Monday, January 6, 2014

The Genius of Dogs

For the past couple of years, I've wanted IN to all the new information being discovered about dog cognition. I've been an owner of dogs since I was ten years old, when my father bought for me the son of two American and English Labrador Retriever champions. Poor Dad, he was trying extra-hard to make up for being an absentee dad, and, to my mind at that age, he outdid himself. I was besotted with this charmer of a foolish yellow Lab, that I named Ritz Cracker. When I was just shy of 13, thanks to a Scholastic paperback, The Dog in My Life by Kurt Unkelbach, based on his daughter's experiences in the show ring with a yellow Lab named Thumper, I decided I would make Ritz Cracker a champion and show him in dog shows. That's when I realized my dad's true genius and incredible precognition. How did he know my dog and I would love dog shows and winning prizes?

Since that heady time, Ken and I have owned Labs and Goldens, and have exclusively owned Golden Retrievers for the past 10 years. (Easier to train, more obedient, less shedding, believe it or not). Because dogs have been such ultra-important members of our family, I've wanted to discover what scientists have been learning about dogs' braininess. I know from experience that retrievers are nearly as smart as humans, if not smarter (ha ha!), but I wanted to know more, strictly from the viewpoints of scientists. I did not want to read a book by a layman who has spent a lifetime observing dog behavior. That would be I, and I want something more.

So I discovered The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare, who is an evolutionary biologist and a lifetime dog lover. When I found this book, I realized that now I was finally getting somewhere. Of course there are other scientific books about dog behavior and they may be equally good, perhaps better. But this title published in 2013 comes credentialed, so I figured it was a great place to start. And there are many dozens of pages of notes and recommended additional reading.

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