Sample Report


April 30, 2013

The Renaissance Dog is good at a little bit of everything.

In a world of helicopter parents and the relentless pursuit of perfection, it is easy to discount the value of a steady performance. Maggie is a Renaissance Dog, which means she is good at a little bit of everything. Although her performance in the different games may vary, overall Maggie showed accomplished social skills and solid independent problem solving. Rather than being a specialist with a single expertise, Maggie is a generalist. While others focus on the proverbial tree, Maggie can see the entire forest.

The Dognition Profile

Usually, when you get test results, you see a score that means you either passed or failed. To compare your results to someone else, you see who got the higher score. This is why your dog didn't take a test. Instead, you played a series of games together - and when you play a game there is more than one way to win. Success often comes from playing to your strengths.

There has recently been a revolution in how we think about intelligence. The Dognition Profile is based on this cutting-edge field called cognitive science. Cognition is the study of how the mind works and draws on many scientific disciplines, from psychology to computer science to neuroscience.

By studying animals, cognitive scientists have made three important discoveries:

Animals use many types of cognition to survive (learning skills from others, remembering the location of food, inferring the solution to a new problem or deceiving others during competition).

Different animals rely on different cognitive strategies. Asking if a crow is more intelligent than a dolphin is like asking whether a hammer is a better tool than a saw. Each animal has strategies to solve a unique set of problems.

Just because an animal tends to use a certain strategy to solve specific problems doesn't mean he or she will always apply that strategy to all types of problems. Animals rely on a toolbox of strategies that depend on a variety of factors. Dognition gives you insight to the most significant tools that your dog will use on a daily basis to interact with you and the world.

Based on these findings, the Dognition Profile looks at five cognitive dimensions. Rather than counting correct and incorrect answers, the Dognition Profile identifies your dog's cognitive style, and the strategies she relies on to solve a variety of problems. Using this revolutionary new science, the Dognition Profile will give you an unprecedented window into the workings of Maggie's mind and reveal her particular genius.

Cognitive Dimensions

Empathy • Reading and responding to the emotions of others
Communication • Using information from others to learn about the environment
Cunning • Using information from others to avoid detection
Memory • Storing past experiences to make future choices
Reasoning • Inferring the solution to new problems


Maggie seems individualistic when it comes to the two empathy games you played. Empathy refers to something very specific - the ability to feel what someone else is feeling. It does not measure love, attachment, or any other of the hundred ways that Maggie shows her devotion to you.

Being individualistic is something to be proud of. Perhaps you've noticed that Maggie is excellent at self-entertaining, or is better at solving problems on her own. However her independence asserts itself, it's all part of Maggie's cognitive style.


Playing and interacting with your dog like you did in the Dognition games increases your oxytocin, the hormone responsible for feelings of pleasure, bonding, and affection.

Yawn Game

In this game, you yawned and recorded whether Maggie yawned in response. Yawning in dogs can be an indicator of stress, but we were measuring something different - social yawning. The rationale behind this game is that even as young children, we laugh when we see someone laughing, and we cry when we see someone in distress. Our ability to "catch" the emotions of others is called emotional contagion. A common form of emotional contagion is yawning. If you see, hear or even think about someone yawning, you will probably feel an irresistible urge to yawn.

Maggie did not yawn in response to your yawn, but this is not surprising. Although dogs are one of the few species besides humans that contagiously yawn, there is variation among dogs. Data from several research groups shows differing results, but our preliminary data shows that only 20% of dogs yawn contagiously.

Recent studies have shown that dogs only catch yawns from humans, not other dogs.

Eye Contact Game

Dogs can even be better than aspirin. Children in a hospital reported that their pain was four times less when they played with a dog than when they spent the same time relaxing.

In this game, you timed how long Maggie held your eye contact. Before babies can hug or speak, they use eye gaze to bond with their mothers. Research with dogs has shown that a similar phenomenon may happen with owners and dogs. Owners whose dogs stared at them for longer had significant increases in the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin, also known as the "hug hormone," is related to feelings of bonding, pleasure and affection.

Judging by the extraordinary length of time Maggie spent gazing soulfully into your eyes, you probably often find her staring at you for no reason. You might wonder if Maggie is trying to tell you something, like she is hungry, needs to go to the bathroom or has an opinion on what to do over the weekend. But Maggie may not want or need anything - she may be just hugging you with her eyes.


Maggie's performance was highly collaborative. You probably notice that Maggie can read you like a book. Maybe she seems to know where you are going before you do. Maybe she can tell where to find a lost ball just by you glancing in the right direction. However her talent expresses itself, you can be sure that Maggie pays close attention to your gestures and what you are trying to communicate.

