Are Dogs As Exceptional As We Think They Are?

27

February 2019

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Our society, in general, thinks dogs are exceptional. We love them. They love us. The co-domestication process that happened thousands of years ago left humans and canines with an inexplicable bond. Because of that, most of us set dogs on a pedestal. They exist, in our minds, above other animals.

And then science comes along and says, “hold on! Not so fast! Dogs really aren’t that smart or exceptional in the animal world!”

A few months ago, Scientific American published an article titled, “Your Dog May Not Be A Genius After All.” The article went viral on Twitter, with thousands of people having an intense emotional reaction to the headline. Most everyone had a humorous reaction, but the feeling behind it was almost one of betrayal.

For this episode of the Individual Animal podcast, Arin Greenwood joins us to discuss why people had this reaction, what our own dogs mean to us and whether or not we think they are intelligent. We discovered that one of Nikki’s dogs can sing. Regina’s dog is a jerk. Arin’s dog is lazy and forgetful.

What we do know is that the we all love our dogs unconditionally.

We also (unscientifically) dive into some other studies, like the social bond cows have with one another and whether or not animals understand the concept of fairness.

 The podcast takes a surprising twist at the end when we discuss how dogs fit into our view of farm animals and where we think society will be in the future with regards to eating meat.

(Also, Arin says “jiff” and not “gif” and she and Regina get into their first fight after years of close friendship because of it.)

Want to be on our podcast to talk about dogs, people, and social justice? Want to yell at us for our opinions? Email us!

The Individual Animal is available on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

READ THE PODCAST TRANSCRIPT:

*note that we have edited the transcript for clarity and removed repeated words and “umms…” Please excuse any missing punctuation or typos we may have missed!

 

Nikki: [00:00:00] Hey everybody welcome to the individual animal, a podcast about animal welfare and discrimination. I’m Nikki.

 

Regina: [00:00:10] I’m Regina. And that’s Arin. Arin say hi.

 

Arin: [00:00:14] Hi.

 

Nikki: [00:00:15] We have Arinn Greenwood on our podcast once again because she’s amazing and we are very excited to talk to her today about a study that was attached to an article that came out a couple weeks ago… Or a week ago.

 

Regina: [00:00:33] No a couple months ago months.

 

Arin: [00:00:35] Month ago yeah.

 

Regina: [00:00:36] It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago but it really was.

 

Nikki: [00:00:39] Geez. Wow.

 

Arin: [00:00:41] We’ve been stewing in this one for months now.

 

Nikki: [00:00:46] Regina, I’ll botch the title again. So why don’t you just tell everyone what the title was.

 

Regina: [00:00:49] Hold on I flipped off the screen…. So The Scientific American article that went viral on Twitter and caused a lot of people to have really emotional but humorous reactions was titled “Your dog may not be a genius after all.” And then it has the subtitle “new study finds that canines are not exceptional in the animal world.” I think it was the exceptional part, that canines aren’t exceptional that people really had a…. People took exception with that little line

 

Nikki: [00:01:20] I had a… I didn’t read any of the Twitter stuff. So can you I I’m guessing I like some of the folks that are listening are like me and stuff. Like, I suck at social media. So can you guys tell me what people were so upset about or what they were saying or give me some examples?

 

Arin: [00:01:38] I think people responded to this headline, probably not so much the substance of the article. But I think they responded to the headline as if it was just a troll post basically. So you know the Twitter reactions were largely of the gif variety. A lot of kind of dogs looking….

 

Regina: [00:01:57] Wait wait did you say “jiff”

 

Arin: [00:01:58] I said “jiff” what do you say “gif.”

 

Regina: [00:02:01] Yes.

 

Arin: [00:02:02] We’re going to have to have a whole nother podcast about this…

 

Regina: [00:02:07] it’s GRAPHICS interchangeable format, not GIRAFFICS interchangeable format.

 

Regina: [00:02:13] Reg-GHEna, I don’t know how you can say this.

 

Regina: [00:02:17] We’re going to have our first fight.

 

Arin: [00:02:20] You missed my joke. Re-GHEna, do You want me to make that joke again.

 

Regina: [00:02:29] That was funny. OK moving on… We’ll have the discussion later in private.

 

Arin: [00:02:37] All right. Well let me let me read you Nikki and also listeners some of their reactions here from Twitter. Here’s one that says “no one asked you science!” And others says “take it back!” Can I swear on here?

 

Nikki: [00:02:56] Yes.

 

Arin: [00:02:57] OK. “This kind of bullshit is why people stop trusting scientists.” “I bet you’re not a genius either a steady guy.” Here’s my favorite. “This is pretty well written for a cat.”.

