What Do Dogs Know?

by Mary Haight on November 11, 2009

Henry, a schnauzer/poodle mix, was shown a treat. The dog was being held by his owner, while the treat was placed under one of two inverted cups on the floor, mixing the cups and placing the treat so no one could tell which cup it went under.

Henry figured out what was being asked of him when the man pointed a finger to one of two inverted cups where a treat was located. The owner let the dog go, and Henry chose the cup Hare was pointing to. According to Brain Hare, assistant professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University Hare, only two species on Earth have the ability to figure out what a pointed finger means.

In the Time magazine interview, Hare asks that we consider what it takes to understand that a gesture represents a thought that must be decoded. The canine human partnership has helped dogs acquire a unique set of sophisticated social skills. Hare is hoping to figure out how their connection to us has shaped what dogs know, providing the science that is lacking in this field.

The mission is to understand dog psychology, why some breeds solve problems differently from others. Dogs solve problems more like we do than our closest relatives, chimps.  Hale said through these studies they can also find more of “what it is about our species that is so unique or different.”

The Duke Canine Cognition Center will be testing hundreds of volunteered dogs, as will Harvard’s Marc Hauser, a cognitive psychologist who opened his own lab and has 1,000 subjects he will test.  There are more research facilities in the US and Europe are also working in this field. Outcomes should also result in more refined dog training methods.

(Source: Time)

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  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by jlpauley: How Dogs Think | Dancing Dog Blog http://bit.ly/1hiyki

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by dogspelledfwd. dogspelledfwd said: What Do Dogs Know? http://bit.ly/1WFNsv #dogs #dogtraining […]

  3. […] psychologist.” I’m not aware of an accredited school that offers such a degree and while the field of psychology includes animals, there’s no real applied animal psychology field that I have read […]

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