Animal

Down boy: why grumpy dogs are more intelligent than happy-go-lucky hounds


Name: Grumpy dogs.

Appearance: Just adorable.

Intelligence: Smarter than happy dogs.

Can we quickly define ‘grumpy’? Of course we can. A grumpy dog is a canine that’s quick to bark, likes to ignore its owners, snaps when disturbed and angrily guards its food.

Oh, you mean bad dogs. No, I don’t. I mean shy dogs. Misunderstood dogs. Dogs that don’t necessarily bound into every room wagging their tails and licking everyone like a career politician on the campaign trail.

And these dogs are actually intelligent, you say? That’s right. Especially when compared to their more happy-go-lucky counterparts.

Smart in what way? They’re able to learn better. Dr Péter Pongrácz, a specialist in dog-human interaction at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, has reported that all the characteristics that make a dog grumpy are also liable to help them assess a situation before they take action.

What kind of situation? Pongrácz conducted an experiment where he placed a dog’s favourite toy behind a V-shaped wire fence. To get to it, the dog had to turn around and circumvent the fence. The happier dogs – the dogs with more socially dominant tendencies – tended to run straight at the toy and smash into the fence.

And the grumpier dogs? They figured out the puzzle a bit quicker. Pongrácz suggests that their grumpy traits, the ones that prevent them from joining in immediately, might make them more attentive.

Great! So, to make our silly dogs cleverer, we should make them grumpy? God, no! That’s not what I’m saying at all. It’s more that maybe we all could learn more by stepping back and asking questions.

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Are you saying the same is true for humans? Sure, why not? I mean, who is smarter? The happy person who dives off a cliff into the sea, or the grump who checks the sea for rocks first?

The grump. And who is smarter: the carefree driver who speeds out of junctions without looking, or the grump who stops to make sure he or she won’t crash?

Again, the grump. And who is smarter: the idiot who believes mainstream media reporting about the transmissibility of Covid, or the grump who does their own research online and attends maskless rallies?

Um, I don’t think this one works at all. Sure, fine, this is just a study about dogs. Whatever.

Do say: “My grumpiness is actually a sign of high intelligence.”

Don’t say: “And also a sign of why I’m more likely to die alone.”



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