 

Regina: [00:03:11] That was my favorite too.

 

Arin: [00:03:13] Yeah. Right. And then let’s see oh and then here’s Keith Olbermann who I thought actually had you know this sounds kind of jokey but I think he’s actually pretty nuanced take on it. Keith Olbermann tweets “As several have noted: only one species has changed another to supply its food, housing, health care, transportation, breeding, exercise, family and affection needs, be its gigantor of the Space Age robot, and pick up its poop. It says “dogs are not just geniuses. They are the geniuses”

 

Regina: [00:03:55] And you know I’m mean think backs that up because it was like you know co domestication right. That’s what studies say like dogs also domesticated themselves. So I think science agrees with Keith.

 

Arin: [00:04:08] I think so too. Well should we should we actually get a little bit into what this this article and what this study really says and then we can respond sort of specifically to it? I mean that the headline, is it does sound pretty troll-y but the article itself and the study itself… Would you want to take it away? What does it actually say?

 

Nikki: [00:04:26] Oh so…

 

Regina: [00:04:28] Oh yeah…. You go ahead Nikki, you take it away.

 

Nikki: [00:04:31] I mean I tried to read the whole 20 page study, which is very lengthy. But I think what I took away from it was that dogs are not any more exceptional than any other mammal. So the study looked at dogs and compared them to wolves, cats, spotted hyenas, chimpanzees, dolphins, horses, pigeons and just basically found that they were no. They were different it as it compares to a mental capacity and just being exceptional from their other mammal counterparts. And They looked at things like domestic. They looked at they compared them to animals that are also domesticated social. Hunters were another part. And basically, from what I think that we already know that they’re not exceptional compared to other animals, but it’s the way that we live with dogs that makes us feel like they are exceptional… because nobody’s teaching their cows to fetch a ball for them or for a beer out of the fridge.

 

Arin: [00:05:51] Nikki, when you were saying that, I just had this image of pigeons giving each other high fives being like “look at that dog!” Yeah. But that’s exactly right. So this study was looking at it. It wasn’t doing its own independent research. It was a lit review. So, it was looking at a bunch of research that had been done and saying you know, what does this research tell us about dogs cognitive abilities their ability to use tools their self-awareness as compared to other animals who have been studied. And you know, and the broad conclusion was by and large you know dogs have not performed better. These studies have not shown dogs to perform better on most of the tests than other animals who have been studied – with the caveat that not that many animals have been studied and not that many tests have been done. And dogs have been researched more than other animals. But, you know even they haven’t been researched all that much. And It just seemed to me that, you know, that the broader conclusion here is… Just… We don’t know that much about animal intelligence. I mean animals seem to do pretty well out in the world, but we we just don’t know that much about their intelligence. And you know this other… This Atlantic article that we all read that was not a response to this particular article, that came out a few years ago, was basically just describing the limitations of these cognition tests anyway. Just saying you know they they measure animals intelligence in this very kind of human centric way and that it doesn’t tell us a lot about what makes animals animals. It tells us how well they perform on you know a small variety of tests that humans have come up with thinking that these might tell us something meaningful about animal intelligence. But you know maybe maybe they don’t, maybe we’re testing them the wrong ways. Mybe we don’t understand what it is that we’re looking at when we’re looking at animal intelligence.

 

Regina: [00:07:41] I have something to say guys and it just flew out of my head.

 

Arin: [00:07:44] Was it about pigeons? It was probablyabout pigeons doesn’t it.

 

Regina: [00:07:48] It was not. That was funny. We should leave that in…. Now, although… I am wondering like why…. and this Is a side note, not what I was going to say… But I wonder why they didn’t have crows or ravens in the study. Because if you look at animals that have been studied frequently and are really smart I’m surprised that there weren’t any corvids in the study. Unless maybe because… They are like… probably Be smartest animal around, so they just figured it would be pointless to add to the theory I don’t know.

 

Nikki: [00:08:18] They did pigeons instead of crows because pigeons are more domesticated they’re looking for a bird. I don’t know if that answered your question but that was like in the I think that was in there somewhere.

 

[00:08:31] That does make sense. But I was thinking actually I think this is what I was going to say and and Arin, this relates to you talking about how you know there aren’t a lot of studies about animal behavior about their intelligence that are in like a natural environment… There Was a study a couple of years ago, and I cannot remember, I’ll see if I can find it and put it in the show notes. But there was a study a couple of years ago, that looked at how domesticated dogs and wolves respond to puzzles and how they fix things to overcome challenges and whether or not they look to a human to help them. And the domesticated dogs looked to the humans more than the wolves did even if the wolves knew that the humans were there and could help them. They wanted to figure it out themselves but at the same time this was not a study in nature.

