Scientists share simple tests to help you learn how your dog thinks

What kind of thinker is your dog?
Published: Nov. 10, 2015 at 10:19 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 10, 2015 at 10:41 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Take a close look at your dog, stare right into his or her eyes.  Think about how your dog solves problems.  Does your dog have a good memory?

It turns out, according to researchers at Duke University, dog-smarts aren't really based on breed.

There is a way you can measure your pup's brain power and you might look at your best friend a little differently.

"Dogs have different types of intelligence.  It isn't like a cup of water where they have more or less of it.  It isn't really about whether your dog is Einstein.  It really is about whether your dog is a dog that relies on your or he is an independent problem solver.  Does he rely on memory or have a lot of empathy," said Dr. Brian Hare.

Hare is an Associate Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University.  He's also the creator of Dognition which was born of real research being done with pets and their owners at Duke.

Researchers were using games to see how dogs solved problems and those who participated, loved it.  The researchers wanted to open that process to "citizen scientists" all over the world.

"Through Dognition you're going to learn about your dog and how your dog thinks relative to other dogs, so you get something.  But when you contribute your data to the system, that data goes to a huge data set of thousands of dogs where we now can learn about all dogs," Hare told us when we visited him at his office at Duke.

Dognition involves 20 online games that are tests you run your dog through.  It takes a couple of hours to complete them properly and there are technological safeguards in place to make sure you don't "cheat" or breeze your way through by assuming you know what your dog's response will be.

The results will vary by dog and the experts say what you learn will help you better interact with your dog and understand why he or she makes the decisions they do.  Even Dr. Hare, who thought he knew his dog, learned he scored lower on the memory tests. Suddenly things started making sense.

"So when I say sit stay and he walks off I have a very different response now.  It's not like 'oh we need a lot of elbow grease and have to get in there and practice', it's more like poor guy, he probably just forgot," Hare said.

The test costs $19 for the first dog.  You'll need to make some time to compete the tests if you want to do it all at one time but you can complete some of the exercises and then come back to them later.

To see some sample exercises, click here.

Click these links for more information about Dognition and Dr. Hare.

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