In reading through the report prepared for us by the Dognition team about Bella's results, there seemed to be a common thread running throughout and that is how many times the words (or sentiment) "This talent would come in handy in the wild" came up.
These are Bella's results for the initial Dognition games:
And below are just some of the insights provided in Bella's profile:
"Bella is a specialist in independent problem solving, which requires a keen understanding of the physical world, a good memory and the ability to solve problems she has never seen before. Because she is so good at solving problems on her own, Bella does not need to rely on humans as much. While scores in the games testing social skills are solid, Bella's preferred strategy is definitely to work out problems without anyone's help."And the specifics:
(Jan would just like to say "Bella sounds a lot like her 'mom'".)
EMPATHYThe theme continues in her performance in the monthly games (similar to the initial games but with instant results).
"Being individualistic is something to be proud of. Perhaps you've noticed that Bella is excellent at self-entertaining, or is better at solving problems on her own."
"Of all the species that have been studied, dogs are the champions at using our communicative gestures. Even chimpanzees, who are one of our closest living relatives, do not rely on human gestures as much as dogs do. Instead, chimpanzees try to figure out these types of problems on their own.
Compared to other dogs, on this scale Bella was more like a chimpanzee. Although chimpanzees are extremely intelligent in other areas, when they play a similar game they do not use a human point to find the food. Instead, they tend to use more self-reliant strategies."
"Bella 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 Bella 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 Bella... Bella's performance shows a sophisticated mind at work."
"Bella 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... This skill comes in handy in the wild. Feral dogs tend to be endurance hunters, slowly wearing down their prey."
"You can be very proud. Bella 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.
This talent would come in handy in the wild, since animals often have to keep track of objects that become hidden.
Bella 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.
Congratulations - when playing the most difficult game in the most difficult dimension, Bella's performance was masterful."
- The Numerosity game: "In the wild, there are many advantages to being as numerically savvy as Bella."
- The Impossible Task game: "Not looking back to ask you for help is rather wolfish behavior... Persistence in situations like these is a valuable quality, and reflects your dog’s curiosity and determination."
- And the Spatial Navigation game: "Bella would make a great explorer.... no matter which way she was oriented she would most likely go back to the bowl she had learned had food in the beginning. This strategy is particularly effective in large and unfamiliar environments."
Bella was bred to survive.
I guess what we've most discovered about Bella through these tests is that she was probably a bit more feral when she came to live with us than we realized. I wish we had known how feral at the time - we certainly could have made things easier for her.
Dr. Dodman has told us more than once, "She's smart. She's got it all figured out. She's just got it figured out all wrong."
Bella's life in an American home may be filled with stress and monsters but the way she thinks, the way she learns, would have served her well in the environment to which she was born.
I signed up for Dognition because I wanted to understand Bella better, hopefully learn a little bit about how she thinks so I could figure out how to help her cope with this life she's been dropped into.
One would like to believe that the life she's living now is far superior to any she had a chance of living on the island but she doesn't know what lay in store for her there. Maybe she could have survived a few years because of her cunning and her smarts. But one mistake could have meant a painful demise.
She doesn't know that though. And so she lives here with us worried about garbage cans, flies and the chirps of dying batteries.
But every day we continue to learn and teach and try. And she's such a willing partner in all of this.
My little hero...
If you have also gone through the games and gotten your dog's Dognition profile, I would love to read them. Please share in the comments or direct us to your own reviews!