 

[00:09:25] This was a very controlled study. So that makes it harder for us to really know… When we’re studying something in a controlled environment, it’s really hard for us to know how much that applies to the real world. Especially, I know there have been other tests about like that try to measure a dog’s intelligence and look at it like what what dogs are the smartest dogs. And One of the things they look at is how long it takes a dog to repeat the task, and I just know anecdotally, a lot of dogs if they’re not motivated to do a task they’re not going to do it doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not they’re smart enough to do it. They’re just not motivated.

 

Nikki: [00:10:03] Yeah, and your point with the wolves. You know you would come to a conclusion that maybe dogs are smarter because the wolves are looking at you and you’re pointing at something in that study. But, also you actually look at what things wolves can do that dog certainly wouldn’t do. I’m sure a wolf is a way better hunter than any domesticated dog is. Does that make a wolf smarter than the dog. I don’t know.

 

Arin: [00:10:28] Probably, because the wolf has to have different skills to survive. I mean you know, the wolf has to be more clever I guess in that particular way. I mean I suppose if you want to use that as a measure of intelligence, you probably could say that they’re smarter. I guess that the point of this that kind of that really gets me and this is what I worried about when the when the initial article came out and the study came out, too, was I think often times, we use intelligence as kind of a proxy for an animal’s right to to be alive… Its right to be treated well. Its right to exist. It’s right for us to consider its needs. You know, like every time a study comes out showing how smart pigs are. I wrote one of these articles once after one of these studies came out. You know, it leads to a whole bunch of articles that say pigs are really smart and should we not be confining them in small cages? Should we not be eating them? And personally, I think, no, we should not be confining them in small cages. And I don’t personally eat them. But you know, do we need them to be smart to think that they deserve good treatment? And that that’s kind of what I worry about when we look at these animal intelligence studies. As if we’re using intelligence as a proxy for how much consideration we have to give them.

 

Regina: [00:11:51] I know. I wonder if that’s part of why people had such a big reaction to it. Because we do like to think of dogs as different… dogs and cats But animals that live in our homes with us… That we like to think of them as different than the animals outside of us. And so maybe because this study and the article headline really highlighted that dogs are animals. They’re not necessarily any more special or there’s not necessarily anything that truly sets them apart. And maybe, maybe that’s why people had such a strong reaction because it challenged their own personal view of how special they that they view their dog and all dogs.

 

Nikki: [00:12:35] Yeah especially just people that I’m sure that’s behing most of the the negative reaction of people that owned dogs… And while I agree with the study ,that I don’t think that dogs are exceptional… Sorry everybody!

 

Arin: [00:12:49] Nikki! How could you!?

 

Nikki: [00:12:56] I know I’m gonna get some raw eggs thrown at me for that one. But, we all have stories of our dogs, right, where we’re like… how can this be? My dog can sing to the harmonica or my dog knows how to balance a treat on her nose while giving me paw. Of course, she’s exceptional, but I think if we really think about it… I mean… I agree with this study. I think that all animals are exceptional. No one is more exceptional than any other.

 

Arin: [00:13:28] That’s a great way to put it. Nikki. Yeah. Maybe they’re all exceptional. Maybe the issue is the dog more special than these other animals? What makes it special is that we live with the dog and we love the dog. You know they’re special to us. They’re exceptional to us. But you know I think you put it exactly right that they’re all special. They’re all exceptional.

 

Regina: [00:13:50] I wonder if there’s something… I think we’re all we all really want… Like our dogs to be the smartest. And we talk about this a lot on the podcast, when we talk about how people obsess over their dog’s breed, but we all want our dogs to be the smartest because that makes us feel special.

 

Arin: [00:14:07] Oh, I don’t know, Regina. I don’t want my dog to be the smartest! I’m Really happy living within an average intelligence dog. I mean… He’s, you know, I see with exceptionally intelligent dogs require in terms of the agility classes and you know they can open up cabinets…. You have to toddler proof your house for an exceptionally smart dog. I feel like what makes my dog as lovable as he is, is that he truly is content to do what he’s doing right now – just sit on the couch and stare out the window for about five hours!

 

Regina: [00:14:46] I don’t know that my dog is exceptionally smart. Honestly, he’s obviously smart but I don’t know that he’s exceptionally smart. But yeah having a dog who can unlock a double locked crate is truly a pain in the ass. I mean, thankfully, he never got into anything… this was way back when I first got him… I would come home and he would just be like standing in the entryway, just like “Hey.” It’s like…. “You were not there when I left!”.

