The Intelligence of Dogs A Guide to the Thoughts, Emotions, and Inner Lives of Our Canine Companions Stanley Coren 320p
This book is not very technical, has almost no numbers or sources in it. It contains a wealth of at times funny anecdotes. It also contains references to shitty science, mostly Gardner and Sternberg’s anti-g theories. It also has a wrong description of crytallized vs. fluid g. However, aside from all these flaws, it is well worth reading if one is interested in dog (canine) intelligence. I would have liked to see e.g. a factor analysis of the author’s proposed dog IQ test, to see if there is g factor for dogs as well.
As a psychologist, dog trainer, and avowed dog lover, I set out to de
scribe the mental abilities that are present in every dog. I also went
one step further—namely, to explore how various breeds differ in their
capacities and behaviors. Before I could do this, though, a bit of
groundwork was in order. I began by looking at the origins of dogs,
because any animal’s mental ability is shaped and limited by its bio
logical makeup and the forces of evolution that have worked on it.
Then I briefly examined how scientists have viewed dogs’ minds and
detailed some of the controversy about the nature of the canine mind
and consciousness. Finally, I looked at the various types of dog intelli
gence and described how dog owners could actually measure their
own dog’s abilities. While I hoped to make it clear that no breed of
dog is without merit or purpose, I also pointed out that not all dog
breeds are created equal in terms of their cleverness and mental skills.
Starts out well.
And then there was Lassie. . . .
The dog that may have done the most to shape the popular concep
tion of dogs and their intelligence was a ch ara cter born in a short story
wri tten by Eric Knight in 1938. This story was la te r expanded into a
best-selling book, and, in 1943, it was translated into a heart-warming
tear jerker of a film called Lassie Come Home. Lassie, the wo r ld ’s best-
known collie, was not only affectionate and courageous but clearly
nearly human in her intelligence and understanding.
Actually, Lassie, as portrayed on the screen, is not a lovely female
dog at all, but ra th e r a deception perpetrated by a long line of female
impersonators. For nine generations, the dogs that have played Lassie
have all been male descendants of the first Lassie, actually a dog named
Pal. Male collies were preferred for the part, since they are larger and
less timid than females. The viewing audience seems never to have
noticed the relevant anatomical differences. In fact, all we seemed to
notice was th a t the dog we were watching was a collie with a white
blaze on its face. Changes in markings as one dog was substituted for
another for different stunts and tricks seem to have passed us by, just as
easily as the telltale signs that should have told us Lassie was a lad.
At first glance, seventeen thousand years may not seem like a long
time—after all, dinosaurs roamed the e arth one hundred fifty million
years ago. Yet our own species, Homo sapiens, did not ap pea r until
three hundred thousand years ago. Neanderthal man was still predom
inant in Europe until forty thousand years ago, and the first types of
humans physically indistinguishable from modern humans appeared
between thirty and thirty-five thousand years ago. Asian tribes first
crossed the Bering Strai t to begin human occupation of the Americas
twenty-five thousand years ago. It is interesting to note that the first
evidence of organized agriculture is only ten thousand years old—
which is three to seven thousand years after the ea rliest proof that
dogs had established their companionship with humans. Falling within
the same general time frame as these Russian fossils is a finding in
Iraq of domesticated dog remains th a t are dated at around fourteen
thousand years ago.
This date for modern humans is wrong.
The term anatomically modern humans (AMH) or anatomically modern Homo sapiens (AMHS) refers in paleoanthropology to individual members of the species Homo sapiens with an appearance consistent with the range of phenotypes in modern humans.
Anatomically-modern humans evolved from archaic Homo sapiens in the Middle Paleolithic, about 200,000 years ago. The emergence of anatomically-modern human marks the dawn of the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens, i.e. the subspecies of Homo sapiens that includes all modern humans. The oldest fossil remains of anatomically-modern humans are the Omo remains, which date to 195,000 (±5,000) years ago and include two partial skulls as well as arm, leg, foot and pelvis bones.
Other fossils include the proposed Homo sapiens idaltu from Herto in Ethiopia that are almost 160,000 years old and remains from Skhul in Israel that are 90,000 years old.
