Geordie Does Flashcards

Baby Geordie was a dynamo with more energy than I knew how to deal with. When I took him to dog school, they recommended that during the winter, we humans get a book of tricks and keep our pups busy indoors during the bad weather. Geordie learned every trick in the book (literally) so quickly that I had to make up new ones to keep him busy. One thing I tried was flashcards.

I didn’t know if a dog could learn to read or not, but I thought I would give it a try. I started out with The letters A and G because they looked dissimilar. I told him “A as in Adventure”* and “G as in Geordie”. He quickly learned those, so I kept adding more.

Again, I didn’t know if he might eventually sound out words like little humans do or if he would learn each word as its own unique symbol. In case it was the first way, I taught him phonetically. It turned out the second way, though. When you see Geordie’s flashcards, it will look like I don’t know how to spell.

I don’t have a YouTube account, so I posted a video of Geordie doing flashcards on my website. Geordie Doing Flashcards. It is at the bottom of the page if you keep scrolling. (In the photo to the left of it, I am holding the cards for “jump” and “kitty”.)

Over the years, we built up quite a huge stack of flashcards, and Geordie learned an astonishing number of concepts. Rather than using “dog language”, Geordie preferred to use English. He insisted I teach him the word for everything in his environment.

Whenever I mention Geordie talking to me or telling me something, I don’t mean a Son of Sam scenario. If Geordie wanted to tell me something, he would poke me in the leg to get my attention. Then he would make eye contact, heave a big sigh, sit down and stick out his lower teeth. At that point I would start asking him questions, and he would either nod yes or shake his head no or he would point to something (indicate direction or gesture toward an object) or he would tap one of those cards. So many people were surprised when they would ask Geordie a question, and he would answer. Around here he was known as Geordie the Talking Dog.

Before I got sick and my world fell apart, I had studied to be an English as a Second Language teacher. I never got the opportunity to teach humans, but working with Geordie allowed me to use many of those skills.

I don’t need words to tell you I like pumpkin!

  • I realized early on that Geordie picked up on English very quickly, so I never talked to him about “Going for a ride” or “Going in the car”. I didn’t want to accidentally perk his ears up. Instead I used the word Adventure which I rarely use in general conversation.

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22 Comments

  1. Geordie is very impressive he is! Makes me feel bad for Toby. Imagine having a sibling more accomplished, a more pleasant disposition and very highly brag-worthy. The parents should know better, but the comparisons are inevitable. What’s the lesser sibling to do? Poor little Tobester. Poor little blighter.

    • Toby definitely has some behavioral peculiarities, but he does flashcards and tricks just like Geordie did. The biggest difference between the two of them seems to be that Geordie had an opinion about everything (and had to tell you about it), while Toby doesn’t seem to care as much. Flashcards are more about the food for him. 😆

  2. Perhaos i should start asking Leo to do flashcards with the Thugs….that should occupy both human and canines and give me some peace….until the Thugs pick it up and start giving the orders. I can see it now…they will be holding up cards with bones, dinner bowls…..escalating it to fillet steaks…..

  3. I haven’t yet mastered flash cards so the notion of a dog doing them is pretty impressive. The AJF has promised me adventures if I can get a few of them right. Maybe a “Stop Biting” flash card for Toby would be a nice Xmas present.

    • Ha ha! I like that idea. You would think my screaming and running away would work, but it doesn’t always.

      With Geordie I had a hard time coming up with a way to associate the concept of hate with the word. In the end I used the word “bite”. If I asked Geordie if he wanted to bite something, and he said yes, I knew he really hated it. (He always wanted to bite cats.)

  4. OH MY GOSH! I have joy-tears in my eyes! 🙂 Thank you for sharing Geordie and his flash carding with us! I’m so proud of him and Toby for their smartness and willingness to learn!

    We never tried flash cards with Coop…I didn’t even know about them until you shared about them.

    But we can’t say many words in front of Coop because he knows them and reacts. Like if we say our youngest kiddos name he runs to the room she stays in when she comes home to visit. And if he doesn’t find her in there, he runs to the front door to look out and see if she’s coming up the sidewalk. 🙂 And we have to spell words like “out”, “play”, “yard”, “walk”, “supper”, “snack”, etc., as he knows what those words mean and will react appropriately. 🙂 I’m amazed by how many words he knows beyond dog-words, like “sit”, “stay”, “shake”, “lie down”, “up”, “down”, “come”, etc. 🙂

    One of the many quirky funny things Coop does is…if his water bowl is less than 3/4’s full he will bark and sit by it until he watches you fill it up. Then, and only then, will he walk away. 😀

    (((HUGS))) for you! 🙂
    PATS and RUBS for Toby! 🙂

  5. I had thought Geordie was special with his being able to read, but later I read an article saying that all dogs have the ability. I guess we’re not special after all. ☹️

    One time I wanted him to be prepared that company was coming so told him “After you go to sleep and wake up, Uncle will come”. Well Geordie threw himself into his kennel, fell asleep, and when he woke 3 hrs later ran to the door and waited. He was so disappointed when he realized he hadn’t slept until morning.

    Toby isn’t interested in telling time like Geordie was, but he is a very skilled blackmailer!

    • But you must have started with him when he was young, and you knew how to work with him and teach him. You’re a great teacher and mom! 🙂
      At Cooper’s age when we try to teach him a new trick sometimes he looks at us like, “Now? Really? I’m gonna’ go have a nap.” 😉 😛

      Aw that is so sweet and cute, but so sad. Poor Geordie. I hope Uncle showed up the next day and they had a ball! 🙂

      Ha! Well I think blackmailing pays better and is way more fun that time-telling! 😉 😛

  6. Oh, I’m so excited! And the title is of the instructions are perfect!
    I’m quite sure my girl has trained me and not the other way around. I’m off to wrangle up some stiff poster/writing board in the house. There’s no way I’m paying rip-off prices for art supplies. It’s a combination of being poor and frugal. Plus the high prices are making me a keeper of things, sort of…

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