Dog gone smart

My one-year-old Weimaraner dog, Jasper, is an expert at getting his message across. For example, when he stands by the door and barks loudly, he wants to go outside. When he puts his 70 pound "puppy" frame on my lap, he wants affection and/or attention. He does all of this, obviously, without verbal communication.

Animals are much smarter than they appear, as evidenced by an article in Time magazine* that explores the minds of animals. In the August 16, 2010 issue of the magazine, reporter Jeffrey Kluger discusses how apes are able to learn languages through pictures and signs. The apes can put together sentences, which helps to show that their minds are capable of learning like a human.

Kluger says that "mammals are members of the cerebral-cortex club," so the bigger that region of the brain is, the smarter the animal. Animals such as birds have a smaller brain size compared to dogs and apes, but the bird uses better creative skills for everyday functions. A bird can collect food and build a nest, and some can even be taught to talk (the parrot for example).

The study shows that the animal's environment also contributes to their brain capacity, and feelings such as a sense of loss and awareness are very much present in animals. Elephants and apes mourn the dead; other animals wait for reinforcements before they plan an attack. Animals have emotions and have shown awareness to things going on around them.

The Time article includes a diagram, which shows the smartest animals:

  • "Apes and cetaceans (such as dolphins): The animal elite, they have complex societies, big brains and awareness of self.
  • Corvids (birds): They excel at tool use and problem solving; have strong social bonds.
  • Social Carnivores (such as lions): Group hunting requires coordination and communication.
  • Herd Animals (such as buffalo): They live collectively but have no social structure; very limited intellect.
  • Bivalves (shellfish): No smarts to speak of; may well lack even consciousness."

Nobody can tell me that Jasper does not think methodically, because it takes brain power and emotions for him to carry out his actions. He shows how manipulative he can be when he jumps on the couch and pretends to nuzzle me affectionately, but is really trying to push me off so that he can have it to himself. He displays a sense of moodiness when he avoids his bedtime and starts to throw a tantrum before he finally enters his crate.

Jasper; Credit: Blayne JeffriesJasper thinking about how to avoid an early bedtime.

Jasper shows happiness, understanding at times, and a lack of enthusiasm when it rains and he refuses to go outside until it stops. Yes, indeed, animals can feel, think, and can sometimes outsmart us humans.

*The full version of the article appears in the August 16, 2010 print version of Time magazine.

–Blayne Jeffries

3 responses

  1. I guess Jasper would be considered a member of the pack animals, like wolves. Unlike herd animals (buffalo), they have intelligence and deeply care for their young. I guess that’s why they do so well with us humans. Rosemary

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