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Do you Believe in Dog? (2018). Powered by Blogger.

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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...


19 September 2012

Looking at looks

Hi Mia!

I mean, AHHHH You made a video! Tre exciting!!

So many working dogs in one place -- that’s what I am constantly amazed by about your project. I know that's the point, but it's still quite groovy. Working dogs are so often this abstract concept, and your project is pulling them together and exploring them in one place.

Carrying a box, not a laptop. Next time, bring me some pizza...
And of course, the real working dogs
I realize that a lot of what we're talking about on this Blog is exploring the dog for who the dog is. Part of this entails investigating how we, the humans, have physically molded and shaped dogs. After all, left to their own devices, dogs would not naturally mold themselves into the Pug, Great Dane and Schipperke.

All members of the same species. Weird!
As part of a recent research project at the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab, I’ve spent oodles of time thinking about why dogs look the way they do. I often peruse breed websites, like the AKC, to read different breed physical standards. 

“The ideal Boston Terrier expression is "alert and kind, indicating a high degree of intelligence.” 

A Bichon Frise is said to have an “inquisitive expression.” 

Leaving behavior out of the equation, what is it about the way a Boston Terrier looks that indicates intelligence? What is it about a Bichon’s expression that deems it inquisitive? 

How do we come to attribute different meanings to different appearances? Next time, I'll tell you how our research group took a stab at "looking at looks," but first...

Hello out there in TV Land! What do you think? 

What is it about your dog's physical appearance (if anything) that prompts you to ascribe particular character traits to your dog?

Bye for now!


© Julie Hecht 2012
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  1. I have a really large dog, so he tends to get the 'big boofhead' or 'gentle giant' labels by others.

    I think certain breeds look more intelligent based on their ears being erect of floppy, but I'm not really sure why?

  2. Agree with anonymous, and also the shape of their eyes and mouth. Loose = a dopey look and firm/no excess skin = a bright look. If they are awake more often than not and focussing on people/things then they would be viewed to be more intelligent looking.

  3. I'm biased towards the pricked ears = more "intelligent" notion, though I know I'm being arbitrary. Perhaps these slopes and contours reveal their eyes a bit more clearly *to me*, so *I* feel like I am reading more about their expressions. Not having excessive fur around their faces helps, too. Longer muzzles with tight lips, eyes that are not too round and gaze steadily on objects, on me -- these things also signify alertness to me.

    My dogs' curly tails brings them down a notch though. That part is just downright *cute*, especially when wagging and twisting at full throttle. That part just screams "pet!" to me. And so they are.


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