 

Arin: [00:15:16] But what’s the smartest thing that Buttons has ever done?

 

Regina: [00:15:20] Oh gosh.

 

Arin: [00:15:21] I mean besides get you to adopt him.

 

Regina: [00:15:23] Yeah that was pretty smart. I don’t know. I mean how do I how do I pick the smartest thing….

 

Arin: [00:15:30] Well, what are some of the smart things that he done? What did he do that…. What does he do that impresses you?

 

Regina: [00:15:37] So there’s this there’s this one thing that sticks into my mind, other than being able to unlock a double locked crate – that I can’t figure out how he did that. No idea! This just shows like his independence, and I think that… I Don’t know if that necessarily shows his smarts… For a while we lived in a house with another dog, and Buttons that had like a big rawhide (and no people I don’t feed him riawhides anymore. Nobody Freak out.) But he’d had a big one. And the other dog went to chew on it. And she wasn’t supposed to have it. So I picked it up, because she also pushed him anyway. She’s this tiny dog right, but she pushed him away. He was obsessed with her, so he didn’t mind. So I took it away and I put it up high to where the other dog couldn’t reach it. And Buttons looked at me and kind of gave me a dirty look (I know dogs really don’t do that but you know it looked like a dirty look.) And he goes over and grabs the rawhide from where I put it, and puts it back in front of the other dog and walks away.

 

Arin: [00:16:43] Like He was giving it to it as a present? Awww.

 

Regina: [00:16:46] He was just like “I don’t care if she has it. So why did you take it away?”.

 

Arin: [00:16:56] That was so gentlemanly of him!

 

Regina: [00:16:56] I know! That was so sweet! I Felt like that showed like his own intelligent disobedience. You know that was him recognizing why I took it away I guess. But maybe in his mind he thought that I was protecting his stuff? Maybe? I don’t know. I don’t really know how dogs brains work… So I’m sure someone will listen to this and tell me I’m wrong but I just thought it was a cute thing that showed like his gentleness, but also how smart he is.

 

Arin: [00:17:20] It’s really interesting. I read another study a while ago about how dogs have senses of fairness. So, if you have 10 biscuits you know they can count basically and they think it’s corrective. Each of them get some more or less equal amount of biscuits…. I don’t know how you know when they think that something unfair has been done. I gotta go back and look at that again. Nikki is your dog smart?

 

Nikki: [00:17:47] Yeah. Yeah sure. Both my dogs are. I can’t think of anything particular. My Dog does sing to the harmonica, which maybe you will have to do before the end of hte podcast. But just to go back to what you were saying, either of you guys familiar with the monkeys and the grapes?

 

Arin: [00:18:08] No.

 

Nikki: [00:18:10] So this is it really. I’ll have this. Maybe I can find that video for it. But it was scientists and they had to monkey side by side in cages out there are monkeys are you there. Whatever. But they would be like asked to give the scientist a rock. So when the monkeys figured it out and gave them a rock they got a reward. But one of them got a really good reward. I forget what it was. I don’t know. Like a good reward for a monkey. But the other one would get a grape every time and a monkey that’s got that grape, you can see in the video, get super frustrated that the monkey next to him get better reward than he is. It’s a really cool video I recommend checking it out, but it’s interesting that they understand that they’re not getting my fair a fair deal.

 

Regina: [00:19:05] It’s interesting. I know and I’m sure probably your dogs are the same, where they know when you have a better treat than the one you’re giving them. Because sometimes what I’m doing training with Buttons, he knows that I have two treats available, and that I’m giving him the less desirable one. I usually give him more of those because they have less fat and aren’t as bad for him. And it’s like he would just turn up his nose like he knows! He’ll be so excited and then it’s like “No, bitch, no!” And so I wonder I wonder if that was part of what you mean. So we know dogs do that and so maybe yeah that just kind of makes sense that in that kind of fairness they would know that another dog or another animal was getting something that was better than what they had.

 

Arin: [00:19:54] Again it also seems possible given that they can make these sorts of decisions and distinctions that maybe they just choose not to perform on some of these intelligence tests too. Maybe they think that the rewards aren’t good enough or that the test is stupid and not worth their time.

 

Regina: [00:20:10] Yeah I mean look I can’t get my dog to behave a lot of the time at home.

 

Nikki: [00:20:17] That’s true for most of us!

 

Regina: [00:20:17] When we’re out, when he’s working and we’re out, he’s a perfect boy and then I’m like “oh my dog is such a jerk” and people are like “Oh my God you’re a monster.” I’m like “No he really is a jerk at home.”

