Sharing my learnings from the book, The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare & Vanessa Woods
The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare & Vanessa Woods
Does your dog feel guilt? Is she pretending she can’t hear you? Does she want affection—or just your sandwich? In their New York Times bestselling book The Genius of Dogs, husband and wife team Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods lay out landmark discoveries from the Duke Canine Cognition Center and other research facilities around the world to reveal how your dog thinks and how we humans can have even deeper relationships with our best four-legged friends.
Breakthroughs in cognitive science have proven dogs have a kind of genius for getting along with people that is unique in the animal kingdom. This dog genius revolution is transforming how we live and work with dogs of all breeds, and what it means for you in your daily life with your canine friend.
- Animal intelligence is different than human intelligence, and is better measured in how well an animal has managed to survive and reproduce over time.
- The lasting relationship between humans and dogs throughout history is based on our shared intelligence.
- A dog displays an alliance with people unlike any other animal, and even behaves like a human infant toward its owner. As nineteenth-century writer Josh Billings said, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
- As humans, we aren’t born with fully formed cognitive abilities. It takes time for small children to develop the skills needed to survive. Dogs, however, learn much more rapidly.
- Most animals only learn specific gestures. You can train an animal to understand a pointed finger, but if you then point with your foot, the message is lost.
- dogs can read human gestures much like a human infant can. They can even do so selectively.
- unlike infants that take months to develop such cognitive abilities, puppies and street dogs exhibit these abilities early on. This demonstrates that such abilities are a product of evolution, not rearing.
- early on, dogs display spontaneous cooperation skills and seek to help others. The dogs that bonded with humans were more cooperative and more communicative. For dogs, then, developed social skills – in particular friendliness – meant and still means being fit.
- Experiments have shown that dogs can understand the symbols behind words. In a test, dogs were taught the words for objects, like “frisbee” or “toy,” and then trained to fetch the objects from another room. Later, when the dogs were shown a picture of a frisbee instead, they were able to fetch the same object.
- Dogs also understand when their owner can or can’t hear their actions.
- As clever as dogs can be, though, there are certain limitations to what they can do. In experiments where a direct route to a goal is obstructed, a dog will just sit in front of the obstacle. This is likely because the survival dilemmas of many domesticated animals have been solved by humans.
- Understanding basic physical principles is another limitation that dogs exhibit. when a dog is tied to a tree, it will keep moving around, unaware that the tree is restricting its movement.
- Dogs also show little sense of self. Still, when in company, dogs are undeniably remarkable.
- When they’re alone, dogs can get stuck with a problem, but when they observe others solving the problem, they learn quickly. Dogs are extremely skilled at learning by observation.
- Another way in which dogs display sociability is how they seek out and become attached to one or more cooperative partners. Dogs can even remember an owner years later.
- Dogs can live in groups, learn from others and are proficient cooperators. They show that they know when they need to cooperate, and can identify potential cooperative allies.
- While there are many dog breeds, genetically there are only two groups of dogs: those closer to wolves, such as Afghans, and those classified as dogs of “European origin.”
- Dogs can also be distinguished by personality tests. In general, there are two basic groups: dogs that are sociable and bold, and dogs that are shy. Yet all these qualities can be found in each dog breed. Aggressiveness, however, is an independent trait, and one that distinguishes the two groups.
- Many dog training programs are based on the notion of a person as the “alpha” giving directives to a dog. Yet in dog packs, there is no hard and fast hierarchy. Therefore, to develop superior animal training programs, the cognitive abilities as well as the limitations of dogs should be considered. This would give us a more realistic view about what dogs can do and how they can learn to do it.