Dog lovers, rejoice. Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, in their book “The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think,” explains that dogs are really just as smart as we (dog lovers) think they are. And what makes them so smart? Their association with us.
The book gives a brief history of the evolution of both the wolf and man. And then Hare writes about what started him on his Dognition journey. He was a sophomore in college. A professor was doing research on whether primates could understand visual cues like pointing. Unless they had been raised by humans and thus spend thousands of hours with them, they could not. Hare commented, “I think my dog can do it.”
During part of Hare’s studies, he tested the hypothesis that dogs “slowly learned to use gestures during the thousands of hours they had spent as part of a human family. Just as chimpanzees who were raised by humans could spontaneously pass the gesture test, perhaps dogs raised by humans had learned the same skills.”
So puppies were tested. Shockingly, it seemed that nine-week-old puppies were as skilled as twenty-four-week-old puppies when humans used a basic pointing gesture. While wolves of any age could not read human gestures, puppies and dogs who lived in shelters could.
In Russia, Hare tested the famous foxes who have been selectively bred for 45 generations based not on physical characteristics but on one behavioral characteristic: friendliness toward humans. The tests confirmed that the domesticated foxes could follow gestures, while the group of control foxes could not.
This gave some insight into how wolves evolved into domesticated dogs. “Only the wolves who were least fearful and non-aggressive toward humans would be able to take advantage of this new source of food. Like the foxes, they, too, accidentally became more skilled at responding to the behavior of humans.” Humans did not domesticate wolves, rather wolves, by selectively hanging out near humans, domesticated themselves.
Continue to read this review at: Part Two.
Please note: This review is based on the paperback book provided by the publisher, Plume, for review purposes.
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