Who needs elves and aliens when you’ve got this?
Economists at the County Durham College for Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fine Art have discovered a new species of dog. Dubbed canis economicus, the new species looks almost identical to normal dogs and even comes in a variety of breeds that mimic our beloved household pets. In fact, the physical appearance of canis economicus is so similar to normal dogs that researchers believe canis economicus has been living undetected amongst us for decades.
Professor Mary Stevenson said that the first hints of the new species came when her research team was investigating the temperament, behaviour and insane purchase price of a variety of fashionable cross-breeds, particularly cockapoos (cocker spaniel/poodle mix) and shih-tzpoos (shih-tzu and poodle mix—as an aside, these dogs are hands-down winners of best “does what it says on the label”).
“It was the dogs’ behaviour that first caught our attention,” Prof. Stevenson said. “Traditional owner/pet roles seemed to be reversed. Instead of humans giving the dogs treats as a reward for good behaviour, dogs were withholding desired behaviours until they had been given a treat. For example, in one family, we observed that the dog would not sit on a human lap unless the dog had first been offered a treat. We call this behaviour the ‘commoditization of cuddles’.”
Further research revealed how canis economicus has been able to transform what had previously been perceived as market-negative traits, e.g. lack of pure breeding in cockapoos and shih-tzpoos, into social capital, e.g. novelty and quasi-exoticism. This social capital enabled mongrel pups to demand unusually high prices and so ensure that they ended up in financially-secure human homes. Once there, the pups could take advantage of all the health, security and nutritional benefits offered by such an environment.
Following on from these discoveries, Prof. Stevenson’s team determined that the primary, distinguishing characteristic of canis economicus is its ability to make rational decisions that maximize the benefit to its own self-interests. While that sounds remarkably similar to the mythical homo economicus that haunted so much of 20th-century economics, Prof. Stevenson stands by her team’s results. “We watched hundreds of hours of Crufts, all of the Beethoven movies and even Marley and Me (okay, we foisted that on an undergrad desperate to improve his grades). We then quantified the observed behaviours and made multiple statistical analyses of the data, most of which came out with a ‘p value’ of less than point-five. You can’t get more statistically significant than that.”
Professor Stevenson and her team are always looking for more data for their study, so send us a description of any suspected canis economicus behaviour you’ve witnessed and we’ll forward it on to the team at the County Durham College of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fine Art. Who knows, you might even get a credit in their upcoming research paper. Imagine that on your c.v.!