Natural Dog Training in New York City

Natural Dog Training in New York City
Featuring All 100+ Articles Lee Charles Kelley Wrote About Dogs for from 4/09 to 2/13, Plus New Articles Written in the Same Vein!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Evolution Will Punish You If You're Selfish and Mean

Are Animals Really in Competition With One Another?

“[Darwin] pointed out how, in numberless animal societies, the struggle between separate individuals for the means of existence disappears, how struggle is replaced by cooperation... He intimated that in such cases the fittest are not the physically strongest, nor the cunningest, but those who learn to cooperate so as to mutually support each other.”
—Prince Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution
Huxley vs. Wallace, Competition vs Cooperation 
It seems to me that evolutionary science took a huge wrong turn the day it was discovered that some chickens form pecking orders. Suddenly, the Darwinian idea that different species might compete with others over resources within a certain ecological niche was misinterpreted to mean that members of social animal groups were engaged in a constant power struggle for dominance over their fellow group members.

In his book Cooperation Among Mammals (1997), evolutionary biologist Lee Alan Dugatkin details the conflict that arose between early Darwinists Thomas Huxley—a hard-liner when it came to the idea of competition—and Henry Wallace—co-creator with Darwin—of the theory of natural selection. 

Dugatkin writes, “While Darwin (1859) acknowledged that the struggle for existence is often metaphorical, insofar as it is often a struggle against the environment, Huxley … took a more extreme view.”

He goes on to say that Huxley believed the animal world was on the same level of competition found in ancient gladiators. ‘Life is a continuous free fight,’ Huxley wrote, and went on to say that ‘the state war of each [animal] against the other was a normal state of existence.’ However, Wallace, in his book Darwinism (1891), argued the exact opposite, stating that ‘On the whole, the popular idea of the struggle for existence entailing misery and pain on the animal world is the very reverse of the truth.’” 

The truth—as Darwin stated it—is that social animals “provide many little services for one another.” And it’s not just about prey species like elk finding safety in numbers, or group predators like wolves finding it easier to hunt large prey as a group. Dugatkin points out that goldfish tend to live longer when their group size increases. They also tend to grow faster when surrounded by more rather than less goldfish. If they were in constant competition with one another, that wouldn’t happen. Dugatkin also points out that social amphibians are able to regenerate lost tails more quickly and that social animals learn new tasks faster than solitary species do. 

All of this points to the likelihood that sociability and cooperation have a positive effect on survivability, while engaging in internecine battles or threats of aggression would have the opposite effect. 

Game Theory and Evolutionary Strategies 
In 1973, John Maynard Smith proposed the idea that game theory would be very useful in defining a framework of animal contests and strategies into which Darwinian competition could be modeled. His position was that “players” of these evolutionary “games” don’t necessarily act in a rational manner, but have strategies that, when successful, produce higher levels of fitness in some organisms than their competitors. In this model, players do not choose their strategy or have the ability to change it, they are born with it and their offspring will inherit it.

However, no matter how well-developed and successful evolutionary game theory has become, it still explains natural selection through the lens of human thought processes (i.e., strategies) and through the concept of competition between species, as well as competition between members of the same social group.

In their 1998 paper, “Animal Contests as Evolutionary Games,” Mike Mesterson-Gibbons and Eldridge Adams write: “It is not unusual for an exercise in game theory to remain partially inconclusive. On the one hand, game-theoretic models are valuable because they suggest ways to test new ideas. On the other, suggesting a test is not the same thing as conducting it, and the difficulties of doing so should not be underestimated.”

Finding new ways to conduct tests is what science is all about. Yet how useful is the information provided by these tests if the underlying premise isn’t valid? And if these tests are designed with “winners and losers” in mind, aren’t evolutionary game theorists loading the dice in favor of a pre-determined thesis, and thus actually creating contests between animals that might not otherwise exist? 

