The Genius of Dogs, by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods
The Genius of Dogs
Brian Hare, Vanessa Woods
Brian Hare discovered by accident and then proved by experiment that dogs can interpret “purposeful communication” from humans and make inferences. Their long domestication has led to this cognitive evolution, but the interesting thing is that humans didn’t domesticate dogs: they domesticated themselves. The reason was evolutionary: they found it easier to survive that way. Science has discovered that they bark in different tones, which other dogs understand, use visual gestures and take the shortest distance between their locations and a reward. But they have problems with basic physics, such as detours and connectivity, do not seem to be aware of themselves and are poor at associative learning. They’re not lone wolves but pack animals, however, and have the cognitive skills to co-operate, solve problems by observing others solve them, recruit help when necessary, and estimate numbers. It may come as a surprise that there is no best breed, that the top-dog approach to training no longer holds and that less is more when training them. The easy, conversational style makes the book a pleasurable as well as a very informative read.