Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Dognition: Canine Assessment Toolkit

Around a month ago a friend of mine posted about her dog's experience in a beta-test of a canine cognition test created by a company called Dognition.  I read a little bit about it, and immediately signed up, though the program was still in beta testing, and they didn't need anymore testers.  I received an email from Dognition about a week or two ago and was offered a really great discount on the Canine Assessment Toolkit (the test itself).  I treated myself to the test for both dogs for my birthday.

A little about the science (from Dognition's website, linked above):
"Dognition is not about ranking dog IQ scores.  It's about discovering which skills your own dog relies on to navigate the world -- the ones your dog excels at as well as the challenges.  Knowing your dog's 'cognitive style' can help shed light on where your best friend is coming from -- and the new places your relationship can go."

Dogs are tested on the canine cognitive dimensions they've defined below:

Each test is more like a game, and helps Dognition come up with a profile categorizing how your dog processes different games, challenges, and requests.  Honestly, they were mostly a lot of fun!  I really loved watching the dogs think through different things, and of course they thought through most games very differently.

I don't want to give them all away, but one of my favorite examples was asking your dog to "leave it" a treat (your dog doesn't need to know any commands to play the games, but they can be used).  The first time you time your dog to see how long they will leave it as you watch them.  Then you time them to see how long they leave it when your back is turned.  And the third time, you time them to see how long they leave it when you cover your eyes.

Lexi didn't eat the treat at all.  She just watched us the whole time.  Bentley waited until our backs were turned, and helped himself!  

It took us almost a week (they recommend that you don't do the games all at once--each section takes 15-30 minutes), but we finished tonight and received each dogs' individualized reports.

Again, I don't want to give it all away, but they were completely SPOT ON!  The report was able to define what I've always known about the dogs, but was never able to verbalize.

A few nuggets from each of their profiles:

Lexi was categorized as a "Charmer".  Tagline?  "A smooth operator, the charmer relies on a secret weapon--you!"

"Lexi can work a problem out on her own as well as anybody, but she prefers to rely on her secret weapon - you. As a Charmer, Lexi has exceptional social skills, which means she can read your body language like a book. She is not above using this information to get her own way. Lexi is no fool when it comes to independent problem solving, and her scores reflect a keen understanding of the physical world. However, Lexi's real genius is that she sees you as an ally and partner, and she will usually turn to you for help before trying to figure out a problem on her own."

"Lexi's empathy scores were off the charts...You probably often find her staring at you for no reason. You might wonder if Lexi is trying to tell you something, like she is hungry, needs to go to the bathroom or wants to weigh in on an interesting issue you've both just seen on television. But Lexi may not want or need anything - she may just be seeking your gaze because she is just hugging you with her eyes."

"Lexi is definitely retrospective, with a rat-like spatial memory. She can probably recall rich details about where things are located throughout your house and neighborhood."

Bentley was categorized as a "Protodog".  Tagline? "The protodog is reminiscent of the first dogs that began their relationship with early mankind -- burgeoning social skills allowed dogs like yours to become a much loved member of the human pack."

"Thousands of years ago, when our human and canine ancestors first began their extraordinary relationship, there was something about certain types of wolves that distinguished them from the rest of the pack. Rather than a traditional form of intelligence, these pioneer dogs, or protodogs, had budding social skills that allowed them to approach and interact with humans. Bentley is reminiscent of these first dogs. Independent problem solving may not be a strong suit, but he has what counts - a desire to communicate and connect with you."

"Bentley's performance is highly collaborative. It looks like he relies on an infant-like strategy that allows him to flexibly use human gestures to solve all types of problems."

"If Bentley is good at solving a problem but can't solve a new version, then he probably learned to solve the original problem through lots of practice, without necessarily understanding much about the problem in the first place." (Relates 100% to his contact performance!)

Anyways, I thought it was fun, interesting, and eye-opening!  As they gather more data, they also share information broken down by country, state, category, breed, etc.  I can't wait to learn more!


  1. How very cool! Sounds fun and interesting...might have to give it a try!

  2. Pretty Cool. I would like to try those tests with my guys. Pretty sure Keltic would steal the treat as soon as he though I wasn't looking.

  3. Sounds like a very interesting and fun test!