Babies: dumber than dogs?

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, January 25, 2006

We tend to focus on our baby daughter's more positive aspects here. But to be perfectly honest, occasionally something will happen to make us realize this kid is still dumb as bricks. Just this morning I was taking a shower, and I heard the scampering of her little legs against the linoleum. When I peeled back the shower curtain to see what she was doing in the bathroom, I saw her hovering next to the toilet, pulling soggy pieces of toilet paper out of the bowl and cackling with glee. "Wood!" I shouted, "did you pee and not flush?" I asked.

"You were in the shower!" she replied from the next room. "God," Wood cried, when she found her daughter massaging a wad of urine-soaked toilet paper like a pet ferret. "She's as dumb as a dog!"

"Dumber," I replied. "Dogs at least have a reason to stick their heads in the toilet. She does it for recreation."

We're approaching Juniper's first birthday this week, and the issue of canine comparison is still rearing its head. Something like the toilet incident will happen, and I'll groan and ask, "Jesus, when is our child going to be smarter than a dog? Because I still know lots of dogs who are smarter than her." Wood sometimes will try to tell me that Juniper is already smarter than a dog, but when she does I go and give her my best Gary Coleman look.

Scientists say that your average dog has about the same level of intelligence as a 2-year-old child. Some scientists have even given dogs IQ Tests and claim that members of the smarter breeds (such as border collies, poodles, German shepherds, retrievers and Dobermans) are smart enough to get hired as greeters at Wal-Mart. I say bullshit. Two-year olds can talk, and watch Dora the Explorer. That alone makes them smarter than dogs, who can only bark, pant, and wag their silly tails. Do dogs know the Spanish word for backpack? I don't think so.

So when, exactly, do babies become smarter than dogs?

The following is a highly scientific analysis that attempts to answer that important question:

Baby/canine developmental intelligence

Newborn dogs need physical stimulation from their parents in order to piss and poop. "Stimulation" means licking the anal area. Gross. Human babies, on the other hand, require no such stimulation. Judging by the ample amount of colostrum that fudged out of Juniper all on its own after she was born, the advantage in this area definitely goes to the babies. Dogs 0, Babies 1.

It usually takes about ten days for a puppy to open its eyes, whereas a human baby pops out of the womb looking right at you with pure hatred in its beady little eyes. Human babies' ears also work at birth, but puppies won't be able to hear for about two weeks. Newborn infants therefore intellectually surpass all these little canine Helen Kellers, who are only good for sucking teats. Dogs 0, Babies 2.

So human babies do pretty good over the first week or two, but things really start going downhill in the third week. A three-week-old baby can pretty much do three things: eat, sleep, and scream its fucking lungs out. At least that's all Juniper did at three weeks. Three-week-old puppies, however, can already walk. More impressively, by three weeks they have learned perhaps the most important lesson in life: shit is unpleasant, so it is best to do it somewhere where you're not going to end up sitting in it. Human babies, in contrast, continue to marinate in their own shit for more than a year. So dogs get one point for walking and one point for shitting elsewhere. Babies lose a point for their cavalier attitude towards defecation. Dogs 2, Babies 1.

By week five, puppies are already playing with each other and establishing pack dominance. Actually, though, human babies establish pack dominance much earlier than that: as soon as they realize the giants who carry them around will do anything for them and can be easily controlled through crying (tempered with an occasional smile, hiccup, or fart to keep the giants' spirits up). Infants rule over their households like feudal lords over their fiefdoms. They don't even have to blow their own noses. Dogs 2, Babies 2.

During weeks seven through twelve, puppies can learn and they will remember what they learn. Everything a puppy comes in contact with during this period will make a lasting impression upon it. The only thing going for human baby at this point is that it's just starting to appear steady and alert when held upright. A baby savant at this age might know how to roll itself over, but don't count on it. Dogs 3, Babies 2.

Puppies, at four to eight months, are almost fully-functioning dogs. They are fully housetrained (meaning they not only go somewhere else to shit, they can hold it in). They know their names. They can fetch things. Puppies at this age become more independent of their owners and are likely to venture off on their own. Human babies at this age still can't do shit. Maybe they can sit up if you prop them up against something but they always slide down and cry like spineless losers. They certainly don't exhibit any independence. In fact, at this age they develop separation anxiety and get all weepy if you leave them in the boppy in front of the Baby Einstein for more than an hour. Whiners. Dogs 4, Babies 2.

