A Reporter’s Notebook:
We all think that our dogs are the smartest ones in the park. But how can you really tell?
I decided to test my beautiful 10-year-old French spaniel Belle. Although I think she’s special, there is now a way to find out whether she is an Einsten, a maverick, a charmer or a socialite.
Brian Hare says these different labels can tell you a lot about your dog. Hare is an associate professor at Duke University’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and the dog whisperer behind Dognition, an online test that tells you about the brain behind the bark. It’s run by a start-up company in North Carolina.
“It’s to help people understand their dog in a way th
at they have never been able to understand them and to enrich their relationship with them as a result,” Hare said.
The techies and dog psychologists who help power Dognition say we have learned more about dogs in the last 100 years than we have in the last 10 years.
They have designed a way for you to find out what makes your dog’s brain tick.
“It’s not going to show you, ‘OK, your dog is X percentile compared to other dogs,’ because essentially what we know from the best science on animals [is] that there isn’t just one type of intelligence that you can just rank,” Hare said.
The experts say though that there are several types of dog intelligence. The question is what type does your dog rely on more.
I ran Belle through the $40 online test, which included a questionnaire, a set of science-based games to play at home and an in-depth report detailing your dog’s cognitive profile.
The games took at least an hour and included hiding treats under cups, covering the dog’s eyes and even turning your back. How will she react? Does she follow my directions or her nose?
The games tested her memory, her reasoning, her cunning and her communication.
I entered Belle’s results and send them back to Dognition.
Hare looked at her results. Belle could fall into one of nine categories: ace, expert, Einstein, charmer, renaissance dog, maverick, socialite, protodog or stargazer. Dognition says it uses a series of algorithms to compare dogs from all over the world.
“So Belle is a really interesting case. Belle ended up having the profile of a charmer. And a charmer is a dog that is really socially very sophisticated, and uses those skills to make their way through the world. A charmer is a dog that is really so bonded and trusts you so much that it would prefer to solve problems using information you give them than information they get with their own eyes,” Hare said during his assessment.
A 15-page report online from Dognition confirmed Hare’s assessment.
“It means charmers relative to other dogs are amazing at solving social problems using you [the owner],” Hare said. “You are really their secret weapon.”