PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Some dog owners really want to be able to say their dog is smart.
And it turns out; prestigious schools are now studying dog intelligence. From Yale to Duke, scientists want to know more about how dogs think.READ MORE: All Pennsylvania Residents Age 16 And Older Now Eligible For COVID-19 Vaccine
“Sometimes I think they may be a little smarter than we think, because I think they game us to get treats,” said Theo Andrianos, of Regent Square.
He and his wife, Emilee, have two German Shorthaired Pointers, Cooper and Boone.
“We have an idea of who we think is smarter,” said Emilee, pointing to their older dog, Cooper.
But is she right?
They’re measuring how their dogs “think” with a series of online tests called Dognition. Videos guide you through certain steps and then you register how your dog reacts.
In one test, Cooper watches Theo put a treat under a cup. But, then, while Emilee distracts Cooper, Theo makes a switch and puts the treat under the other cup.
When released, will Cooper use his memory or keen sense of smell to find the treat? Turns out, Cooper relies on memory and goes to the cup that’s now empty.
Another test is to see if your dog feels what you’re feeling. Is he empathetic? Theo yawns repeatedly at timed intervals. The thinking is that if you yawn, your dog might, too.
Cooper settles down and looks bored, but no yawn.
The man behind Dognition is Dr. Brian Hare, director of Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center.
He says more than a decade ago, “Science sort of woke up to the idea that dogs are truly remarkable.”
Dr. Hare believes dogs can do something other animals can’t: interpret human gestures and visual cues.
“It’s an ability dogs are really born with,” said Dr. Hare. “They’re predisposed to understand people in this really remarkable way.”
Jeff Woods is not involved with Dognition, but knows all about dogs understanding cues. He’s the founder and canine behavior consultant at Misty Pines Dog Park in Franklin Park.
KDKA’s David Highfield: “Do you necessarily even a need a smart dog?”
Woods: “Not necessarily because some dogs are so smart that they’ll manipulate their owners.”
When we’re talking about “dog smarts,” he says we often mean problem-solving skills. For instance, how long will it take a dog to get a towel off its head?READ MORE: Carnegie Library's Downtown Branch Preparing To Reopen Next Week
He puts on a demonstration with three different dogs and times how long it takes each to get the towel off.
Ajax does it in four seconds with a side-to-side shake.
Lambert uses a different technique, lowering his head, so the towel slides off. The end result is the same, the towel is gone in four seconds.
But the third dog, Cochese, doesn’t even need to ponder what to do. He whips the towel off in just one second.
Back to Cooper and Boone and the somewhat surprising results.
Remember how their owners felt like Cooper was smarter? Well, listen to the results for Boone: “The last line in Boone’s results says this is a sign of true genius!” said Emilee. “So this is really funny to us.”
Turns out, Cooper does well on practically everything, but Boone does outstanding on one particular test.
Emilee has a treat and two pieces of paper folded in half on the floor. She shows the dogs the treat, but hides which piece of paper she tucks the treat under.
Can the dog figure out that the paper that’s angled up has the treat? Boone gets it right every time, but Cooper can’t seem to get it.
Dognition assigns a profile to your dog based on results. Cooper was the “Renaissance Dog,” which is basically the jack-of-all-trades. Very well-rounded.”
However, Boone was a “Maverick” which essentially means he can tackle problems on his own.
Both Theo and Emilee say the test is fascinating and now see Boone in a new light.
“I think that was definitely the big surprise,” said Emilee.
The initial Dognition test costs $19 per dog.
Woods says unless you want a working dog or a show dog, “affection” is probably more important to most of us than actual smarts.
There are also a number of toys now being sold to keep your dog’s mind active, problem-solving games that make dogs figure out how to access treats,
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