Posts tagged ‘stanley coren’

Dogs are Better Than Prozac

Another headline from the “this really wasn’t news to dog people” files. reports:

UBC professor and author Stanley Coren says dogs work better than Prozac, a prescription antidepressant — and that’s no exaggeration.

According to a study published recently in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, the positive effects of having a familiar, friendly dog close by include lowered blood pressure, slowed heart beat and more relaxed muscles — all signs of reduced stress.

Unlike prescription medications, the positive effects of having a beloved canine close by are also achieved much faster than pills. It took only five to 24 minutes for people to exhibit signs of reduced stress when they were with their dog, compared with the days or weeks it can take before people benefit from the effects of prescription medications intended to deal with stress and depression, according to Coren’s book.

Anyone who shares their life with a dog knew this already.  Had a bad day?  Take your four-legged friend out for a long walk then snuggle for a while on the couch – problem solved.  Your dog’s existential, live in the moment philosophy will rub off on you — at least for a while — and you can let your cares go in the joy of those moments with him.  Why do we feel this way about dogs?  In an interview the Ottowa Citizen Coren replied:

… “God may have created humans, but humans created dogs,” he said.

He explained that in the last 14,000 years, humans have tinkered with breeding so that dogs have become near-perfect companions, and in societies with smaller family units, a bona fide member of the family.


Dr. Coren gets a “fix” from Zip and Audie

December 17, 2008 at 6:08 am 2 comments

Learning About Thinking

Today was our first day at the 2008 IACP conference.  After successfully running yet another vexing gauntlet of dimwits at breakfast, I was pleasantly surprised at how well young Audie adapted to spending an entire day in and out of a series of lectures and discussions. 

I volunteered to take photos for the group, and needed to move around the room to get the shots I wanted of the speakers, vendors and attendees.  Since husband Mark had several business calls to make, this meant that I had to repeatedly leave Zip and Audie on long, out-of-sight, down-stays while I moved around the acre-sized room.  One of the pleasant surprises of the day was that Audie did it so well. 

I love my dogs.

Our first speaker was Brian Kilcommons  who spoke on “New Horizons, Today’s Challenges.”  Brian is a dynamic and engaging speaker.  He started out with a brief history of dog training, then quickly segued into how the schism between behaviors, ‘purely positive trainers’ and more traditional trainers arose — then spoke about the problems that he believes arise out of that divisiveness.

Here! Here!  Can we as dog owners/trainers/behaviorists/aficionados please spend just a wee bit more time working together and sharing ideas than parsing out differences just so we can fight over them?

Next up was Dr. Stanley Coren on “The Psychology of Dogs.”  He discussed theories of mind, self-awareness, other-awareness and inter-species allelomimetic behavior.  I enjoyed the presentation and it was an excellent lead-in to our kenote speaker, Kayce Cover.

Kayce Cover has worked with animals ranging from hermit crabs and rhinoceri — to wolves and human babies.  Oh yeah, and she works with dogs and horses too.  She developed the Syn Alia Training System (formerly known as Bridge and Target Training) that uses three signals to tell an animal when he has done what we want, when he is on the right track, and where we want him to go or make contact. These signals are the Terminal Bridge (TB), the Intermediate Bridge (IB), and the Target (T), respectively.

Here are two interesting videos from youtube showing SynAlia Training Systems (SATS) work with horses (who are easier to see than dogs):

Based on the video clips she presented (interesting, but maddeningly short and poorly edited) and demonstrations with humans and dogs from the audience, Syn Alia really is an amazing system to quickly create a system for two-way communication with an animal of nearly any species.  Fascinating stuff.  Absolutely fascinating.  And it was interesting to see Kayce take over where Dr. Coren left off. 

Scientists tell us that dogs are intelligent.  That they are self-aware and other-aware… but they don’t necessarily tell us what that means. People like Kayce start out assuming that dogs are intelligent, self-aware and other-aware, and use those assumptions to build the foundation for a system of inter species communication.

Oh, and did I also mention that I love Kayce because she has a page on her website that talks about how she supports animal welfare, not animal rights?

Two different sides.  Two different points of view.  Together creating a synergistic whole.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the rest of the dog world could share information this way?

June 7, 2008 at 2:37 am Leave a comment

How Smart is Your Dog?

A Canine Genius?

The CBS “Early Show” recently featured a story about canine intelligence.  They published a list of the top 10 smartest — and dumbest dog breeds.   The list appears to have been taken from Dr. Stanley Coren’s book The Intelligence of Dogs.

