Are you curious about current research being done in canine cognition?

I have really missed posting and, even more so, have missed all the wonderful thoughts, comments, and reactions from all of you! I’m very sorry for the long delay and, as much as I love it, I will be blaming…..GRAD SCHOOL!!! My focus has been completely usurped by the wonderfully engaging Anthrozoology program that I began at the end of August. Now that I’ve got into the swing of things with my academic requirements and have figured out a fairly predictable weekly routine I’ll be much more likely to find time to share my thoughts :)

Today I’d like to look at how canine intelligence is often measured and determine if such methods could be improved upon. With regards to research being done concerning nonhuman animal “intelligence” I find myself continuously frustrated by the way it’s approached. So many studies are attempting to understand intelligence in dogs by using models of how intelligence is displayed in humans, which I find inappropriate and rather short-sighted – not to mention highly egotistical. For example, in the past researchers have attempted to measure canine self-awareness by testing them in the same manner they would a child (or other human), usually with some type of ‘rogue’ test. The test involves placing a spot of red rouge (or similar marking) on the animal’s face and then placing them in front of a mirror – if they look in the mirror and then attempt to rub the spot off then this shows they are aware of seeing themselves. Dogs have always failed this test, thus allowing researchers to conclude that dogs are not self-aware. But dogs, as we well know, are a primarily scent-driven species unlike humans (and other primates) who are visually-driven creatures. So shouldn’t we test self-awareness in dogs by manipulating and testing scent rather than vision? What are your thoughts/ideas/suggestions for improving how we measure self-awareness and other types of intelligence in dogs?

As an aside, the research being done on Dog Cognition at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany is incredibly exciting: Max Planck Institute

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5 Responses to Are you curious about current research being done in canine cognition?

  1. Katie says:

    Another great post Julia thanks for sharing! You’re spot on dogs are primarily scent driven and it’s part of the reason why I’ve been delving into the world of Zoopharmacognosy. This branch of research and science is gaining recognition for it’s use of naturally occurring compounds which animals self select; hence the name zoo (animal) pharma (medicate) cognosy (self). It’s had some astounding results which I’ve not only witnessed but have since passed on successfully to clients where Ive thought appropriate and I’m looking at gaining further study into the field. It relies heavily on the dogs own nasal capacity and instinctive drive to heal itself. We all see dogs eating grass or foraging in bins right?
    I can’t wait to begin my FdSc not as highly academic as your post grad studies but the chance to learn more about this heightened sense in dogs thrills me!
    Love to hear more from you :D

  2. Julia Julia says:

    Katie it’s wonderful to hear from you and to learn about Zoopharmacognosy! I hadn’t been familiar with the field, but it sounds fascinating and highly applicable to your interests and work – mine as well, I’m curious to learn more. Is there a website or particular books that cover the subject at a basic level? How exciting for you!!

    Have you posted on your blog recently? I’ll go check :)

  3. Lisa Spector says:

    Julia – I just came across you on Twitter and read your blog. Love it. Interesting because as I’m preparing my presentation at APDT next week, I’m reviewing sections of Dog Sense by John Bradshaw. Have you read it? I think you’d love it. He says the same thing as you, that we can’t compare the intelligence of dogs by testing them the same way we do children. I’m jumping around so much in the book that I’m not sure which section, but it might be the chapter called A World of Smells.

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

    Lisa Spector
    Co-Creator, Through a Dog’s Ear – Music clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system

  4. Julia Julia says:

    Lisa thank you so much for visiting my blog and I’m so glad you approve!! Dog Sense is at the top of my ‘to read’ list, though I haven’t started it yet. I’ve read/listened to a few interviews with him about the book though and am so impressed. It’s also been interesting seeing his work referenced quite a bit in one of my text books.

    Good luck (and congratulations) at APDT! Wish I could have made it this year, the speakers and topics to be covered look fascinating.

    Thanks again for visiting and I’ll look forward to keeping in touch :)

  5. Katie says:

    Julia hi sorry i didnt see your reply all that time ago. Bad Katie. Caroline’s website is and I’ve recently posted a couple of new blogs. New websites will be launched soon!
    Hope you Josh and Quinn are all well x

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