Thursday, September 17, 2009

Animal minds: Are dogs or wolves smarter?

Animal minds are a big topic now.

Always fascinating for me, but I was all the more intrigued when a local panhandler sold me the "homeless" Outreach paper on the street - always a source of news that should be approached with caution - and guess what?

The lead article informs me that "Wolves are more logical than dogs."

My first reaction was, ''Try telling that to the police van driver whose back door features the notice "Police Dog."

Would the notice "Police Wolf" convince anyone that the creature in back of the van was more "logical"?

I have seen Mounted Police (= Mountie) dogs at work. I was impressed by their ability to disable a human by a simple method: One dog blocks his way forward and - on either side - two dogs grab his jacket wrists. If their captive gets really cold, they lie down on him to keep him warm until officers arrive. But, of course, the dogs have been trained to do all this. If they had flunked, they would not be on the force.

So, nonetheless, wolves are more logical than dogs? That means that wolves are more logical than the people who train working dogs. Well, that could be right, could be wrong. Best look into it.

The story got started at LiveScience: "Wolves Beat Dogs on Logic Test" by staff writer Clara Moskowitz, (03 September 2009 02:11 pm ET). Well, it turns out,
The differences reflect an emphasis on different learning styles, scientists say.

"I wouldn't say one species is smarter," said Adam Miklosi of Eötvös University in Hungary, co-author of a paper describing the results in the Sept. 4 issue of the journal Science. "If you assume an animal has to survive without human presence, then wolves are smarter. But if you are thinking that dogs have to survive in a human environment where it's very important to follow the communications of humans, then in this aspect, dogs are smarter."
The article is replete with stuff about how this is supposed to help us understand human evolution. Not the key questions, no.

The skinny: You want a dog? Excellent dogs wait at animal shelters. I am glad if they do not know they are near the euthanasia room.

Don't get a wolf. Get an animal that is completely happy with human society.