Viewers of this week’s 60 Minutes were treated to a profile of an amazing border collie named Chaser and her owner John Pilley, a retired professor of psychology who has taught her the names of over 1,000 toys. Every toy has a unique name, and Chaser can identify each one when asked. Depending on the command, Chaser will bring the toy to John, or put her nose or paw on the toy. Pilley says she has a vocabulary and cognitive abilities on par with a two year old human toddler.
Recent studies of canine intelligence show that dogs are capable of inferential reasoning, illustrated by the example of showing a dog two cups, hiding a toy under one of them, pointing to the cup with the toy, and the dog understanding that the toy will be where you point. Not all animals have this ability.
You knew your dog was smart, but what about a dog’s emotions and feelings?
In other research, scans of dogs’ brains show that the “reward center” of the brain is stimulated by the unique scent of a dog’s owner. This is the same part of the brain that is stimulated in humans by such things as a favorite song, or thinking about someone you care about.
Ever notice that look of love in your dog’s eyes? Studies show that when humans and dogs make eye contact, a dog’s brain releases oxytocin, the same hormone that helps mothers bond with their new babies. This proves that your dog gets the same warm feeling as you when spending time together.
Want to learn more about your dog’s intelligence? Check out the website Dognition, mentioned on the show.
Watch the full 60 Minutes episode about Chaser HERE.