 

Arin: [00:20:31] Regina, I don’t believe that. I don’t believe it for a second.

 

Regina: [00:20:34] I tell you what you both need to come visit. Oh we should do like a slumber party podcast where you both just come here.

 

Nikki: [00:20:40] Can I wear onesie pajamas?

 

Regina: [00:20:41] Yes.

 

Arin: [00:20:44] Can Buttons also wear onesie pajamas?

 

Regina: [00:20:47] We could put him in them and laugh hysterically at his misery. Yes.

 

Arin: [00:20:51] Oh no I don’t want to make him unhappy!

 

Regina: [00:20:55] But he’s so cute when he’s unhappy! You guys stay here a couple days and then when you leave you’ll be like “Oh yeah, that dog is a jerk.”.

 

Nikki: [00:21:08] I’ve been to hotels with your dog and what you consider Buttons being a jerk is not what other people consider their dogs.

 

Regina: [00:21:15] OK. Let me. OK. First of all just so everybody knows who’s listening to this, feel free to make a drinking game of every time I mentioned my dog. You’ll be drunk really fast. Right. OK. So I don’t know if this actually goes like explaining that my dog is a dumb or that my dog is a jerk. So one day I thought I let him inside the house from outside. This is when we had a fenced yard. I let him inside then I go upstairs and I haven’t seen him for the past half hour. I don’t know where he is. He is not a follower at all. And so it is like 45 minutes later, I’m just going to go check on him and I can’t find him anywhere. Nowhere. He is nowhere. And then I think, oh my god did I not let him inside? What happened? I’m searching for him. I am screaming for him. Screamed for him outside. He is nowhere. I am hysterical. I am literally on the floor thinking I left him outside and someone stole my dog or he got out and then my mom, she also lived with me at the time. She was like “I went to the garage right after you let him in…” He was in the garage. She locked in there. She didn’t know he was in there. She opens the door. He is sitting right at the bottom of the steps! Never Made a sound while I was hysterically screaming his name! He is sitting there like “what’s up?”.

 

Nikki: [00:22:49] I think he just likes to fuck with you.

 

Regina: [00:22:56] He is a jerk! He is an absolute jerk.

 

Nikki: [00:22:58] He gets really good entertainment out of it.

 

Regina: [00:22:59] I think he does. OK. I feel like I’ve talked enough about my dog. You Guys need to talk about your dogs.

 

Nikki: [00:23:10] Arin, what about you? Do you like various smart moments that you can think of?

 

Arin: [00:23:16] No. I mean, like I said, I feel really grateful to live with an intellectually mediocre dog. Personality wise, obviously, he’s the greatest dog in the history of the world and I love him. You know, I love him so, I like gaze into his eyes sometimes and can’t believe this magical creature exists and that I get to live with him. He’s like, he’s a perfect dog but, no, he is definitely not a smart dog. I mean he loses things in the house that he’s just seen a second ago.

 

Regina: [00:23:53] That’s what I do!

 

Arin: [00:23:54] Yeah me too! I’m probably not the smartest dog in the world, either!

 

Nikki: [00:24:01] All right guys. Let’s just pause for a song. Are you ready? *Nikki plays the harmonica*

 

Nikki: [00:24:11] Give him a second. He’s coming over.

 

Ruckus the Dog: [00:24:27] Sing-howls to the harmonica Nikki is playing.

 

Nikki: [00:24:27] Well all right. My dog won!

 

Regina: [00:24:32] This is officially the best podcast we’ve ever done.

 

Nikki: [00:24:37] I wish I would have lyrics already lined up. So I could’ve have been like… *plays the harmonica*

 

Ruckus the Dog: [00:24:48] Sing-howls.

 

Nikki: [00:24:49] (singing) he’s down on the farm….

 

Ruckus the Dog: [00:24:49] sing-howls.

 

[00:24:50] I think we just found our outro music! Nikki, you need to record him and the harmonica. And then that will always be our outro music.

 

Arin: [00:25:00] Hey Nikki, how did you discover this? Are You just playing the harmonica one day?

 

Nikki: [00:25:10] We’ve known it for so long I don’t really remember how it started…. It could have been…. It’s just a harmonica though. I’ve tried to like play flute music on my phone or trombone or trumpets and he like rolls his eyes. But the second you play the harmonica…. *plays harmonica*

 

Ruckus the Dog: [00:25:24] Sing-howls

 

Regina: [00:25:36] Your dog is a musical genius.

 

Nikki: [00:25:40] There we go. Well I’m glad you guys got some laughs out of it. Good job boy!

