The Genius of Dogs is intended as a fun yet comprehensive review of the published scientific literature relevant to understanding dog cognition. In the last ten years there has been an explosion of scientific research and discovery around dog cognition, and this work had not yet been reviewed in a popular book. Dognition is of course largely based on ideas and work reviewed in The Genius of Dogs.
The book explains how a cognitive approach allowed for the discovery of dog genius as well as an appreciation for the limits of dogs’ abilities. We used this new knowledge to propose a cognitive approach to training dogs (see Chapter 10 of The Genius of Dogs). We’ve received a number of thoughtful responses to our proposal. I wanted to write this post to clarify how I think a cognitive approach to training complements the positive training techniques already in use today.
Based on our review of the published literature, we conclude that dogs are remarkable relative to other animals in terms of their ability to use information from humans in solving problems they otherwise cannot solve. In the social domain dogs have a gift. However, at the same time a cognitive approach has revealed ways in which dogs are unremarkable. In comparison with a variety of other species, it appears dogs are below average when it comes to understanding physical reasoning or learning things on their own. In our chapters on training we use this new scientific knowledge to suggest ways that trainers might harness the genius of dogs while working around a dog’s cognitive limitations. The goal of this cognitive approach would be to make current training techniques even more effective than they already are.
A number of questions have been raised about our cognitive approach to training, which I have attempted to address below: Continue reading