When mitochondrial DNA from dogs and wolves are compared,
they are found to differ by only around 1 to 2 percent. To give you an
idea of how close this similarity is, this is in the same range as the dif
ferences found between different races of humans. Scientists consider
this to be clear evidence th a t the closest anc estor of dogs, and the
species th a t was probably domesticated first, was the wolf. Please note
th a t I said the “closest” and not necessarily the “only” ancestor of dogs
was the wolf.
very interesting, if true. No source given.
Searching a bit…
To test the hypothesis that the domestic dogs are derived from several different ancestral gray wolf populations, we compared the sequence of the displacement (D)-loop region of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from 24 breeds of domestic dog (34 individual dogs) and 3 subspecies of gray wolf (Canis lupus lupus, C. l. pallipes and C. l. chanco; 19 individuals). The intraspecific sequence variations within domestic dogs (0.00~3.19%) and within wolves (0.00~2.88%) were comparable to the interspecific variations between domestic dogs and wolves (0.30~3.35%). A repetitive sequence with repeat units (TACACGTA/GCG) that causes the size variation in the D-loop region was also found in both dogs and wolves. However, no nucleotide substitutions or repetitive arrays were specific for domestic dogs or for wolves. These results showed that there is a close genetic relationship between dogs and wolves. Two major clades appeared in the phylogenetic trees constructed by neighbor-joining and by the maximum parsimony method; one clade containing Chinese wolf (C. l. chanco) showed extensive variations while the other showed only slight variation. This showed that there were two major genetic components both in domestic dogs and in wolves. However, neither clades nor haplotypes specific for any dog breed were observed, whereas subspecies-specific clades were found in Asiatic wolves. These results suggested that the extant breeds of domestic dogs have maintained a large degree of mtDNA polymorphisms introduced from their ancestral wolf populations, and that extensive interbreedings had occurred among multiple matriarchal origins.
So, yea, something like that.
An interesting rep o r t of some Russian rese arch on foxes directly
bears on the issue of the domestication of dogs. The experiment was
started in the 1940s by the Russian geneticist Dmitri Belyaev, who
worked in a Siberian laboratory with other biologists who were trying
to domesticate silver foxes. Their aim was pract ical as w’ell as scien
tific, since they wanted to breed these animals for th e ir beautiful fur,
which brings a high price on the world market. Since the wild fox can
be qu i te sn a p p ish an d ch u r l ish , th e sc ien t is ts w e re also try in g to c re a te
a more docile strain of silver foxes th a t would allow themselves to be
handled and more easily managed. For this reason, only the most gen
tle of the foxes were allowed to breed. Over a span of only twenty gen
erations, the scientists managed to develop tame, domesticated foxes.
Several surprises resulted from these breeding experiments. In their
behavior, these tame foxes became very doglike. They began to look for
human company ra th e r than running from it. They began to wag their
tails in response to the same types of situations th a t cause domestic
dogs to wag their tails. They also developed a tendency to lick people’s
faces. These domesticated foxes also began to vocalize with yips and
barks much like dogs and quite unlike adul t wild foxes and wolves,
which seldom vocalize. There were even important physical changes.
Females began to come into heat twice a year, ju s t as domestic dogs
do. The ears of some of the foxes became floppy and more doglike.
Unfortunately for the experimenters, also following the p a t te rn for
domestic dogs, these tamed foxes were often born with fur th a t was
multicolored with patches of different shades, which greatly lowered
their market value!
The domesticated silver fox experiment:
Original source: www.americanscientist.org/issues/feature/1999/2/early-canid-domestication-the-farm-fox-experiment
All canids also enjoy an occasional roll in ca r rio n and other foul
smelling filth. It is likely that this behavior began as a hunting strategy.
Many prey animals, such as antelopes or gazelles, have a good sense of
smell and can detect an approaching canine predator. However, by
rolling in antelope or gazelle droppings, which of course give off a
safe, familiar smell, the h un te r masks its scent and so can get much
closer before he is detected.
