Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dogs Don't Use Tools, Or Do They?

Do dogs use tools?
Everyone who studies animal intelligence makes special note of species that use tools, something once thought to be the exclusive domain of people. (Oh, our hubris!)

First, what is it that qualifies as this special thing we call using tools? One of the basic tool usages is manipulating an object (a tool) to achieve some goal distinct from the tool. Usually, the tool is used to get food.

For example researchers started noticing that Chimpanzees make spears to use in hunting smaller primates. They strip certain twigs of leaves to use for fishing termites out of holes. They use stone hammers to crack open nuts. They even use some kinds of leaves to make sponges and then use the sponges for washing.

Gorillas cut sticks of certain lengths to use as walking sticks and as gauges to measure water depth.

Sea Otters use stone hammers to crack open shells.

Elephants make fly swatters. They plug up the openings to narrow water holes to keep other, smaller animals from drinking all the water. They drop logs over electric fences to short them out.

Crows drop walnuts into intersections so that vehicles will drive over them and crack them open. Then the crows watch the stoplights. When the light turns red and stops the traffic, the crows fly down and safely get the walnuts.

Dolphins pick up marine sponges and use them to sweep the bottom of the ocean to stir up prey that is hiding in the sand.

Orangutans make whistles out of leaves to use in communication.

But do dogs use tools? Yes, they are man's best friend, and we love them dearly. And we know that it is easy to teach a dog to pick up an object and do nearly anything with it. But what about a dog that dreams up some kind of tool use on its own? Come on, really? Tool use? Taking an object, doing something with it to turn it into a tool for a specific use?

Watch this video of a Beagle when its owner is gone. He moves a kitchen chair across the floor so that he can use it as a step stool to get up on the kitchen counter, open the toaster oven, and steal the food inside. It will remove any doubt you may have about dogs using tools!

Here's the link: 

Beagle When Owner Leaves

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