Cheaters Never Prosper (Not for Long)
One of the ways that evolutionary game players are said to gain an advantage over others is through cheating or free-riding. Both “strategies” are a means of getting more while doing less. But now, a new review of dozens of key ecological studies has found very little evidence to support the belief that “cheating” is widespread.

Rice University evolutionary ecologist Emily Jones, the studys co-lead author: “We find that although there are numerous observations of low-quality partners, there is currently very little support that any of these meet our criteria to be considered cheaters.” She goes on to say, “A behavior is only cheating if it provides one partner with an advantage and also imposes a disadvantage on the other.”

In a similar vein, University of Pennsylvania researchers Alexander J. Stewart and associate professor Joshua B. Plotkin recently offered mathematical proof that the only evolutionary strategies in social animals that can succeed in the long term are generous ones.

“Ever since Darwin,” Plotkin writes, “biologists have been puzzled about why there is so much apparent cooperation, and even flat-out generosity and altruism in nature. Our paper provides such an explanation.”

After simulating how some generous strategies would fare in an evolving population, Stewart and Plotkin crafted a mathematical proof showing that, not only can generous strategies succeed they’re the only approaches that work over the long term. 

“Our paper shows that no selfish strategies will succeed in evolution,” said Plotkin. “The only strategies that are evolutionarily robust are generous ones.” [1]

In another recent paper Christoph Adami of Michigan State writes, “For a short time and against a specific set of opponents, some selfish organisms may come out ahead. But selfishness isn’t evolutionarily sustainable.” [2]

Adami and his colleagues read a 2012 paper unveiling a newly discovered zero-determinant (or ZD) strategy, which supposedly gave selfish players a guaranteed advantage over others. But they had serious doubts whether this strategy would essentially eliminate cooperation and create a world full of selfish beings. So they used high-powered computing to run hundreds of thousands of games and found that ZD strategies can never be the product of evolution.

Says Adami, “We found that evolution will punish you if you’re selfish and mean.” 

Lack of Cooperation in Wolf Packs? 
Wolves are often cited as a prime example of cooperation in animals. Yet research shows that hunting success peaks at about ± 4 wolves. The larger a pack gets, the less successful they are. Why is this so?

In a 2011 article, McNulty, Smith, Mech, et al say that there are 2 prevailing hypotheses. The interference hypothesis proposes that hunting success is limited because individual predators impede each other’s actions. The other is the free-rider hypothesis, where some pack members consume more than their fair share of a resource, or shoulder less than a fair share of the labor costs.

These researchers measured levels of participation by pack members during various stages of the hunt, using an ethogram (an objective scientific inventory of a set of behaviors) developed a few years earlier by McNulty, Mech & Smith (2007).

The idea that hunting success was negatively impacted when some members withheld effort was generally borne out by the fact that the rate of decline was most apparent for the most dangerous task: capture, or biting and restraining prey. In other words, as pack size increased fewer wolves felt like going in for the kill.

“Our study suggests that [some] wolves in large groups (>4 hunters) withheld effort … and likely participated merely to be at hand when a kill was made.”

I think this is very unlikely. It would require a mental process called time travel, where an animal is able to hypothesize about possible future events, then form a devious mental plan on how to act in such a way so as to “fool” its pack members and thus derive a purely imaginary future benefit that may or may not materialize.

Since a wolf pack is a cohesive unit where members don’t tend to wander off much to engage in their own activities, whenever the pack goes hunting, all members (except for the very young), go along. And since pack hunting success levels off at anything greater than ± 4 wolves, those members of the pack who are the most experienced, the most fearless, and the most driven would likely shoulder most of the work. And since according to the latest research, a behavior can only be considered cheating (or “free-riding,” a form of cheating) if it provides one member of the pack with an advantage while causing a disadvantage to others—which doesn’t happen here—these non- participating wolves should not be considered free-riders, but should be thought of as something like the pack’s bullpen. They’re happy to let the starting pitcher play the whole game if he can, but they’re also ready to come in during the late innings if needed.

