We talk a lot about creative thinking when doing the What Dogs Want jobs-in-a-box. But what is creative thinking for dogs? Why is it important?
Creative thinking is a way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective that suggests unorthodox solutions. Creative thinking can be stimulated both by an unstructured process such as brainstorming, and by a structured process such as lateral thinking. In dog world, creative thinking skills help a dog approach tasks with an openness to alternatives and come up with a 'Plan B'. It helps build confidence and also improves conflict resolution.
During activity time, we help foster creative thinking with activities like '101 Things to do With a Box' (an up-coming job-in-a-box, BTW). We set a box down on the ground and wait to see what the dogs come up with to do with the box. We don't ask them to do anything, we wait and see what shows up and reward every new idea (yes, some are unorthodox) the dogs come up with. This is very difficult for dogs who have been trained to do all their behaviors on cue. They are stumped when presented with an unfamiliar object and are expected to come up with a behavior that incorporates said object. Many of these dogs lack inquisitiveness or curiosity to try something new and have never been encouraged to do so.
Why is it important in the real world? If dogs encounter a new situation or unfamiliar object and their Plan 'A' for dealing with this situation/object doesn't work, then what? A lot of conflict, frustration, fear, possibly even aggression. If the dogs have some creative thinking skills, they are more likely to try different things to get what they want or to figure something out. For example: you are out on a walk with your dog and come across a fallen tree that blocks your path. Your dog is a little nervous about approaching the tree. Without creative thinking, your dog might just freeze and shut down, unable to think beyond 'my path is blocked by that scary thing'. With creative thinking your dog will be much more willing to touch the tree (even if he shakes a bit while doing so), possibly be willing to put his front feet up on the tree and with a little encouragement can probably be guided into hopping over the tree, only to discover that the tree was no big deal and actually turned out to be a lot of fun!
There are a lot of ways creative thinking can be worked into your activities with your dog and a lot of benefits to having a dog that is willing to try different things before becoming frustrated or paralyzed by fear. For more ideas, and to have activities sent to you to build creative thinking in your dog, subscribe to What Dogs Want jobs for dogs! It's fun with purpose!