In domestic dogs this behavior is no longer functional, but seems to
have persisted because dogs have an aesthetic appreciation of odors,
which some experts have compared to our own fondness for music; it
has no real purpose but seems to give the dog pleasure. Some owners
find the practice offensive and have tried to eliminate it by punishing
their dogs, but this generally is to no avail. Occasionally, one can find a
perfume or other scent th a t the dog likes (usually one with a musk
base), w h ich , w h e n d ab b e d on e i th e r sid e of the dog’s th roa t and
behind its ears, may cause the dog to pass up opportunit ies to roll in
the n eares t pile of dung or o th e r smelly refuse. This sometimes back
My daughter by marriage, Kari, had a marvelous mixed-breed dog
named Tessa, whom we often took along when we went to our little
hideaway farm. At the re a r of the farm is a large drainage canal,
which, at various times of the year, takes on a ra th e r pungent odor if
st irred up. When the canal reached this pitch of smelliness, Tessa
always took the very first opportunity to plunge into the canal and coat
herself in the muck. This always resulted in our hosing her down and
then leaving h e r outside for several hours until the essence wore off.
Once, p r io r to a morning walk, I decided to see if I could avoid the
inevitable wallow in the smelly canal by p re trea ting her with some
aftershave lotion th a t smelled quite fine to me. She seemed a bit puz
zled by all of this, and when I opened the gate, instead of the usual
chase-the-stick romp th a t starts our walks, she made a direct beeline
for the scum-filled canal. She re tu rn ed afterward, soaking wet and
odoriferous, ready to start our play. Apparently she felt a need to mask
her uncharacteristically perfumed aura with something more aestheti
cally pleasing to her canine mind.
Much of the interbreeding across the canid species has been delib
erately encouraged or arranged by human beings. Eskimos and natives
of the high north are known to cross th eir working dogs regularly with
wolves to try to get sled dogs with g re a ter stamina and larger size.
Usually this process involves tying a bitch in season to a stake in a
region th a t wolves are known to frequent. An interested male wolf will
often stop and partake of such an opportunity, and the bitches seem to
accept the at tention willingly. Of course, when times are h a rd e r and
food is scarce, the bitch may be viewed as a candidate for lunch, rather
than love, by the wolf pack.
Suppose we knew th a t one pa rt icula r member of the canid family (call
it canid X) was the sole ancestor of domestic dogs. You might think
th a t this would allow us to say th a t if canid X has a certain behavior or
shows a specific mental ability, the same behavior and mental ability
must exist in dogs. Sadly, this would not be true. Even if domestic dogs
contained the genes of only one of the wild canids, they would not be
simply tamed versions of the wild variety. The process of domestication
itself has made dogs different, not only physically but also psychologi
cally, from their wild cousins.
In breeding dogs, people have systematically selected for puppylike
characteristics. The technical term for this is neoteny, meaning th a t the
adul t maintains many of the chara c te rist ic s of the immature animal.
This neoteny involves both physiology and behavior in the animals.
and also humans: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoteny
Behaviorally, our domestic dogs are also more puppylike. When
dogs lick people’s faces, as most domestic dogs will, they are actually
mimicking the behavior of puppies, who will lick their m o th er ’s face to
get h e r to regurgitate food for them. Hence your dog’s kisses really
mean th a t it is trea tin g you as its p a ren t and, of course, asking for a
A colleague of mine has pointed out th a t a book with the title The Intel
ligence o f Dogs could be very short. He noted that, as a psychologist, I
could simply choose to define intelligence, or at least thought, as some
thing th a t occurs only in humans, and this would spare me a lot of
work and research time. Many psychologists, biologists, and ethologists
(particularly those who like to call themselves “behaviorists”) do exactly
this. For instance, in a recent research book entitled Cognitive Psychol
ogy and Information Processing, three research psychologists (R. Lach-
man, J. L. Lachman, and E. R. Butterfield) conclude th a t “whenever
higher mental processes are involved, we heartily disagree that human
and animal behavior are necessarily governed by the same principles.”
