Didja hear the one about the blonde Fox News anchorwoman who took her golden retriever to get an IQ test?
While that has all the ingredients for a pretty good joke, it’s actually the basis of a pretty informative news report, in which Fox 8′s Katie Nordeen brought her dog Louie to Duke University scientist Brian Hare to find out just exactly what type of dog genius he — Louie, not Dr. Hare — is.
Hare, co-author of “The Genius of Dogs,” is the founder of Dognition, a research firm that puts dogs through a series of science-based games designed to assess their personality type — information that Hare says can help dog owners better understand their dogs.
Users of the service (it costs $39) don’t get to bring their dog to Hare, as Nordeen did, but get a “toolkit” and instructions on how to conduct the experiments in their own homes.
The experiments measure five dimensions: cunning, empathy, communication, reasoning and memory, and by virtue of the results, dogs are judged to be one of nine types – Ace, Maverick, Charmer, Socialite, Protodog, Renaissance Dog, Expert, Stargazer, or Einstein.
Customers, after submitting their test results, receive a full report explaining their dog’s type, and how the conclusion was reached.
Louie, for example, was found to be a socialite. (You can read Dognition’s full report on Louie here.)
“… Gracefully interacting and communicating with others requires talent. In Louie’s case, she takes this talent to a whole new level – it is definitely her genius. Although Louie is not as adept at independent problem-solving skills as other dogs, don’t jump to any conclusions about her intelligence. Louie relies on a very specific strategy – using you and other humans in her pack to get what she wants.”
(Yes, they got Louie’s sex wrong in the report, but they are personality experts, not gender experts.)
Cutsomers also have the option of becoming members of Dognition (for an additional $60 for a year, or $5 a month), entitling them to receive tailored training tips and activities and get a discount for testing additional dogs.
Hare says Dognition, established last year, is proving popular, with thousands of users from around the world.
“Everybody wants to understand what’s going on inside of a dog’s head. It has not been hard to get people excited about this.”
After visiting Dognition’s lab in Durham for the FOX8 report, Nordeen continued conducting the experiments at home over the next two weeks. Once submitting her findings, the results were delivered, by email, almost instantly.
Hare says the purpose of Dognition is to enrich people’s relationships with their dogs, but it, like his book, is also aimed at showing the public how truly brilliant dogs are.
“Dogs were thought to be totally unremarkable. There were really no interesting things they could do relative to say dolphins or bonobos, so people were focusing on these other animals,” he said. “But at our feet, literally, were geniuses that had been undiscovered … What makes dogs such geniuses is that, relative to other species, they’re really skilled, really flexible, in understanding what it is we want and what we’re trying to tell them.”
The Dognition tests, in their at-home version, may not be the hardest of science, and their results may not be irrefutable. But given the firm’s stated goals, given the not entirely exorbitant price tag, and given that they’re fun and result in people spending more time with their dogs, I think they have a place in the spectrum of doggie evaluation services.
If people are willing to pay more than $100 to determine what breeds are in their dogs, through DNA testing, $39 doesn’t seem like too much to pay to assess that dog’s personality — and may even provide more telling clues into what makes them tick.
I haven’t run my dog Ace through the online Dognition drill yet, in part because I think his genius is too vast to be measured and could forever skew Dognition’s data base, in part because I already know he’s a charmer, with shades of socialite and Einstein. But Nordeen’s report answered a lot of questions I had about the service, and one of these days, I’ll give it a try.
We’ll close with some bloopers, courtesy of Fox 8, that occured while Nordeen and Louie were taping a promo for the piece — none of which, I’m sure, had anything to do with them being blond:
Posted by jwoestendiek November 11th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: ace, animals, blondes, bloopers, brian hare, Charmer, cognition, communication, cunning, dog personality, dognition, dogs, duke, duke university, Einstein, empathy, experiments, expert, fox 8, fox news, games, genius, iq, katie nordeen, louie, Maverick, media, memory, news, personality, pets, Protodog, reasoning, Renaissance Dog, Socialite, Stargazer, tests, the genius of dogs
I’ve got to admit I’ve never paid much attention to which way Ace’s tail is wagging — mostly to the right, or mostly to the left.
More often, it just seems to go back and forth, one side to the other, which is kind of the definition of wag.
But researchers in Italy, who first reported that the prominent direction of the wag signifies whether a dog is experiencing positive or negative feelings, now say other dogs are aware of this subtle distinction, and apparently have been for some time, indicating they — dogs — are much more on top of things than researchers.
Researchers at the University of Trento, in a new study, had dogs watch videos of other dogs wagging their tails. They found, according to a study reported in the journal Current Biology, that dogs watching another dog whose tail is wagging left showed signs of anxiety, including a higher heart rate. When watching a tail wag right, they remained calm.
When watching “Two Broke Girls” the dogs asked if they might please leave the room. (Not really.)
Returning to seriousness, the Italian researchers first reported in 2007 that dogs convey a wide array of emotions through the tail wag — not just happiness. A wag to the left indicates negative emotions; a wag to the right indicates positive ones. The directions are as seen when standing behind a dog.
