Are the animals intelligent? – A scientific view introduction

It’s very common we listen an affirmative answer to this question from pet owners, animal trainers and/or behavioral specialists. But, can we consider an animal intelligent? And how, where and when can we consider that?

Firstly, we should know the correct definition of Behavior, Intelligence, Intelligence (Biology), Cognition, Anthropomorphism, Declarative knowledge and Procedural knowledge.
Then, we must make a clear analysis of the matrices of this complex subject.

Intelligence is not an useful term in science for describing animal behavior. Intelligence is often used to describe general abilities in people.

Humans use that word to others species judged by a similar human intelligent behavior. This is not a good scientific practice, labeling behavior as intelligent is anthropomorphic and anthropocentric. By other side, we are not consider the individual intelligent, but a specific behavior displayed in a specific situation, with a possible past conditioning.

In a scientific view, are the cognitive abilities of animals responses in specific events that are study, not “clever” behaviors. Cognitive is often reserved for the manipulation of declarative rather than procedural knowledge (e.g., Dickinson 2008).

On this view, biological intelligence should be defined in terms of fitness (Evolution, Natural Selection and Fitness).

In the study of navigation, problem solving, social interactions, deceit, language, and thinking in animals, scientists have found it necessary to postulate cognitive processes.

But, such suggestions have proved to be controversial, and the question of whether animals can think remains an open question, that’s why it is important not labeling or defining behaviors or events if we really want critical and precise in our definitions.

I recommend the following reading below for a complete understanding of this subject and the possibility of you increase your critical reasoning.

"Evolução " Roger AbrantesCURSO GRATUITO! Evolução é o processo de mudança em todas as formas de vida ao longo de gerações; Biologia evolutiva é o estudo de como ocorre a evolução. Este curso é indispensável para todos os que desejam compreender como o comportamento origina-se, desenvolve-se e evolui.


ABRANTES, R. (2014). Evolution, an introduction. Wakan Tanka Publishers.

CHANCE, P. (2008) Learning and Behavior. Wadsworth-Thomson Learning, Belmont, CA, 6th, ed.

DARWIN, C. (1859) On the origin of species 1st Edition. John Murray, Albemarle Street.

DEMELLO, M. (2012). Animals and Society: An introduction to human-animal studies. Columbia University Press.

HICKMAN, Cleveland P. (2008). Integrated Principles of Zoology, 14 Edition. McGraw-Hill.

LORENZ, Konrad. (1981). The foundations of ethology.
Based on a translation of Vergleichende Verhaltensforschung, with revisions. Springer Science+Business Media New York.

MARTIN, P., Bateson, P. (2007). Measuring Behavior, An introductory guide. Cambridge University Press.

MCFARLAND, D. (1998). Animal Behaviour. Benjamin Cummings. 3rd ed.

MCFARLAND, D. (2006). Dictionary of Animal Behavior. Oxford University Press.

SHETTLEWORTH, S. (2010). Cognition, Evolution, and Behavior—Second Edition. Oxford University Press.

Scientific or Moralistic Training?

We are constantly changing. The necessity makes us adapt to situations and only those that adapt are the ones that continue. It is the essence of nature.

Even more, societies adapt to new situations or the species create new and complex evolutionary strategies, through groups and/or demonstrations of power.

My background in Human-Animal Studies have expanded my critical thinking, forced me to ask more questions than can be Right x Wrong within cultures, how they are constantly changing and how we create an absolute truth that nothing is absolute.

Logical thinking must go beyond books or authors, it must be present within us, outside of moralistic currents, argumentum ad verecundiam or Ad hominen fallacies. Worse than ignorance, is misrepresenting the knowledge gained for personal opinions.

How animal training is included in this thinking? By the formation of groups, by labeling the work or work of others, the use of euphemisms for the justification of certain materials, the use of concepts that do not fit the meaning of the same and the total misrepresentation of science in other situations.

The first error begins with the thought that science is an absolute truth. The scientific process itself does not prove anything, science can at best “be right” about something, and can be altered at any moment depending on the results of new studies. The studies do not prove, the studies demonstrate statistical results of certain observation. What today is A, tomorrow can be B. Right or Wrong does not exist and can’t exist in science. Science is what it is, based on the study of the evidences hitherto presented, does not follow currents, cultures or personal opinions.

The second error follows in the continuation of the first error, the use of science to say what is right or wrong. In ethology we speak in cost x benefit. The operant conditioning speaks of reinforcement x inhibitor. A reinforcement is anything that increases the frequency, intensity, and/or duration of a particular behavior, when presented (+) or removed (-) simultaneously or immediately after a behavior takes place. An inhibitor is anything that decreases the frequency, intensity, and / or duration of a particular behavior, when presented (+) or removed (-) simultaneously or immediately after a behavior takes place. The “+” does not mean good or bad nor “-” does not means bad or good. Reinforce does not mean being good or bad, or an inhibitor means being bad or good. The incorrect interpretation of these concepts creates social labels where most users of these concepts are completely unaware of them and make them A => Right and B => Wrong.