The situation is not simple, however, and many eminent scientists
have disagreed with this ra th e r negative conclusion. Charles Darwin,
for example, wrote in The Descent o f Man that the only difference
between the intelligence of humans and th a t of most of th e ir lower
mammalian cousins “is one of degree and not of k in d.” He went on to
say that “the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties,
such as love, memory, attention, curiosity, imitation, reason, etc., of
which man boasts, may be found in an incipient or even sometimes in
a well-developed condition, in the lower animals.”
Obviously, ne i th er Darwin nor any sensible person will try to say
that the intelligence of dogs is the same as that of humans in all ways.
There are clear limits to a dog’s intelligence. A dog has never written
an o pera or novel n o r ever designed bridges or explored cybernetic
theory. No dog has ever been elected as a president or p rem ier of a
country (except in an uncomplimentary metaphoric sense, as defined
by the opposition parties).
As I write this, it dawns on me that I might be wise to stay away from
the subject of dogs occupying political posts, since there are stories of
dog-kings. Probably the best known of these comes from an Icelandic
saga th a t tells of an upland king known as Eystein the Bad. Eystein con
quered the people of Drontheim and then made his son Onund their
king. The people of Drontheim were not at all happy with this a rrange
ment and ended Onund’s reign abruptly and violently. To show his dis
pleasure at this turn of events, Eystein returned to Drontheim, ravaged
the land, and reduced the people to total subjugation. Then, to cap his
vengeance, he offered the survivors a truly dishonorable choice: They
would be ruled either by one of Eystein’s slaves or by one of his dogs.
The people of Drontheim apparently felt that they could more easily
manipulate the decisions of the dog. As kings go, the dog (whose name
was Saur) was apparently not a bad ruler. The saga claims th a t the dog
“had the wisdom of three men.” It also reports that the dog “spoke one
word for every two that it barked,” presumably meaning that it had dif
ferent whimpers, growls, and other sounds that were interpreted as sig
nifying different ideas and moods. The people responded by according
the dog all the expected pomp and ceremony that are due to a ruler.
They furnished him with a throne, so that he “sat upon a high place as
kings are wont to sit.” They also provided him with regal apparel, such
as a gold collar. His attendants or courtiers, whose duty it was to carry
their canine king on their shoulders whenever the weather turned bad,
wore silver chains to signify th eir office.
Unfortunately, the story ends ra th e r badly, with what has always
appeared to me to be the culmination of some form of plot or a secret
revolt against the dog-king. Obviously, such a revolt could not simply
involve assassination, since this might make Eystein suspicious and
cause him to re tu rn to mete out fur ther vengeance and perhaps even
to appoint a still less desirable king. Instead, the plotters capitalized on
a chance occurrence. One day, wolves broke into the royal cattle pens.
Instead of calling for help from the men-at-arms, the court iers ( trai
tors?) rallied the dog-king to defend his livestock. With all of the brav
ery th a t the sagas accord to one born into royalty, he immediately
mounted an attack, but, being badly outnumbered, he was killed in
battle. Thus ended the reign of Saur, the canine king.
There are also things like: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergeant_Stubby,
Primitive people, however, had no problem allowing dogs to have
intelligence and even suggested they had speech. For example, when
Europeans began to colonize the African Congo, they encountered
many indigenous stories about the dog as the bringer of fire, the great
hunter, and even as a teacher. A typical example comes from the
Nyanga people, whose folk hero Nkhango supposedly negotiated for
fire with the dog Rukuba: The dog would steal some fire from the high
god Nyamurairi in exchange for eternal friendship from humans. After
keeping his p a r t of the bargain, Rukuba joined with Nkhango on the
hunt, and together they achieved grea t success, even against danger
ous prey, such as the wild boar. As the dog’s cleverness became more
and more obvious, Nkhango learned to tru s t him with even more
tasks. Finally, Nkhango made a decision to use the dog as a messenger.
Rukuba, however, did not want to be a messenger; he wanted to lie by
the fire in comfort, and, since he was the one who had supplied the fire
in the first place, he felt that it was his right to do so. Musing th a t peo
ple would always be sending him to this place o r th a t on errands,
because he was clever and trustworthy and could speak, the dog
Rukuba concluded, “If I could not speak, then I could not be a messen
ger. So I will simply never speak again!” From that day on, the dog of
the Nyanga ceased speaking; he still has the intelligence and capacity
to do so but simply chooses not to.
