November 11, 2005


The Canine Mystique

I've been pawing through some holiday catalogues and have come away feeling a tad exploited lately. Do you ever get the feeling that you're just being used as a pet object? You know what I mean. People seem to notice you mostly for your looks. They're always saying stuff like, "Oh, look how adorable he's being" or "You're just too cute" or "You're just so achingly handsome you make me weak in the elbows" (well, okay, so I made that last one up).

I just want to speak up for my fellow dogs (you cats are on your own): in the animal kingdom, we are not just another pretty hairy face. We dogs shouldn't have to submit to stereotypes just because people like the way the our tails swoosh as we prance across the living room. We wish to be loved but not objectified by LL Bean catalogs and those sundry playmate-of-the-month dog calendars that are sold out during every Christmas holiday.

We are, after all, more than the sum of our looks. Consider the scientific evidence gathered by the likes of research fellow Adam Miklosi of the Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest. He and his colleagues have found that "dogs have far greater mental capabilities than scientists had thought." So, put that in a 6x8 frame on your side table, why don't you?

Look, up till now, a lot of people have been thinking that just because we're good (and good-looking) dogs, we must also be relatively slow-witted compared with our bad-boy wolf ancestors. I call it the Canine Mystique. In reality, studies show that it's not that we dogs can't quickly learn how to do certain things, such as open gates in our backyards on our own, it's that we like to play by the rules. We just want permission before we show off our brilliance, which is actually another sign of that brilliance.

Or consider this from CBS News: "In one classic experiment on dogs' use of human visual cues, food is hidden in one of several scent-proof containers. The animal is allowed to choose only one. Beforehand, the experimenter signals the correct choice by staring, nodding, or pointing at it."

It turns out that chimps pretty much flunk out when given this test. Dogs, on the other hand, ace it with ease, speed, and grace. Why? Because we're flat out better than any other species in the world at tuning into humans. In fact, we're even better than the not-really-so-great apes at imitating people. Miklosi says that dogs are "very motivated to cooperate with and act like people." So, the cliche should actually be "Doggy see, doggy do."

Well, sometimes I'm not sure why we bother, for all the respect we get. They come home to us after a long day at the office but all they really see is their loving, photogenic house dog, a bit of domesticated cuteness just waiting at their beck and call. From now on, people should respect our minds as well. I am Labrador - hear me roar!

when people say, "dolphins are the dogs of the sea," it proves the of intelligence of dogs since we're the considered benchmark! -endo
We humans can't help it - we love to see cute pictures of dogs, especially puppies. It's a good thing dogs are the most forgiving of creatures.
Oh, it is true, juliar. My Mike and Molly are often the same, truth be told. And I often submit to their adoration if it means a good belly rub. But I'd like them to call me "brilliant Hank" sometimes, a simple tribute to our doggedly intelligent ways.

Hi "Brilliant Hank",
Thanks for visiting us. Your dlog is great too! Is it all right if we add a link to yours on ours?

- Leader Dog Willow, and Stella

Hi L^2, That'd be great. I hope you don't mind that I put a link to your blog as well.
Funny you should say that, Hank. Today I was posting about Cosmo's first real fight -- and last. Roaring is usually enough, huh?
Usually, JJ. I am generally a Labrador of peace, though I've had my moments. The other day I had to dunk a young pup in the Gulf who was taking it a little too far, but that's another story. Thanks for your wonderful blog. It's a gem.
Hellooo Hank! We all know that we're the smartest species on earth! What other animal can get their humans to cater to them? Our humans even take us to school, that's because we can learn! You don't see them taking cats or fish to school, that's because they're stupid! *giggle*

What can I say, I have to admit that I love the attention that my mommy gives me. I just play the part and she is at MY beck & call!!!

So so true brother, you speaketh the truth!

Hey, yes we're adorable and all, and compared to other animals humans are very compatible companions for us.

After all, we've had humans as pets for thousands of years and they are just about ready to understand our language. Take for instance, my humans: Just the other day one of them actually took me outside when I asked them! It was truly unbelievable!

If it wasn't for the "bark-to-typolator" I invented, the humans wouldn't even be able to understand my blog!

Hey, wait, looks like you invented one too! All for now, see ya Hank!


My hooman read ,
Four men were bragging about how smart their dogs were. The first manwas an Engineer, the second an Accountant, the third man a Chemist, and the fourth a Government worker.

To show off, the Engineer called to his dog, "T-Square, do your stuff!" T- Square trotted over to the desk, took out some paper and a pen and prompty drew a circle, a square, and a triangle. Everyone agreed that T-Square was pretty smart!

But the Accountant said his dog could do better. He called his dog and said, "Spreadsheet, show 'em how smart you are!" Spreadsheet went out into the kitchen, and returned with a dozen cookies. He divided them into 4 equal piles of 3 cookies each. Everyone agreed, that was good!

But the Chemist said his dog could do even better. He called his dog and said, "Measure, do your thing!" Measure got up, walked over to the fridge, took out a quart of milk, got a 10-ounce glass from the cupboard and poured exactly 8 ounces without spilling a drop. Everyone oohed and ahhhed and were quite impressed!

Then the three men turned to the Government Worker, and said, "What can your dog do?" The Government Worker called to his dog and said, "Coffee Break, do your stuff!!" Coffee Break jumped to his feet, ate all the cookies, drank the milk, shit on the paper, sexually assaulted the other three dogs, claimed he injured his back while doing so, filed agrievance report for unsafe working conditions, put in for Worker's Compensation, and went home for the rest of the day on sick leave!!!! LOL!
Hi Amstaffie,

Well, now that you mention it, it's true I haven't heard of too many training schools for cats, though some cats I know might say that's because they're already know-it-alls and have nothing new to learn. Ah well, we all like attention to some degree, don't we. I bet even Betty Friedan enjoys the occasional complement, if not wolf whistle.

Hi Cal the Wonderdog,

Welcome. I wonder if you're on to something. I'm wondering if humans have evolved to understand dogs better. Sounds like a thesis for future geneticist to me.

Hi Sam I Am,

Pretty funny. I guess there's a lot of truth to "doggy see, doggy do." How often do you find that people are very much like their dogs? You've got to wonder who is imitating whom.
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