Illinois Wesleyan study showcases intelligence of dogs

.Studies conducted by psychologists at Illinois Wesleyan University indicate dogs have stronger senses of direction, can count (to a certain degree), and can think critically when they need to. (Photo by James Willock/flickr)

By Patrick Baron

BLOOMINGTON – Dogs have been called “man’s best friend,” but a study from Illinois Wesleyan University shows they may be among man’s smartest friends as well.

Assistant professor of psychology Ellen Furlong has been leading a study that highlights the intelligence of dogs, suggesting they are more cognitive than people may give them credit for. She explained the dogs were subjected to various problems that tested their ability to adapt to their environments in order to reach a treat.

“We give them these problems, we look at how they solve them, we watch the videotapes of them doing these things, and then we learn something about how their minds work,” said Furlong. “So it’s a lot of fun and full of surprises.”

Furlong noted the dogs being tested have shown the ability to count, to a certain degree. For example, one of the tests indicated dogs can tell the difference between a plate that has 50 small treats versus a plate that has 60.

“We’ve controlled for things you might expect could be tells for them, like odor. It’s not that one has more smell to it than the other because there are more treats there, we’ve controlled for that, and they’re still really good at discriminating quantities,” Furlong explained.

Furlong said she and her staff are happy to accept volunteers who want to have their dogs take part in any future tests. Furlong explained they will continue to run various experiments concerning dogs’ self-control, social reasoning, and comparing a dog’s cognitive thinking process to that of a wolf.

Patrick Baron can be reached at


Labor Day – Expanding voting rights for all

By Mike Matejka Because of COVID, there is no Labor Day Parade this year.  It’s always a great event for our everyday workers to march proudly down the street and enjoys the festive crowd. If there had been a parade, this year’s Labor Day theme was to be “150 years of struggle: your right to vote.” …

Is federal mobilization the answer?

By Mike Matejka As President Donald Trump threatens to send federal marshals into Chicago, over the objections of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, recall another Illinois Governor who protested the incursion of armed federal personnel into the city.   Those federal troops, rather than calming, escalated the situation, leading to deaths and violence. Illinois poet Vachel Lindsay…

In these troubled times, to my fellow white Americans

By Mike Matejka Our nation is at a unique watershed in human relations. African-Americans have been killed too many times in the past before George Floyd, but the response to this man’s death is international and all-encompassing. I was a grade-schooler during the Civil Rights 1960s. I watched Birmingham demonstrators hosed and the Selma – Montgomery…

Workers’ Memorial Day – Remember those whose job took their life

Looking around our community, when we say employer, most will respond to State Farm, Country, or Illinois State University.   We too often forget those who are building our roads, serving our food, or our public employees. COVID-19 has made us more aware of the risk.  Going to work every day for some people means…