
Date:December 2nd, 2012 01:30 pm (UTC)
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I hope their piano has a key cover!
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From:elenbarathi
Date:December 2nd, 2012 10:20 pm (UTC)
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LOL, true that!
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From:sodyera
Date:December 2nd, 2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
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Oh, that's easy. It's a cute, furry dog pounding out a modernist blues ballad. The dog's actually repeating a tonal theme, which would count as a melody, and the notes the dog is picking have minor-key and/or dissonant harmonics. These are just close enough to the dog's timbre to sound deliberate. And who says they're not? My dog could growl distinctly the word "OUT!" when he needed me to walk him. Dogs are capable of a lot more than people think.
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From:elenbarathi
Date:December 2nd, 2012 10:18 pm (UTC)
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One could easily clicker-train a smart dog to step on different places on the keyboard in a specific sequence to create a melody. It may be that the howling behavior, which is both instinctive and communicative, is triggered by certain pitches and harmonics, which the dog tries to match. So maybe it really is the equivalent of a human person playing a note and then singing harmonies around it. And maybe this dog does enjoy doing it for its own sake.

He probably did start out just howling along with the piano, and it would have been easy to teach himto jump up onto the bench and step on the keyboard. What I wonder is, if the dog ever engages in the behavior when all the humans are gone? If it was a spontaneous act for his own pleasure, he'd tend to do it more when alone, out of boredom and for self-comfort; if it's all reward-based behavior, he would never do it when alone - dogs know very well if their humans are in the house or not. Easy question to answer with a videocam.
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