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Smart dogs

2004-06-10 22:44:38.068453+00 by Dan Lyke 6 comments

My family used to raise guide dogs for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and the first dog we raised for them, Nemo, was incredible. All of the dogs were pretty smart, but Nemo, either because he was our first and we took extra care with him or because he was just one special dog, picked up all of the commands we were supposed to train him on, and then started on other things, he had the words for several different toys down, we could say "get your ball/sock/whatever" then "take it to ...", and he clearly knew the different objects and people. And he knew "go for a ride in the car". Nemo loved riding in the car.

One day we were outside, about to leave, and trying to get Nemo in the house because he wasn't going with us. "Get in the house, Nemo", "Nemo: House", lots of gesturing towards the open door, nothing was working. Then someone said "Nemo, go for a ride in the house?"

Bam. Dog inside in a flash.

He wasn't too smart, 'cause it worked several times after that before he finally caught on, but that incident showed that not only did he have a reasonable ability to distinguish between multiple objects and locations and link phrases with actions, he had enough language ability to understand a verb-object structure.

Apparently, Dogs understand adjectives relating to size, too.

(And obligatory jab: this further backs up my disbelief in some of the theories promoted by Steven Pinker (& cronies))

[ related topics: Language Dan's Life Dogs ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2004-06-11 12:35:26.667218+00 by: meuon

I've seen enough working dogs: drug dogs, bomb sniffing dogs, K9 patrol/guard.. (they trained in Wichita Falls TX) and more traditional working dogs doing sheep herding competition (in Ft. Worth TX) to not be amazed at all and to wonder that the researchers of Rico are the dense ones.. the dog has learned some of the language of another species, can they understand dog?

#Comment Re: made: 2004-06-11 17:02:48.735792+00 by: other_todd

This was essentially my take, meuon. This story's been all over various weblogs, and all I can think every time I see it is: These researchers must never have owned dogs, or they'd have been aware they were trying to establish something that had already been well-established.

Admittedly, Rico seems ahead of the curve, but Rico is a border collie. As someone pointed out in another forum, if border collies had opposable thumbs, they'd probably be in charge now.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-06-11 17:16:17.101231+00 by: flushy

felines can be intelligent, too.. it's not just dogs.

I had a cat that knew his toys, would come when called, recognized others as friends or family, knew which objects belonged to whom in the house, figured out how to open cabinets, drawers, boxes, key holders, and eventually I understood his different meows. Some meant he was hungry, or the litter was too dirty for him, or he wanted to tell me about his day and receive attention, or just plain begging.

He even showed me when he was upset, and he threw temper tantrums, and when he was excited. He became depressed when I left Tennessee, and I had to come and bring him down to Florida with me.

Animals are smarter than we give them credit.

I'm not sure if they feel love, or understand it, but he was definately "my" cat or rather I was his human.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-06-11 17:36:06.626482+00 by: other_todd

Apropos of nothing, what on earth cued this thread to be filed under "Douglas Adams"?

#Comment Re: made: 2004-06-11 17:47:45.807406+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

Hell if I know. Fixed it now, but unless the topic picker somehow keyed off of "guiding" as "guide" (as in "hitchhiker's") in a way that I don't remember coding it to, I must've fumbled fingers.

Must go back and update that topic picker sometime, for as stupid as it is, it's eerily sardonic sometimes.

[Edit: Stupid Mozilla search didn't show me the "guide" in the very first sentence. That's what triggered it... Now I definitely need to go fix the topic picker so we can help it learn better.]

#Comment Re: made: 2004-06-15 15:17:24.619981+00 by: Dan Lyke

/. has links to another article and claims that the research from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology will show up in Science Magazine.