People often think that dogs are not capable of reasoned thinking, but recent studies prove that many dogs are capable of fantastic feats. One of the more miraculous tasks dogs are now undertaking happens to also be taught in schools to children across the globe — math!
While these dogs are not learning how to calculate the hypotenuse of an isosceles triangle, or how to solve for X, they are surprising handlers with their ability to perform some basic arithmetic (albeit VERY basic).
Meet Poco, The Counting Labrador
Poco is a Black Lab with one of these exceptional skills — he can count. And though he can only count to five, for a canine that is still a pretty remarkable feat. Poco shows off his ability through a modified game of fetch.
How it works is his handler holds out up to five identical toys, shows Poco how many toys he has, and tosses them all across the yard. Once the toys are all strewn out, Poco begins the hunt, bringing back one toy at a time. “Poco, fetch!” says Poco’s handler every time he returns with a toy, and Poco heads back out to search for another toy. Once the number of toys is reached, the handler repeats the command “Poco, fetch!” to which Poco replies with a knowing bark, signifying that all the toys have been collected.
So, if the handler tosses out three toys, the fourth time he says “Poco, fetch!” Poco responds by heeling and barking “No more toys, dummy!” proving that Poco can, in fact, count up to five.
Doggies Doing Math
In another study, dogs were given a test similar to one given to infants, used to determine whether babies are capable of grasping basic arithmetic. Pinning itself on the principle of “preferential viewing,” or that we have a tendency to focus longer on something unexpected, in this test, the expected would be 1+1=2, and the unexpected being 1+1=1 or 1+1=3.
The test works like so:
The experimenter shows the dog a treat on the table. He then puts up a screen, blocking the treat from view. Then, he shows the dog a second treat, placing it down beside the first treat, still out of view. Finally, he removes the screen.
The test (or trick, depending on how you look at it) comes into play when the results are revealed. Sometimes, behind the curtain there are the two treats, side by side, just like one would rightfully infer. No surprise there. Other times, just one treat would be there, causing the dog to stare more intently, as if to question, “What happened to the second treat?” Or, in some tests, the curtain will be removed to reveal three treats, causing the dog to focus in the same way, asking, “Where did that extra treat come from?”
The fact that the dogs responded to the test in much the same way as babies shows that they have a capacity for understanding the basic principles for addition. Not exactly groundbreaking, but for a dog, still pretty impressive.
PetPlus is a new benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding and more.