It’s often argued that because both dogs and humans are highly evolved social beings with highly evolved brains featuring similar structures, therefore they must have some degree of cognitive function in common as well. (This is true, but not in the way we think.) It’s assumed that a dog must be capable of “higher order thinking” (analysis, evaluation and synthesis) and is therefore able to understand itself as an individuated entity relative to other selves that are likewise entities onto themselves. Cognitively, dogs aren’t different from man in kind but by degree. In short, dogs are people too.
But how does one think by degree, how does one compare one moment to another moment, or one point of view to another point of view, but only to a degree? Does this mean that dogs think really, really slowly, or that they can only connect a few dots at a time, or that they can only hold in mind a limited number of connected dots at one time before they lose track and have to start over? Sort of like the varying degree of talent between chess players, – some able to envision the consequences of moves several turns into the future while others can’t? Or are dogs mentally retarded, missing some brain function that smarter human beings have? Or are they more like idiot savants, able to do one or two things amazingly well, like calculate square roots to thousands of decimal points, but then aren’t able to balance a checkbook. So in other words, if dogs differ cognitively from human intellect by degree rather than in kind, then therefore dogs have to be rated according to an “Intelligence Quotient” and now all of a sudden, not only are people smarter than dogs, but one dog may be more or less smarter than another. Dogs are stupid people, and some dogs are just plain dumb. Is this kind of analysis, evaluation and synthesis to be the big payoff from all the modern brain scanning, MRI imaging, gene sequencing and behavioral research that’s going on? To wit: dogs are stupid people.
I suggest that dogs and humans do indeed have something quite profound in common, and that it is most evident between an infant human baby and a dog, rather than an adult human being and a dog, and it has nothing to do with higher order thinking or intellectual prowess. Rather I suggest it has something to do with wanting to stuff the world into their mouths.