OLD DOGS SERIES
OK, actually this story is actually about all dogs, not just old dogs. But it was too good not to pass on to my readers, so I made the stretch to put it in my Old Dogs Series.
The web site LiveScience reports on recent findings by Stanley Coren, a Canadian academic who has conducted extensive research into canine intelligence. Coren says that the average dog compares favorably with a human two-year old in language abilities. Smart breeds rate even better: They can understand about 250 words, similar to a 2.5-year-old human. (Border Collies like my own old dog scored highest, as usual.) Dogs fare even better in math, showing abilities similar to a four-year-old, according to Coren. And in terms of emotional development, they rate more like human teens (which may or may not be a compliment, depending on what you think of teenagers).
“The social life of dogs is much more complex, much more like human teenagers at that stage, interested in who is moving up in the pack and who is sleeping with who and that sort of thing,” Coren told LiveScience….
Dogs also show some basic emotions, such as happiness, anger and disgust. But more complex emotions, such as guilt, are not in a dog’s toolbox. (What humans once thought was guilt was found to be doggy fear, Coren noted.)
And while dogs know whether they’re being treated fairly, they don’t grasp the concept of equity. Coren recalls a study in which dogs get a treat for “giving a paw.”
When one dog gets a treat and the other doesn’t, the unrewarded dog stops performing the trick and avoids making eye contact with the trainer. But if one dog, say, gets rewarded with a juicy steak while the other snags a measly piece of bread, on average the dogs don’t care about the inequality of the treats.
If that’s the criteria, I’d say humans are just a dumb as dogs on this particular subject. Why else would so many working-class and middle-class people vote against tax hikes for the rich? Why else would they oppose health care reform so that the insurance and drug companies can keep up their profits?
So does this mean that in addition to being just as smart as toddlers, dogs are just as smart as Republicans–and some Democrats, too? (Again, you may or may not think this is a compliment–I know what I think.)