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Monday, April 5, 2010

Scrabble for Dogs

My newest personal addiction is a computer version of Scrabble, which I play in bed on a netbook before I turn off the lights.  It helps me clear my mind for a good night's sleep.

At agility class the other day, I heard my students using various commands to get their dogs to this or that, and I thought of Scrabble.  They were throwing a lot of high-value words around and basically wasting them, the way you could easily waste some high-value letters, or "tiles," around the Scrabble board if you weren't strategizing very well.

"Come!" is probably the highest-value word in your dog's vocabulary, but only if you use it properly and don't waste it.  "Come" is like the letter "X" in's worth 10 whole points.  But if you use that "X" cheaply, like for the word "ox," you only get 11 points for the word.  If you use your "X" on a square that rewards triple points for the letter, however, that little "ox" word can earn you at least 31 points!  The moral of the story:  hold on to your "Xs" in Scrabble until they will really serve their most valuable purpose.
It's the same way with "Come."  If you use it all the time, without strategy, you cheapen its worth until it's basically worthless.  The dog chooses to ignore the command, knowing you say it so often and never enforce it.  It has no worth to the dog.

"Stay" is another high-value command, worth another 10 points in Dog Scrabble.  It must be used in combination with other commands, however, to be played.  Just as it's impossible to make a word with one "Z" in Scrabble unless you combine it with other letters, it's impossible to get good results with a "Stay" unless it has been combined with a "Sit," "Down," or "Stand."

The "Sit" command alone is of very low value in Dog Scrabble.  It's probably only worth one point.  But a "Sit-Stay" may be worth up to 14 points.  A "Down-Stay" or "Stand-Stay" would score even higher.
So how do you become an effective player of Dog Scrabble?
  1. Choose your letters (commands) carefully.  
  2. Think before they spill out of your mouth in a rush to keep the game of life moving.  
  3. Are you able to enforce whatever command you have just given, without repeating the command?  
  4. Are you over-using a command so much, without enforcement, that your dog will utterly ignore you when you really need it to work? "Come" is a great example of this.....we tend to use it too freely and casually, instead of saving up for when it will be of highest value to us.

    Dog Scrabble command values:
    • Come:   10 points (in Scrabble, equivalent to X or Z)
    • Stay:  8 points (In Scrabble, equivalent to J)
    • Curb:  5 points (in Scrabble, equivalent to K)
    • Down: 3 points (in Scrabble, equivalent to C, B, G)
    • Heel:  2 points (in Scrabble, equivalent to U, D)
    • Sit:  1 point (in Scrabble, equivalent to A, E, I, O)

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