After reading A Virtual Pack, to Study Canine Minds i tested Boudicca, a 7 year old female Jack Russell terrier, using the easiest test demonstrated in the video [link provided in sources]. If you’re interested in conducting your own test, the demonstration begins at approximately 3:28 minutes.
I’ve previously tested her ability to follow pointing gestures, but never using food. In the previous test, I demonstrated how Boudicca positioned herself according to where I pointed. I came across this concept in Adam Miklosi’s book “dog behavior, evolution, and cognition” (2007). Additionally, Stanley Coren suggested pointing was relevant to dogs in his book “How to Speak Dog” (2000).
The more I studied dogs, training dogs and behavior, the more interested cognitive studies became, not just on dogs, but other species as well. I view understanding dog’s abilities through cognitive studies a bit differently from how behaviorists generally form their conclusions regarding training dogs and/or other animals derived from laboratory tests conducted decades ago.
I’ve included the following definitions for cognition and learning [used in behavioral science] taken directly and inclusively if one is not familiar with the differences. It’s also important to keep in mind these are simple definitions, both views can be defined using an extensive literature review.
Cognition defined Wikipedia:
In science, cognition is a group of mental processes that includes attention, memory, producing and understanding language, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making. Various disciplines, such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science all study cognition. However, the term’s usage varies across disciplines; for example, in psychology and cognitive science, “cognition” usually refers to an information processing view of an individual’s psychological functions. It is also used in a branch of social psychology called social cognition to explain attitudes, attribution, and groups dynamics. In cognitive psychology and cognitive engineering, cognition is typically assumed to be information processing in a participant’s or operator’s mind or brain.
Cognition is a faculty for the processing of information, applying knowledge, and changing preferences. Cognition, or cognitive processes, can be natural or artificial, conscious or unconscious. These processes are analyzed from different perspectives within different contexts, notably in the fields of linguistics, anesthesia, neurology and psychiatry, psychology, philosophy, anthropology, systemics, andcomputer science.[page needed] Within psychology or philosophy, the concept of cognition is closely related to abstract concepts such as mind, intelligence. It encompasses the mental functions, mental processes (thoughts), and states of intelligent entities (humans, collaborative groups, human organizations, highly autonomous machines, and artificial intelligences).
Learning defined Wikipedia:
Learning is acquiring new, or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals and some machines. Progress over time tends to follow learning curves. Learning is not compulsory; it is contextual. It does not happen all at once, but builds upon and is shaped by what we already know. To that end, learning may be viewed as a process, rather than a collection of factual and procedural knowledge. Learning is based on experience. Learning produces changes in the organism and the changes produced are relatively permanent.
Human learning may occur as part of education, personal development, schooling, or training. It may be goal-oriented and may be aided by motivation. The study of how learning occurs is part of neuropsychology, educational psychology, learning theory, and pedagogy. Learning may occur as a result of habituation or classical conditioning, seen in many animal species, or as a result of more complex activities such as play, seen only in relatively intelligent animals. Learning may occurconsciously or without conscious awareness. Learning that an aversive event can’t be avoided nor escaped is called learned helplessness. There is evidence for human behavioral learning prenatally, in which habituation has been observed as early as 32 weeks into gestation, indicating that the central nervous system is sufficiently developed and primed for learning and memory to occur very early on in development.
Explanation and background for my experiment:
As previously stated, Miklosi’s textbook helped me understand was not just how dogs learned, but what they were capable of learning or what might explain difficulties in learning, specifically those areas covered under the definition of cognition. Through my experiences training Boudicca, a Jack Russell terrier, dog natural abilities and problems with learning made more sense. Being familiar with the concept that dogs might understand human pointing gestures, I used them in training, specifically for directional work away from me and at distances. An example for Boudicca was instructing her exactly where to find hidden objects. Hunters and shepherds use these types of signals to guide purposeful behaviors of dogs, for example sending them to the right or left. This may also explain why dogs generally understand visual signals better than verbal.
The video “Pointing Test Two Trials 10 Repetitions Each Boudicca April 24, 2013” here http://youtu.be/O8agRtyOLzI demonstrates Boudicca has a very good idea where I want her to go. Using two trials and 10 repetitions, she scores a whopping 100% on the first trial and 80% on her second trial, that is better than chance!
All I’ve done during the early years of training was take advantage of something uncovered in reading and research. And even though when training I apply the principles of learning theory understanding what my dog was capable of helped me to not just train her for specific tasks and games but to accept her capabilities even taking into consideration breed specific behaviors that might interfere.
- A Virtual Pack, to Study Canine Minds by Carl Zimmer http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/23/science/enlisting-a-virtual-pack-to-study-dog-minds.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0&pagewanted=all
- Direct Link to video http://nyti.ms/10wJ1ZZ A Virtual Pack, to Study Canine Minds
- dog behavior, evolution, and cognition (2007) by Adam Miklosi
- How to Speak Dog (2000) by Stanley Coren
- Pointing Test Two Trials 10 Repetitions Each Boudicca April 24, 2013 http://youtu.be/O8agRtyOLzI