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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Pet Talk: How smart is your canine?

  • The intelligence of canines has long been a controversial topic. Like humans, dogs have varying levels of intellect… that is just the way they are. Some dogs within a breed are smarter than others. Some breeds seem cleverer than other breeds, because of inherent traits.
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  • The intelligence of canines has long been a controversial topic. Like humans, dogs have varying levels of intellect… that is just the way they are. Some dogs within a breed are smarter than others. Some breeds seem cleverer than other breeds, because of inherent traits.
    Greyhounds have incredible sight. Hound dogs and terriers use their acute sense of smell to motivate them. Herding breeds are genetically predisposed to "multi-task."
    Determination of a dog's intelligence is informed primarily by what owners think an intelligent dog should know. If they are obedient, they are smart. Pet owners tend to anthropomorphize or humanize their pets and believe that the pet thinks like a human and any evidence of that is perceived as a marker of their high mental powers.
    Myna Milani, DVM from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, tells us that dogs' perception of their world is unlike humans' and that they use their brains differently to process data. She gives the example that an owner recognizes their pet by using their brain to process detailed visual information based on distinctive physical features. She says, "On the other hand, dogs perceive their owners as odor-laden, grayish-yellow-blue blobs of more or less detail depending on their distance from that person. Consequently, much more of their brain is devoted to processing motion and scent data than detail."
    One criterion that people use to judge a dog's cleverness is how easily a dog can learn new tricks. Another measure is their ability to solve problems. In the 1990s Dr. Stanley Coren, professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, a prize-winning dog trainer and an authority on canine intelligence, published a battery of tests that are fun to try with your dog although animal behaviorists have since devalued them. These are easy to do at home.
    The tests should be like a game for your dog. Be calm, do not raise your voice, act disgusted or over excited. Do the tests once or twice only. The tests can be given in any order.
    Test I: Show the dog a tidbit of food and let it sniff it. Then with the dog's full attention slowly place the tidbit on the ground about 6 feet away, and invert a soup can over it. Time how long it takes the dog to get the food.
    Test II: Bring out a bath towel and let the dog sniff it. With a quick smooth motion, throw the towel over the dog's head, so its head and shoulders are completely covered. See how long it takes the dog to free itself.
    Test III: Do this when your dog is sitting on its own. Stare intently into their face, when your dog looks at you, count silently to three seconds and then smile broadly. The best response is if the dog comes with tail wagging without being commanded to.
    Page 2 of 2 - Test IV: With the dog's full attention slowly place a treat on the ground about six feet away and cover it with a tea towel. See how long it takes the dog to get the tidbit.
    Test V: With the dog's full attention, slowly place a treat under a low table or sofa edge so that the dog can only use its paws to retrieve it.
    T
    est VI: Your dog should be settled comfortably around six feet in front of you. In the voice tone you use to call your dog, call "refrigerator." If the dog does not come, call "movies" in the same tone. If the dog still has not responded, call its name.
    A smart dog might solve these problems in less than 15 seconds. The average is 20 seconds. These measures are unscientific. No dog should be considered to be dumb, they all have traits other than so-called intelligence that are important to us. There is no one-size-fits-all standard. Wise pet owners value their pets based on their own criteria. I consider that most pets are brilliant just for being there, making us happy and giving unrequited love.

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