Maggie is remarkably like a human infant, who start reading communicative gestures at around nine months old. This ability is the foundation for all forms of culture and communication, including language.

Communication is the basis of many relationships, including our relationship with dogs. Maggie's behavior in the Communication games demonstrated exactly why the dog and human relationship is so special.


Arm Pointing

Although the pointing game may have seemed simple, the skills it requires are quite specialized. Dogs are one of the only animals that rely on human gestures - but even among dogs there is variation. Some dogs are more like infants and rely heavily on our communicative gestures, while other dogs are more like chimpanzees and try to solve problems on their own without our help. Maggie seems to use a mixed strategy. Because Maggie could see food in both places, she didn't really need your help, but occasionally chose to follow your gestures anyway.

Did you know that, on average, dogs can start following a human point as young as 6 weeks old?

Foot Pointing

Many dogs tend to ignore unintentional cues from humans. The most effective way to communicate is to call the dog's name, make eye contact, then point and look in the direction of the object.

You probably don't usually point things out with your foot, so this was one way to see if Maggie could read a gesture she has seen infrequently or not at all. If Maggie is good at solving a problem but can't solve a new version of it, then she probably learned to solve the original problem through lots of practice. For example, perhaps in the previous game she was just following the motion of your hand without understanding your communicative intentions. If Maggie can also solve the new problem, then she probably understands enough to spontaneously solve a range of related problems.

Not only could Maggie follow your point, she also responded to a more unusual gesture - when you pointed with your foot. This suggests that Maggie has a flexible understanding of the communicative nature of human gestures - a talent you can be proud of, since this is also what children do.


It could be a tasty morsel left on a coffee table. Or a stuffed animal you've forbidden Maggie to chew up. As soon as you aren't paying attention, whatever Maggie has been lusting after mysteriously disappears. You might have wondered whether Maggie is incapable of learning a tiny word like 'No!'

On the contrary - Maggie has a keen mind and is not afraid to use it. The cunning games are based on research showing that many dogs use information about what you can and can't see when deciding how to behave - or, in some cases, misbehave.

Maggie is the perfect example of a dog using cognitive strategies effectively. She knew she should wait when you were watching, and that it was safe to swoop in and take the treat when you had your back turned or your eyes covered.

The fact that Maggie didn't wait as long to take the treat when your eyes were covered is impressive, since you looked almost exactly the same as when you were watching Maggie - the only difference was that you had your hands over your eyes. Many animals can tell the difference between your front and back, but even some primates (like lemurs) have difficulty detecting the subtle meaning of covering your eyes. Maggie's performance shows a sophisticated mind at work.

Interestingly, although chimpanzees would not do so well in the Communication dimension where gestures are cooperative, they do very well in games where they have to compete with or deceive a human. In fact, just like Maggie, they can tell what you can or can't see, and use this social information for their own ends.

Maggie's performance in the Communication dimension shows that she is excellent at using your social information to cooperate with you. Her performance in the Cunning dimension shows that she is not above using this same social information to get her own way.


When it comes to begging, dogs prefer to be sure you're paying attention. In one study, dogs preferred to beg from a person who was looking at them rather than someone wearing dark sunglasses.


Maggie has an amazing working memory, which is a type of memory that allows your dog to keep information in mind for a few minutes and mentally manipulate it. This may sound simple, but working memory is crucial for any kind of problem-solving. In humans, working memory has been found to correlate with skills in learning, math, reading, and language. Researchers have even found some evidence that in children, working memory is more predictive of academic success than IQ.

In these memory games, Maggie had to understand that the treat continued to exist, even though it had disappeared from view. In the wild, this ability is essential. Animals have to keep track of mates, predators, and prey that might disappear momentarily behind a bush or a rock.

If Maggie is an avid fetch player, you've probably noticed that no stick or ball escapes for long. Maggie skillfully searching for an object that has briefly disappeared is a perfect example of her using her working memory to solve a problem.

For Maggie, out of sight is definitely not out of mind.


Most dogs can remember their mothers even if they haven't seen them for two years. However, they can't remember their brothers and sisters after a similar separation.

Memory versus Pointing

Maggie was clearly trying hard to figure this one out. When she saw you hide the treat under one cup but point to the other cup, she wanted to use the information you were giving her, but she also knew what she saw. Rather than choose one strategy, she switched back and forth between the two, which shows impressive flexibility.

Even though they are extremely similar genetically, dogs and wolves tend to make opposite choices in games like this one. A small difference that may be behind why we love dogs so much.

