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Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think

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The last ten years have seen a revolution in our understanding of dogs, and Brian Hare has led the way.

Hare is an Associate Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University and the co-author – with his wife, Vanessa Woods - of “The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think.”

“Everybody who has a dog is excited to tell you how smart they are,” he said on The State of Things. “But what science is able to contribute is that we compare dogs to other species and we’ve found that dogs are really remarkable.”

How remarkable?

Without training, Hare says dogs are able to learn words and make inferences. Some dogs learn words the first time they encounter them.

Dogs self-domesticated about 40,000 years ago, Hare says. “They chose us, so they got friendlier and they got smarter as a way to live with humans.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0AYIUm__VI&feature=player_embedded

Dogs are very good at solving problems on their own, but they may not be the heroic animals they are often made out to be in popular culture. Hare cites the “bookcase test” where a research project was done to test what dogs would do when its master was pinned under a bookcase and calling for help.

“The truth was, the dog didn’t run off and seek help,” Hare said. “In fact, the dogs just sort of stand around doing nothing.”

Hare has started a website, dognition.com, that will allow dog owners to play a series of science-based games that will reveal their dog’s unique abilities and help build a stronger dog/owner relationship.

Alex Granados joined The State of Things in July 2010. He got his start in radio as an intern for the show in 2005 and loved it so much that after trying his hand as a government reporter, reader liaison, features, copy and editorial page editor at a small newspaper in Manassas, Virginia, he returned to WUNC. Born in Baltimore but raised in Morgantown, West Virginia, Alex moved to Raleigh in time to do third grade twice and adjust to public school after having spent years in the sheltered confines of a Christian elementary education. Alex received a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also has a minor in philosophy, which basically means that he used to think he was really smart but realized he wasn’t in time to switch majors. Fishing, reading science fiction, watching crazy movies, writing bad short stories, and shooting pool are some of his favorite things to do. Alex still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up, but he is holding out for astronaut.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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