 

Regina: [00:25:46] I am serious about that being in our outro music… The harmonica and then him singing along. Okay, listeners, I know you may be wondering what the F is going on, but we all wanted to talk about our own dogs because that’s part of the reaction that people had to this article and this study, was that it evokes a truly emotional response, because we all have such emotional relationships with our dogs. We all love them and when anything may like kind of challenge how we feel about our personal dog, our individual dog, I think that that really elicits a big emotional response.

 

Arin: [00:26:26] Yeah I think that’s totally right. And it was such a mean headline! …This New study finds that canines are not exceptional in the animal world. Of course, they’re exceptional! Of course they are! Look how much we love them. Look how much they love us!

 

Regina: [00:26:47] But you know what I think it’s almost like what makes it interesting. Like it clarifies… Because you know the issue is when you see like canines are not exceptional, your immediate reaction, as a dog lover … or Maybe even as just a person, right, because dogs are so ingrained in our society… Is to think like well fuck you! Dogs are exceptional! But when you finish reading that sentence, it’s “dogs are not exceptional in the animal world.” Not that “dogs aren’t exceptional in our world and in our society,” because in our society dogs are exceptional.

 

Arin: [00:27:21] Yeah I think that’s exactly right. Yeah. Well so can we…. So let’s let’s discuss this then, do we think it matters? Well first of all are we convinced by the the finding or the the supposition that dogs are not smarter than other animals? And if they are, does it matter?

 

Regina: [00:27:40] I think that… I mean I’ve heard in a lot of articles about various studies that sort of come to the conclusion that… when they try to compare dogs and human intelligence…. They say dogs are not smarter than or as smart as a 2 year old – which to me doesn’t make a ton of sense because my dog can do things some 2 year olds can’t do. And then there are lots of things two year olds can do that my dog sure as heck isn’t smart enough to do. Sorry… I don’t know where I was going with that! Oh, Yes. I know that the answer is a lot more complex than just that “dogs aren’t as smart as we want them to be.” I think dogs have their own intelligence. How Can we really compare it to the intelligence of another species? I think that’s the challenge.

 

Arin: [00:28:22] Yeah. I mean, I look at this… this is partly just an epistemological problem right. Like you never know what’s going on in anybody else’s head. Like how do I even know what’s going on in your head. You know, it’s the idea that we could but we as humans could be hubristic enough to think that we could really know what an animal’s intelligence is. It’s kind of an astonishing it’s an astonishing claim I think to think that we could know that. I mean I don’t know that it’s not worth pursuing. I’m not a scientist. I’m sure there are good reasons to try to find out about an animal’s intelligence both for sort of just to know the information and also maybe to help with conservation… Help us understand the animals so that we want to do better things for them. I mean there’s probably good reasons to try to find all this out. Yeah I just I think it’s I think it’s a pretty arrogant pursuit to think that I guess I don’t think it’s an arrogant pursuit to try to understand animals better and to understand their minds better and to understand their intelligence better. But I think to draw conclusions they’re not that smart is pretty hubristic.

 

Regina: [00:29:36] Yeah. And I wonder though was this saying like oh they’re not that smart. Which was I think what we all took away like the initial reading of it. It was that even my first reaction having written about a lot of these studies my first reaction was still the same my dog isn’t smart but that’s not really what it was saying. Right. It was saying that dogs aren’t as smart as we used humans want to believe they are.

 

Arin: [00:29:58] They’re not smarter comparatively.

 

Nikki: [00:30:01] They’re just as exceptional as every other animal.

 

Arin: [00:30:05] Yeah. Just as exceptional. Yeah. And also I don’t know anybody… I guess I maybe I came into this not knowing the right people. I don’t know that many people who go around bragging about dogs being so smart anyway. I mean I feel like they kind of they amaze this all the time with the things that they can do. You know, it’s just the the ways that they can enrich our lives. The way that they make our world safer and more interesting and more full of fun. You know ,the tasks that they can do. The joy they bring into our lives. All Of that is undeniable and it seems like every day we get new examples of amazing things that dogs do do. I Don’t know I never I never understood anyone to think that the chief reason we love dogs is because they’re smarter than other animals.

 

Regina: [00:30:50] Well, I think also we think of some of the things that we think of… there are lots of different kinds of intelligences and for one… I just I think I just made that word up so so intelligences is a word now… We’d like to think of dogs as maybe being emotionally intelligent because of how many people say “you know my dog knows when I’m sad so he’s so smart because he knows when I’m sad and he comes in sits on my lap” or whatever. And also just so you know, my dog does not do that. My dog isn’t emotionally intelligent or he just doesn’t care. I’m not sure. He loves me though.

