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Researchers Surprisingly Find Dogs Are Much Smarter Than We Think

Researchers Surprisingly Find Dogs Are Much Smarter Than We Think

We love our dogs. And research is showing that our dogs love us back and are much smarter than we often give them credit for.

A series of studies has shown that dogs are capable of understanding hundreds of words, can read human social and communicative actions, and even possess some reasoning ability. But perhaps most importantly of all, these studies show that dogs do in fact truly love us, and do not just view us as a big dog who provides them with food and water.

They can understand names

One question which dog owners have is whether dogs truly understand names. Does Fido actually understand that he is Fido or is he just responding when a certain sound is made?

Not only can dogs understand names, they can understand hundreds of names. A border collie named Chaser has shown how well dogs can remember them.

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Chaser’s owner, former psychologist John Pilley, has shown in a study that Chaser can recognize the names of 1,022 distinctive objects as well as more common words like “house” and “tree.” When Chaser was tasked to retrieve a specific toy, she was able to find the correct one 95 percent of the time. The researchers also noted that there appeared to be no upper limit on the number of names she could remember, as they stopped due to time constraints rather than Chaser’s inability to remember more.

Perhaps most surprisingly of all, Chaser has shown the ability to figure out names through inference. The dog was placed in a room with several familiar toys and one new toy. She was then told the new toy’s name without identifying the toy with the name and was then told to retrieve the toy.

Chaser was able to understand that since she knew the names of every toy there but one, that one toy had to be the unfamiliar name. The ability to reason through exclusion is something scientists have not seen in dogs before.

They may possess a sense of self

In addition to these tests, there is additional evidence that dogs may understand the concept of “I am I”. One common test which is used to determine whether an animal possesses a sense of self is to place it in front of a mirror. The goal is to see if the animal understands that it is looking at itself and not at another animal. Elephants, chimpanzees, and dolphins all appear to understand this, but dogs do not.

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However, researcher Marc Bekoff pointed out that unlike chimpanzees and humans, dogs depend more on their sense of smell rather than sight. Bekoff hypothesized that dogs may understand themselves by their scent instead of their appearance.

Bekoff thus conducted a test using his own dog’s urine. When his dog urinated on a patch of snow, Bekoff took the snow and deposited it by a place where other dogs had also urinated. He made sure to keep the transfer process a secret from his dog.

When his dog reached the spot, he seemed to recognize his own scene. He sniffed the snow path for a shorter period compared to the patches left by other dogs and left it alone. While Bekoff has stressed that this is not conclusive proof that dogs possess a sense of self, it is an indication.

They do love us

A sense of self and intelligence is all very fine, but people want to know if our dogs truly love us. That appears to be the case.

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A neuroscience analysis of a dog’s brain shows that when a dog sniffs a cloth soaked by their owner, there is a spike in activity in their caudate nucleus. This is a section of the brain which may be associated with emotional attachment.

This spike does not occur when the dog sniffs the scent of itself, an unfamiliar person, or another dog. This can serve as evidence that dogs are truly pleased to see their owners, just like an owner should be to see his dog.

They are our intelligent, loving comrades

No one is going to suggest that dogs will be playing poker anytime soon. Also, because of the language barrier, it is incredibly difficult for humans to understand what a dog is thinking when it takes part in these tests.

But while we may be limited in our ability to communicate with dogs, it is clear that some dogs possess the ability to understand human words and react to them. There is also evidence that they possess a sense of self and most important of all, care about us.

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As Anderson Cooper observed on 60 Minutes, scientists viewed dogs for decades as not worthy of serious study. It is now clear that this was an incorrect assumption, and it is time for scientists to pay attention to our closest companions, just like they do with chimpanzees and dolphins.

Featured photo credit: oneinchpunch via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on February 25, 2020

Face Adversity with a Smile

Face Adversity with a Smile

I told my friend Graham that I often cycle the two miles from my house to the town centre but unfortunately there is a big hill on the route. He replied, ‘You mean fortunately.’ He explained that I should be glad of the extra exercise that the hill provided.

My attitude to the hill has now changed. I used to grumble as I approached it but now I tell myself the following. This hill will exercise my heart and lungs. It will help me to lose weight and get fit. It will mean that I live longer. This hill is my friend. Finally as I wend my way up the incline I console myself with the thought of all those silly people who pay money to go to a gym and sit on stationery exercise bicycles when I can get the same value for free. I have a smug smile of satisfaction as I reach the top of the hill.

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Problems are there to be faced and overcome. We cannot achieve anything with an easy life. Helen Keller was the first deaf and blind person to gain a University degree. Her activism and writing proved inspirational. She wrote, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

One of the main determinants of success in life is our attitude towards adversity. From time to time we all face hardships, problems, accidents, afflictions and difficulties. Some are of our making but many confront us through no fault of our own. Whilst we cannot choose the adversity we can choose our attitude towards it.

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Douglas Bader was 21 when in 1931 he had both legs amputated following a flying accident. He was determined to fly again and went on to become one of the leading flying aces in the Battle of Britain with 22 aerial victories over the Germans. He was an inspiration to others during the war. He said, “Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do this or that. That’s nonsense. Make up your mind, you’ll never use crutches or a stick, then have a go at everything. Go to school, join in all the games you can. Go anywhere you want to. But never, never let them persuade you that things are too difficult or impossible.”

How can you change your attitude towards the adversity that you face? Try these steps:

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  1. Confront the problem. Do not avoid it.
  2. Deliberately take a positive attitude and write down some benefits or advantages of the situation.
  3. Visualise how you will feel when you overcome this obstacle.
  4. Develop an action plan for how to tackle it.
  5. Smile and get cracking.

The biographies of great people are littered with examples of how they took these kinds of steps to overcome the difficulties they faced. The common thread is that they did not become defeatist or depressed. They chose their attitude. They opted to be positive. They took on the challenge. They won.

Featured photo credit: Jamie Brown via unsplash.com

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