Anderson Cooper met Chaser, a dog who can identify over a thousand toys, and because of whom, scientists are now studying the brain of man’s best friend. Chaser is also the subject of a book: Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words.
Man and dog have lived together for 15,000 years and there are now more than 80 million dogs in the United States, more dogs than children, yet we know very little about man’s best friend.
Did you know that when your dog(s) stare at you, they are hugging you with their eyes?!?
And, there’s even more to smart dogs than what ’60 Minutes’ and Chaser showed you says Arlene Weintraub, author of – Heal: The Vital Role of Dogs in the Search for Cancer Cures.
The hit CBS CBS -0.48% newsmagazine 60 Minutes just re-ran what was no doubt one of its most popular segments of recent years, “The Smartest Dog in the World,” featuring Chaser, the border collie who learned more than 1,000 words and names. As shown in the segment, Chaser accomplished that incredible feat because her owner, retired psychology professor John Pilley, spent five hours a day, five days a week training the white-and-black spotted pooch to associate certain words with objects such as toys.
As a result, Chaser ended up with a vocabulary three times greater than that of the average toddler. It’s impressive, to be sure, especially since very little was known about the power of the canine brain until quite recently, as correspondent Anderson Cooper pointed out at the top of the piece.
Over the last two decades, however, the scientific community has started to delve more deeply into canine intelligence, unlocking the clues to what’s happening in their brains that makes dogs so seemingly human. Here are some of the latest insights:
Dogs aren’t just learning tricks when you train them—they’re actually getting smarter.
Not everyone can spare the time that Pilley took to train his dog to recognize so many words, but science has proven that, in fact, dogs that stay mentally engaged do get smarter.
For example, researchers at the University of Milan recently took a group of 110 dogs, half of whom had little or no training in obedience or any other skill, and the other half who had extremely sophisticated levels of schooling, in agility, search-and-rescue, and the like. All of the dogs were then challenged to find food that had been hidden—but only after they were shown how the treats would be hidden and what they would have to do to uncover them.
As dog psychology expert and author Stanley Coren reported on the Psychology Today blog, it was clear that the dogs in the trial who had spent a lot of time training to do challenging tasks had gained a leg up on the intelligence scale: Only 30% of the untrained dogs found the hidden food, while 61% of the trained dogs successfully completed the task—even though their previous training didn’t prepare them for this particular test.
The scientists concluded that the trained dogs had acquired a “’learning to learn’ ability” that is otherwise absent in the average dog.
Studies show that dogs trained in complex tasks like agility gain intelligence (Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
That insight jives with what one of the scientists featured in the 60 Minutes piece, Brian Hare, pointed out. “What’s special is that [Pilley] spent so much time playing these games to help her learn words, but are there lots of Chasers out there?” said Hare, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University during the piece. “Absolutely.”
In other words, any mutt can probably be as good as Chaser—if his or her owner is willing to put in the hours.
Dogs can smell cancer and other things we can’t because of how their brains are structured.
It’s long been known that dogs’ noses are extremely sensitive—a virtue that has made them indispensable as search-and-rescue aides for centuries. But only recently have scientists begun to unlock the mysteries behind how dogs can pick up and follow scents that no one else can.
What they’ve learned is that dogs have 200 million olfactory receptors (ORs), or proteins on the neurons inside their snouts that send signals to their brains, allowing them to process smells. We human have only five million ORs. Dogs’ nostrils are structured so intricately that they can detect odors at such miniscule levels as parts per trillion, and many experts believe the proportion of the dog’s brain that’s dedicated to analyzing those scents is 40 times larger than that of humans. That makes the dog’s ability to recognize particular odors one million times better than that of people.
Dogs’ noses are now being put to use beyond the realm of search-and-rescue. In the medical world, service dogs are being trained to help people with diabetes recognize when their blood sugar is dropping to dangerous levels. And much attention has been paid recently to reports that dogs can sniff cancer.
The notion that dogs might be able to detect cancer first emerged about 25 years ago, when the British medical journal The Lancet published a five-paragraph letter in which two doctors in London described the case of a forty-four-year-old woman, who came into their clinic with a lesion on her left thigh. She told them her Doberman–border collie mix was constantly sniffing a mole on her leg, and one day when she was wearing shorts, her dog tried to bite the mole off entirely. Turned out that mole was a malignant melanoma—and the dog saved his owner’s life, because the tumor was so small at that point the cancer could be cured.