The third error continues in this sequence, the incorrect interpretation of concepts, from behaviors to the use of other concepts / words that do not conform to reality, but which are socially accepted. “Dominance” is one of the forbidden or trivialized words that most deals with, simply because it is misinterpreted and put into practice in interspecific communication through our primitive essence. Simple concepts are misrepresented, introduced in training as an excuse for limiting knowledge. The problem is not the words or concepts, but the individual applicability that the human gives them.

The fourth and final error is the extremism and fanaticism. I realize that there are currently two worlds in animal training, the positive and the negative. Who questions about the positive way can be labeled as negative and who questions about the negative way can be labeled as positive. Anyone who does not use the proper phrase of an author or use it in a certain context, is automatically labeled. Who can ask the use of the clicker is not positive, who can ask the use of shock collars is the “person who fills the dogs with food”. Fundamentalists only pay attention to people who think like them, and see all others as an enemy. We enter into ideological and egocentric discussions that we forget that we are talking about living beings that deserve to be respected. I consider it ironic from the point of view that both sides claim for communication, assertiveness, positive energy and an open mind.

Where am I? Nowhere. It is up to you to decide how you want your relationship and communication with the other species. Ask => Study => Reasoning => Practice => Ask. What is right for me may be wrong for you and vice versa. Nothing is absolute, and if we want to be updated, we must study and ask daily without fear of assuming that we are wrong. Do not camouflage, generalize or ignore concepts, understand them, explain them correctly, practice and demonstrate them in several individuals of the species and not just on individuals previously selected. Do not forget that we are in times of change, and the practice will be what will overthrow theorists who copy texts from other theorists and pass an absolute truth as a dogma. Knowledge is the new model of change, and such a change can’t be conditioned to A or B thoughts, never forget that it has an alphabet to explore. And if you don’t adapt to the knowledge, the natural selection will make his work.. Carpe Diem. – “To change something, build a new model that makes the existing one obsolete.” – R. Buckminster Fuller.

ABRANTES, R. (1997). Dog Language. Wakan Tanka

Abrantes, R. (2011). Abrantes or Dunbar—Who’s the Best?

Abrantes, R. (2011). Unveiling the Myth of Reinforcers and Punishers.

Abrantes, R. (2013). So you want to be a good dog trainer!

Abrantes, R. (2011). Commands or Signals, Corrections or Punishers, Praise or Reinforcers.

Barata, R. (2017). The Social Human Animal

Barata, R. (2017). Dominance — A Scientific View.

Gadbois, S. (2015). 51 Shades of Grey: Misuse, Misunderstanding and Misinformation of the Concepts of “Dominance” and “Punishment”.

HOROWITZ, Alexandra. (2014). Domestic Dog, cognition and Behavior—The Scientific Study of Canis familiaris. Springer.

WATSON, J.C., Arp, Robert. (2015). Critical Thinking—an introduction to reasoning well. Bloomsbury Academic.

Why do I train animals?

It’s the question I was asked before, but now I’m the one doing it myself. What would be the reason to do what I do daily?

To be rich? Certainly my concept of “rich” is different from yours, so there is no concrete measurement of this concept. For me, “rich” is being alive, healthy, with our basic needs supported and with unique memories that will always arouse a smile of momentary longing.

To be famous? Who wants to train animals to become famous can give up. The human animal likes, in his essence, demonstrations of power, mostly with the ostentation of symbols or trophies. Animal Training goes beyond tricks, “obedience” or demonstrations properly controlled and well-selected dogs. Training should be clear communication and a perfect understanding of the other species without bringing it to our social mindset.

The healthy union and discussion of trainers as a way for everyone to improve themselves? Certainly you would be impressed with the answer, an irony when we speak so much about understanding, assertiveness, and understanding, right?

Have free time? No doubt that in this aspect you can completely give up. For many years I don’t know what vacations are, many months I don’t know what is not thinking about work and many weeks without any kind of breaks. When it is not working, it is studying, researching, projects, and the rest time remember that I also exist.

Then, what makes me train animals? Perhaps the interspecific complicity that the right moments gives us and there’s no explanation when happen; The inner smile when seeing the happiness of the families next to their dogs to want to learn more and more; The daily demand for professional upgrade and be amazed at what we still have to learn; Passing the knowledge obtained with a bright in the eyes of the subject we are talking about, as if ourselves were amazed with what we are hearing…

In short: I don’t know why I train animals, but I love it. And you know what? There is no need for reasons, it suffices to feel filled with what we do without apparent reason. Do what fills you, and just feel without trying to respond. Follow your intuition and passion. Carpe Diem.

