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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 December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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