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The domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is a subspecies of the gray wolf (Canis lupus), a member of the Canidae family of the mammalian order Carnivora. The term "domestic dog" is generally used for both domesticated and feral varieties. The dog was the first domesticated animal and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and pet animal in human history. The word "dog" can also refer to the male of a canine species, as opposed to the word "bitch" which refers to the female of the species.
The domestic dog has a predisposition to exhibit a social intelligence that is uncommon in the animal world. Dogs are capable of learning in a number of ways, such as through simple reinforcement (e.g., classical or operant conditioning) and by observation.
Dogs go through a series of stages of cognitive development. As with humans, the understanding that objects not being actively perceived still remain in existence (called object permanence) is not present at birth. It develops as the young dog learns to interact intentionally with objects around it, at roughly 8 weeks of age.
Puppies learn behaviors quickly by following examples set by experienced dogs. This form of intelligence is not peculiar to those tasks dogs have been bred to perform, but can be generalized to myriad abstract problems. For example, Dachshund puppies that watched an experienced dog pull a cart by tugging on an attached piece of ribbon in order to get a reward from inside the cart learned the task fifteen times faster than those left to solve the problem on their own.
October 23rd, 2013
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