One size doesn’t fit all: Looking at the 9 behavioral profiles of dogs
Special to the Sun
TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — Popular TV dog trainers solve complicated behavior problems in a 40-minute show. Books abound promising quick fixes to troubling canine behaviors. Free advice is everywhere ranging from “be the alpha” to “make a ch-ch sound” to “just use a shock collar” whenever your dog misbehaves.
The study of canine learning and behavior is a rapidly growing area of science, boasting some of the best and brightest behavioral and cognitive scientists in the world.
Progressive, professional trainers have been teaching using methods rooted in behavioral science for nearly 20 years, but we are constantly learning more about the vast differences dogs display when learning and processing information.
One tool I love is called Dognition, which is a series of 20 tests you take your dog through to identify what kind of learner he/she is. This is the brainchild of Dr. Brian Hare, co-dounder of Dognition and director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center.
Dr. Hare and his team have developed an easy to use online tool (dognition.com). Once you know your dog’s learning style, you can tailor your communication and training approach. The site collects the data supplied by “citizen scientists” so, by participating, you are part of this exciting field of study!
Dognition identifies nine learning profiles:
The Ace: Aces are the dogs with it all — pros at reading and understanding social information, and just as good at solving problems on their own.
The Charmer: Charmers have exceptional social skills, meaning they can read human body language like a book.
The Socialite: Socialites gracefully interact and communicate with others. They rely less on independent problem solving skills than other dogs and rely on a very specific strategy — using the humans in their pack to get what they want.
The Expert: Dogs with the Expert profile have all of the cognitive tools they need to solve most of their daily problems on their own. They have a relatively strong memory along with the ability to solve many types of problems they’ve never seen before.
The Renaissance Dog: Rather than being completely dependent on individual cognitive strategies, Renaissance dogs show impressive flexibility across all 5 cognitive dimensions.
The Protodog: Protodogs are flexible when it comes to solving problems on their own, but with sufficient social acumen to turn to humans for help when needed.
The Einstein: While many dogs struggle when it comes to cause and effect, Einsteins have an excellent comprehension of the physical world. They also show one of the key qualities of genius: the ability to make inferences.
The Maverick: Mavericks are relatively unique in the dog world. These dogs definitely prefer to tackle problems independently, and when it comes to understanding the physical world, hold their own compared to other dogs.
The Stargazer: Stargazers are usually considered to be aloof by their owners. Generally their cognition is geared towards self-reliant and present-minded strategies, rather than being overly concerned with past events and human collaboration. They have a wild, wolf-like side that can be a great compliment to the lifestyle of a rugged individual.
Which learning profile best describes your dog? You may be surprised how little you know about the being that shares your bed!
Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog in Truckee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.