Since then, dog-loving scientists all over the world have trained and then tested hundreds of dogs to prove they can smell cancer. The results are sometimes astounding: In a 2012 trial, sniffer dogs were able to identify the scent of lung cancer about 90% of the time, even when the scientists tried to confuse them with samples from patients with non-cancerous conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Dogs have also been successfully trained to detect ovarian, breast, bladder, and colorectal cancer. Multiple efforts are now underway to translate the dog’s nose into automated breathalyzer-like devices that may be able to detect cancer early.
Dogs are wired for empathy in ways that many other species are not.
During the 60 Minutes story we heard a lot about oxytocin, commonly called “the love hormone.” This is a hormone, made in the brains of both dogs and people, that promotes the bonding between mothers and their babies, for example, and makes us feel good when we hug a loved one. Turns out when dogs make eye contact with their people or jump in their laps, both dogs and the recipients of their affection get more of an oxytocin rush.
But are dogs empathetic? Do they feel our emotional pain and joy? Several studies suggest they do. For example, in 2013, a group of Japanese researchers showed that the phenomenon of contagious yawning—long believed to be a sign of empathy—does not just happen among people. The scientists observed 25 dogs yawning in response to the yawns of both their owners and those of people they did not know. They measured the dogs’ heart rate to show that their yawning was not caused by stress (as many dog trainers believe it is).
Dogs may also be empathetic because in addition to sharing the love hormone with their humans, they share the stress hormone, called cortisol. Last fall, researchers in New Zealand took 75 dogs and 74 people and played the same sounds for both groups: a baby crying, a baby babbling and white noise. When they heard the crying baby, both people and dogs showed an increase in cortisol. The dogs’ behavior changed, too, as they became more submissive and alert. The researchers concluded that the dogs were showing “emotional contagion,” a basic form of empathy. What’s more, the empathy crossed species—a rare occurrence, they suggested.
‘Dogs Have The Intelligence of a Human Toddler’ and bottom line, your dog is probably just as smart as Chaser, both intellectually and emotionally. I know mine are! You just might need to do a bit of work to uncover that intelligence. Age, breed and owner or trainer involvement are all factors.
A Quebec bill has changed animals from “property” to sentient beings and includes jail time for cruelty in Canada. Let us hope that the United States and the rest of the world will not be far behind. Especially with daily headlines like these: China, Korea, South East Asia: Stop Cooking Dogs, Any Animals, Alive; Weasel of the Weak –> The Monster Who Tortured And Abused This Dog, Teen Who Killed Kitten Only Had to Serve One Year in Prison, Buried Alive Because She Was A Nuisance This Stray Dog Has Become An Inspiration and Copycat Dog Muzzle Duct Taping Crime?. Even livestock who are ultimately slated to end up on our dinner tables deserve human treatment throughout their lives!
Hopefully, WE, human animals are finally realizing that all animals have value and deserve fair and better treatment, beginning with domesticated animals that we share our lives with. To whom much is given, much is expected! And because we are the most intelligent animals with the largest brain, at least on our planet, we must be much better than we are!
June 15, 2015 Posted by justonemorepet | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pets, Stop Animal Cruelty, Stop Euthenization, Unusual Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper, Border-Collie, CBS, Dog Intgelligence, Dog Research, JOMP, Smartest Dog | 2 Comments
Save a Life…Adopt Just One More…Pet!
Everyday we read or hear another story about pets and other animals being abandoned in record numbers while at the same time we regularly hear about crazy new rules and laws being passed limiting the amount of pets that people may have, even down to one or two… or worse yet, none.
Nobody is promoting hoarding pets or animals, but at a time when there are more pets and animals of all types being abandoned or being taken to shelters already bursting at the seams, there is nothing crazier than legislating away the ability of willing adoptive families to take in just one more pet!!
Our goal is to raise awareness and help find homes for all pets and animals that need one by helping to match them with loving families and positive situations. Our goal is also to help fight the trend of unfavorable legislation and rules in an attempt to stop unnecessary Euthenization!!
“All over the world, major universities are researching the therapeutic value of pets in our society and the number of hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and mental institutions which are employing full-time pet therapists and animals is increasing daily.” ~ Betty White, American Actress, Animal Activist, and Author of Pet Love
So if you have the room in your home and the love in your heart… Adopt Just One More Pet or consider becoming a Foster parent for pets… Also check out: Little Critter: Just One More Pet
Photos By: Marion Algier – The UCLA Shutterbug
There is always room for Just One More Pet. So if you have room in your home and room in your heart… Adopt Just One More! If you live in an area that promotes unreasonable limitations on pets… fight the good fight and help change the rules and legislation…
Save the Life of Just One More…Animal!
