Dognition Canine Assessment Tests

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Several readers have asked about the new product called "Dognition" that promises (quoting from the website), "You’ll learn your dog’s cognitive style by playing fun, science-based games — an experience that gives you the insight you need to make the most of your relationship with your best friend." I was curious myself, given that the force behind the product is the work of scientist Brian Hare, whose relevant claim to fame is his research on the ability of dogs to inherently understand a person's pointing gesture. I've argued that this claim needs more research, as does his suggestion that the long-standing relationship between dogs and people has resulted in the evolution of special communicatory skills in dogs (especially as regards to pointing). However, I love that his work has Read More

fMRI on Dogs: Too Wonderful!

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When I was doing my PhD research in the 1980's I wanted to see how a dog's brain responded to different types of sounds before and after training. This was in the 1980's, and the only method available for animals was to do Evoked Potential tests, in which simple, tiny electrical sensors were glued to the scalp. This allowed one to measure activity in the brain in an extremely general way: What kind of brain waves does one see in the Temporal versus the Parietal lobe, for example, after hearing or seeing specific stimuli? Evoked Potential tests are logistically easy to do on adults: You shave tiny areas of the scalp, glue on the sensors, and ask the subject to stay still for a set period of time. The research subject mustn't move, because muscles move through electrical stimulation in Read More

Dogs and Dingoes, Who is Smarter?

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When clients, eyes shining, would tell me how smart their dog was, I'd often respond: "I'm so sorry." Of course, I said it with a big smile and we all laughed about it, but the truth is, smart isn't always what we want. Most of us want dogs who are "smart" in that they learn what we want them to learn at lightening speed, but we don't want them to use their cognitive powers against us. Some dogs do just that; I swear I can see smoke coming out of their ears as they try to figure out how to train us to do their bidding. I remember one dog, a brilliant Standard Poodle, who appeared to spend much of her day trying to figure out how to "beat the system." Others, the more biddable ones who came hard wired to want to work as a team (far more rare than the former!), not only rapidly learn learn Read More