Can dogs count?

Dog with CalculatorIt’s a fact. Cats are smarter than dogs. In fact they can do some stealthy spy stuff like this Ninja Cat.

But I also have to admit, dogs are pretty damn smart too.

For example, I gave my dog Cocoa two treats yesterday. Instead of just handing them over, I did a little test to see how smart he is.

I put two treats in one hand and I showed them to him.

Before he could get his teeth on them, I closed my fist.

Then I stealthily took one treat out of my (right) hand and put it into the left, thereby having one treat in each hand.

Remember, I’m doing this treat switcheroo while he’s watching and my hands were in front me, not behind me.

He was very intent when he was watching me to this. I wasn’t sure if he knew I was doing but he had his ears perked up and his eyes were focused.

Then I showed him the treat in my right hand while still having my left fist closed. He ate that one.

Then I waited to see what happens.

He actually kept stepping on my left hand, as if he wanted to see what was in it.

In another words, Cocoa knew that there were not one, but TWO, treats.

Cocoa knew the difference between one and two treats.

So dogs aren’t that as dumb as (most) people think.

So I wondered, can dogs actually count as well?

According to this New Scientist article, apparently, they can:

A number of toy dolls are placed in front of a baby and then a screen is raised to hide them. The infant then watches as some dolls are added or taken away before the screen is lowered to reveal the final result.

If the experimenter has played a trick and surreptitiously added or taken away a doll, the baby looks at the dolls for much longer, presumably because he or she had done the calculation and the number of dolls contradicts the baby’s expectations.

Young and West repeated the experiment on 11 mongrels using doggie treats. Sure enough, the dogs stared at the bowls for much longer when the sums did not add up.

Dogs paid little attention when one plus one treat resulted in two treats, the researchers will report in an upcoming issue of Animal Cognition. But they were confused when the experiment was manipulated to show that one plus one treat appeared to equal three treats, for example.

Incredible. Here’s a video clip of an Animal Planet episode where a dog counts by hitting the ground with the answer when asked a mathematical question. (Some of you may think it’s rigged, but hey, who are we to judge.)

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