Pinky and Her Brain-Part II

What kind of unique genius does Pinky possess? That is what we spent the weekend finding out. Pinky took the Dognition Assessment, which is a series of 20 games designed to test dogs in the five categories of Empathy, Communication, Cunning, Memory and Reasoning. According to Dognition, “There has been a revolution in how we think about intelligence. The profile is based on his cutting-edge field called cognitive science. Cognition is the study of how the mind works and draws on many scientific disciplines, from psychology to computer science to neuroscience.” The test is done at home using only a few household items such as paper cups, sticky notes and treats. The test is lengthy, as you repeat each game numerous times to ensure the validity of the results and we found it best to break it up over a few days. Created by Brian Hare, an evolutionary anthropologist and the head of Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center, the tests are designed to reveal a dog’s “cognitive style” – so there are no right or wrong answers. From the answers given, the profile reveals the strategies your dog uses to solve a variety of problems.

Dognition 1 text


The empathy portion of the test offers information on how your dog reads and responds to the emotions of others. It included a yawn game as well as a game to test how long your dog will hold eye contact.

According to her profile, Pinky’s empathy scores were very high, which according to initial results is unusual as small dogs tend to be more individualistic. “Pinky certainly stands out from the small dog crowd. If most dogs are bonded to their owners, Pinky absolutely adores you”. (A test that asks her to yawn and look at me is just her kind of test!)


The communication section included arm and foot pointing tests. This required putting three sticky notes on the floor about two feet apart in front of me and setting a paper cup on the right and left side of the middle sticky note. I would show Pinky a treat and let her watch me put it under a paper cup on my right side. I would point to the cup with the treat and she was allowed to look for it. If she passed between the center note and the left, she was choosing the left cup, if she passed between the center sticky note and the right side; she was choosing the right cup.

Pinky’s results indicated that she was highly collaborative. “Pinky can read you like a book…Pinky pays close attention to your gestures and what you are trying to communicate”. (This is very true of Pinky – and also the reason I sometimes have to hide in the bathroom to eat cheesecake. She is always watching my hands and knows what a fork is!)


These tests were designed to indicate how trustworthy or wiley your dog is (or as we like to think of it – the sneaky quotient). This category included games such as showing your dog a treat, telling them no and then turning your back. Do they go for the treat when you aren’t looking? These tests help determine whether a dog uses social information when deciding whether to take advantage of you.

Pinky scored as trustworthy because Pinky was more likely to take the treat when I was looking at her versus when my back was turned. “Pinky shows that she can easily and flexibly read your gestures. But when given the chance, she won’t use that knowledge against you.” (Perhaps…but they have never seen her with a donut in the room!)

Dognition 3 text


These games included ones such as showing your dog a treat, letting them watch you put it under a cup, then pointing to the other cup when they approached to retrieve the treat. There were also games that tested memory vs.smell and delayed memory.

Pinky struggled with these tests. Many times she would come to the middle sticky note and stare at me as opposed to choosing a side. Each of the tests were repeated 6 times to ensure accuracy and she never figured them out. “Pinky does not rely as heavily on her working memory as other dogs do. Working memory is a kind of short-term memory that allows Pinky to retain and process information.” (Hmmmm….might explain a few things)


Reasoning is the ability to solve a problem when you can’t see the answer and have to imagine the solution. These games included hiding a treat behind a folded piece of paper with an angle to it (to indicate something was behind it) and the dog having to infer that there was a hidden treat as well as more games using the cups.

Pinky struggled with these as well. Her profile said, “Pinky seemed to have a difficult time figuring this one out. She scored more towards the impulsive end, which means she doesn’t get caught up in the details-especially details that aren’t right in front of her. There is no shame in this.” (Well, if you have to say it…)

Dogniton chart
Pinky’s Results

The Results

Once the results are analyzed, you are sorted into one of nine categories – such as problem solving “Experts” to clever “Charmers” to independent “Mavericks”. Pinky fell into the category of Stargazer, which said, “While what goes on behind the Stargazer’s eyes may sometimes seem mysterious, it is by no means dull. Perhaps these dogs see a whole other world that is hidden to us.” Click on the categories below to learn more about each one:





Renaissance Dog





We had a lot of fun playing the games in the assessment and it did give me a better understanding of Pinky’s problem solving strategies. I can now better communicate with her by approaching things in a way that takes advantage of her strengths. Although Pinky’s profile said, “Pinky is an intriguing enigma…and she may have to work a little harder than other dogs” we are not discouraged. As Dr. Hare once said, “It’s not always survival of the fittest. Sometimes it’s the friendliest that have an evolutionary edge.” Pinky is an A+ in my book!

Pinky and her brain 2 edited

*Although I was not able to find a scientifically based intelligence test for cats, for our kitty loving readers, here is a link to some fun games to test your furry friend’s brainpower. I hope you have a great time with your feline IQ test!


3 thoughts on “Pinky and Her Brain-Part II”

  1. Aww, Pinky is so adorable and this is so cool! I may just have to try this with Eddie. I bet he’s going to score very low for trustworthy in the cunning category. I’m sure he’ll snap up the treat as soon as my back is turned. But my GUESS is that if it’s my husband, he would wait. Hmm… what does that tell ya! Can’t wait to read through the feline IQ test too!


    1. Thanks! She was a very cooperative participant – and looked like a basketball after all of the treats. If Eddie takes the test, let me know what kind of unique genius he is. If he gets confused like Pinky, maybe he can recruit three little helpers!

      Liked by 1 person

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