Depending on the breed, dogs go through their adolescence at about six months. They are horny, rebellious, and surly. Meanwhile, your baby can maybe hit two blocks together and laugh. Whoop-dee-doo. Can they fetch my paper? Can they follow orders? Can they hump the neighbor's leg? To understand what it's like in intellectual terms to sit a six-month old dog next to a six-month old baby, imagine one of the stars of Laguna Beach with the brainpower of Stephen Hawking having a conversation with Corky. Dogs 5, Babies 2.

By the time a dog is one year old, it's about as smart as it's going to get. It has reached the apex of its intellectual development and is ready to embark on a life filled with pissing on things to mark its territory, smelling butts, barking at strangers, and drinking out of the toilet. This adult dog is the true measuring stick up against which we must hold our children, rather than the virtual puppy geniuses who surpass babies intellectually at every turn.

Adult dogs and one-year old babies

As I said earlier, Juniper is about to turn one, so I'm really hoping that we're close to the turning point when she will finally be smarter than a dog. I'd really like to be able to say, "Hmm, my daughter is smarter than a dog." She's already showing signs of busting through the canine intellectual barrier, i.e. she is starting to talk.

Granted, she is talking like a dog.

This child scampers about the apartment on all fours, scanning the corners for one of those rubber spherical objects she likes to call a BALL. "Ball!" she says. "Ball!. . .Ball!. . .Ball!" Cripes kid, enough with the exclamation points. We get it, you love balls. Granted, you think anything remotely circular is a ball, including the snot sucker. You even call me a ball from time to time, but I chalk that one up to my gigantic dumpling head.

A couple days ago, we were looking at the word flash cards and Juniper said "ap-ball" when we saw the picture of the apple. And Wood has been teaching her sign language, so she knows to jut her tongue out when she sees a frog and to pant when she sees a dog. When we say "frog" or "dog" she makes those signs. She knows their names.

Biblically, isn't that what divides us from the animals? God gives Adam the right to name the other animals, Juniper sees the neighbor's pomeranian and declares him dog. I have no doubts that dogs have name for their owners in their heads. "The guy who gives me snacks." "The lady whose underwear I like to chew." But they can't say these names, so they don't count.

But is speaking enough to get her there? She's still so much needier than a dog. You can't leave a baby home alone for a few hours while you go to a movie, or even when you go to work. That said, you can't feed a baby the same meal day after day without the baby throwing it at you; dogs will eat the same damn kibble for years. And dogs are dumb enough to allow monkeys to ride them, whereas babies will not be controlled by monkey jockey overloads the way dogs will. Babies are smart enough not to get along with monkeys. We learned that one the hard way.

Babies and dogs do some of the same stupid things, but dogs really take stupidity to an extreme. Take eating just about everything that isn't tied down. I once had a black labrador that ate a full length of metal chain, and the chain eventually worked its way through the dog's intestines until a few inches of the chain were hanging out of the dog's butt. I will never forget the sight of that dog dragging its ass around the backyard, trying to get the whole length of chain to pass. Hilarious. I'm sure a baby would find some way to get its stomach pumped before going through such theatrics.

My parents left that same dog alone in the garage for a whole day once when it was just over a year old. They left plenty of food, plenty of water. They expected to find a pile of turds and some pee I think. But when we returned home, we found that our dog had eaten a 2 foot by 3 foot hole in the drywall. The hole stood there staring at us, the drywall not only chewed out, but consumed, evidence of the similar gaping hole we now presume existed within our dog's skull.

Babies don't do anything on that scale of stupid and self-destructive at least until they are teenagers.

So I don't know what to conclude. There are so many powerful arguments for both sides. As we rapidly approach Juniper's first birthday, I am not so concerned with her passing the 12-month milestone. I am much more excited about the other cusp we're sitting on: the point where Juniper will officially be smarter than a dog. I think we're almost there. I guess the answer to the question remains elusive, despite my deductive reasoning: when is a baby no longer dumber than a dog?