To Rate How Smart Dogs Are, Humans Learn New Tricks
Pam Giordano thinks her dog is quite intelligent, and she has proof: Giorgio, an 11-year-old Havanese, has diplomas stating he has a bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. from Yale. The bumper sticker on Ms. Giordano’s car announces, “My dog made it to the Ivy League.”
The honors were bestowed on Giorgio and Giuliana, his sibling, for participating in the university’s Canine Cognition Center. “I wanted to know how much they know and how smart they are,” Ms. Giordano, a real estate broker in Branford, Conn., said. “I think Giuliana really just goes for the treats. But Giorgio rises above it. He is very bright. I would say he knows over 100 words.”
这份荣誉授予了乔治和与他同胞生的朱利亚娜，因为他们参与了这所大学的犬科动物认知中心(Canine Cognition Center)的研究。“我想知道，他们知道多少东西，有多聪明，”美国康涅狄格州布兰福德的房地产经纪布兰福德焦尔达诺说。“我认为朱利亚娜真的只是为了获得奖励的食物。但乔治不止于此。他非常聪明。我觉得他认识不止100个单词。”
Giorgio, 11, and his honors at the Yale Canine Cognition Center.
The Yale researchers are on to something. They have figured out how to tap into the willingness of dogs’ human companions to support their studies. Enthusiastically.
Suddenly how smart your dog is seems to matter — an aspiration that has also not gone unnoticed by the commercial pet industry. Walk into any pet supply chain, such as the aptly named PetSmart, and take in the toys, gadgets and foods advertised as optimizing a dog’s intelligence. Or just do an online search for “brain games to play with your dog.”
The swelling interest, eagerly amplified by the pet industry, has given a boost to the relatively new academic field of canine cognition, with research centers sprouting up on campuses across the country. In the fall, the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science devoted an issue to the topic.
被宠物行业放大的不断膨胀的兴趣，助推了相对比较新的犬类认知学术领域，全国各地的校园里涌现出不少此类研究中心。今年秋天，《心理科学近期趋势》(Current Directions in Psychological Science)杂志还专门用一期讨论了这个话题。
At Yale, the three-year-old canine cognition center has been barraged by humans eager to have their dogs’ intelligence evaluated, volunteering them for research exercises and puzzles. Some owners drive for hours.
“People like their kids to be smart, and they like their dogs to be smart,” said Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology who directs the center. “Some people will call and sound apologetic, saying, ‘I’d like to bring my dog in, but he might be too dumb.’”
(By the way, here’s a bubble-bursting secret: Smart dogs often aren’t that great to live with, precisely because they’re too smart.)
But when owners use “smart” and “dog” in the same sentence, what exactly do they mean? Smart compared with what? A cat? Another dog? A human?
Scientists define and measure a dog’s smarts differently from the way owners do. Over a decade ago, evolutionary anthropologists realized that in the dog, whose development has been so strongly shaped by humans, they had a star subject to observe. Unlike gorillas, dogs are fairly inexpensive to study — their numbers are plentiful, their room and board happily covered by owners.
Now some researchers are studying the dog’s brain. Others are trying to identify the dog’s cognitive abilities, debating about the extent to which dogs may be unique among animals. Comparative psychologists are looking at how those capacities stack up against those of children.
Experts agree that when owners discuss how smart their dogs are, they are imposing a human construct on an animal. A dog may seem “smarter” to its owner than the neighbor’s dog, but even the popular notion derived from some studies — that dogs are as intelligent as toddlers — is, practically speaking, meaningless.
Many animal behaviorists say that what people really mean when they call a dog smart is that the dog is highly trainable.
But as some pet parents discover, a smart dog can seem less like an adorable toddler than a know-it-all teenager.
“Smart dogs are often a nuisance,” said Clive D. L. Wynne, a psychology professor who directs the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University. “They get restless, bored and create trouble.”
“聪明的狗通常有点烦人，”亚利桑那州立大学心理学教授、犬类科学合作实验室主管克利夫·D·L·韦恩(Clive D. L. Wynne)说。“它们会焦躁不安，感到无聊，还会创造麻烦。”
Though enthusiasm for canine research is fevered, funding can be hard to come by. Recently, some researchers have locked arms with commerce, to attract so-called citizen scientists (a.k.a. dog owners) to help collect data.