In the earlier study, 30 dogs were placed, one at a time, in a large box surrounded with black plastic to prevent any visual stimulus (except maybe to dogs who find black plastic stimulating). The dogs were then shown a stimulus for 60 seconds — a dominant Belgian Malinois, a cat in a cage, their owners, and a strange human, by which we only mean one they hadn’t met.
A system for measuring the tail movements of each dog was established — far too complex to go into here. Suffice to say, as the scientists put it:
“Tail wagging scores associated with the different stimuli were analyzed from video-recordings. Positions of the tail were scored every 10 seconds by superimposition on the computer screen of a cursor on the long axis of the body: the maximum extents of the particular tail wag occurring at each 10 second interval was recorded. Using single frames from video recording two angles were identified with respect to the maximum excursion of the tail to the right and to the left side of the dog’s body. Tail wagging angles were obtained with reference to the axes formed by the midline of the dog’s pelvis – the segment extending lengthwise through the dog’s hips, drawn from the largest points as seen from above and the axes perpendicular to it.”
When faced with their owner, dogs exhibited a “striking right-sided bias in the amplitudes of tail wagging.” Less robust right-sided wags were observed also when the dogs were shown unfamiliar humans. When faced with a cat, dogs showed very reduced tail wagging, but still a slight bias favoring the right side. Seeing a dominant unfamiliar dog led the dogs in the study to wag more to the left.
The first study reported: “How far asymmetric tail-wagging responses are associated with postural asymmetry in preparation to the stimuli is difficult to say.” (You can say that again) “It is likely that control of the flexure of the vertebral column is the same for the tail as well as the rest of the column, but the method we used for scoring tail-wagging responses and the panels flanking the body of the animal in the test-cage minimized any effect of asymmetric posture associated with spine bending.”
I’ve got to wonder which way the dogs’ tails wagged — or if they tucked them between their legs — when they were listening to the scientists talk.
The researchers stop short of saying wagging tails are a mode of communication between dogs.
“This is something that could be explained in quite a mechanistic way,” said Giorgio Vallortigara, a neuroscientist and an author of both studies. “It’s simply a byproduct of the asymmetry of the brain.” Dogs, he explains, have asymmetrically organized brains, like humans (or at least most of them): ”The emotions are associated presumably with activation of either the right or left side of brain,” he said. “Left-brain activation produces a wag to the right, and vice versa.”
But it would seem to me that if one dog is moving his tail, and another is drawing conclusions from that motion, as the scientists say is the case, that’s communication — perhaps even a clearer form thereof than that to which the scientists are prone.
(Photo: Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Bari)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 3rd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggression, animal, anxiety, behaviors, calm, communication, dog, dogs, emotions, excited, excitement, experiment, feelings, heart rate, indicators, italy, language, left brain, negative, pets, positive, research, right brain, scientists, signs, tail, tails, university of trento, wag, wagging, wags
What’s your barking dog trying to say?
Nothing in particular, according to a University of Massachusetts study. It concludes dogs do not bark differently in different circumstances; rather, they have one all purpose bark to ward off predators and deal with conflict.
“What we’re saying is that the domestic dog does not have an intentional message in mind, such as, ‘I want to play’ or ‘the house is on fire,’” said Kathryn Lord, a University of Massachusetts, Amherst doctoral candidate, who worked to define the bark.
She believes the dog bark evolved about 10,000 years ago, when dogs needed to stand their ground to eat at human dumpsites. Instead of running away every time a human came near, they participated in mobbing behavior, bravely barking to intimidate intruders instead of running away and wasting food energy.
Lord pointed out that not all dog noises are barks, and that the other noises might have other motivations behind them, according to a WCVB TV report.
But as for barks, she insists, dog’s aren’t trying to tell us anything, just voice their “internal conflict.”
“There’s no deep cognitive understanding, and I think that upsets a lot of people,” she said.
Dogs had no comment on the study.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 23rd, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: amherst, bark, barking, barks, cognition, communication, dogs, interpretation, meaning, news, noises, ohmidog!, research, sounds, study, understanding, university of massachusetts
(Behave! is a monthly column on dog training and behavior, written for ohmidog! by Lauren Bond and Carolyn Stromer of B-More Charming School for Dogs. To see all of the columns, click on the Behave! tab on the rightside rail.)
While dogs bring lots of wonderful things to our lives, they can also bring muddy paws, dog breath and, sometimes, enough noise to drive you ,or worse yet your neighbors, crazy.
Incessantly barking dogs can, and have, led to full-fledged war between neighbors. But as with much bad behavior — not just canine — the key to stopping it is understanding why it’s taking place.
First, let’s debunk some myths: Barking is not the dog version of conversation. Dogs don’t communicate that way, they use body language for most of their “discussion” with us, and with other animals. Dogs don’t have a barked vocabulary. Nor do dogs speak English, so you can’t reason with your dog to be quiet.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 9th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alert, bark, barked, barking, behave!, behavior, boredom, canine, communication, dog, dogs, ignore, loud, neighbor, neighbors, noise, nuisance, over-stimulation, reward, rewards, separation anxiety, silence, startle, training, types, under stimulation