 

Nikki: [00:31:33] My dogs don’t do that either they I think just come to me and cuddle when they want to be cuddled and now it’s just a coincidence when you’re sad and your dog comes and cuddles with you, because they just want to be cuddled with who knows really what there motives are.

 

Arin: [00:31:50] Same with my dog.

 

Regina: [00:31:51] I wonder what they’re responding to? Is it because… Are they responding to hormone changes and that makes them want to come and see what’s going on? I’m sure there are studies about this and I don’t know if I said this already but we’re not scientists! So we’re probably saying a lot of things that are wrong.

 

Arin: [00:32:12] And that’s why you should listen to our podcast. But we love dogs so much!

 

Nikki: [00:32:21] I just want to say that I have been staring baby cows this entire time that live across the street me, from my window.

 

Regina: [00:32:30] Did you ask them how smart they are?

 

Nikki: [00:32:32] I kind of want to go over there, but I feel like baby cows probably just run away from you. And I feel like the farmer would be mad if I went over there.

 

Regina: [00:32:39] The farmer would probably be mad, yes.

 

Nikki: [00:32:41] This is all…. we’re now not doing the podcast anymore! I am pretty much blabbing.

 

Arin: [00:32:53] Well here is a question for you… OK. So back to your cows for a second. I feel like viral videos of cows have started to become a bigger thing. Do you think people are starting to love cows more now? I mean do you think you think people will start feeling like I like they are… like they want to defend the integrity of cows, soon too? Like they’ll get offended if a study comes out that says cows are not exceptional? Or you know people love Esther the Wonder Pig and I think that that’s made some people love pigs more broadly. Do you think more people will start rushing to the defense of these other animals, too, if studies come out like this saying cows might not be geniuses…. pigs might not be geniuses?

 

Nikki: [00:33:43] Well, I hope with the times… we’re almost reverting back to… Like we sort of gone on this like throughout history… I guess now – I’m just kind of speculating – but you know, we used to be all about just eating farm and animals from farms. I don’t know what the hell talking about this point.

 

Regina: [00:34:05] Yes I do. I get you. Yeah.

 

Nikki: [00:34:06] And then we we kind of became a society of factory farming and things like that. And I feel like from what I’ve seen as of recently that we’re really starting to get back to basics on that. I think we’re going to start really caring about the integrity of these animals more and more. That’s my hope.

 

Regina: [00:34:31] I think that’s I think that’s true. And I don’t remember what this study was. Arin, maybe you do. But there was a study that came out, and said like cows have best friends and that was just really emotional for me to learn that. And I think to anybody who learns that that’s that’s a really emotional thing to learn about animals that we consume. And just to clarify for everyone. I’m not a vegetarian although I’ve drastically reduced to my meat and dairy consumption because I’m I think eventually I will be a vegetarian. But I just want to throw that out there and that we’re not telling anybody what you can or can’t eat.

 

Nikki: [00:35:17] I am also not a vegetarian but I am very cautious about what animals I do eat… And I feel like the more I learn about animals, I just start to realize that it’s more important to the well-being of these animals than what you’re putting in your mouth. So I don’t know… So I feel like as a society that’s where we’re headed. And especially with all this like beyond me and stuff like that. It gives people so many more options on how we got onto the topic of animal products… Well I guess that’s to say that like you know all animals are exceptional, including the animals that we eat. And maybe we as a society don’t currently look at them as exceptional, partially because we don’t want to, because then we have to face realities that we’re also being you know in some cases very nasty to these animal.

 

Arin: [00:36:15] Yeah.

 

Regina: [00:36:16] Yeah. And no one wants to face that reality. Like I said with that one study about cows having best friends. I just… Yeah that was so hard for me. But you know I’m sure any number of my vegan and vegetarian friends were like “Yeah of course.” But it is that we don’t want to think about it because we don’t want to change our own habits and we put our habits above critical thinking and the effects that that has on other individuals. This was not so heavy. This conversation got so heavy so fast now!

 

[00:36:53] Yeah and if we’re going to keep this it I just want to say, soyou all know, Animal Farm only serves vegan vegetarian meals. And when we work, we only eat vegan or vegetarian meals. So you know as me and Regina talk about our personal choices. I just don’t want that to reflect on what Animal Farm’s choices are.

 

Regina: [00:37:18] Yeah. And but you know though that is one thing that I like about this organization is that what we’re not encouraged.. it’s Like we don’t have to give up our undeveloped individuality to work here. But we are encouraged to make healthier and better and more humane choices. And because of our rules about eating like on business trips that it has to be vegetarian. That’s how I had in my first beyond Burger maybe was the impossible burger. I don’t know. But I loved it. It was amazing.

