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Is your canine canny?



Staff Writer


Is your dog living up to his or her full potential? Outside of loving devotion, dogs everywhere are learning that chasing their tail gets them nowhere.


Recently a new trend has surfaced and primate researchers have opened dog cognition labs. As a retired psychology professor at Wofford College, John Pilley began working with his dog in 2004 to assess her cognitive abilities. Pilley claims to have the world’s smartest dog, Chaser.


Chaser is an 8-year-old border collie who has a thousand toys, and knows every one by name. In a special by Nova, Chaser did not miss one toy when tested on her toy identification ability. When asked to find a new toy that she had never seen or heard the name of before, using inference she was able to identify the toy.


Many believe that chimpanzees are smarter than most other animals. However when tested against dogs, they did not measure up. Researchers put out two cups, one with a treat under it. Then they pointed to the cup with the treat under it to see if the animals would follow directions.


One reason that the dogs were able to follow directions and the chimps were not, is that dogs are social creatures that thrive on human interaction, whereas the chimps preferred to do their own thing.  Because they aim to please, dogs are the better subjects for research.

Researchers in Moscow have been studying a particular group of dogs. These wild dogs had to learn a new means of survival when the industrial complexes they used for shelter were moved to the suburbs.  The dogs had to find a means to travel back to the city to find food, so the dogs began to take public transit. These intellectual dogs even have the sense to get off at the correct stop night after night and use traffic lights to avoid danger.


These wild dogs have also learned to play on strangers’ emotions. They have been documented using the infamous puppy dog eyes and laying their heads on a sympathetic knee to earn a few scraps. On a more deviant note, they will also suddenly bark loud hoping to alarm someone causing them to drop some morsels.  Yet, dogs are also known for being emotional creatures themselves.


In 1858 a dog named Bobby spent 14 years guarding his deceased owner’s grave, leaving only for food. The amazing part of this story is that Bobby’s owner did not have a headstone, yet Bobby never had trouble pinpointing his exact location.


One can teach an old dog, new tricks with devotion and bonding. Survivalist and dog trainer Jeremy Shea of Clare believes that dogs learn through either positive reinforcement or negative deterrent. If your pooch isn’t living up to his or her potential,  Shea maintains, “Positive reinforcement is the most humane way to train a dog, however sometimes negative deterrent is necessary to establish a pecking order.”

(Do you have a story to tell us about your dog? Is your canine canny?  Tell us your favorite dog story — smart or not so smart — by emailing us at editor@midmich.edu.)

Interesting canine facts

  • A 33,000-year-old dog skull was uncovered in Altai Mountains of Siberia, proving that historically dog has been man’s best friend.

  • Isaac Newton invented the doggy door.

  • In 1943, Chips, a husky-shepherd mix, was awarded a distinguished service medal for his outstanding service in the military.

  • People who own dogs are often healthier that those who do not.

  • Snoopy is the most famous dog in the world.

  • Domestic dogs originated in China.

  • Some believe that a dog’s howl signifies that death of a sick person will soon follow.

  • The Great Dane is also known as a German Mastiff.

  • Named for their melodious howl, the New Guinea Singer can climb trees.

  • The Poodle is a direct descendant of the wolf.

  • The nose print of a dog is unique and can be used for identification, much like a fingerprint.

  • When dogs wag their tail, it means that they are excited; however, it does not necessarily mean they are friendly.

  • A dog’s heart rate is 50 percent faster than a human heart.

  • All breeds of dogs have exactly 321 bones and 42 permanent teeth.

  • A dog breathes through its tongue and sweats through the pads on its feet.

  • Dogs are not color blind, however, they do not see as clearly as humans do.


Smartest breeds

After comparing several web sites, it appears there is a general consensus on which dog breeds are the smartest. They are:

1. Border collie

2. Poodle

3. German shepherd

4. Golden retriever

5. Doberman pinscher

6. Shetland sheepdog

7. Labrador retriever

8. Papillon

9. Rottweiler

10. Australian cattle dog


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