Top Ten Dumbest Dogs:

10. Basset Hound
9.   Beagle
8.   Mastiff
7.   Pekingese
6.   Bloodhound
5.   Borzoi
4.   Chow Chow
3.   English Bulldog
2.   Basenji
1.   Afgan

Top Ten Smartest Dogs:

10. Australian Cattle Dog
9.   Rottweiler
8.   Papillon
7.   Labrador Retriever
6.   Shetland Sheepdog
5.   Doberman Pinscher
4.   Golden Retriever
3.   German Shepherd Dog
2.   Standard Poodle
1.   Border Collie

It’s interesting to note that the ‘Smart’ list is full of the biddable working breeds favored by obedience competitors and that the ‘Dumb’ list has a preponderance of independent-minded breeds with exceptionally strong instincts to track or chase.

Some breeds are easier to train — and to live with — than others.  My Kelpie’s intense drive and obsessive compulsive tendenciesfocus would drive most people crazy.  The calm, sweet-natured dog I lost last year to cancer would have been an easy dog for almost anyone to live with.  But – I’m absolutely certain that my darling Kelpie is not the brighter one of the pair.  Like a good Bloodhound or Borzoi, she can become so focused on one aspect of a situation that everything else fades into pointless background noise.  And when that happens I may as well not exist.

If (as I am) you are convinced that CBS’s rankings leave something to be desired, you can now buy a nifty new product to test your dog yourself.  The PoochIQ Kit lets you test your dog’s intelligence and, most importantly, have fun doing it.

The kit includes a testing booklet, scoring key and the dog toys, puzzles and props needed to complete the test.

The price tag ($50) seems a bit hefty to me.  If anyone out there has purchased it, please leave me a comment.  I’d like to find out more about this product before I spend money (it being tax time and all…)

Here’s an interesting video clip of a television reporter testing his producer’s dog with the PoochIQ Kit.

The video provides some interesting clues about how the test is run and makes me wish there was a ‘booklet only’ option.  Since I own a dog training business I have more dog toys, props and related paraphernalia than any sane person needs.  I’d rather not have to buy more stuff I don’t need.

If you’d like to give your dog the relatively short, simple intelligence test designed by Dr. Stanley Coren (author of The Intelligence of Dogs), check out this Australian website.  I just gave the test to my dogs.  It only took about 20 minutes to test the three of them and I had all the equipment I needed on hand.

If you’re interested, young Audie came out as the “genius” of the group with a score of 28 out of 30.  Zip and Zorro were rated are “smart but not ready for Harvard.”

Drop us a comment to let us know how smart your dogs are or take our survey and we’ll publish the results in a week or two.

April 11, 2008 at 6:17 pm 4 comments

Stanley Coren on Dog Intelligence

What do dogs know? How smart are they? Are dogs conscious? Do they have feelings like we do?


 In a recent interview with Alex Tsakiris of http://www.skeptiko.comDr. Stanley Coren stated that dogs’ cognitive powers are roughly equivalent to those of two to three year old human children.  Dogs solve problems, respond to language and play games in much the same way that toddlers do.  We all assume that young children have consciousness.  So doesn’t it seem logical to also assume that dogs have it as well?

 Charles Darwin believed that all aspects of mental life, including consciousness, exist along a continuum. He also recognized that animal consciousness is not the same as human consciousness.  Psychologists understand that very young children are conscious, but they don’t experience a full repertoire of emotions until they’re five or six years old.  Considering this, it may make sense to study animal consciousness by using some of the same techniques commonly employed in studying very young children.

 In doing this, we should also keep in mind that dogs and children are equipped with different kinds of intelligence, consciousness, sensory processing and other cognitive functions.  So, while a dog’s problem solving abilities are similar to a two-year old human child’s – your dog very decidedly does NOT have all the same emotional, sensory and cognitive powers that a two-year old does, and vice-versa.

 In other words, YOUR DOG IS NOT A FUR-BABY!

 For example, your dog’s social consciousness is much closer to a teenager’s than a toddler’s.  The dog is more interested in questions like who’s trying to move up in the pack and who’s sleeping with who than a toddler is.  The dog is probably less interested in music and television than the toddler is. In addition, the dog also has different physical and sensory skills than the toddler does.

 Toddlers don’t experience emotions the same way that adults do, but they do share all our basic emotions: fear, anger, surprise, happiness, sadness, etc.  What they don’t yet have are the learned emotions like guilt, which don’t show up until about four to five years of age.   

 Given this information, it makes no sense to ascribe things like infinite wisdom or infinite empathy to dogs.  Remember, their emotional makeup is similar to that of a two or three year old child, and it seems safe to say that toddlers do not have those qualities.

To read the complete transcript of the interview or download a podcast go to:

March 9, 2008 at 5:42 am 3 comments

Because A Dog’s Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste


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