NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - They are man and woman's best friend, but how well do we really know our dogs?
"There's someone sleeping in your bed you might not know as well as you think you do," says Dr. Brian Hare, a cognitive neuroscientist at Duke University and a leading expert on dog intelligence.
Jax Arfhur is my 4-and-a-half-year-old Maltese-shih tzu. He's playful, loves belly rubs, and is pretty much obsessed with food, but aren't most dogs? What makes him unique and what's going on inside that fluffy head?
I turned to Dr. Hare for answers.
"It is a real science and the idea is that dogs have a rich mental life, they have a psychology just like people do, they solve problems all the time," said Dr. Hare, who is based in North Carolina. We caught up with him on a recent trip to New York to celebrate a new partnership with Purina's Bright Mind line.
Dr. Hare created Dognition, a research-based set of games that promise to give humans insight into their four-legged friends' brains.
"Playing games you can actually see what's going on in the mental life of your dog. Who your dog really is," he said.
In three years, tens of thousands of dogs and their humans have taken part in Dognition, paying $19 for access to 20 different cognitive games that then tell you which of nice personality profiles your dog fits.
There's the "Ace," the "Socialite" and the "Einstein" to name a few. I was putting my money on the "charmer" for Jax.
Dr. Hare showed us how to put the games to the test.
"What we're going to look at is: is Jax a flexible gesture reader? Is he really sort of skilled in reading your gestures?" Hare said.
In our first test, I put two identical treats down on the ground then gestured with my foot to see if Jax would follow my cue. Sure enough, time and time again he followed my lead.
"He really understands you're trying to communicate with him and help him, so he's listening," said Dr. Hare. "The only species that's that flexible in their understanding of humans are young kids."
I ran through the rest of the games at home, which required a lot of patience, and a lot of treats.
Finally, after all the data was entered into the Dognition site, I pressed enter and out came Jax's personality assessment. Sure enough, Dognition says he's a "charmer," as I predicted.
According to Dognition and Dr. Hare, charmers have exceptional social skills and can read human body language like a book. The tests revealed Jax has an amazing working memory, and is extremely bonded to me, his owner.
Of course, I already knew that last part, but maybe it's why he was so willing to go along with this whole experiment.