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The Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide to the Thoughts, Emotions, and Inner Lives of Our Canine Companions [Paperback]

Stanley Coren
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Dec 2005
How Smart Is Your Dog? If you've ever wondered what is really going on inside your dog's head, here is your chance to find out. In this revised and updated version of this perennially popular book, psychologist and prizewinning trainer Stanley Coren provides a startling view of the intelligence of our oldest and closest animal companions. Do dogs really think? Are they conscious in the same way humans are? What is the nature of canine memory? Can dogs communicate with us -- and, if so, how can we understand them? Do they have feelings such as guilt, loyalty, and jealousy? Do they experience joy and sorrow? Drawing on scientific research that has stood the test of the past decade, interviews with top breeders and trainers, and his own personal observations as a lifelong dog lover, Stanley Coren speculates on these and many other fascinating questions about man's best friend. He offers practical tips on how to evaluate your dog's body language and understand the sophisticated "language" of a dog's bark, and how to tailor a training program to suit your dog's special needs. Here, too, are the famous, controversial lists and rankings of more than 100 breeds for obedience and working intelligence, as well as for specialized tasks such as hunting, home security, and companionship. Rich in wit, wisdom, and anecdote, The Intelligence of Dogs is a book that will bring you a greater understanding and enjoyment of the habits, antics, and abilities of your dog.

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The Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide to the Thoughts, Emotions, and Inner Lives of Our Canine Companions + How To Speak Dog + Think Dog!: An Owner's Guide to Canine Psychology
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (1 Dec 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743280873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743280877
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.4 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 716,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
It is remarkable to think that if you were living in the Stone Age, some fourteen thousand years ago, and you glanced across the flickering campfire, you might well have seen a dog that looked much like any dog that you might see in the streets of our cities or even resting at your feet today. Read the first page
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good book to have in a personal library. 6 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A nice book to read, as a avid reader the book is in a good condition, considering it came fro a library.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a clever dog I have ! 5 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I highly recommend this book , every dog owner could learn a lot from this very well written book .
My purchase arrived very quickly and in woofingly good condition !
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  44 reviews
136 of 150 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Perpetuating Ignorance, Not Explaining Intelligence 16 Aug 2009
By Susan Zyphur - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a trainer who has actually studied and researched dog behavior, I had trouble reading this book. On several occasions I put it down in disgust, unable to read another word. But, because I want to be widely versed in dog behavior - even if it's just the inaccurate garbage that my clients might be exposed to - I did read it in its entirety. I have trouble citing anything from this book that is factual and would make it worth reading, apart from perhaps the entertaining historical anecdotes. If you want to know about dog intelligence, the dog behavior professional should read "Applied Dog Behavior and Training" by Lindsay (all 3 volumes) to start. For seriously interested dog owners and /or professionals, I recommend "Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition" by Ádám Miklósi. For lighter reading, Alexandra Horowitz's "Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know" is very good. Both the latter authors are doing research in the field of canine cognition, and so actually know a thing or two about the subject (unlike Coren).

The dog owner should understand that the "tests" in this book mean absolutely nothing and may actually be harmful by labeling a dog "dominant" or "aggressive" when he is nothing of the sort. Here are the main problems I found with Coren's book:

* Excessive reference to dominance theory, including the terms "alpha," "pack leader," etc. Dominance theory was created based on faulty research in the mid-20th century, which has since been updated and has been mostly thrown out when referring to pet dogs. Your pet dog is not a pack animal - if it were, it would kill every intruder to its territory, including the mail carrier, guests, and dogs that come to visit for "play dates." We could not live with a pack animal, and through the domestication process we have bred it out for our own convenience. Current research points to dogs as solitary animals, congregating in groups of 2-3 when food scarcity requires it. They are different enough from wolves that they simple can't be compared the way we used to think they could. Your dog does not jump up on you to establish dominance, nor as a sign of "disrespect." Humans are the ones obsessed with respect (or the lack of it), not dogs. Dogs know we are not dogs; they're not that stupid. And to assume that all dogs think about is social rank and dominance is simplifying their intelligence unnecessarily; most dogs could care less and have far better things to think about, such as how to get you to fill the food dish or pick up the leash. Coren likens dog intelligence to that of 2-year-olds, and yet doesn't make the connection that most dogs out there are trying to manipulate us - just like 2-year-olds - not dominate us.

