Canine intelligence tests reveal how dogs think
Think your dog is smarter than most? Now you can put the pooch through a series of science-based tests that reveal its cognitive style.
Developed by Brian Hare from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues, a new website called Dognition allows dog owners to see how their pets fare in experiments exploring memory skills, cunning, empathy and even knowledge of physics. In this video, a dachshund and a mixed breed visit the New Scientist office to pit their wits against the games. Each dog often responds differently to cues from its owner: Ginny the dachshund, for example, was reluctant to disobey her owner when her back was turned, whereas Leicester, our other dog subject, immediately steals the treat.
The team will be using the information gathered through the website to gain a better understanding of how dogs think. By using “citizen science”, they can quickly get large amounts of data compared with conducting the research themselves.
Hare is interested in the behaviour of domestic dogs because it gives insight into our own evolution. “The dog is the only species we’ve found that has some of the communicative skills that look like what infants need to acquire language and culture,” he says. Canines learn words by inference, much like human babies, and can read their owners’ gestures, something that even chimps and bonobos are incapable of. For more on the human-dog connection, check out our interview with Hare, “Old dog tricks: The survival of the friendliest”.