Pet book review: “The Genius of Dogs” – anyone interested in dog behaviour must read this

The Genius of Dogs – first published in 2013 – is one of those books that has become “required reading” by anyone interested in dog behaviour. The authors have impeccable credentials – Brian Hare has researched dog behaviour for many years, and is the founder of the Duke Canine Cognition Center. His co-author is his wife Vanessa Woods, an award winning journalist. Their book brings out the best of each author’s skills, providing well-presented and easy-to-read accounts of research that clearly demonstrates the intelligence of dogs.

The sub-title of the book – How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think – gives a sense of the overall tone of the book. Their argument is that intelligence should be seen from the perspective of the animal, rather than from the human point of view. Dogs may not be able to recognise themselves in a mirror, but when shown several puddles of urine, they can instantly identify which one is their own. How many humans could do that?

The authors point out that the dog is perhaps the most successful mammal on the planet (apart from humans), sharing our lives in almost every corner of the planet. This takes a particular type of intelligence and adaptability. They reference over six hundred scientific papers at the back of the book, so if there is any particular aspect of their work that you want to find out more about, you can easily read more by looking up the detailed studies in Google Scholar.

The book is written in an easy to read style, recounting well-designed experiments that demonstrate the cleverness of dogs. From early intelligence tests with his own pet dogs in Brian’s parents’ garage, to more complex work in the Cognition Center, to Russian scientists’ studies of the domestication of foxes to comparisons with great apes in Africa, the book presents a detailed, up to date review of the scientific assessment of canine intelligence.
If you want to know more about how your dog’s mind works, read this book.

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