*The "intelligence tests" themselves are not based on any sort of scientific research, nor was any research done to determine whether or not they are accurate. Simply reading them, I couldn't find a single test that I felt would be an accurate reflection of what they tested for. There were too many other ways - much easier, simpler, more reasonable ways - to interpret the results. For example, a dog that does not explore and show immediate interest in an environment that you have altered dramatically is given a low "score." However, a well socialized dog, used to seeing many different things and learning to take them all in stride, may show little or no interest - and you WANT that. Alternatively, if you're the type that rearranges the furniture often, the dog may be so used to it that he ignores the change. A dog that is quick to react and explore may well be neurotic, not intelligent. For another test, a dog is supposed to attempt to get a treat from beneath a towel. The author recommends using a biscuit. A dog, being an intelligent animal, may well decide that the effort involved in finding the biscuit is not worth the biscuit itself (being a very low-value food reward), thus scoring low on the test. A "spoiled" dog that is used to having problems solved for him will simply wait for you to retrieve the biscuit. I'd call these pretty intelligent dogs, personally. A dog that doesn't like his equipment (not uncommon if choke chains, prong collars, or the like are used) or that isn't walked on a leash often will fail test 1. A dog taught to "leave it," whether formally or informally, will fail test 2. Test 5 will likely be failed if you haven't taught your dog to hold eye contact, which is an unnatural behavior for dogs. In summary, some of the tests will insult your dog's intelligence, not test it. They are better used to show how much training your dog has received.

*The "personality tests" were simply ridiculous. Again, many of them test training, not personality, and they all are supposed to be able to gauge your dog's level of "dominance." Research has shown that the only personality factor that is worth testing in puppies is fear - all other factors tested were unrelated to dogs' adult personalities. Coren also suggests a puppy handling protocol that is actually different from that used by the US Army, and says "there is no harm in handling the pup for a longer period of time" than he suggests. This is false, harm can be done by over-handling of young puppies; it creates neurotic adult dogs.

*He refers to dog-human interactions in such cold terms that is debases the nature of the human-animal relationship. He described dogs "submitting to" the "commands" of their human "masters." Perhaps this is how he truly sees it, having been in the military and likely having a background in compulsion training. Luckily, training methods have evolved, and trainers have a better understanding of how learning and behavior occur. Dogs don't "obey" - they simply react the way that works best in a given situation. Humans, having a weakness for power and feeling important, sometimes interpret this as "obedience" and thus they think they have "control" over the dog. Nothing could be further from the truth. His attitude toward dogs and their behavior are a reflection of the type of training that was popular decades ago - current trainers with any sort of understanding of learning theory would never refer to dog behavior the way he does.

*He used obedience judges as "experts" in dog intelligence. Maybe it's just me, but somehow I think that someone who researches dog intelligence might be a better expert than someone who judges the effectiveness of a dog's training. (Let me note here that Coren does not research dog intelligence - his academic training has, in fact, nothing to do with dogs. He is a hobby judge and showman. He isn't an expert in dog intelligence - he just decided to write a book on it. I could write a book on the work Cohen did for his Ph.D., but that doesn't mean I'll have any idea what I'm talking about.) Obedience judges are trained to quantify how well a dog has been trained - not how easy or difficult it was to train any of them, taking into account the methods used and the experience of the trainer, the power of the reinforcers or punishers used, etc. His "experts" were poorly chosen. He says himself that he spoke to obedience judges because he found the idea of properly analyzing his data too daunting. I suppose it doesn't matter which he ended up doing, because he hadn't collected enough obedience trial data to yield accurate results, anyway, so either way his list of dogs by intelligence would be worth very little.

*His interpretation of dog body language is inaccurate, which must have been difficult to accomplish given the many good resources on dog body language. I recommend Turid Rugaas's book "On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals" and "Canine Behavior" by Barbara Handelman if this aspect of the book interested you.

