I hesitated a little bit about writing this post because it is a quite controversial subject. In fact, part of the beliefs that seen dog as a mere machine to categorize stimulus-response are being reviewed.
This idea is the basis of Behaviorism, a model of psychology in which part of the idea that individual are a passive receiver that works as an automaton and what is studied is what you see, i.e., the behavior, not "what happens inside".
Let us take an example:
- My dog is very smart, it knows when we are going to leave by itself at home, so it become sad.-the mechanistic explanation is that there are a series of stimuli or absence of them giving rise to an event or a set of events (for example taking the keys of the house, but not its leash, would be an example).
But there was always something that didn't fit in the mechanistic explanation. In psychology as in any scientific discipline, we have to apply the Ockham´s razor or parsimony principle which says that "In equal conditions, the simplest explanation tends to be the correct". And here we enter into the debate:
- My dog sees something new when I go walking with it. I look, groans, but if we don’t give it any attention, until it captures my attention toward the new object you're viewing-what happens here?
A teacher and a really good friend told me once: "any washing machine made by man was smarter than a dog". I know you said it; every day the gap that we thought between humans and other animals is smaller. Dogs give us no room to believe they are nor intelligent, and they make us think we are not as special as we thought, . Thus in the previous example, can we speak of meanings and shared intentions? If so, we would have to speak of intersubjectivity and therefore of a theory of mind, primitive, but existing what leads us to make the leap from the Behaviorism to the revolution cognitive animal.
This was a good reason to Brian Hare, who founded the Canine Cognition Center at the Duke University and introduced Dognition which is term that mixes the words cognition and dog. He has written a book "The genius of dogs: How dogs are smarter than you think" and developed an application that allows you to measure the cognitive abilities of dogs. Hare tells us that they can read our gestures and make inferences about what are trying to communicate to them.
I leave a couple of links so that you may know more about the topic: