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Behavior and intelligence

Dogs are very social animals, but their personality and behavior vary with breed as well as how they are treated by their owners and others who come in contact with them. It is not uncommon for dogs to attack humans and other animals; however, this is usually because of lack of care or improper upbringing by its owner.

 

Differences from other canids

Dogs tend to be poorer than wolves and coyotes at observational learning, being more responsive to instrumental conditioning.[21] Feral dogs show little of the complex social structure or dominance hierarchy present in wolf packs. For dogs, other members of their kind are of no help in locating food items, and are more like competitors.[21] Feral dogs are primarily scavengers, with studies showing that unlike their wild cousins, they are poor ungulate hunters, having little impact on wildlife populations where they are sympatric. Free ranging pet dogs however are more prone to predatory behaviour toward wild animals. Feral dogs have been reported to be effective hunters of reptiles in the Galapagos islands.[27]

 

Intelligence

 
Many dogs can be trained to skillfully perform tasks not natural to canines, such as in this dog agility competition.
Many dogs can be trained to skillfully perform tasks not natural to canines, such as in this dog agility competition.

Dogs are valued for their intelligence. This intelligence is expressed differently with different breeds and individuals, however. For example, Border Collies are noted for their ability to learn commands, while other breeds may not be so motivated towards obedience, but instead show their cleverness in devising ways to steal food or escape from a yard. Being highly adaptable animals themselves, dogs have learned to do many jobs as required by humans over the generations. Dogs are employed in various roles across the globe, proving invaluable assets in areas such as search-and-rescue; law enforcement (including attack dogs, sniffer dogs and tracking dogs); guards for livestock, people or property; herding; Arctic exploration sled-pullers; guiding the blind and acting as a pair of ears for the deaf; assisting with hunting, and a great many other roles which they may be trained to assume. Most dogs rarely have to deal with complex tasks and are unlikely to learn relatively complicated activities (such as opening doors) unaided. Some dogs (such as guide dogs for the visually impaired) are specially trained to recognize and avoid dangerous situations.

 

Evaluation of a dog's intelligence

The meaning of "intelligence" in general, not only in reference to dogs, is hard to define. Some tests measure problem-solving abilities and others test the ability to learn in comparison to others of the same age. Defining it for dogs is just as difficult. It is likely that dogs do not have the ability to premeditate an action to solve a problem.

For example, the ability to learn quickly could be a sign of intelligence. Conversely it could be interpreted as a sign of a desire to please. In contrast, some dogs who do not learn very quickly may have other talents. An example is breeds that are not particularly interested in pleasing their owners, such as Siberian Huskies. Huskies are often fascinated with the myriad of possibilities for escaping from yards, catching small animals, and often figuring out on their own numerous inventive ways of doing both.

Assistance dogs are also required to be obedient at all times. This means they must learn a tremendous number of commands, understand how to act in a large variety of situations, and recognize threats to their human companion, some of which they might never before have encountered.

Many owners of livestock guardian breeds believe that breeds like the Great Pyrenees or the Kuvasz are not easily trained because their stubborn nature prevents them from seeing the point of such commands as “sit” or “down”. Hounds may also suffer from this type of ranking. These dogs are bred to have more of a "pack" mentality with other dogs and less reliance on a master's direct commands. While they may not have the same kind of intelligence as a Border Collie, they were not bred to learn and obey commands quickly, but to think for themselves while trailing game.

 

Human relationships

A U.S. Army Staff Sgt. and his military working dog wait at a safe house before conducting an assault against insurgents in Buhriz, Iraq on April 10, 2007.
A U.S. Army Staff Sgt. and his military working dog wait at a safe house before conducting an assault against insurgents in Buhriz, Iraq on April 10, 2007.

Dogs are highly social animals. This can account for their trainability, playfulness, and ability to fit into human households and social situations. These attributes have earned dogs a unique position in the realm of interspecies relationships despite being one of the most effective, voracious, and potentially dangerous predators. Dogs and humans at times co-operate in some of the most effective hunting in the animal world; in that context, dogs are superpredators.

The loyalty and devotion that dogs demonstrate as part of their natural instincts as pack animals closely mimics the human idea of love and friendship, leading many dog owners to view their pets as full-fledged family members. Conversely, dogs seem to view their human companions as members of their pack, and make few, if any, distinctions between their owners and fellow dogs. Dogs fill a variety of roles in human society and are often trained as working dogs. For dogs that do not have traditional jobs, a wide range of dog sports provide the opportunity to exhibit their natural skills. In many countries, the most common and perhaps most important role of dogs is as companions.

Dogs have lived and worked with humans in so many roles that their loyalty has earned them the unique sobriquet "man's best friend".[28] However, some cultures consider dogs to be unclean. In some parts of the world, dogs are raised as livestock to produce dog meat for human consumption. In many places, consumption of dog meat is discouraged by social convention or cultural taboo.

 

 

 

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