How Does Your Dog Think?


The researchers at Dognition are making all kinds of fascinating discoveries in dog cognition. One such discovery is an interesting connection between the strategies used by mixed breed dogs in comparison to those used by purebred dogs. Their research shows that purebred dogs rely more on their owner's pointing gestures, while mixed breed dogs      rely more on their own memories.

A dog's extraordinary ability to read human gestures, such as pointing to find a lost ball or toy, is an ability not normally found in the animal kingdom. In one of Dognition's games, a dog is given a choice between two treats. The owner points to one of the treats, and the dog has to make a choice. Both purebreds and mixed breeds did use their owner's pointing gesture when choosing a treat, but purebred dogs tend to rely on the gesture more consistently.

The researchers at Dognition have found that mixed breed and purebred dogs may think differently.

The researchers at Dognition have found that mixed breed and purebred dogs may think differently.

Another of the dog games involves "working memory," or the ability to retain information and use that information for problem-solving. In this game, a dog watches her owner hide food under a cup, but then the owner points to the opposite cup. Purebreds tended to choose the cup their owner pointed to, while mixed breeds chose the cup they remembered seeing the food placed under. Even in different variations of the game, mixed breeds continue to be more likely to rely on  their memory to find the food.

So what does all this mean? It certainly doesn't mean that your purebred dog has a bad memory. Further tests by Dognition showed that a purebred dog's memories are just as good as a mixed breed, but mixed breeds seem to rely more on those memories than purebreds.

Dognition researchers have come up with some possible explanations for these results. Since many breeds were bred specifically as working dogs (such as Labrador Retrievers, bred for hunting), they have historically relied on human gestures to be successful. This adaptation to work with people for a specific job may make purebreds more dependent on our gestures. Mixed breeds can read our gestures, too, but they may be more adept at using other strategies, such as memory, to achieve the same goal.

This research will certainly help to improve our understanding of dog behavior and how our dogs perceive the world. Their fascinating work will only continue to grow and develop as more and more dog owners discover the groundbreaking world of Dognition.


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4 thoughts on “How Does Your Dog Think?

  1. bernice gorringe

    This is so true of my Basset Hound; I have always pointed squirrels and dog friends and people she knows out to her. I started by getting down to her eye level and pointing. She was very quick to pick this up but my pointing always came with the appropriate tone of voice.

    If I used only the tone of voice, she would look at my face and wait for me to point. We would go on pretend hunts, looking for squirrels and she would keep at my side and keep her eye on me ready for pointing.

    We were so in tune with each other. Sadly, she is nearly deaf now and rarely so alert as she is old.

    Any other occasion, if I want her to get down from the sofa for instance, I just point.

  2. Lottie

    Surely it depends on the breed of dog, though. When they mention 'purebred' and 'mixed breed', the breed should also be mentioned, as there's a huge difference between a Shar-Pei and a Collie.

  3. Iben

    Very interesting news. If I may direct your attention to another type of dog, the rescued street dogs. We own a dog that was rescued as a puppy from the streets in Greece and we have also fostered some. They think very differently than all other dogs that I have known. They always work out solutions to their own advantage in a very cute and logical way.

  4. Beth Peterson

    I agree with Lottie, it would depend on the breed and mixed breeds under study. Some of our "pure bred" dogs are thousands of years old while other are less then 25. I also see these differences in littermates, Very interesting article - makes one think!

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