Unfortunately, when Descartes threw out intellect, reason, and con
sciousness for animals, it had more than scientific and intellectual con
sequences. In denying animals these higher mental abilities, Descartes
also denied them feeling and emotion. According to him, the cry an
animal releases when struck does not indicate pain but is ra th e r the
equivalent of the clanging of springs or chimes you might h e a r after
you drop a mechanical clock or some wind-up toy. Nicolas de Male-
branche, a French philosopher who extended Descartes’s work, picked
up on this idea when he claimed th a t animals “eat without pleasure,
cry’ without pain, act without knowing it; they desire nothing, fear
nothing, know nothing.”
The upshot was that Descartes’s analysis was subsequently used to
justify massive cruelty to animals. B e rn a rd le Bovier de Fontenelle
once visited Malebranche a t the Oratory on the rue Saint-Honore.
While they were conversing, he saw Malebranche kick a p regnant dog
who had been rolling at his feet. The dog let out a cry of pain, and
Fontenelle sprang forward to defend it. Malebranche passed the inci
dent off, saying “Don’t you know th a t it does not feel?” In due time,
such reasoning led to experiments where animals were nailed to
boards by their four paws in order to do surgery on them to see the cir
culatory system working in a live being. People who pitied the poor
creatures for their pain were laughed at as unknowing fools. After all,
these were not to be considered sentient and feeling creatures; they
were only machines being disassembled for study. Accordingly, moral
concern was inappropriate, since the pain and suffering of animals
were not real.
One might be tempted to dismiss these attitudes as the unenlight
ened thinking of the past. However, viewpoints ju s t this extreme are
still found today, nearly three hun d red fifty years after Descartes’s
theorizing. For instance, P. Carruthers, in the prestigious Journal o f
Philosophy, recently wrote of animals that, “since th e ir experiences,
including th e ir pains, are nonconscious ones, th e ir pains are of no
immediate moral concern. Indeed, since all of the mental states of
brutes are nonconscious, their injuries are lacking even in indirect
It is interesting to note that scientists and philosophers with these
views often act and believe quite differently in their personal lives. The
extreme notion th a t only humans have consciousness and intelligence
and th a t only human pain and suffering is of any significance is ap pa r
ently much more difficult to hold in private life, especially if one is liv
ing with a pet animal. For example, history tells us that Descartes had
a dog named Monsieur Grat—quite a pampered pet, to whom
Descartes spoke in the same manner th a t we speak to our own dogs.
He worried about the dog’s health and referred to things that the dog
liked o r did not like and sometimes privately speculated on what the
dog might be thinking. So much concern for an unconscious machine?
Would one talk to a machine such as a wristwatch and speculate on its
health and its likes? Obviously, in Descartes’s everyday interactions,
the presumption of consciousness for his dog was not only convenient,
but perhaps unavoidable.
Dont claim that filosofical beliefs have no effects on peoples behavior!
There is also Clarence Darrow: www.sfu.ca/~swartz/freewill1.htm#intro
I initially wrote this chapter during a very gray and rainy spring. The
day I finished it, more than a week had gone by without any noticeable
sunshine. That p a rt icular afternoon, though, the clouds seemed to part
and a burs t of afternoon sunshine shone through the window, forming
a big golden patch on the hardwood floor. Completing my work, I was
moving toward the kitchen to get a cup of coffee when I noticed my
Cavalier King Charles spaniel Wiz standing in the circle of light. He
looked up at the window and then down at the floor as if he were con
templating something, and then he deliberately tu rned and ran from
the room. Within a mat te r of moments, however, he re appeared drag
ging a large terry-cloth towel th a t he had stolen from the bathroom.
He pulled the towel into the cente r of the patch of sun, looked at it,
and then pushed at one lumpy section with both front paws. Having
ar ranged the towel to his satisfaction, he then circled around and set
tled down for a nap on his newly created bed in the warm afternoon
sun. If one of my young grandchi ldren had done this, I would have
said th a t she felt the warmth of the sun and thought that it would be
nice to take a nap in it. Then, remembering the towel in the bathroom,
she went and retrieved it so that she could sunbathe more comfortably.