Adam Miklosi, a prominent Hungarian canine behavioral researcher, plans to connect scientists with pet owners who can gather information about their dogs’ habits. His venture, SensDog, uses an iPhone app to communicate with Apple Watch sensors in the animal’s collar.
匈牙利知名犬类行为研究者亚当·密克罗西(Adam Miklosi)打算把科学家和可以搜集自家狗狗习性信息的宠物主人联结起来。他的公司SensDog利用一款苹果应用程序，连接安在狗项圈内的Apple Watch传感器。
Then there’s Dognition, whose website professes to “Find the Genius in Your Dog.” It’s a project led by Brian Hare of Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center in partnership with Purina Pro Plan’s Bright Mind line of dog foods. For $19, owners receive a questionnaire and video instructions to gather information about their dog and submit the data on Dognition’s website. Dognition then sends back a cognitive profile of the pet, especially in comparison with other dogs. More than 25,000 owners have submitted data so far.
还有犬认知(Dognition)，其网站专门致力于“发掘你家狗狗的天赋”。这个项目是由杜克大学(Duke University)犬科动物认知研究中心(Canine Cognition Center)的布赖恩·黑尔(Brian Hare)与普瑞纳冠能(Purina Pro Plan)的Bright Mind狗粮系列合作发起的。狗主人支付19美元，就能收到一份问卷和指导其搜集自家狗狗信息的视频，并把相关信息提交给犬认知网站。随后，犬认知网站会给狗主人发来一份关于其狗狗认知特征——尤其是相较于其他狗狗的特别之处的报告。迄今为止已有超过2.5万名狗主人提交了信息。
Of course, we are still generally talking about dogs as a species. While stereotypes of breeds are deeply rooted, Dr. Hare said, there is no evidence to show that one breed is cognitively superior to another. But in 1999, Stanley Coren, now an emeritus psychologist at the University of British Columbia, produced a list of 110 breeds ranked by intelligence, based on his survey of some 200 professional dog-obedience judges. The top three: Border collie, then poodle followed by German shepherd.
当然了，我们是从整体上把狗当成当作一个物种来讨论的。尽管关于品种的刻板印象颇为深入人心，但黑尔说，没有证据显示一个品种比另一个品种在认知能力上更出色。不过，现为不列颠哥伦比亚大学(University of British Columbia)荣休心理学家的斯坦利·科伦(Stanley Coren)，在1999年基于自己对大约200名犬只服从专业裁判的调查，给出了一份涉及110个品种的智力排行榜。前三甲分别是边境牧羊犬、贵宾犬和德国牧羊犬。
“Giorgio is one-third poodle, so he’s really smart a third of the time,” Ms. Giordano asserted.
(Skulking down at the bottom of the list: bulldog, Basenji, Afghan hound. If it is any consolation, Dr. Hare said scientists did not consider surveys to be definitive proof.)
Certain dogs excel at tasks for which they have been bred for centuries. Bloodhounds have an astonishing sense of smell. Australian shepherds can keep a flock of sheep together as skillfully as a nursery school teacher with a playground full of 3-year-olds.
And, distinctively, dogs seem to trust us for problem-solving help. When they are flummoxed (for example, the rubber ball becomes stuck under a bed, the kitchen door shuts), they turn to their humans, yipping, pawing, gazing dolefully. A wolf reared by a human, by contrast, will just keep trying to solve the problem on its own.
But intelligence per se may not be the trait that truly sets dogs apart, at least in human-animal interaction, researchers say.
“There is something remarkable about dogs,” said Dr. Wynne, who is studying how to train dogs to sniff for bomb-making ingredients. “They have this kind of open hyper-sociability. The dog itself wants to give out love.
“I think ‘smarts’ is a red herring,” he continued. “What we really need in our dogs is affection. My own dog is an idiot, but she’s a lovable idiot.”
Dr. Hare, who is an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke, said he believed that dogs, like humans, had multiple types of intelligence. With Dognition, owners test their dogs in areas of empathy, communication, cunning, memory and reasoning.
Dr. Santos of Yale agrees. “If you want to train an agility dog or a show dog, you value certain traits,” she said. “And if you have a stressful job and a family, you want a companion to cuddle. But they’re both ‘smart.’”