cover image The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think

The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think

Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods. Dutton, $27.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-525-95319-7

Arguing against the common assumption that a domesticated animal is somehow also a weaker, less intelligent one, Hare and Woods present a scientific study that doubles as a warmhearted tribute to man’s best friend. The authors evaluate animal intelligence primarily on the basis of a species’ success in surviving, finding the canine intellect on that count to be closely suited to coexistence with humans. Domestication has resulted in animals “more like infants than wolves” that can make inferences about human behavior and learn human vocabulary. Dogs also read our gestures, anticipate our desires, and better the quality of our lives, receiving food, shelter, and care in return. Observing that humans do not invite many other mammals to live in our homes and even sleep in our beds, Hare and Woods suggest that dogs earned this coveted spot by being our friends—a phenomenon they dub “survival of the friendliest.” The pair find that the human- canine relationship is not as one-sided as it can sometimes seem, but delivers such benefits to humans as alleviating loneliness, lowering blood pressure, and relieving stress, while they also touch on their research’s implications for our own species. (Feb.)