A couple years back I tried a fun experiment with Eko which tested a trait unique to dogs – the ability to follow human body language cues.

Eko took to the hidden treat game pretty quickly so I was interested to see how puppy Penny would fare.


It’s funny how dogs always know when something is up. I put down the two cups and Penny jumped to attention.


“Ok, what’s the game? I know there’s a game here somewhere.”


“Will, I see the treats, stop messing around and let’s play!”

I corralled Penny into the bathroom where she couldn’t view the cups and then hid a treat under one. I remember Eko took a number of tries to catch the gist of the game, but to my surprise Penny got it from her very first time.


Penny dashed to the spot and looked immediately to me for a cue


When I pointed to the correct cup, Penny went right for it


While Eko coached her on from the sidelines, Penny nailed the challenge even when there were four cups

The most interesting part of rerunning the experiment was how Penny instantly followed my cues. I’m not sure if that means she keeps a closer eye on me than Eko did, or if it means Eko just preferred smashing the cups. Or maybe it means puppies tend to watch closer than adult dogs?  Any theories?


Next up, Eko will teach Penny to play three card monte!

If you have a few cups at home, run the experiment and let me know how it goes! It’s easy and a lot of fun.

24 thoughts on “Hide-and-Treat”

  1. Mom has learned an awful lot about canines and noses this year. Last night at Bailie’s first tracking class, she learned even more about how incredible our noses are. While she may be watching you, she is I would say with about 100% finding the right cup because of the smell. We can tell the age of an odor by milliseconds, so our noses know. Some dogs aren’t as good as others and some don’t know how to express it, but I think Penny has a good nose on her.

    • Very interesting point. Penny did look to my cue as soon as she was in sight, but was her nose leading her the whole way? Next time I’ll run the experiment without a treat and see how it goes.

  2. AMAZING!! How did you teach Eko to do this? We play “Which Paw” at home, where I hide the “squeaky” of a squeaky toy that has been killed, and he usually gets it right but sometimes he will keep tilting his head to figure out what is squeaking! It is hilarious!
    We do it with treats too. I have seen he usually favors my right paw.

  3. I’m sure Eko can show her how it works, he is a pro :o) Easy only destroyed the cups but not at the end like Eko, he came in, ignored the treats and made a mess with the cups :o)


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