Dominance – A Scientific View

Some time ago, I wrote an article about the The Social Human Animal, where, among other subjects, I mentioned the fact that we created groups (inside groups and outside groups).

At present, the virtual environment has a world of knowledge to explore, but as human animals we are, we sometimes prefer to join the groups without consulting the factual reality of some subjects. This snowball effect is dangerous and promotes ignorance, nothing benevolent when we want to change the world and even more dangerous when we teach people who will teach others.

Wanting to do animal behavior an armored conclusion is a criminal act that elevates you to a dogmatic field, which I am sure is the opposite of the purpose of these groups.

Personally, I don’t follow chains or morally accepted texts. I follow the science and its facts that are daily questioned and studied. I further argue that it is not to camouflage or ignore concepts that they will not be followed, by the contrary, they will originate more confusion, fundamentalisms and incoherence.
We need to study them and actually explain them with an open mind and separate these concepts from the uses that humans make (more precisely in animal training) because they are two completely different subjects, different species communicate differently.

“To change something, build a new model that makes the existing one obsolete.” – R. Buckminster Fuller. This change is the real transmission of knowledge without moralisms, only then we will make the change.

I have compiled a set of subjects and researches from animal behavior cientists. In virtual world, this subject has already reached the point of mixing of behaviors with states of mind, adulterations of authors and the absurd of argumentum ad verecundiam.

I hope these factual topics can raise your critual reasoning and logical thinking about the issues, only then we can make the change.

Although it does for topics, this article will be a little long as it complements reading the provided links and bibliographic references. For the sake of your knowledge, waste a little time reading and be able to have a well-grounded and well-proven argument when talking about a particular subject.

Click on topics to access them.
Dominance, submission, hierarchies, ethograms and all scientific definitions on the subject. Article by Dr. Roger Abrantes.

Dominance and aggressiveness – Critical reasoning. Article by Dr. Roger Abrantes.

Dr. Simon Gadbois’s article on dominance and punishment.

Canine Etogram-Social and Agonistic Behavior. Article by Dr. Roger Abrantes.

Article by Dr. Marc Bekoff with the testimony of Dr. David Mech stating that he never rejected the notion of dominance.

Dominance and Pseudo-science. Article by Dr. Marc Bekoff.

Dogs display dominance. Dr. Marc Bekoff’s article with several studies and other articles on the subject.

Study on dominance relations in groups of Canis lupus arctos.

Study with quantitative analysis of dominance in domestic dogs.

Recommended bibliographic references
ABRANTES, R. (1997). The Evolution of Canine Social Behavior. Wakan Tanka Publishers.

ABRANTES, R. (1997). Dog Language. Wakan Tanka Publishers.

ABRANTES, R. (2011). Dominance—Making Sense of the Nonsense.

ABRANTES, R. (2012). Canine Ethogram—Social and Agonistic Behavior.

ALCOCK, J. (2001). Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach (7 ed.) Sinauef-Associates Inc., Massachusetts.

ANDERSON, C. & Kilduff, G. (2009). Why dominant personalities attain influence in face-to-face gourds? The competence-signaling effects of trait dominance. Journal of Personality and Social Phychology, 96(2):491-503.

BAUMEISTER, R. (2005). The cultural animal. London: Oxford University Press.

BEKOFF, M. (2010). Encyclopedia of animal rights and animal welfare / edited by Marc Bekoff ; foreword by Jane Goodall.—2nd ed. ABC-Clio, LLC.

BLANK, R. & HINES, S. (2001). Biology and Political Science. New York: Routledge.

BUSS, D. (2001). Human nature and culture: An evolutionary psychological perspective. Journal of Personality, 69,955-978.

CHASE, I.D. (2001) et al. PNAS 2002;99:5744-5749

COPPINGER, R. and Coppinger, L. (2001). Dogs: a Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution. Scribner.

DEMELLO, M. (2012). Animals and Society: An introduction to human-animal studies. Columbia University Press.

DONALSON, S., Kymlicka, W. (2011). Zoopolis—A Political Theory of Animal Rights. Oxford University Press.

GREENE, J. (2013). Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them. New York: Penguin books.

HENRICH, N. (2007). Why humans cooperate. New York: Oxford University Press.

HICKMAN, Cleveland P. (2008). Integrated Principles of Zoology, 14 Edition. McGraw-Hill.

HOROWITZ, Alexandra. (2014). Domestic Dog, cognition and Behavior—The Scientific Study of Canis familiaris. Springer.

KAMINSKI, J., Marshall-Pescini, S. (2014). The Social Dog — Behaviour and Cognition. Elsevier.

MCFARLAND, D. (1998). Animal Behaviour. Benjamin Cummings. 3rd ed.

MCFARLAND, D. (2006). A Dictionary of Animal Behaviour. Oxford University Press.

