App helps assess canine intelligence

A new online application helps owners gauge their dog’s intelligence with a series of scientific tests. Dognition, a tool created by Duke University evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare, uses questions and simple games to measure a dog’s aspects of intelligence: communication, cunning, empathy, memory and reasoning. The release of the app coincides with the publication of “The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think,” written by Hare and his wife, Duke research scientist Vanessa Woods. (2/4), The Wall Street Journal (2/3)

A dog scooting butt-down across the carpet may not seem like the clever animal that comes closest to human babies in communication skills. But a Web appaims to build on the discovery by enabling thousands of dog owners to record the results of playful experiments with their canine companions.

The “Dognition” project could revolutionize scientific understanding of dogs by gathering data from man’s best friends all over the world. Such an effort would help answer broad questions such as whether different dog breeds really have different levels of intelligence — even as dog owners gain new appreciation of their beloved pets’ individual personalities.

“In a weekend, we could have 10,000, maybe 50,000 people give data,” said Brian Hare, associate professor in evolutionary anthropology at Duke University and director of Duke’s Canine Cognition Center. “I can’t even say how big of a quantum leap this will be.”

Leave a Reply