They’re a team, after all.

Lee Charles Kelley 
“Life Is an Adventure—Where Will Your Dog Take You?” 


1. (“From extortion to generosity, evolution in the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma,” A. Stewart, J. Plotkin, University of Pennsylvania, July 25, 2013.)

 2. (“Evolutionary instability of zero-determinant strategies demonstrates that winning is not everything,” Nature Communications, August 2013.) Adami et al.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dogs On Motorcycles, Dolphins Riding Whales, and the Myth of Deliberate Intent in Jellyfish

Is Animal Behavior a Product of Deliberation + Intent or Attraction + Momentum?

Actor Harry Dean Morgan and His Motorcyle-Riding Dog

Do Jellyfish Think About What They’re Doing?  
The Nature World News website recently touted the fact that a new laboratory study suggests that a species of jellyfish has been seen “deliberately” catching fish, this despite the fact that jellyfish don’t have brains or a central nervous system.

According to lead researcher, Robert Courtney, “They’re using their tentacles and nematocyst clusters like experienced fishers use their lines and lures.” He goes on to say that “the nematocyst clusters look like a series of bright pearls, which the jellyfish twitches to attract the attention of its prey, like a series of fishing lures. It’s a very deliberate and selective form of prey capture.”

Interesting, huh? According to Dr. Courtney, the jellyfish deliberately twitches these pearl-like nematocysts not just to attract its prey, but to attract the attention of its prey. 

Okay … but how does the jellyfish know that its prey has mental states? It seems to me that in order for a jelly to produce these behaviors for the reasons given it would have to have a fully-developed theory of mind, meaning it would have to have a mind of its own and would also have to be capable of knowing that other organisms have minds similar to its mind in some ways, yet dissimilar in others. Yet Dr. Courtney seems convinced that they’re fishing deliberately.

But here’s a significant fact: we’re also told that the study was done in a laboratory instead of the jellyfish’s natural habitat. That’s because this is a very tiny organism that’s almost invisible in the open sea. So, in order to capture this species for laboratory study, the researchers trapped the jellyfish by submerging high-powered lights in its natural aquatic habitat. 

Why? Because they’re attracted to light.

So here we have two variations on the word “attraction.”

1) The jellyfish is attracted to light, and 

2) it’s reportedly behaving to attract the attention of its prey.

So why does Dr. Courtney think he’s seeing deliberate behavior in an organism that can’t possibly think about what it’s doing? Why aren’t its behaviors described through—I don’t know—a basic function of physics found in all things, living or non-living, all things on earth, organic and inorganic, a simple process found both in organisms that can think (meaning us and maybe dolphins) and those that can’t (meaning other organisms like jellyfish, plants, bacteria, and inorganic things like tectonic plates and maybe even the ocean itself)? 

The truth is simple: the jellyfish is attracted to its prey. If it weren’t it wouldn’t be able to feed itself except by sheer random chance. Fortunately for the jellyfish, it has a built-in fishing lure: its bright nematocyst clusters. 

And why do lures work? Because fish are attracted to them.

Could it be that the jellyfish is not acting in a deliberate manner — which, again, would be impossible without a highly-developed brain — but is simply moving toward its prey in what seems to be a deliberate manner because of physical attraction? (“Physical” meaning its behavior is controlled by physics, not sexual desire.)  

Dogs on Motorcycles, Dolphins Riding Whales 
Meanwhile, in another part of the world, we have a species called the dog. And dogs are known for their infatuation with car rides (or at least most dogs are). Of course, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about that. I mean it’s interesting that dogs love going for car rides, and that most cats hate it. But until recently I’d never heard of a dog who loved motorcycle rides. But in a recent television interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live, actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan described how one of his dogs absolutely loves to do just that. 

