I was intrigued by a six-page, featured article in Time Magazine about Canine research facilities that have been established around the world, and how they tested the question, "Can dogs actually count?"
Apparently the test dogs tended to chose a board with more shapes, not less. Other tests proved, "Dogs understand an object's permanence -- if an object is tossed out of sight, they look for it." Babies do not do that when they throw a spoon on the floor.
"Do dogs do better than 3 to 4-year-olds?" Kids were taught to turn a lever to open a box and get a treat. When the lever was rigged so it wasn't needed, children continued to turn it. Dogs just opened the box.
Brain size facts: "A human brain is one fiftieth (1.50th) the mass of average body. Horses are dullards at 1:600th; lions are little better at 1:550th; Dogs are comparative scholars with an impressive 1:125th. But... (I love the way the author of the article, Time's Senior Reporter, Jeffrey Kluger, put it), "Dog brains don't have the real estate that humans have."
The article explained, "The 3 pillars of a dog's world are reward, pleasure, expectation." Using food rewards, experimenting with 2 smells -- puffs of a chemical that smelled like nail polish remover -- puffs of a green grass smell -- "Dogs learned to go right to the green grass smell."
"Do dogs alert someone if someone is injured or there's a fire? Tests showed that dogs do not bark if there's a fire, or an injury. A dog owner, walking his dog, fell to ground. Nearby, 2 humans were seated, but the dog didn't do anything. Since, in the majority of cases, dogs tested did nothing, the researchers have said, "Dogs alerting humans in life and death situations is because of dogs' awareness of something weird or not safe."
"Do dogs follow pointing? Other species, such as dolphins, elephants, and bats, learn the meaning of pointing only from experience with humans who taught then by pointing. Researchers concluded, "Dogs know the hand is used to indicate something."
Do dogs understand and learn "displacement" of toys? It was noted that dogs, after playing with a toy and the researcher removed the toy, go to the place where researcher put the toy.
What about dogs remembering when you're home from a long time absence? Researchers say, "Dogs have awareness of the past, and the future, and possibly the rate at which time passes." Monitoring cameras show how dogs left alone, stir, check the door, and become restless while waiting for you to come home.
What about will power? In an experiment with dogs trained to sit without moving for 10 minutes, the dogs, after 20 minutes, given a new task, were less likely to complete a new task than dog who spent the same 10 minutes doing whatever it pleased. Science says it's because of depletion of glucose in the prefontal cortex. They say that after a 'sit and stay,' if you give a dog a sugary drink, the dog will stay and function with the next task longer and better.
If you, who are reading this blog, have a dog over a long period of time, you may come to other conclusions about your dog's intelligence. The days when we had a dog (also a cat, fish tanks, and a bird) are long gone. My husband worked as an actor on different coasts, and I maintained my dance company by touring -- we were not able to be good pet parents. Even so, my memories of interacting with our dog are vivid and continue to haunt me with guilty-mama thoughts -- Teechi was part of our family, so of course, I'm fascinated by information about something that was, and still is, so important in our lives.
Here's a link to Jeffrey Kruger's article in Time: SECRETS OF THE CANINE MIND.