Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Bark Magazine Interview

If you read The Bark magazine, you might notice a familiar name. Back in January, I was contacted by Julie Hecht, a columnist for The Bark and the manager of the dog cognition lab at Barnard College in New York. She'd found my blog posts summarizing the Patricia McConnell seminar I attended last fall, and wanted to know: What's the practical application of all this research?

Good question. We've learned a lot about dog's cognitive abilities in the past few years. While I find it interesting simply for curiosity's sake (I'm a shameless dog geek), we really ought to be doing something will all this knowledge. So Julie and I spoke on the phone for about half an hour. I was incredibly nervous and probably talked way too fast and jumped from topic to topic, but she still found something useful in my ramblings.

The article came out in the March-May 2012 issue, which I just picked up this morning. I admit, it's a little surreal to see myself quoted alongside researchers, behaviorists, and big name trainers like Ian Dunbar. The article, titled Dog Smarts, summarizes some of the recent research and theorizes on the implications.

For me, the take-away message of all this research is that dogs are complex creatures capable of some pretty impressive cognitive tasks. It seems that they are much smarter than we realize; we've only just scratched the surface, after all. I can't help but wonder if we aren't wasting their brains. While trainers and television personalities often emphasize the importance of physical exercise, they tend to neglect discussing mental exercise. I really think we could all do a better job of enriching our dogs' lives.

What about you guys? What do you think all this excellent research tells us? How does it change your view of your dogs? What practical applications do you think it should have in our lives, and those of our dogs? I'd love to hear from other dog geeks!

In case you're curious, I've included my 15 minutes of fame below, but I definitely encourage you to read the entire article if you can get your hands on it.


Jen said...

I have a subscription to The Bark, but haven't really read my most recent issue yet. It's on the table, there. Under stuff. I'll definitely get to it sooner, rather than later!


Ximena said...

I second what Jen says... I think my issue is in someone's car. Somewhere.

So awesome to see bloggers featured among important company! Congrats!

andrea said...

I tried to comment last night and couldn't - weirdness!
Anyhow - thanks for sharing ... and I loved the comment about real mental abilities - if it helps just one person enrich their dogs life in some way that's just thrilling!

Kerry M. said...

Congrats. I consider your blog one of my top 3 favorite dog blogs for the mix of learning + anecdotes so your getting recognized for this doesn't surprise me at all.

I actually think you sum up some expert trainers better than they do themselves, so I've referred your websites to friends trying to understand different concepts and trainer's philosophies.

Crystal Thompson said...

Thanks, guys! Like I said- it's kind of surreal, but I'm excited she included the quote about dogs' mental needs.

Shannon said...

Congrats, that's really cool to be featured in a magazine! I think you're right on about dog's brains being wasted. Especially in today's modern world, when a large number of dogs live in urban homes with owners that work all day. In the past, dogs on farms and in the suburbs before leash laws were able to explore new places and things, and were probably a lot more mentally stimulated.

Not that we should go back to that, but modern dogs need more help from their humans to get a healthy amount of mental stimulation. It's definitely just as important, if not more so, than physical exercise.

Crystal Thompson said...

Shannon, I worry a lot about whether or not I'm meeting Maisy's needs. I do work fulltime, so she spends a lot of time alone. I try to give her interesting things (puzzle toys, training, off leash hikes), but I know I could give her more. It's a subject near to my heart.

Joanna said...

You're getting famous! ;)