How Clever is your Canine friend?

The recent BBC series the Wonder of Dogs was amazing wasn’t it? Or at least we think so here at Dog School, but we love all things cute and canine. We learnt how different dog breeds evolved. We learnt the different purposes for which dogs were bred and the many fascinating jobs dogs can do.

The program demonstrated the unique connection between humans and dogs, there is mutual understanding and affection which cannot be compared to our relationship with any other animal. According to research, dogs can perceive human emotion, and they too can feel a vast arrange of emotions. We were touched by the episode that explored different carer dogs, which looked after their disabled or ill owners by alerting them to things. Dogs, in short, are incredible.

Episode two explored the relative intelligence of dogs and compared breeds using different tests. The results, as already suspected, showed the Border collie to be the significantly most intelligent, so the programme confirmed what scientists already knew. Last week, a story surfaced about one of the most intelligent dogs in the world. The pet dog of a psychology professor, Chaser is said to be the most intelligent dog on record, as she can actively recognise 1000 words and follow fairly complex instructions.

Chaser, a 9-year-old collie, belongs to John Pilley and together they undergo cognitive training where he teaches her words and actions. Pilley estimates his dog has the intelligence of a three or four year old child. He teaches her through play methods, by hiding her toys and then telling her to find specific ones. By doing this Chaser demonstrates conscious recognition of words and connects them with the correct objects. Essentially, if a dog can understand that it has a name, and is able to respond to that, then it will be able to attach names to other objects too.

Pilley taught Chaser the names of different toys and objects through cognitive mapping and referential cues. By holding up the object, pointing and repeating the name, Chaser learnt to map the sound of the word and attach that to the toy. According to her owner Chaser can demonstrate many-to-one mapping, where an object can have more than one word e.g. ball and toy can be used to name the same thing and also one-to-many mapping; there can be many, slightly different looking objects that all can be named “stick”. Over her 9 years of training with her owner, Chaser has also learnt complex commands such as “take ball to Frisbee” and has also learnt to copy certain actions performed by Mr Pilley.

We’re not saying that your dog is as intelligent as Chaser, who is dubbed “canine Einstein” by the papers, but this story demonstrates just how much dogs can be capable of with the correct training and plenty of patience! Here at Dog School, we can’t teach your dogs to be geniuses, but we can teach them basic, useful commands, obedience and tricks. No matter what breeds your dog or age, they will be able to pick up the commands we teach using repetition and reward based learning. It’s a fun experience for both you and your dog, and will leave you with a stronger relationship due to deeper understand of each other.

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Dog School News
14/09/11

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