Mind over Marrowbone: Citizen Science Tests Canine Smarts

Deep Thinker?
Photo by Nathan Yergler. CC By-SA 3.0.

Want to test your dog’s thinking style? Put two treats on the ground on either side of you and point to one of them as you call. The piece gobbled first sheds light on whether your pooch is more of an independent or a social problem-solver. Dognition, a new website created by Duke University professors Brian Hare and Kip Frey uses the results of such games to collect data on various aspects of canine cognition while giving dog owners insights on how their pets think. (See here for specific instructions on the test above.)

As the website explains, citizen science allows researchers to gather large amounts of data to better understand the thinking processes of dogs across many different breeds and locations. For a fee of $39.00, dog owners can learn if their furry companion is more of an Einstein, a Stargazer, or a Socialite (or fits into one of six other profiles).

Frey teaches at Duke’s Law School and School of Public Policy. Hare is an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology and founder of Duke’s Canine Cogntion Center. His new book is The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs are Smarter than You Think (Dutton).