“Dognition:” A Fun Way to Learn About Your Dog, with an Added Scientific Bonus!

Training Tidbit for December:

Last month, I went to a dog trainer’s conference in Spokane, Washington.  This is one of the coolest things I learned about.

In the past, human and animal intelligence was measured on a sliding scale – you either had a high IQ, a low IQ, or were somewhere in the middle. The problem with this model is that there is no room for an individual’s unique strengths: for example, no test could measure a being’s empathy or
creativity.

A slide from the conference

Instead, the brain is more like a computer, where different parts are specialized for solving different types of problems.  And animals, including humans, will have complimentary strengths and weaknesses; for example, a dog that may have an excellent short term memory may struggle to read communicative signals in humans. Or a dog that is low in empathy or social skills might be a gifted problem solver – so he doesn’t need those humans anyway! That’s where a cognitive approach to studying intelligence comes in: it’s more useful to study the decision-making skills an individual animal relies on to navigate the world.

Enter Dognition.  Various games – have been developed to learn more about how animals view the world.  (For example, if you show a dog a treat on the floor, but point  to an empty object,will he follow your hand, or go to the treat? Are you sure of your answer?) These games have been played with animals of all types, from human children, to birds, to primates, and now, dogs!  Dognition allows pet owners to play these games at home, interpret the data on your individual dog’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses, and compare your results to others!

Cognition is measured in discrete categories, to develop a unique cognitive profile

And the best part? By collaborating with dogs and owners all around the world, we can begin to understand more about dogs, much more quickly and on a broader scale than researchers are able to do on their own.  This is citizen science at its best.  Do dogs suffer from mental illness?  Do dogs imitate?  Can they count?  Do they understand physical properties like gravity?  Do certain breeds learn differently than others?  Together, we can learn so much more about our best friends!

To get started, use this link.  For $20 off the price, email me for a special code (I’m not allowed to post it here!)

To see my dog, Felix’s, Dognition profile, go here.  Anyone who knows him will probably not find his results surprising!

And let me know your results! I’d love to compare stories!

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