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Dognition provides insight into man's best friend's behavior

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Durham-based Dognition uses cognitive science to better understand your dog and its behaviors. Durham-based Dognition uses cognitive science to better understand your dog and its behaviors.

These days, your dog is not just a pet but a member of your family -- furry kids, even, to some.  But do you know what your pooch is thinking?

My doodle-mix, Athena, will sometimes offer me what appears to be a blank stare, and I often wondered, "What is Athena thinking?" And for some frustrating reason, she has an appetite for my dining room blinds.

With the promise to unlock the mystery of Athena's mind, I took her to Duke Researcher Brian Hare, co-author of "The Genius of Dogs" and co-founder of Durham-based Dognition to decode Athena's behavior.

Hare hasn't uncovered the mystery of canine cognition, but he's created a series of fun, thought-provoking games to test things like memory, reasoning and communication. The process also examines variables such as breed, gender, weight and geography.

"We can let everyone learn about their dog at home and have a new understanding," Hare explained. "What makes your dog the individual it is -- that is what Dognition is all about."

The goal is to understand your dog better. Using cognitive science, the results are not pass or fail; rather they determine what category of genius your dog falls into.

Thousands have already logged on to the Dognition website to get their dog's 15-page doggie report card -- classifying pooches out of nine categories, including stargazer, maverick, charmer, Einstein, ace, expert, protodog, Renaissance dog and socialite.

The report also tells you how your dog compared to other dogs and other species.

 "We assume your dog is a genius," Hare said, "It's what makes them a genius [that we look at]. Is your dog empathetic? Does your dog have amazing memory?"

And the more people who submit data to Dognition, the more accurate your dog's results will be. By collaborating with dogs and owners all over the world, Dognition can better understand more about dogs.

So long term, the fun tasks offered by the company could help us understand all dogs better.

I wasn't banking on Athena being an Einstein, but I wanted to know what goes through her mind before she goes into destruction mode.

The Dognition assessment categorized Athena as a socialite, meaning she did fairly well in the games and is an independent thinker at times. But she depends or expects her humans to do most of the work for her, and apparently this strategy is working in her favor.

"She's probably a pretty communicative dog, I would imagine," Hare assessed.

Melanie Sanders

Melanie anchors the 6 PM news. Her "What's Next" series features an engaging approach to storytelling and highlights the leaders in innovation who are shaping our future. Check it out HERE! More>>

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