Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 9 August 2002 Issue
Dogs May Be More Intelligent Than People May Think
Wed Jul 31, 3:48 PM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - Dogs are probably much cleverer than most people think, according to a new study.
Scientists are convinced that dogs can count and researchers at the University of California Davis say they try to convey different messages through the pitch and pace of their barks.
"Animal behaviorists used to think their bark was simply a way of getting attention. Now a new study suggests that individual dogs have specific barks with a range of meanings," New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.
Dogs usually use high-pitched single barks when they are separated from their owners and a lower, harsher super bark when strangers approach or the doorbell rings, according to Sophia Yin, an animal behaviorist at the university.
Playful woofs are high-pitched and unevenly spaced.
Dogs also know when they are being short-changed on treats because they
have a basic mathematical ability which enables them to tell when one
pile of objects is bigger than another.
"But to count, an animal has to recognize that each object in a set
corresponds to a single number and that the last number in a sequence
represents the total number of objects," New Scientist added.
Robert Young of Brazil's Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais
in Belo Horizonte, tested the theory on 11 mongrels using dog treats.
The canines were shown treats and then a screen was lowered and the
goodies were left as they were or some were added or taken away.
If a treat was added or taken away the dogs looked at the treats much
longer than they did when the goodies were not disturbed, presumably
because they had done their sums and the numbers did not meet their
"Dogs are descended from wolves, which not only have a large neocortex --
the brain's center of reasoning -- but live in large social groups," the
Young believes the mathematical ability could have been used to work out
how many allies and enemies they had in a pack.
Return to Animals in Print 9 Aug 2002 Issue
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