Dogs may be smarter than most people think they are, according to the findings of a Canadian researcher. But when it comes to knowing that they’re getting shafted, they are just as dumb as a lot of politicians–and the voters who support them.
The web site LiveScience yesterday reported on recent studies conducted by Stanley Coren, an academic from British Columbia who has done extensive research on canine intelligence. Coren says that the average dog compares favorably with a human two-year-old in language abilities; smarter breeds, like my Border collie, rate with kids six months older, and can understand about 250 words. Dogs fare even better in math, showing abilities similar to a four-year-old. And in terms of social development, they are more comparable to human teens, Coren says, “interested in who is moving up in the pack and who is sleeping with who and that sort of thing.” (This may or may not be a compliment to dogs, depending on what you think of teenagers).
Coren also studied the responses of dogs on some issues that might be seen to have political implications:
While dogs know whether they’re being treated fairly, they don’t grasp the concept of equity. Coren recalls a study in which dogs get a treat for “giving a paw.”
When one dog gets a treat and the other doesn’t, the unrewarded dog stops performing the trick and avoids making eye contact with the trainer. But if one dog, say, gets rewarded with a juicy steak while the other snags a measly piece of bread, on average the dogs don’t care about the inequality of the treats.
If that’s the criteria, it appears that dogs suffer from the same intellectual shortcomings as some adult humans. Why else would so many working-class and middle-class people vote for politicians who oppose tax hikes for the rich? Why else would they stick up for a health care system that screws them over, leaving them with crumbs while the wealthy and the insurance and drug companies keep their jaws around the juicy steak?
In this area, at least, canine intelligence seems to be about on par with that of most Republicans–and quite a few Democrats, too. (Again, you may or may not think this is a compliment to dogs. I know what I think.)