Recent and Seasonal Shots
As I have been fighting Cancer… A battle I am gratefully winning, my furkids have not left my side. They have been a large part of my recovery!! Ask Marion
Photos by the UCLA Shutterbug are protected by copyright, Please email at JustOneMorePet@gmail.com or find us on twitter @JustOneMorePet for permission to duplicate for commerical purposes or to purchase photos.
If you can adopt or foster just one more pet, you could be saving a life, while adding joy to your own! Our shelters are over-flowing… Please join the fight to make them all ‘NO-Kill’ facilities.
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- In Memory of Rocky – Until We Meet Again on Rainbow Bridge August 30, 2015By JoAnn, Marion, and Tim Algier This past week, we lost our dear family member Rocky who had just outlived his “huep – na-napbdad”, Tom, by just a few months. His perspective would have been interesting!! Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been […]justonemorepet
- In Memory of Rocky – Until We Meet Again on Rainbow Bridge August 29, 2015By JoAnn, Marion, and Tim Algier This past week, we lost a dear family member, Rocky, who had just outlived his “human pet-dad”, Tom, by just a few months. It certainly would have been interesting to know what they thought and what experiences they had had in common!! Just this side of heaven is a […]justonemorepet
- Panda Accused of Faking Pregnancy To Get Better Food, Air Conditioning August 1, 2015Expectant pandas are moved to air-conditioned rooms and showered with more buns, fruit and bamboo. By Dominique Mosbergen – News Editor, The Huffington Post – Posted: 07/30/2015 12:57 AM EDT | Edited: 07/31/2015 02:07 PM EDT Pandas Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, names together mean "reunion", eat bamboo at a panda base in Ya’an, southwest […]justonemorepet
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- They Were Dead Puppy Parts Instead of Dead Baby July 16, 2015Bristol Palin: Fellow SixSeeds blogger Zeke Pipher has a great question: If they were dead puppy parts, or parts from homosexual babies, or babies that self-identified as adults, it’d be a different story. Meaning, it would be a story. But as it is, the fact that these fetuses don’t look like puppies, and their sexual […]justonemorepet
- Bob’s Full House July 13, 2015Photo: Cute Overload - Full Housejustonemorepet
- Keep Your Pets Safe on the 4th of July June 30, 2015Family and friends of G.R. Gordon-Ross watch his private fireworks show at the Youth Sports Complex in Lawrence, Kan., Friday, June 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) Mercury News – Originally posted on July 02, 2013: The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. Hot dogs, potato salad and, of course, fireworks. But Independence […]justonemorepet
- JOMP Salutes Doggie Dads Both Two and Four Legged June 21, 2015Very few dogs have the experience of being parents these days and especially seeing their litters through the process of weaning and then actually being able to remain part of a pack with at least part of their family. Apachi is our Doggie Dad. He is a Chiweenie and here he is is watching his […]justonemorepet
- Smartest Dog In the World, Chaser – 60 Minutes With Anderson Cooper June 15, 2015By Marion Algier – Just One More Pet (JOMP) – Cross-Posted at AskMarion Anderson Cooper met Chaser, a dog who can identify over a thousand toys, and because of whom, scientists are now studying the brain of man’s best friend. Chaser is also the subject of a book: Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog […]justonemorepet
- Quebec bill changes animals from "property" to sentient beings and includes jail time for cruelty June 14, 2015By Tamara – Dog Heirs – Cross-Posted at JOMP Quebec, Canada – Animals will be considered “sentient beings” instead of property in a bill tabled in the Canadian province of Quebec. The legislation states that "animals are not things. They are sentient beings and have biological needs." Agriculture Minister Pierre Paradis proposed the bill and […] […]justonemorepet
- In Memory of Rocky – Until We Meet Again on Rainbow Bridge August 30, 2015
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Great Book for Children and Pet Lovers… And a Perfect Holiday GiftOne More Pet Emily loves animals so much that she can’t resist bringing them home. When a local farmer feels under the weather, she is only too eager to “feed the lambs, milk the cows and brush the rams.” The farmer is so grateful for Emily’s help that he gives her a giant egg... Can you guess what happens after that? The rhythmic verse begs to be read aloud, and the lively pictures will delight children as they watch Emily’s collection of pets get bigger and bigger.
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If You Were Stranded On An Island…A recent national survey revealed just how much Americans love their companion animals. When respondents were asked whether they’d like to spend life stranded on a deserted island with either their spouse or their pet, over 60% said they would prefer their dog or cat for companionship!
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