If you think your dog can read your mind, you're right. Because pooches and people
have kept company for hundreds of generations, Canis familiaris is hard-wired
to pick up human social cues, a US anthropologist claims.
to Brian Hare of Harvard University, the insight will help trace the evolution
of dogs, and may help explain the origins of autism in people and point towards
possible therapies. "The first diagnostic test for autism is the inability
to use social cues," he said. "Autists are very poor at reading things
like eye-gaze or pointing, something called joint attention." Not
so your average mutt, he says. "It looks like dogs evolved an unusual ability
to read human gestures and cues, and manipulate and predict human behavior. They
were selected to do that through domestication," Dr. Hare told the American
Association for the Advancement of Science, meeting in Seattle - and he has the
evidence to prove it.
the first two of four studies, Dr. Hare and colleagues in Germany and Hungary
found dogs are better at a test of their ability to interpret social cues than
even our primate cousins the chimpanzees, and the dog's closest relation, the
wolf. In the test, based on one developed to identify autistic infants, food is
hidden beneath one of two cups about a meter apart. The animal is then shown where
the food is by the experimenter, who looks or gestures at the right location.
"The wolves and the chimps didn't use the cues in the task, but the dogs
were awesome," Dr. Hare said. Clearly,
wolves and chimpanzees are not stupid, and dogs did not inherit their skill from
ancestral wolves. So Dr. Hare next tested the possibility that dogs learn their
ability through "tremendous exposure to humans".
gave two groups of puppies nine to 20 weeks old the same test. One group was raised
by a family, while the other was raised in a kennel with little human contact.
The isolated puppies performed just as well as dogs raised in a family, scotching
the exposure hypothesis. Dr. Hare says his latest research confirmed his belief
that human contact during domestication created the selective pressure driving
the evolution of this canine expertise.
cup test was given to six New Guinea singing dogs, a species related to the dingo
and isolated from humans. The six domestic dogs were near-perfect, but the singers
failed. This suggests that without human evolutionary pressure, the singing dog
lost its ability to read human minds.
Leigh Deighton & Elizabeth Colman - TheAustralian.News.com.au
Your Dog's Intelligence
owners of dogs are curious to know how intelligent there dog is. A number of none
too scientific studies have been published ranking particular breeds as to their
intelligence. In addition, simple tests that purport to determine whether one's
own dog is smart are also available. The study that is most often referred to
is one presented in a book by Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia,
in Vancouver, Canada entitled a The
Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide to the Thoughts, Emotions, and Inner Lives of Our
Canine Companions. The author believes there are 3 types of intelligence
displayed by dogs, namely, adaptive intelligence (the ability to problem solve);
instinctive intelligence (genetically-dictated behaviors); and obedience intelligence
(the ability to obey commands). A number of do-it-yourself tests for dog owners
to measure their particular pet's adaptive intelligence can be found on the internet
and in Dr. Coren's book as well. These involve things like:
Letting your dog sniff some food he likes, then placing the food under an empty
soup can and timing how long it takes for him to knock over the can to get the
Having your dog sniff a large bath towel, then throwing the towel over his head
and measuring how long it takes for him to free himself; and
staring intently into your sitting dog's face and when he looks at you, counting
silently to three, then smiling broadly, and seeing whether he comes to you, tail
a-wagging or not, or whether he does not move at all, or moves away from you.
tests such as these provide any real feedback as to the actual intelligence of
one's dog is very debatable. Really, as a dog owner, what should interest you
is your pet's willingness to obey your commands and his overall temperament. And
for people who do not yet own a dog but are seriously considering getting one,
the best advice is to speak with a couple of local dog breeders, tell them what
characteristics you are seeking in a dog and then heed their advice.