Friday, June 8, 2012

How Smart Are Dogs?

Recently on PBS NOVA science NOW asked the question,
“How smart are dogs?”

We all know that dogs are smart. They learn to follow commands, perform tasks, and work at jobs.

Research tells us that the average dog can understand about 150 words. Their intelligence level is estimated at around the same level as a three-year-old child. Some breeds are considered generally smarter than others, and Border collies are thought to be among the smartest. We know that some of these dogs understand hundreds of words. But the dog on this show - a Border collie named Chaser - showed us that dogs could be even more intelligent than we believed. Chaser has about a thousand toys, and her owner claims that she can identify each one by name. Chaser knows more than a thousand words!

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is the well-known scientist and astrophysicist who hosts this PBS show. He decided to put that theory to the test with an experiment of his own. He asked Chaser to find several of her toys by name, and she got it right every time. Then he decided to see if Chaser could take it one step further. He wanted to see if she could identify a toy that she had never seen before, with a name that she had never heard before, by using the process of elimination.

Dr. Tyson had brought a new toy with him that he named "Darwin". He put Darwin among some of Chaser's toys to see if the dog could pick out. At first, Chaser seemed confused when he asked her to "find Darwin". She had never seen the toy before and did not know the name, but finally she picked out the right toy!

Experiments like this make us realize that dogs are indeed very smart. Just like humans, dogs need to use their brains to keep them sharp. It is not enough to keep their bodies healthy - they need to exercise their minds as well. A challenging situation that tests your dog's problem solving skills is both interesting and fun, and it is also a good way to help keep them mentally engaged. Without these satisfying tests of intellect, boredom will soon set in. A bored dog can soon lose interest in play or even become destructive or lethargic.

Keep your dog mentally stimulated with games and interactive toys.

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