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.
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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