My dumb dogs and the possible emergence of a new breed of canine intelligence
Omigod my dogs are dumb! I love them to pieces and we share an amazing bond but there’s no doubt about it: My dogs do not offer me much intelligent company—not compared to the likes of a Border collie or pit bull. A member of this latter breed was the smartest dog I ever had, bar none.
But these Frenchies of mine? They wouldn’t survive a day out in the wild at their mental pace.
It’s not just the stubbornness. I’ve met plenty of smart and stubborn dogs. Mine are slow-witted and dim when it comes to basic dog instincts, too.
Take yesterday’s cooking session involving a couple of tasty chicken necks. I presented them the necks on the back porch as the chicken carcasses simmered in their stock. Radish greens, carrots, dried mushrooms, spring onions and fresh bay leaves danced in the heavy pot along with some garlic and a tiny handful of black peppercorns.
What did my dogs do when offered the chicken necks? They chose to go back inside and sit by the simmering stockpot.
Now, these dogs never get fed directly from the stockpot. They eat out of their bowls after a mélange is ladled from other containers. They have no reason to stare at a stockpot. Sure, it smells good but I’m offering raw meat with bits of skin (and even feathers) still attached. This is what dogs should like.
No dice. Finally, I consented to sauté the things briefly in the wine sauce they like so much. They licked the sauce off the chicken necks and stared at me curiously…then went back inside to bore eyeholes in the stockpot some more.
Now, this is not the only example of aberrant canine behavior I’ve observed in my two dogs. They’re also confused by basic commands.
Though Vincent has learned to sit, stay, come, get in the car, stop, leave it and the almighty “no,” Sophie responds to very little more than a combination of visual/verbal cues that elude my own understanding. The language we share is more one-sided and consequently everything is always on her terms.
I think I’ve already confessed here that even renowned trainer Brian Kilcommons couldn’t teach Sophie to sit in the session he swore would make it all right.
But Sophie’s a little “developmentally disabled,” having lived in a crate for the first two years of her life. This also explains her “tile training,” in which her substrate preference is for indoor, air conditioned, concrete-like surfaces. But then again, she’ll happily wee on her bedding in a pinch.
Luckily, Sophie’s basically good. In fact, she’s a saint. Except for some begging behavior and the elimination disorder she’s the best dog I’ve ever had, temperamentally speaking. Appropriate in almost all ways, despite her limitations.
Could it be that she’s akin to the learning disabled or autistic child who has a mental capacity that evades our understanding? Is this some new breed of canine intelligence we’ve bred?
I like to think so. Otherwise, there’s no explaining that soulful look she gets when everything’s right with her world (almost all the time). I mean, Sophie’s deep.
Vincent? Geez, he’s just a two-watt light bulb. But damn, I love him.