Isn’t interesting that the prevailing wisdom about animal cognition always errs on the side of insisting that animals are incapable of such and such an ability. Then we find a way to test the proposition. This usually involves finding some way of communicating with the animal that allows them to demonstrate their capabilities.
Some interesting new research by Hungarian researchers has been reported. Dogs were able to watch their owner doing something with an object, then do the same thing themselves. This has been regarded as something that dogs cannot do. Furthermore, even if the dogs were taken behind a screen for ten minutes, they still remembered the task and carried it out.
Some people still insist that dogs don’t even have minds. If the dog can remember a task like that, they must be storing it somewhere – where else, if not in their minds?
This reminds me of some extraordinary stories told by Nina Bondarenko, an Australian dog trainer working in the UK training Assistance Dogs. She uses a clicker training method whereby the dogs are encouraged to offer problem-solving behaviours, rather than just being trained to do what they are told, or even to carry out a range of tasks. She says that she is constantly surprised by what the dogs come up with – solutions to problems which they have not been specifically trained to solve, solutions, what’s more, which require mental abilities which are generally considered to be beyond dogs.