Scientifically assess your dog’s intelligence

Just how bright is your best friend? Photo: Jeff Ro/Flickr

Just how bright is your best friend? Photo: Jeff Ro/Flickr

You take your dog to the vet to check his teeth, weight and inner workings of his body. But what about his brain?

Biological anthropologist Brain Hare is offering to do just that, for a fee. For $60 Hare’s company Dognition will lead owners through a series of experiments over video and help them grade their best pal’s intelligence. Hare donates a portion of the fee to animal behavior research and also gets information back in the bargain, which will help spur his own further research into canine evolution.

But it’s not just dog evolution Hare is interested in. He claims that by studying how their social skills have adapted, we’re also looking at how our own evolved as well.  Hare argues that if less aggression in dogs leads to more advanced social skills, then that could be true of our Neanderthal and Homo erectus predecessors.

That might not interest the average dog-owner, but Hare wants them to see the benefit and enjoyment that comes with science, too. By preforming their own experiments while having a bit of fun with their pooch, Hare feels they can become better acquainted with science and discover that it’s not so difficult or mystifying after all.

While all dogs are different, there are some intellectual generalizations that tend to shine though. According to Hare, dogs are extremely adept at gauging your mood and actions. For example, that guilty look they get when they’ve done something wrong doesn’t happen because they know they shouldn’t have stolen that wheel of cheese from the table. They see your face, hear your voice and assume that they must have done something wrong simply from your cues (see Alexandra Horowitz’s study on the “guilty look”).

On the other hand, dogs are clueless when it comes to physics and the physical world. If you’ve ever seen a dog wind it’s leash around a tree and sit helpless when it runs out of tether, you know what I mean.

If you want to do a small test run before shelling out the $60, check out Hare’s experiment to see if your dog is an independent thinker:


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