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FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG: RETREAT May 24, 2014

Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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To forestall possible problems, I seek to avoid and evade any people and especially dogs on our walks.

I like to let Hannah have a run, if nothing else to work off excess energy. Dexter is not given the liberty, since based on past experience he would head off and probably end on the street. I try to warn anyone in hearing distance. This does not always work.

Dexter and Hannah take many things in their stride. It is reported that May this year is the warmest on record, which extends back for over a hundred years. As was observed (not by me) the trees and plants are flowering out of season. Something must be afoot.

Stepping back it might be possible to view Dexter and Hannah as representatives of their species. Andrea Anderson in Scientific American reports that a researcher, Jennifer Volk, has shown that Orangutans and other apes can categorize photos of animals, suggesting a capacity for abstract thought. And:

Dogs, too, seem to have better than expected abstract-thinking abilities. They can reliably recognize pictures of other dogs, regardless of breed, as a study in the July 2013 Animal Cognition showed. The results surprised scientists not only because dog breeds vary so widely in appearance but also because it had been unclear whether dogs could routinely identify fellow canines without the advantage of smell and other senses. Other studies have found feats of categorization by chimpanzees, bears and pigeons, adding up to a spate of recent research that suggests the ability to sort things abstractly is far more widespread than previously thought.

There is still some question as to whether such visual categorization experiments reflect truly abstract thinking by animals, says Vonk, who noted that further work is needed to untangle the tricks various animals use in classification challenges. “I suspect the different species use different means of solving the task,” she notes.

Reporting more dog behavioral studies, David Grimm in The Washington Post writes:

Dogs seem to display a rudimentary form of this skill during play. He has noticed, for example, that one dog won’t begin trying to play with another dog until he has her attention. To get her to notice, he may nip the other dog or run into her field of view. That, Bekoff says, shows that the one wanting to play knows that she’s not paying attention to him. Though this may seem like a simple skill, it’s incredibly important to our species. Without it, we can have a hard time learning or interacting with the world around us.

Interestingly, dogs even outsmart chimpanzees on some theory-of-mind tests. When a researcher points at one of two cups, for example, dogs almost always run to the cup that is pointed to, a sign that they have intuited what the scientist was thinking — i.e., that the researcher was trying to show the dog something. Chimps, by contrast, have no idea what we mean when we point at something.

“Dogs have an amazing relationship with us, and Marc [Bekoff] has done a beautiful job helping us understand them,” says Brian Hare, a biological anthropologist at Duke University and one of the world’s foremost experts on canine cognition. “Play gives us a peek inside their heads and helps us understand how they became the species they are today.”

Hare, one of the first scientists to show that dogs could understand human pointing while chimpanzees could not, says that Bekoff’s studies add a new dimension to the canine personality: Dogs aren’t just smart, they’re also emotionally complex. “That’s why we can have such a deep relationship with them,” says Hare.

It’s also why studying dog play is so important, Bekoff says. It reveals far more than just the emotional lives of the animals involved. It could ultimately shed light on the evolution of human emotions and how we came to build a civilization based on laws and cooperation, empathy and altruism

There were some photos along the way this week following usual practice:

We had our feet on the ground. We could look around and look up. Mark Knopfler sings “In the Sky”:

Comments»

1. wmmbb - May 26, 2014

I was pretty tired when I typed this dog blog. I am sure the least appreciated part of it is the effort that goes into organizing the photos, which may well reflect lack of ability.

Still these research findings are significant, and I believe important. For me they illustrate how amazing general human capabilities are. They suggest that once evolution has reached a certain point it become purposive, since it depends on community. Typically, in emergency situations, such as floods and fires, the importance of dogs to their human companions (let alone dog’s loyalty – that is compassion for nature and out of order) is not recognized. Dogs are like us. They seek to please, or else they are following their “instincts” to preserve and further the group to which they belong. If mind can be demonstrated, it follows that non-human sentient beings are keyed into consciousness. The challenge for humans may well be that is possible to grow in consciousness.

These are contestable, and contested, conclusions, if not new and original.


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