Stray dogs living in Russia’s capital city Moscow have for many years been observed navigating the complex subway system. What’s more, the stray dogs ride the subway like any other commuter, waiting patiently to reach their intended destination and getting off at their own regular stops.
Everybody likes to think they have a smart dog. Maybe it knows a few tricks like how to say hello, pee only on the rude neighbor’s yard, or crack open a bottle of your favorite beer, but there are no dogs that can compare to a significant number of the roughly 35,000 stray dogs living in Moscow.
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Dr. Andrey Poyarkov, a biologist who has studied Moscow’s strays for 30 years, told ABC News that,
In Moscow there are all sorts of stray dogs, but… there are no stupid dogs. The street is tough and it’s survival of the fittest. These clever dogs know people much better than people know them.
Studies back up Dr. Poyarkov’s assertion that the stray dogs know people better than people know the dogs. Dogs have honed their social skills over the thousands of years they’ve interacted with humans. They’ve become masters of understanding complex human emotions and human societal structure. Furthermore, dogs are the only non-primate species that instinctively moves its gaze to the right side of a face to obtain information about emotions and general state of being. Amazingly, dogs only exhibit this behavior only when meeting a human being.
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Dogs are certainly an interesting and clever species due large in part to their longstanding position as Man’s best friend.This relationship is likely the reason stray dogs are able to comprehend the relatively complex intricacies of one of the world’s most extensive and impressive subway systems.
According to Poyarkov’s graduate student, Alexei Vereshchagin, what’s most impressive about the subway riding stray dogs is that they are able to remain perfectly calm and focused despite the Metro’s blaring noises and huge crowds of people. Vereshchagin explains that,
It’s stressful even for people standing in a crowd, and the dogs are lying down so no one is seeing them, so anyone can put feet on them. But they get used to this.
Poyarkov notes that Moscow’s stray dogs have adapted to human society in other incredible ways as well. For example, packs of stray dogs have been seen obeying traffic lights, and sending cuter dogs to beg for food for the pack. Packs and individual stray dogs have also been reported scaring people in an attempt to snag a free meal. The strays jump up behind people holding food and bark right behind their head, causing the person to drop their food out of fear. Poyarkov notes that this is clearly a harmless scare tactic as the stray dogs don’t normally bite or scratch.
Fortunately the stray dogs and people of Moscow seem to be living peacefully together. There is even a statue in the Mendeleyevskaya subway station commemorating a stray dog named Malchik, who was stabbed to death by a fashion model for barking at her pet terrier.
All of these behaviors illustrate that dogs are highly capable at adapting to new environments, especially when it comes to urban sprawls. In truth, all dog breeds are intelligent in vastly different ways. Some make great hunting companions, some are excellent at evading detection, some are the perfect security guard, while others are masters of cuddling.
The degree of intelligence also varies greatly from breed to breed, as well as from individual to individual. A great example is that of Betsy the dog, a border collie who knows more than 340 words and is able to easily connect an actual object with a photo of the same object despite having seen neither before. My dog can barely recognize her own name. She’s of the ‘expert cuddler’ class of intelligence. Chaser, a border collie from the United States, can remember the names of more than 1,000 items. Scientists also state that Chaser can categorize toys by function or shape, an activity learned by young human children.
In 1994, Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, published a book entitled The Intelligence of Dogs. The book presents a list of dog breeds ordered by intelligence. Intelligence is evaluated using 3 different criteria: instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence, and working and obedience intelligence. Below is a list of the top 10 canine geniuses, and the top 10 canine derps. Don’t let your dog see it though since studies show that dogs are prone to human-like jealousy.
- Border Collie
- German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever
- Doberman Pinscher
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Labrador Retriever
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Basset Hound
- Chow Chow
- Afghan Hound