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The Genius of Dogs

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Dear Readers,

I've often been dismissive of scientific dog studies as either trivial or, at best, confirming what every decent trainer has known for centuries. I stand corrected.



Brian Hare's "The Genius of Dogs" is a compilation of the latest studies in dog cognition. They suggest that dogs do generalize - easily - and some (Border Collies of course) can understand symbols. Most of the interesting dog science in recent years has been done in Hungary and this book cites and builds on those discoveries.


A simple for instance: We sheepdoggers cue our dogs to sheep locations by walking directly toward sheep the dog cannot see. Turns out, we'd be better off simply pointing at them.



That Hare dismisses Skinner/Pryor out of hand is frosting on the cake.


Donald McCaig

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The basis of training for pet dogs (and service dogs) is that they are able to generalize so that if you ask them to sit and stay in your kitchen, then in your yard, then while out in a walk and finally where kids are playing or other dogs are racing around, they get the message: Oh, when she says that, I do it, no matter what, case closed. Most amazing to me is that when service dogs learn to check their person for whatever symptoms they help with, some will also check out other people and if they find something amiss, they will try to fix it. A journalist friend of mine was interviewing a woman who had a migraine alert dog and the dog alerted her. She stopped the interview, snagged some Advil and warded off the headache.

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