As soon as his dog hears him kick-starting the engine, she comes bursting out of the house, runs straight to the motorcycle, and jumps up between the handlebars onto the gas tank. Then, cradled safely (or perhaps precariously) between her owner’s arms, the duo takes off down the road.

This is all pretty amazing (and some would say dumb on Morgan’s part), but here’s what I think is really amazing: once this dynamic duo reach the freeway, and begin traveling 70 miles an hour, the dog falls asleep and doesn’t wake up until they reach their destination!

Can you imagine? The dog isn’t safe inside a car, with the window rolled down so she can stick her head out. She’s sleeping on top of the gas tank. At 70 mph! Fast asleep!!

And she’s not the only dog who likes to ride a motorcycle! 

I think dogs like to ride motorcycles for the same reason they like to go for car rides, chase tennis balls and fly through the air after Frisbees. They like the feelings of momentum and the pleasure of velocity. And on a motorcycle those feelings are intensified. Dogs also like the feeling of togetherness which are also intensified on a motorcycle. 

Dogs and Dolphins and Dolphins and Dogs 
Another species that seems to thoroughly enjoy feelings of physical momentum, as well as synchronous movement with others, is the bottle-nose dolphin. We’ve all seen videos or still images of dolphins arcing together in unison, either in the open water or while doing tricks at a water park.

In fact, there have been several incidents where dolphins have been seen, off the coast of Hawaii, riding on the backs of humpback whales which is quite similar to the way Jeffrey Dean Morgan describes his dog riding his motorcycle’s gas tank!

Ken Ramirez, a dolphin trainer at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium says, “It is believed that the ‘surfing’ or bow riding [behaviors] that dolphins exhibit in front of boats may have had its genesis in riding in front, or in the wake, of big whales.”

Like many +R trainers, Ramirez believe that the animals they train learn to do all sorts of amazing acrobatic feats through a process called positive reinforcement, and more specifically through sonic “markers,” usually clicks from a clicker that signal a food reward may be coming later. In fact, these trainers believe that all animals—not just dolphins—learn the same way, through a process called operant conditioning.  

Do Dogs and Dolphins (and Jellyfish) Learn the Same Way?
 All animals—at least those who can learn new behaviors (and jellyfish probably don’t fit that category)—learn the same way. But it’s not through operant conditioning, which only creates a fairly convincing facsimile of how animals really learn, and usually only under very tightly-controlled conditions. In fact it’s well known that behaviors learned via operant conditioning tend to break down whenever strong drives and instincts are involved. [1]

So how do animals really learn?

According to a model called Natural Dog Training—created by dog trainer and natural philosopher Kevin Behan—all behavior and learning are the products of certain properties of physics, among them the same properties that explain how a jellyfish seems to hunt deliberately: through physical attraction to its prey. 

Some obvious examples include the kind of almost magnetic attraction most dogs have for other dogs, for their owners, their toys, treats, food dish, etc. When a dog has strong feelings of attraction for something he tends to move toward it in a straight line. But, according Behan’s model, dogs also have feelings of resistance toward other types of things, like going to the vet’s office, or getting a bath. Resistance is literally the polar opposite of attraction. When a dog has strong feelings of resistance he tries to move away from the things that generate those feelings. Meanwhile, when a dog feels a mixture of both attraction and resistance he’ll move in a curvilinear fashion. 

Add to this process the idea that when a dog moves toward an object of attraction, doing so creates pleasurable feelings of physical momentum and emotional flow, the same types of feelings we have when we’re humming along on the open highway, or playing golf or tennis, or even just watching a game of football on TV, where we may unconsciously project our emotional centers of gravity onto the wide receiver reaching up to catch a football. We often stretch and strain ourselves while watching the ball’s arc and the receiver’s arms stretching and straining to reach it.

Now think of a Frisbee dog flying through the air to catch a flying disc or a ball-happy dog running full bore after a tennis ball or Kong. That’s pure attraction, which, again, also creates pleasurable feelings of physical momentum and a pure flow of emotion.