Memory versus Smell

Although Maggie did occasionally go to where the treat was hidden, rather than where you showed her you hid the treat, it is unlikely Maggie could smell the food. If Maggie relied on smell alone she would have found the food each time.

This is completely normal. Whenever we run a study where we hide a treat under one of two cups, the first question people always ask is, "Can't my dog just smell the food under the cup?" It was certainly our first question, but extensive research by half a dozen independent research groups has concluded that dogs do not rely on their sense of smell to find the food in these games.

If dogs were using smell, they would go directly to the cup with the hidden food. However, in similar studies, dogs only choose the correct cup around half the time - which means they are guessing. Dogs do have an excellent sense of smell and can probably detect food if allowed to sniff both cups before choosing. But when you look at their first choice, they cannot localize the food to a specific cup from a distance of 6 feet away.

One study found that to successfully track a person's direction of travel, tracking dogs need at least five sequential footsteps.

Delayed Cup Game

This game was a perfect demonstration of Maggie's excellent working memory. After you hid the treat Maggie had to retain the information for up to two and a half minutes before making a choice.

This skill comes in handy in the wild. Feral dogs tend to be endurance hunters, slowly wearing down their prey. During the chase, the prey may not always be in direct sight, and feral dogs have to remember where their prey was last seen and predict where they might reappear.

In these kinds of memory games, most cats quickly start to forget where an object is after only 10 seconds, while most dogs are still able to show success for up to 4 minutes.


You can be very proud. Maggie just aced the most difficult games in the Toolkit. Reasoning is the ability to solve a problem when you can't see the answer and have to imagine the solution. Unlike learning through trial and error, which doesn't necessarily require much understanding, reasoning requires that you truly understand the problem and the phenomena behind the problem.

A Sherlock Holmes among dogs, Maggie was able to solve the mystery by imagining different solutions and choosing the one that made the most sense. This leads to a lot of flexibility. She can solve a new version of a problem she has seen before, and spontaneously solve new problems she has never seen before. This is a sign of true genius.


Some studies show dogs are better at solving complex puzzles when humans are not around. When humans are around, dogs look to us for help rather than solving it themselves.

Inferential Reasoning Game

Ravens and crows have been shown to have incredible reasoning abilities that surpass dogs, and even rival some human children. But when it comes to being our best friends, dogs still take the cup.

In this game, you presented Maggie with a problem and provided some, but not all of the information needed to solve it. When you showed Maggie the empty cup she had to infer that the treat must be in the other cup.

This is not as easy as it sounds because Maggie was also attracted to the empty cup, for the simple reason that you touched it. It looks like Maggie switched back and forth between strategies in this game, sometimes making an inference and choosing the correct cup, and sometimes relying on your social cues. Either way, this shows impressive flexibility.

Physical Reasoning Game

In this game, Maggie demonstrated an excellent understanding of a fundamental property of the physical world - that one solid object cannot pass through another solid object.

Maggie had to infer that a piece of paper on an angle meant that a treat was hidden behind it. This talent would come in handy in the wild, since animals often have to keep track of objects that become hidden. To find these objects, animals have to maintain a representation of the object and predict where it might appear.

Humans intuitively understand basic physical phenomena like the solidity principle - it looks like Maggie does too.

Even though many dogs may struggle with physical properties like gravity, this doesn't stop them from thoroughly enjoying a game of fetch.

Next Steps

We hope you've enjoyed reading Maggie's Dognition Profile and feel that you've gained perspective on how she sees the world!

You can easily share Maggie's Profile snapshot, letting your friends find out what you've learned about her!

You can also download and email or print Maggie's profile report any time from your portal.

Of course, these five cognitive dimensions are only part of the picture; the magic of your relationship with Maggie is how you spend your time together. To that end, a Dognition membership gives you on-going games and tips that will help provide even more insight into what makes Maggie tick and how to act on that information.

As a member, each month you'll receive:

  • A new game that will shed light on another aspect of how Maggie thinks and sees the world.
  • Tips and activities prepared for Maggie from canine training experts, based on how Maggie sees the world.
  • Exclusive offers from Dognition partners, including brands such as Kong and Purina ONE.
  • New findings about how all dogs think and how Maggie's strategies compare.
At the same time, by subscribing to Dognition you and Maggie are contributing to the world's knowledge about all dogs. This allows us to tackle fresh questions -- how do certain breeds think compared to others? To what extent do memory skills decline by age? Are female dogs any more empathic than male dogs? And many more.

What questions would you like answered? We'd love to hear any feedback from you on that or anything else related to Dognition. Contact us any time at


The Dognition Team