All this requires consciousness, intelligence, and planning. Does ray
dog Wiz have it? It is easier for me simply to recognize th a t my dog’s
behaviors in this situation were similar to behaviors th a t are accompa
nied by consciousness in a human faced with the same situation. In the
absence of any evidence to the contrary, I will presume th a t I am deal
ing with consciousness and intelligent behavior in my dog as well.
It seems to me that people requiring better evidence than this are setting an unreasonably high evidential standard.
Dogs can go even further than these kinds of assessments, to a point
where virtually everyone would concede th a t they are really counting.
One spring afternoon, I was part icipating in a dog obedience tr ial on
Vancouver Island in Bri tish Columbia, Canada. One of the o ther dog
competitors and I had finished for the day, and we were out walking in
a large nearby field with his lovely female Labrador retriever named
Poco. The man had a box of large rubber retrieving lures with him,
and he explained to me that he would use these to demonstrate that his
dog could count.
“She can count to four quite reliably and to five with only an occa
sional miss,” he said. “I’ll show you how it works. Pick a number from
one to five.”
I picked the number three. While the dog watched, her master
tossed three lures out into the high grass of the field. The lures were
tossed in different directions and to different distances. After I got
down on my hands and knees and verified that the lures were not visi
ble from the dog’s eye level at the starting position, my companion
simply told the dog, “Poco, fetch,” without pointing or other cues. The
dog went out to the most recently thrown lure, picked it up, and
brought it back. Her master took it from h e r and then repeated “Poco,
fetch,” causing the dog to s ta r t to cast about and search for the next
one. After she brought back the second lure, her master again com
manded, “Poco, fetch,” and the dog went out after the th ird and last
lure. Removing the last lure from the dog’s mouth, he once again
ordered, “Poco, fetch.” At this, the dog simply looked at him, barked
once, and moved to his left side, to the usual heel position, and sat
He then turned to me and said, “She knows th a t she’s retrieved all
three and that that is all there were. She keeps a running count. When
there are no more lures to search for, she lets me know with th a t
‘They’re all here, stupid’ bark and simply gets ready for the next thing
th a t I want her to d o .’’
We repeated the exercise for the bet ter p a rt of a half hour, varying
the number of lures up to five, with me and another spectator tossing
the lures and sending the dog to fetch as sort of a check to see if some
thing hidden in the way the items were placed or the commands given
accounted for h e r success. Once we even had someone toss out a set of
lures in such a way that the dog saw where they landed but the person
giving Poco commands didn’t know how many lures were thrown and
therefore couldn’t give any covert clues to the dog like those Clever
Hans used in his counting tricks. None of these variations seemed to
matter, and even at five, the dog never missed the count once.
Dogs even seem to have a rudimentary ability to add and subtract.
Robert Young of the Pontifical Catholic University in Brazil and
Rebecca West of the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom used
a modified version of a test designed to determine that young humans
have such abilities. First the dog is shown a large treat, then a low
screen is p u t in front of it to block the dog’s view. While the dog
watches, the experimenter takes another treat, shows it to the dog, and
then lowers it down behind the screen. If the dog can count, he should
expect th a t when the screen is raised he should see two treats, and
sometimes he does. However, sometimes the experimenter secretly
removes one of the treats so that now when the screen is raised there
is only one t re a t visible. Thus instead of the expected 1 + 1=2, the
dog is presented with 1 + 1 = 1. Alternatively the experimenter can
secretly add an additional treat, giving the dog the result 1 + 1=3.
When any of the wrong answers appear, the dog reacts by staring at
the results for a much longer time than he does if the expected 1 + 1
= 2 appears. This is taken as evidence of surprise and puzzlement on
the p a r t of the dog, suggesting th a t he has done the mental addition
and know’s what the correct result should be. Such an ability would be
useful for mother dogs, which would then know if one or more of their
pups has gone missing from the litter, and by inference she would also
know how many of them were gone and must be found.
