Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Do you always know what your dog is thinking?


It’s not uncommon for pet owners to think they know what their dog’s thinking.

I can look at my pug, Molly (photo), and tell she wants to play. It’s obvious. She brings me her toys for fun and games.

As the year’s go by you establish a language without a name. Your dog is super attuned to you. It knows all of your subtle behaviors because it’s always paying attention.

My wife, Shirley, and I, probably know more about what Molly is thinking than any one of our three sons! Her thoughts are transparent. They flit by like butterflies. At the end of the day, I’m pretty sure what my pug is thinking about.

Researchers, however, have to research…even if it seems like a waste of time …the things you and I already know. The Canine Cognition Center at Yale University is currently studying whether dogs pick up on human social cues, and how a dog make a decision.

In other words, brilliant researchers are trying to figure out what dogs are thinking. I’m thinking they should have conducted a field study of dog’s and their owners if they wanted to find that out.

Instead, a research team is busy acting out puppet shows to find out whether or not dogs are moral. I’m not making this up.

Try to imagine a white-coated bespectacled researcher crouching on the floor with a rat puppet. He makes the rat run up a little hill. The rat sees another puppet, a hedgehog, having a hard time getting up the hill.

The nice rat helps him. This goes on a couple times as the bored dog watches.

Image fades.

That white-coated researcher is back with his rat puppet. This time the rat sees the hedgehog having trouble getting up the hill, and pushes him down! The dog is left to contemplate that after several repeats.

Then it’s time for the moment of truth; the dog is given a choice to check out the nice or the mean puppet rat. Can it tell the difference? Does it want to interact with the good or mean rat?

If this study turns out like a similar one done with babies, the dog will like the nice rat and want to play with him. Interesting huh? Just one thing: dogs are not human babies. Thus, I’ve concluded those researchers are going to get flawed results.

Gee…it’s a shame watching all those researcher dollars going to the dogs with no appreciable benefits.

Time for me to walk on down the road…

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