So when a puppy learns to sit for a treat, operant conditioning—or a reasonable facsimile thereof—is enough to explain that process for most purposes. The missing piece is that the puppy has to first have a feeling of attraction for the treat and for the person holding it. You can’t get a puppy to sit for a treat unless he’s focused on you and has feelings of physical and emotional attraction for you and the treat.

Attraction + Momentum = Flow  
However, things get a bit more complicated when you’re training a dog to herd sheep or run an agility course or run full speed off a diving platform or—as is the case with dolphins—when Naval personnel train them to locate enemy mines underwater.(2)

For the agility course the dog has to have feelings of attraction for moving toward and through the various challenges in the course. The diving dog is motivated by the way his owner builds his attraction to a prey object, like a tug toy: the more attraction the dog has for the object the stronger his desire to intercept it in mid-air, and the better his score in the diving competition. When dolphins are trained to swim into a harbor, then dive deep and search for possible locations of enemy mines, they need to have more motivation than an eventual “reward” from a chum bucket back at the “base.” That reward is the feeling of seeking and finding “prey,” just like it is for dogs.

Resistance enters the picture through the fact that in all three cases the animals are also pushing past feelings of physical resistance, which, again, is the polar opposite of attraction.

Of course dogs and dolphins are predators. Would prey animals have the same feelings?

Yes. It’s just that their “prey” would usually be whatever it is they like to eat. Horses, for instance, don’t chase their “prey,” but they are attracted to things like grass and hay, etc. Yet even prey animals like horses will play games of chase with each other that often involve biting or mock biting the other animal, as if they were predators at heart.

There’s a lot more to the Natural Dog Training model of learning than attraction and resistance or the pleasures of physical momentum and emotional flow. But on the most fundamental level, there is really no difference between the way a jellyfish is attracted to its prey, the way bacteria are attracted to specific substances that sustain life [3], the way fundamental particles are attracted to one another, and the way dogs are able to learn complex new behaviors like riding on the gas tanks of their owners’ motorcycles or the way dolphins enjoy body- surfing on the backs of humpback whales.  

Lee Charles Kelley  
“Life Is an Adventure—Where Will Your Dog Take You?”

1.) "The Misbehavior of Organisms," Keller and Marian Breland, American Psychologist, 16, 681-684.  


3.) Note that in his book Adaptive Behavior and Learning Dr. John Staddon discusses research done on e-coli and salmonella bacteria, organisms that show only two modes of movement—essentially either moving toward something or moving away from it—which are defined as straight-line swimming (moving toward) or tumbling (moving away). The first is found when the bacteria move toward a spot where there’s a high concentration of an “attractant,” and tumbling is found when there’s a decrease in its concentration.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Are Dogs Able to Make Comparisons?

Are Dogs Really Smarter Than Toddlers?

 One of These Things Is Not Like the Others

A recent study at Northwestern University informs us that “babies can think before they can speak.” In the study, 7-month-old infants were able to understand what researchers describe as the simplest and most basic of abstract relations: the levels of sameness or difference between two objects, a key cognitive ability underlying human intelligence, and one that differentiates us from all other animals including great apes. 

The test was quite simple.

“Infants were shown pairs of items that were either the same—two Elmo dolls—or different—an Elmo doll and a toy camel—until their ‘looking-time’ declined.”

This decline in the amount of time the infants spent looking at different pairs of objects indicated to the researchers that the relation between the objects—the fact that they were alike—had quickly become encoded in the babies’ brains. Meanwhile, when the infants spent more time looking, it coincided with the fact that objects were not alike.

Dedre Gentner, co-author of the study said the infants “were able to form an abstract, same-or-different relation after seeing only 6 - 9 examples.” She goes on to say, “It appears that relational learning is something that humans, even very young humans, are much better at than other primates.” As an example Gentner cites a recent study using baboons whose success at this required over 15,000 trials.

