A year isn't a good year without reading some dog literature. So I wanted to make sure 2014 wasn't lacking in that department and read The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think by Vanessa Words and Brian Hare.
It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the term that the author coined for the field he studies: "dognition." I was amazed to learn how incredibly smart some dogs can be, learning to recognize 800-1,000 words in some cases (!). I found it very interesting how many of the techniques used to study human infant learning applied directly to studying dog cognition, and how many lessons that we learned from dogs can apply to helping us understand human cognition as well.
I was surprised by how many new things I learned about the evolution of dogs and domestication (a lot of what I considered true before, like the idea of humans domesticating dogs, is a myth). The idea that surprised and struck me the most was that dogs may have actually domesticated us.
This book featured a mix of stories about the author's dogs as well as a review of many of the recent scientific studies that have been performed to understand animal cognition. I liked how the author distinguished clearly between studies that found significant results and those which were inconclusive.
Here are my biggest overall takeaways, and below are my notes.