 

Nikki: [00:37:46] Do you do eat beyond burgers, Arin?

 

Arin: [00:37:50] No, I find them to meaty, personally. But I think that they are really great. I think if they can convince… If they can encourage meat eaters to eat the non meat burgers sometimes, then they’re great. I’ve been vegetarian almost all my life. So I find them little disconcertingly meaty, personally. I think what makes them appealing to others makes them disconcerting to me.

 

Nikki: [00:38:17] I’m not a big fan. I’d much rather like a fresh veggie burger over the beyond burgers. But I’m really excited to to have that as a society. And if we are now… I am excited to see where we go with the future with things like the beyond beef burgers and the options for meat eaters to really switch over.

 

Regina: [00:38:48] To tie this back to some of the stuff that you were saying before… why are you laughing?

 

Nikki: [00:38:53] Because this has nothing to do with dogs being smart!

 

Regina: [00:38:56] No it does. It does it does it does. I’m gonna try to go back. It’s that the more that we learn about the intelligence of other animals, then the more that affects our eating habits. And then the more that so the more science advances and understanding the intelligence of other animals… The more that will force us to be compassionate human beings… And then also the more that… Sorry! Now I got myself off track but I know what I’m gonna say….

 

Arin: [00:39:33] Well let me ask you this then…

 

Regina: [00:39:36] No wait wait wait wait. Let me get my point. Let me get to my point. I do have one! So the more that we understand the intelligence of other animals, animals that we typically consume for food, the less we’re going to eat those animals. But then also the more equal domestic animals will seem to non domesticated animals and to farm animals. So that maybe in 50 to 100 years, people won’t have the same reaction that they had to this study because we’ll be like “Yeah of course dogs are dogs. Dogs are animals.”

 

Nikki: [00:40:12] That’s a really good point.

 

Regina: [00:40:12] It just took me a long time to get to that point, but I did have one!

 

Arin: [00:40:16] Yeah I think you’re exactly right. And I would just say one more time – that headline was so troll-y, though! Definitely trying to get a reaction out of us with that headline!

 

Regina: [00:40:26] Kudos to the person who wrote it because that’s how you do it. It was an accurate headline. It was accurate.

 

Arin: [00:40:34] Well, as somebody who is exceptionally good at headlines, Regina, what would you have headlined the piece?

 

Regina: [00:40:40] Oh I don’t know.

 

Arin: [00:40:42] Would you have gone for a troll headline like this?

 

Regina: [00:40:45] Oh of course I would have!

 

Arin: [00:40:47] Because it’s good to get people to click…

 

Regina: [00:40:50] I trolled people in one of our last podcast posts about pit bulls and I said for starters they aren’t even real. People got so mad.

 

Arin: [00:41:02] Yeah. You don’t run away from a bold headline.

 

Regina: [00:41:05] I do not.

 

Arin: [00:41:07] Well good for them then and good for them for having a discussion. it’s prompted a lot of interesting talks, a lot of interesting discussions and some funny tweets.

 

Regina: [00:41:16] And some really disjointed podcasting.

 

Arin: [00:41:22] Buttons had some good points to make though.

 

Regina: [00:41:27] No he he made some silent judging points, I’m sure. But I think I think Murray and… that was Ruckus that was singing?

 

Nikki: [00:41:35] Yeah it was. That was Ruckus.

 

Regina: [00:41:38] You know you’re honestly, you know, you’re your dog has like a really soulful spirit. I mean you can’t listen to that voice without thinking, like, wow your dog is deep. You don’t know what’s going on behind those eyes man. There could be some serious. Like deep thoughts.

 

Nikki: [00:41:56] Like give me cookies give me cookies give me cookies give me cookies

 

Arin: [00:41:59] I mean I’m going to be honest. That’s what’s going through my head about half the time to. Okay, I gotta get going.

 

Nikki: [00:42:11] All right. Thanks for your time.

 

Arin: [00:42:14] Thank you so much for having me. Thank you.

 

Regina: [00:42:17] And if you like what you heard here and you like the work that we do to bring dogs and people together to end discrimination you can visit Animal Farm foundation dot org slash donate and send us money or follow us on Facebook at Animal Farm Foundation and also on Instagram at Animal Farm foundation to interact with us and see lots of pictures of dogs and people.

 

Nikki: [00:42:40] We also have some pretty good swag out there. Guys I don’t know if you know but check out our shop if you can. If you don’t if you want to and get some swag like a T-shirt or we got some cool you got leashes and fun stuff like that.

 

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