Co-author Susan Hespos sums things up: “Infants can form abstract relations before they learn the words that describe relations, meaning that relational learning in humans does not require language and is a fundamental human skill of its own.” 

What does this have to do with dogs?

Similar studies have been done where dogs were tested to see if they were capable of comparing the differences between smaller and larger amounts of food or the differences between carrots and doggie treats or between the amount of treats they got to what another dog got. The conclusions drawn were that dogs seem able to make comparisons in a way similar to a young child’s abilities in this area.

Of course one might offer the simple idea that there’s a difference between making comparisons and having preferences. For example, before she learned sign language Helen Keller was able to show preferences for certain foods. But it wasn’t until she learned to sign that she had the ability to make comparisons between the things she liked and the things she disliked. This shows that ability to understand and use human language is what enabled her to make such comparisons, an ability dogs don’t have but that the children in this recent study do, even though they’re still too young to talk. 

Let me make this very clear: it’s not possible to make comparisons without having the ability to use and understand language. No other animal—including the great apes—has demonstrated this ability. And it’s not something that comes in gradients. You either have the full ability to use and understand language or you don’t. 

Logic & Language vs. Pattern Recognition 
Remember, the researchers say that 7-month olds can form abstract relations between objects before they learn the words that describe those relations. Yet we know now that children learn and understand some aspects of human language while still in the womb. So while the infants in this study can’t yet use language, they do understand that words and sounds have meanings. 

Do dogs understand that words have meanings? No. Dogs respond to all kinds of cues, some verbal, some not. It’s entirely possible to teach a dog to sit, for example, without ever using the word sit, all you need are hand signals, and in some cases, just your body language. It’s true that, generally speaking, the family dog is far more aware of its environment than the toddlers in the house are; yet toddlers are still able to understand things like language, logic and object permanence while dogs have no such abilities.

Do children understand abstract relations? To a certain degree, yes. Do dogs? No. Dogs are experts at an unconscious process called pattern recognition, something we (and young children) also excel at. But unlike dogs and children, adult humans often think too much and rarely pay as much attention to changing patterns the way our dogs and children do. And, if we’re not careful, it can be easy to mistake pattern recognition for the ability to think, reason, and make inferences, abilities dogs don’t have.

Of course, some people would disagree. 

Learning Through Inference 
In his book, If Dogs Could Talk, famed Hungarian ethologist Vilmos Csányi writes a great deal about how he thought his dog Flip was capable of making inferences. But in an interview for The BARk, Csányi says, “A family dog constantly observes human behavior and always tries to predict interesting actions in which he could participate. Dogs can learn any tiny signal for the important actions and is always ready to contribute.” 

This is absolutely true. And I would argue that all the examples of “inferences” Csányi observed in his dog Flip can be boiled down to this simple ability.

In their book The Genius of Dogs primatologists Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods write, “What is special about children is that if you show a child a red block and a green block, then ask for ‘the chromium block, not the red block,’ most children will give you the green block, despite not knowing that the word 'chromium' can refer to a shade of green. The child inferred the name of the object.”

Actually, we don’t know that the child inferred the name of the object and didn’t, instead, read some unconscious signal given by the person who asked for it. Like dogs, children are very good at reading our patterns of behavior. In fact, a study was done where detection dogs were asked to find hidden items. But their handlers had been told where the objects were hidden, though in some cases they were lied to. The study found that most of the dogs went to the false locations rather than the spots where the items were actually hidden. Why? Most probably because they picked up information from their handlers through pattern recognition; reading their eye contact and body language.

In his book Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words John Pilley discusses how he taught his dog Chaser over 1,000 words for various toys. Pilley would place a new object Chaser had never seen before in a different room with several toys she already knew by name. Then he’d tell Chaser to go fetch the toy—let’s say it was called Fuzzbee—a word Chaser had never heard before. And, Pilley says, that just like children, Chaser inferred that the new word referred to a new toy. 

