Our border collie, Penny is scary smart. For a long time now, she has been going to the door and scratching at it to get our attention. Sometimes she wants to go outside, but sometimes not. Her water/food bowl is located right by the door, and when she wants food or water, she will scratch at the door. If we get up, she will back away from the door as if to say “I don’t want to go out. I want something else!”

Often, a glance at the bowl will tell us what that is. But lately, we’ve taken to asking her. “Do you want to go outside?” “Do you want water?” “Do you want food?” For each question, she’ll either cock her head to one side or run towards us. I’ve been experimenting with her to see if she really understands what we’re saying or if she just comes on the second or third question. I am convinced she understands some key words: outside, food, hungry, water, and thirsty.

A few minutes ago she went to the door and scratched. The third question was “food?” and she came running. Then she nudged her food ball (it’s a toy we fill with kibble which spills out as she rolls it around the floor – far and away her favorite way of eating kibble.)

As I was writing this, she finished all the food in the ball, went to the door, and scratched. She wanted more food. She finished the second helping and again scratched at the door. She wanted to go out.

And now she wants back in the house.