In summary, this is a book written to be sold and create revenue, not to increase awareness of dogs or dog behavior. In fact, it does the opposite. It has a feature many find attractive - an intelligence test! Unfortunately, the tests do nothing of the sort. I'd hold off on trying to test your dog's intelligence until we figure out how to do it with people, which we currently aren't really sure how to do accurately. If you want to know how intelligent your dog is, ask yourself why it matters - every individual dog has something to offer, regardless of how "smart" or well-trained he is. Look for the things your dog is good at and emphasize those to bring the best out of him every day.
48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great practical utility for testing and understanding dogs 13 Feb 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
"The Intelligence of Dogs" is the most practical book on dog behavior I have ever read. It contains two separate tests, both developed by the Seeing Eye people to prequalify their dogs. The tests are extensive, and quantify: problem solving ability, memory, biddability, aggressiveness/passivity, steadiness, and other important personality traits of a puppy or dog. I used this test to prequalify a stray border collie puppy before adopting her. After 3 years, I would rate the test results "highly accurate."
In addition, Coren describes the psychology and behavior of dogs in the wild, and how this can be used to better communicate with and train your dog. Works like a charm.
Never mind the controversial list of general intelligence of different breeds. The practical utility of the book is in testing and communicating with *your* dog...or a dog you are considering for adoption or purchase.
41 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Celebration of Dogs 10 July 2000
By "pecdoc" - Published on Amazon.com
I loved this book! Its not because Stan Coren was my professor almost 30 years ago, or because there's a mixed Border Collie (Rank #1) / German Shepherd (Rank #3) savant sitting on my foot as I type. I loved this book because it is truly a celebration of the DOG. It captures the essence of that marvelous companion who unquestionably trusts us, undeniably loves us, and unconditionally accepts us wherever WE might rank on some psychologist's list. Coren eloquently captures the essence of our canine companions in his obvious affection for the subject matter.
The book's title, "The Intelligence of Dogs" should have been "The Intelligence of ALL Dogs," because some people seem to be hung up on "the list" and think the book is about "The Intelligent Dogs." As a psychologist myself, I know how people can focus on rankings and comparative lists, and in the process lose perspective of the whole picture. We get defensive because our Dalmatians were spotted 39th, and angry when our Afghans wagged the distribution's tail in last place. Know what? It doesn't matter. Don't throw the puppy out with the bath water; the rest of the book will balm you even though your Labrador retrieved only a 7 ranking. The canine history section alone is worth the price. But the real problem now is, how do I break the news to brilliance here that he was descended from a proto-cat?
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars easy, informative and useful 10 Nov 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Many of the criticizms of this book are unfair. The author quite clearly explains how the now famous or infamous (depending upon how you feel about it) was compiled. He also conveys that the list does not necessarily tell you that one breed of dog is "smarter" than another and many of the differences are explained. These critics are more likely reacting in a defensive way and did not thoroughly read the book or many of their suspicions would have been allayed. These were obedience judges and trainers who responded with their experience and insight to inquiries made by the author and a list was tabulated. If you want an intelligent and trainable dog, consider using the list as one of many criteria in your decision. One can make of the list what they will. The rest of the information in the book is of far greater value. Yes, there are some points that could have been covered in more detail, but then the author could have written a volume of encyclopedias on the subject of dogs and still not covered everything there is to know. I.e., there is a puppy personality test used to test the temperment and possible obedience potential of a puppy. One of the tests involved pinching a pup's ear between thumb and forefinger with increasing pressure to see how the animal reacts to pain. While shopping for Doberman puppies I performed this test several times and I could not get a single one to do much more than casually turn it's head. Does this mean that the dog does not feel pain and is therefore untrainable? Of course not. Maybe this particular breed has less sensitive ears, maybe it does not. I have no idea why this happened. The point is to be mindful that not everything falls into convenient catagories and there is no black and white; just shades of gray. One caveat must be born in mind if you are considering this book, if you are merely seeking assurance and\or validation as to how bright your dog or breed of dog is with just a cursory glance at the book, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. If you are prepared to read, learn and remain objective, you will do yourself and your canine counterpart a wonderful service.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligence listing based on OBEDIENCE training ability 23 Aug 1998
By sulingb@aol.com - Published on Amazon.com
The list provided that ranks dogs by intelligence is based on the ease of training, (the number of repetitions required of an action before the dog learned it) not overall intelligence. Dogs of all breeds can be very smart and within any breed there are ranges of intelligences. I used to have a Peke that would run rings around any Sheltie in the obedience ring. Some dogs only need to be shown something a few times to learn it. Those dogs are usually your Herding, Working and Sporting breeds. They were bred to work WITH man and to OBEY his commands. Some breeds, like the Terriers and the northern breeds, were bred to think for themselves. Does this mean they are not intelligent? Hardly. THis is a great book for anyone who has dogs and wants to understand them better.
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