Creative experiment design. :) +1 for science
Recently a border collie named Rico was tested by Julia Fischer and
o ther psychologists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary
Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. They found that he could u n d e r
stand over two hun d red words, most of w^hich corresponded to the
names of objects. Like a young human child, Rico would quickly form
a rough hypothesis about the meaning of a new word after a single
exposure by inferring th a t the new word is connected to an object he
is seeing for the first time. One example of this is learning by an exclu
sionary principle. Suppose th a t we put out seven toys and say to Rico
“Go get the fram is.” Rico has never h ea rd the word “f ram is” before.
However, he goes out to the pile of objects and finds th a t he knows the
name of six of them. He then takes the next step and assumes that the
one he doesn’t recognize must be the framis. If we test him later, even
weeks later, with a new pile of objects th a t includes the one th a t we
labeled the framis, he will quickly identify it. This is a complex form of
language learning th a t th a t up to now we thought was possible only in
humans and language-learning apes.
One might wonder if this particular dog was super smart among her breed conspicifics.
The Chinese still tre a t meat from chow chows as a culinary delicacy.
According to popular folk belief, dogs with black coats are considered
to be more nutritious and to have better fat for frying. It is not difficult
to find dog farms, dog butchers, and restau rants th a t specialize in dog
meat throughout modern China and its neighboring countries. When
the Summer Olympic Games were held in Seoul, South Korea, in
1988, the government passed a temporary law forbidding re stau rants
in the city limits to serve dishes made with dog meat, fearing th a t such
menu items would offend th e ir Western visitors. Because of public
pressure, however, shortly after the Olympics had concluded, dog
dishes again became available, and dogs could again be seen hanging
in local butcher shops.
If you’re interested in dogs only as a food source, then the question
of the ir intelligence is moot. Who wants smar t food? What you want is
a slow-moving dog (who won’t b urn off much fat or become tough
through exercise or vigorous activity) th a t is not clever enough to make
itself h a rd to capture. Thus it is not surprising that the dogs primarily
used for food may well have been the re ta rdates of dogdom. It seems
th a t virtually every visitor to Polynesia and Micronesia who wrote
about the local poi dogs also commented on th eir absence of intelli
gence. In A Voyage Around the World (written in 1777), for instance,
Johann Georg Adam Forster, one of the naturalists accompanying Cap
tain Cook, described the dogs of Polynesia and the South Sea Islands
as “lazy” and “unintelligent.” Specifically, he commented:
This day we dined for the first time on a leg of it [dog] roasted, which
tasted so exactly like mutton, that it was absolutely indistinguishable.
. . . In New Zealand, and in the tropical isles of the South Sea, the dogs
are the most stupid, dull animals imaginable, and do not seem to have
the least advantage in point of sagacity over our sheep.
I have known dogs, especially puppies, who were almost
as stupid as humans in their mental reactions.
No source given. Not mentioned on Wikiquote. en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Robert_Benchley
Likely not genuine.
Before I describe what I learned about working or obedience intelli
gence from these experts, I had best start with the caution th a t many
of them offered. All the judges recognized th a t there were definite dif
ferences in the intelligence and trainability of the various breeds; how
ever, they also noted th a t there is a lot of individual variation among
dogs. They noted th a t even in the dullest breeds, some dogs work
extremely well, while in some of the brightest breeds, certain individu
als simply show no capacity to learn or perform. One judge told me, “A
lot has to do with the person training the dog. You can s ta r t with a
dumb breed and make them really quite clever if you are a good
enough trainer.” What this judge was actually describing was manifest
intelligence—th a t is, the sum total of all the dimensions of intelligence
th a t any dog displays. Ju s t like h uman beings, few dogs ever achieve
th e ir full psychological potential. The difference among the various
breeds, then, is how easily each can reach a certain level of perform
ance and what the absolute maximum is th a t a dog of any given breed
may be expected to achieve. Good trainers can do a lot with any breed
of dog; they ju st find the job much easier if they s ta r t with one that has
high working and obedience intelligence.
Seems like a good paragraf to remember to quote in discussions of race and intellignece in humans.