But did she? 

Wolves are different from other mammalian predators, most of whom go through a fairly predictable predatory sequence: search, stalk, chase, and grab-bite and kill-bite. But wolves are unique in that they who routinely hunt animals that are 10 times their size. And they exhibit a unique behavior other predators don’t: culling. They suss out who the weakest member of the herd is and specifically target that animal. Culling is a necessary aspect of a herding dog’s job, and border collies are the Einsteins of culling.

So Chaser’s abilities can be explained via high-octane pattern recognition, which includes a border collie’s innate ability to cull sheep, an ability inherited from the way wolves are able to cull the weakest elk or buffalo from the rest of the herd. It  does not in any way require an ability to make inferences: Chaser has been told to find “Fuzzbee.” She doesn’t know what that is, but she goes into a room full of toys. She looks around. She sees a toy she’s never seen before; a major change in the pattern. And since she’s operating through an already established pattern of finding toys and has been bred for culling, is bringing a new toy back an example of inference or something much simpler?

When Brian Hare did his initial research on a dog’s ability to follow where humans point—an ability chimpanzees don’t have—the headline was “Dogs Are Smarter Than Chimps,” with a sub-title “…Plus They’re Smarter Than Wolves!” That’s because in Hare’s studies none of the chimps and wolves were able to follow where Hare and his research team pointed while most of the dogs were. According to Hare this proved that the ability to follow where humans point must have been a by- product of domestication.

But then Monique Udell did a more carefully-designed study with a) dogs living in human households, b) hand-reared wolves, and c) stray dogs recently re-located to animal shelters. And guess what? The wolves’ ability to follow where humans point was no different from that of the pet dogs, while the stray dogs weren’t able to do it at all.

It seems to me that if we’re to be scientific about it—i.e., apply Ockham’s razor and Morgan’s canon—and since canine behavior can be explained most parsimoniously via the process of pattern recognition, it’s a no-brainer, both figuratively and literally. 

And Speaking of Brains… 
However, when it comes to brain power, here’s how dogs really stack up against both chimps and toddlers, based on the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex of each.

Dogs: 160 million neurons. (Cats have 300 million, pigs 450 million.)

Chimps: 5½ billion neurons.

Human beings (including infants): 86 billion neurons.

To give you an idea of the scale involved, a chimpanzee has over 34 million neurons to every single neuron in a dog’s brain. And a toddler has a ratio of more than 537 million neurons to every neuron in the dog’s brain. So if dogs are really smarter than chimps and are on a mental par with toddlers, where does all that brain power come from?

It’s very simple, and it goes back to Hare’s initial research, and a dog’s ability to follow human cues. (In the real world dogs don’t follow where we point except as they did in Hare’s laboratory studies; they just look around in a general way).

The real reason behind the idea that dogs seem so “smart” comes from 5 simple things.

1) Dogs share a common ancestor with wolves,

2) Our dogs’ ancestors became domesticated by our ancestors because of their ability to chase, harass, cull, and corner large prey animals, the way wolves still do today.

3) This made it easier for our ancestors to kill and consume the flesh of mastodons, wooly mammoths, etc., giving our ancestors an advantage over Neanderthals.

4) Humans have been using certain aspects of the wolf’s prey drive to get our dogs to work with us and for us for tens of thousands of years.

5) The reason dogs in Hare’s laboratory studies seem so smart is that they live with human beings, and we exhibit the most complex patterns of behavior of any animal on earth.

In other words, dogs are “smarter” than cats, pigs, chimps and (in some ways) toddlers* not because of their own innate IQs, but because of their daily interactions with us. It has nothing to do with making inferences or comparisons the way young children do. 

Lee Charles Kelley   
“Life Is an Adventure—Where Will Your Dog Take You?”