Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Poodle Bitch is Deeply Offended

Recently, Poodle Bitch was made aware of an article in "LiveScience" that described a study which concluded that, according to the headline,

Dogs as Smart as 2-year-old Kids.

The "Kids," in this case, refer to human children, not goat children. Poodle Bitch has no idea as to how smart goat children are.

The article begins with this promising assertion:

The canine IQ test results are in: Even the average dog has the mental abilities of a 2-year-old child.

Poodle Bitch was unaware that any dog would sit still for something so ridiculously human as an "IQ test." Ever since she first read Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man, she has been unable to keep a straight face whenever anyone brings up the subject.

The finding is based on a language development test, revealing average dogs can learn 165 words (similar to a 2-year-old child), including signals and gestures, and dogs in the top 20 percent in intelligence can learn 250 words.

Emphasis added, because Poodle Bitch is curious as to how "similar" that is- how many words can a 2 year-old child learn? Is it 164? Is it 166? Is it 200? What's the range for "similar"? Poodle Bitch also wonders about the ages of the dogs tested. Two year-old dogs? Measured in "human," or "dog" years? This would tell Poodle Bitch nothing, anyway, since most dogs merely learn banalities such as "sit," "stay," "heel," and of course the ever-popular "no," and "treat." Poodle Bitch has no interest in what words a two year-old human child can learn, but she hopes they are more enriching than those.

Much more interesting for Poodle Bitch was the idea that dogs might be taught mathematics.

In an arithmetic test, dogs watch as one treat and then another treat are lowered down behind a screen. When the screen gets lifted, the dogs, if they get arithmetic (1+1=2), will expect to see two treats. (For toddlers, other objects would be used.)

First of all, Poodle Bitch has to admit that, unless the "treats" are foie gras, or perhaps tomatoes, she has little interest in counting them. So that's one point for the toddlers, as far as she's concerned. Second, Poodle Bitch is quite impressed that her canine fellow-travelers can count.

Then again, perhaps not.

But say the scientist swipes one of the treats, or adds another so the end result is one, or three treats, respectively. "Now we're giving him the wrong equation which is 1+1=1, or 1+1=3," Coren said. Sure enough, studies show the dogs get it. "The dog acts surprised and stares at it for a longer period of time, just like a human kid would," he said.

The person in charge of this study noted that occasionally a dog acted "surprised," and therefore assumed that s/he was "counting" "treats"? Poodle Bitch hastens to point out that she is rarely "surprised" by the inanity of which humans are capable, but if someone was lowering treats into a clear box before her eyes, she's not sure that her impassive veneer might not crack a little.

Perhaps she would look for the nearest person to bite. For wasting her time.

By the way, the "Coren" referenced above is "Stanley Coren, a canine expert and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia." Poodle Bitch has nothing to say about that- she deeply admires college professors. But she does wonder about something else mentioned in the article.

Coren, who has written more than a half-dozen books on dogs and dog behavior, will present an overview of various studies on dog smarts at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting in Toronto.

Poodle Bitch supposedly only understands 250 words, but she knows when someone is cynically attempting to sell tickets to an annual meeting by promoting study results that are ultimately meaningless.

But, again, Poodle Bitch is not surprised by that. Nor is she perturbed. Like most dogs, she is too busy doing what she does to worry about some human using her to help promote his little gathering. What does give her pause is the rather troubling way in which the canine expert college professor ranks the dog breeds in order of "intelligence."

He found the top dogs, in order of their doggy IQ are:

1. Border collies
2. Poodles
3. German shepherds
4. Golden retrievers
5. Dobermans
6. Shetland sheepdogs
7. Labrador retrievers

No, Poodle Bitch doesn't mind seeing her breed listed as "number 2" on an intelligence list. She does not mind that because she knows the list is meaningless. She has met plenty of Border collies who might not know as much of 17th century British literature as she, but who know very well how to change a tire, something Poodle Bitch has no interest in.

Poodle Bitch would like to know how many of each breed were tested to arrive at these results? Poodle Bitch was not one of the Poodles tested, and therefore she can tell you that not every dog was tested. So, the list is just another way for the canine expert college professor to get his name in the paper.

Humans just love lists. Poodle Bitch understands the need that humans feel to quantify things in this way- it's why movie critics release meaningless "top 10 lists" every year. But in all seriousness, Poodle Bitch would like to know what is the difference between Shetland sheepdogs at number 6 and Dobermans at number 5? Was it one word? Was it that the Shetland sheepdog exhibited less "surprise" over seeing a mismatched number of treats?

As far as Poodle Bitch is concerned, there is one true test of canine intelligence:

Can you find the most optimally comfortable spot in the room? Even if it is halfway under and halfway out from under the bed? If so, then you're as intelligent as she, and Poodle Bitch will offer you a hearty congratulations, and will then linger in your presence until you give her a slice of tomato.


A.Jaye said...

'it's why movie critics release meaningless "top 10 lists"'.

Has poodle bitch been on my blog? That's my most popular post ever.

Ricky Sprague said...

Poodle Bitch would like to assure the gentle critic that she did not have his particular post in mind. But she does hasten to point out that it is telling that your most popular post ever is a top-10 list.

Poodle Bitch would also hasten to point out that your blog has much of compelling interest and encourages anyone and everyone to get to it quickly and often.

A.Jaye said...

Woof woof poodle bitch. My gratitude is canine sincere. I'd offer you a biscuit because tomatoes remind me of the rot on a critical review site.