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Veterinary Forum January 2008 (Vol 25, No 1)

Dogs seem to be deep thinkers

    VIENNA, Austria — Dogs can classify complex color photographs and place them into categories in the same way that humans do, according to a study by Friederike Range and colleagues from the University of Vienna in Austria.

    The dogs successfully demonstrated their ability to learn by using computer-automated touch screens, eliminating potential human influence — every time the dog picked the correct answer, a treat was automatically dispensed. The study was recently published online in Animal Cognition.

    To test whether dogs can visually categorize pictures and transfer their knowledge to new situations, four dogs were asked to choose between landscape and dog photographs using a computer touch screen. The dogs were shown both photographs and were rewarded with food if they selected the dog picture. The dogs then took part in two tests.

    In the first test, the dogs were shown different pictures of either dogs or landscapes. They continued to reliably select the dog photographs, demonstrating that they could transfer the knowledge gained during training to a new set of visual stimuli.

    In the second test, the dogs were shown new dog pictures, but they were pasted onto the original landscapes. They now faced contradictory information: on the one hand, dogs were in the picture; on the other hand, landscapes were in the picture.

    When the dogs were faced with a choice between the new dog on the familiar landscape and a completely new landscape with no dog, they reliably selected the option with the dog. These results show that the dogs mentally formed a concept, "dog," although the experiment cannot tell us whether they recognized the dog pictures as actual dogs.

    "Using touch-screen computers with dogs opens up a whole world of possibilities on how to test the cognitive abilities of dogs by basically controlling any influence from the owner or experimenter," the researchers said in a press statement.

    They added that the method also can be used to test a range of learning strategies and might enable researchers to compare the cognitive abilities of different species using a single method.

    View the Video: Guinness Land Dog 1
    View the Video: Guinness Land Dog 2

    NEXT: Editor's Note

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