MECH, L.D. (1999). Alpha status, dominance and division of labor in wolf packs. Can. J. Zool.

MIKLÓSI, Ádám. (2007). Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition. Oxford University Press.

MORRIS, D. (1967). The Naked Ape: A Zoologist’s Study of the Human Animal. Delta(1999).

MORRIS, D. (1969). The Human Zoo. Kodansha America, Inc.

SCOTT, J. P. (1976). Violence and social Disaggregation. Aggressive Behavior, 1, 235-260.

SKINNER, B. F. (1966). The phylogeny and ontology of behavior, Science, 153,1205-1213

STRICKLIN, W.R. (2000). ANSC 455 Applied Animal Behavior. Department of Animal and Avian Sciences.

SZÉKELY, T. (2010). Social Behaviour, Genes, Ecology and Evolution. Cambridge University Press.

VAN DER BORG, J. (2015) Dominance in Domestic Dogs: A Quantitative Analysis of Its Behavioural Measures.

WATSON, J.C., Arp, Robert. (2015). Critical Thinking—an introduction to reasoning well. Bloomsbury Academic.

Step by Step

Article publish in Barks Digital Magazine at March/April 2015 edition, page 38.

Click here to access  the article. 


Dogs in Denmark

I have been asked about the dogs in Denmark. It’s not my right to say what is right and wrong, I just based on legislation and what I see/saw. I’ll leave some cultural and legislative topics:

-There are about 550,000 dogs in a population of 5,600,000,000 people;
-All dogs must be registered and have chip or tattoo, the registration has a value of approximately EUR 17.
-All dogs must have in the collar a plate with the name and address;
-All owners must have a insurance for the dog and are responsible for any damage that they do;
-The dogs can’t bark or howling excessively in public;
-Dogs must be on leash or loose in large fields;
-There are 13 prohibited breeds (Yes, prohibited): Pitt Bull Terrier, Tosa Inu, American Staffordshire Terrier, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro, American Bulldog, Boerboel, Kangal, Central Asian Shepherd Dog (ovcharka), Caucasian Shepherd Dog (ovcharka), South Russian Shepherd Dog (ovcharka), Tornjak, Sarplaninac;
-Shock Collars are banned (also in Sweden, Norway and Switzerland);
-The same for prong collars;
-There is an excellent mentality of people walking with the waste collection bag, otherwise some gardens have specific places that provide them for free (some even gloves);
-There is a big number of dog parks. However, there are gardens where dogs are forbidden;
– I don’t see too many stores that allow dog’s entrance;
-People feel the need to seek advice for training their dogs, I see a constant concern for their well-being;
-The number of shelter dogs is very low (I never seen one) and those who may be in the Kennel for adoption do not wait more than 15 days (in general) until they have a new home. The policy for adoption is demanding and requires approval. The new owner pays about 350 euros for the adoption. If a owner goes deliver his own dog, pays a tax too. There’s about nine shelters in Denmark.

And it’s how it works, I leave a few links if you have curiosity to find more:
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When the silence is noisy

We are a noisy species. Noisy in many ways, including in silence. I’m not in an easy-to-manage (and sometimes to understand) area and the daily activity makes me noisy when I try to silence the environment. Our specie complain, cry, smile, and believe that other species may be in the same line of understanding about what is being transmitted.
Have you already stood in front of a mirror shouting or sending kisses to yourself (I’m afraid there will be positive answers …)? Sounds a bit pathetic, doesn’t it? And this “Sounds” results of our interpretation, our language and forms of communication. Now the question is how will the other species communicate differently?
Our interspecific relationship is something magical, we insist on making it banal from the moment that the intraspecific feedback itself is precarious. We talk and don’t say anything. We use an unnecessary blah blah blah (which I define as “blabar”) when we should just look, observe, understand, explain why with a very simple word: Communicate.
Communication, from the Latin communicāre, is an act of transmission or connection with another in order to send a message. This is divided into two types, verbal and non-verbal communication, the latter being a communication that I consider quite important in interspecific interaction. Of course there are other forms of interpretation that can be inserted where you thonk be better, but I am somewhat inflexible wits the line that separate opinions from facts. And it is a fact that both verbal and non-verbal communication in excess, I say again, in excess, is an attack on any interaction with other species.
Interspecific communication, whatever it may be, always requires a self-control and sometimes of pondering and some analysis. I do not talk about introspections, it would take a long time to transmit the message, I mean yes when we see only the sender side and we never try to perceive the receiver, so the message is already distorted, and we already know the feedback.
We must communicate comprehensively, asking for help is not shame. Shame is to have the notion that send kisses in front of a mirror is ridiculous, but not to have the notion of our noisy communication with any other specie.
Understanding to be understood, and in doubt, just watch, you will see how valuable it is.