Dog lovers know the feeling. Their pets seem human. The way they lick a tear-stained face or gaze adoringly, sometimes even more so than friends or, um, spouses.
But that’s a misperception, says animal behaviorist, author and contrarian Clive Wynne. People may behave like animals, but dogs, he says, are just good at being dogs.
With new discoveries about animal intelligence announced practically every day, there is growing sentiment that dogs, parrots and ark-loads of other creatures share the essential qualities of Homo sapiens. This yanks Wynne’s chain. A professor of psychology and author of “Do Animals Think?” he contends that while animals may appear uncannily human, it is strictly an appearance. Their perceptions and cognitive abilities are radically different from ours.
Wynne, who earned degrees from University College London and the University of Edinburgh, researches pet dogs at his Canine Cognition Laboratory in Gainesville and captive wolves at Wolf Park, a research park in Indiana. There, he explores what might be termed the meaning of ‘dogness,’ delving into such questions as whether dogs have become genetically programmed to respond to human cues. The answer seems to be no. The wolves in Wynne’s experiments follow human points and other doggy directions.