Skidboot was an extraordinary dog that entertained people everywhere he went as the World’s Smartest Dog. A crowd pleasing trick involved Skidboot listening to his owner, David Hartwig, count to three before retrieving a ball, but Hartwig mixed up the counting in an attempt to stump his dog. In the end, Skidboot eagerly focused on the ball and pounced on it when Hartwig said three. People were convinced the dog could count. Jim the Wonder Dog was also famous for his ability to recognize numbers, but can canines really understand simple math?
Quantitative thinking is something most people don’t believe dogs are capable of. It’s the concept of analyzing mathematical data in relation to quantity or number and having the ability to figure out if one thing is larger than another. One early experiment that researchers conducted was to see if dogs understood quantity. They used a large and small ball of hamburger, each on a separate plate, and tested dogs to see which one they would choose. When the plates were set at different distances, the dogs took the one closest to them regardless of its size, but when both plates were of equal distance they always chose the larger ball of meat.
Researchers concluded dogs didn’t understand quantitative thinking and couldn’t determine the difference in size. However, what they failed to account for is the opportunistic nature of canines and seemed to discount the fact that dogs picked the large ball of meat when the two plates were side by side.