Dogs are stupider than we thought, although probably they’d argue the point if they had a clue.
OK, maybe not stupider. Maybe even smart, but certainly not exceptional, according to a new study of the intellectual abilities of dogs by psychology professors Stephen Lea and Britta Osthaus of the University of Buzzkill Big, Fat Weenies.
Sorry! We’re feeling a bit defensive here.
In fairness to Lea and Osthaus, who list many capital letters after their names, the authors critically researched more than 300 papers on the intelligence of dogs and a variety of other animals. Their impressive survey includes sections with intriguing titles like, “The Phylogenetic Context of Dog Cognition,” which begins, “From a phylogenetic perspective…” We read no further as our eyeballs rolled back into our heads, and instead we began passing critically researched notes in study hall, many with the intriguing title, “Julie B. is a Skank!”
Numerous studies have focused on dog intelligence, but few on other animals that, for some reason, object to electrodes being jammed in their brains. This led Lea to wonder whether dogs seemed smarter due to the lack of comparative research and because dogs continually scored so high in Candy Crush.
Lea’s and Osthaus’ controversial study has dog owners questioning whether their canines are exceptionally bright or “just a damn fool dog,” as Uncle Max often sneers at Thanksgiving.
What other animals were studied? Not fish, I hope. They’re such cheaters!
No fish, but dolphins which, of course, are just fish with excellent publicists.
Other animals studied included wolves, hyenas, cats, horses and even pigeons. Also chimpanzees because they demonstrate the advanced behaviors of wearing diapers and riding tricycles, much like Congress. Zing!
What was the study’s criteria? Am I using that right, criteria?
To analyze the myriad studies of dogs and other animals, researchers rated them in three categories: animals domesticated by humans; social hunters, or animals that work together to acquire food; and carnivorans, which includes “placental animals that eat meat.”
This last category begs the question, “Could you be a little more gross? Jeez!”
The study assessed the animals on various types of cognition, which means their ability to start car engines on bitter cold mornings. No, no, wait! That’s ignition.
While dogs performed well across different categories of cognition, Lea and Osthaus found that other animals could match or exceed dogs’ abilities. This, of course, has led to their follow-up study titled, “Pigeons? Seriously?”
My dogs are exceptionally intelligent. But on walks they sometimes pee on each other’s heads. Is that smart?
Only if their heads are on fire. Zing!
Because we love our dogs we sometimes credit them as being smarter than they are. That’s called “confirmation bias,” a term nearly as confusing as “criteria.”
Unlike their Giants, dogs rarely question their own intelligence. That applies equally to Budleigh, the shrewd Bernie Madoff con man of terriers, and Brisby, whose coat is soft and nice.
BRISBY: “What’cha chewin’?”
BUDLEIGH: “Hard to say.”
BRISBY: “Where’d you get it?”
BUDLEIGH: “The Yelly Giant left it out for me.”
BUDLEIGH: “Way in the back of the closet in the basement under the stairs. You know, where he keeps the spiders?”
BRISBY: “Spiders? Yum! Did you find any?”
BUDLEIGH: “Um…no. No, they…moved out. To a farm. Yes, that’s it! A farm! Where they can run and run.”
BRISBY: “Look what the Other Giant gave me. (Drops an ice cube) Doggie Ice Cream!”
BUDLEIGH: “You know that’s just water, right?”
BRISBY: “It’s Doggie. Ice. Cream!”
Brisby chews, pounces, chews. Budleigh glowers.
BUDLEIGH: “Are there more?”
BRISBY: “There were but…they moved out.”
BUDLEIGH: “To a farm?”
BUDLEIGH: “I don’t want ‘em anyway. They make me pee.”
BRISBY: “Me too! Let’s go out. And bring your head. I might need it.”
— Dave Jaffe
Writer, columnist, former Chicago reporter, humorist Dave Jaffe has written for online, print, television and radio. Creative, clever, witty — these are traits that kept Dave in detention for most of the eighth grade. But as an adult those skills led to multiple award-winning columns and commentary, numerous published articles and essays, and even sketches for Bozo the Clown. Dave’s blog, Sleeping between Giants — which explores life, if you could call it that, with a terrier — received the 2018 and 2017 National Society of Newspaper Columnists award for humor blogs. His work has twice been honored with Peter A. Lisagor awards by the Chicago Headline Club, and by the Parenting Publications of America.