In contemporary writing and discussions, it is considered rude,
biased, sexist, and politically incorre ct to refer to sex differences in
behavior, personality, or intelligence, especially in humans. Yet there
are clearly visible differences between male and female dogs (at least
for cer tain breeds) in terms of th e ir problem-solving and obedience
performance. Physically, males are often larger, stronger, and more
vigorous in th e ir activity th an the females. For some breeds, p a r t icu
larly Doberman pinschers and Labrador retrievers, the males perform
significantly better in problem-solving tests, such as those presented in
Chapter 9. Conversely, females of these breeds tend to do much better
in obedience and working tasks. One dog obedience judge, in listing
the top ten obedience breeds, noted next to his entry of Doberman pin
schers, “females only, males tend to be too hard-headed and are more
difficult to control.” For some breeds, however, such as the poodle and
the English pointer, males are the “so f te r” sex and females are more
obstinate and difficult to train.
wud be interesting with more systematic data.
The case of the Cavalier King Charles spaniel is not unique. Pfaffen-
berger kept careful records during his systematic breeding p rogram
for guide dogs. Because each dog was tested for both personality and
intelligence, this gave a marvelous opportunity to see if these ch a ra c
teristics were genetically based. His records show that many personal
ity characteristics, including the willingness to work for humans, are
carried genetically. The personality of a lit ter was directly predictable
from the personality of the sire and dam. Pfaffenberger scored the will
ingness to work using a scale th a t ran from a low of 0 to a high of 5 to
keep track of the personalities of the various dogs. In one instance he
mated a dog named Odin who scored 5 on this dimension with a bitch,
Gretchen, who scored 4. If the temperaments of the parents were
passed on to the offspring, then all the re su ltan t puppies would have
temperaments falling between these values. Sure enough, when Pfaf
fenberger administered tests to the six puppies, he found th a t four of
them scored 5 and the remaining two scored 4.
Seems to miss the regression to the mean, and that it might not be entirely polygenetic. But sure, it is mostly polygenetic and regression effects might be small.
Deafness is more common in dogs than the casual pet owner might
recognize. Congenital hearing loss is mostly due to genetic factors. A
study by George Strain of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge
involving nearly seventeen thousand dogs confirmed th a t coat color is
associated with congenital deafness. The genetic defect that produces
deafness is closely linked with the genes th a t produce white coats,
roan (a dark color coat th a t has been liberally sprinkled with white),
merle (desaturated colors, especially where blacks become grays or
blues), and piebald (spotty, especially black and white) colors in dogs.
The classic example of a piebald dog is the Dalmatian. In this breed,
22 percent are deaf in one e ar and an additional 8 percent are deaf in
both ears, amounting to an amazing 30 percent born with some form
of hearing deficit. While all Dalmatians are more or less piebald, in
o ther breeds the white, roan, merle, or piebald genes are found in
some individuals but not others. In the bull terrier, for example, indi
viduals can be either white o r can have prominent color patches.
Among those bull ter r iers who are white, the ra te of congenital deaf
ness is 20 percent, while for those with color patches it is only around
If you are systematic about teaching your dog his name, its sound
will capture the dog’s attention and he will look at you. This attention
is vital when you w an t to teach the dog something or get him to do
something. If you are not systematic about teaching a dog its name,
then the dog will most likely assume th a t its name is the sound th a t it
hears most frequently directed at it by its family. There was a cartoon
th a t captured this idea when it depicted two dogs meeting on the
street. One introduces himself to the o ther saying, “My name is ‘No,
No, Bad Dog.’ What’s yours?”
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, psychologists made a star-
tling discovery. They found that, for many jobs, high intelligence is
actually a handicap, especially where work is quite repetitive, where
the same actions or decisions are required many times during the day,
where work is interspersed with long periods of relative inactivity, or
where the rate of work-related activity is slow. Under these conditions,
an individual with higher general intelligence is actually apt to p e r
form worse than one with lower intelligence on a day-to-day basis. Not
only will the b righte r person perform less well, b u t he or she will be
considerably less satisfied with the work and the job as a whole.
satisfaction might be lower, but the other is just wrong.
cf. The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings.
Schmidt, Frank L.; Hunter, John E.