Van Ogtrop is the author of Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom.
You’ve seen the bumper sticker: “My dog is smarter than your honor student.” And maybe you’ve wondered–while you listened to your honor student complain that even though he’s lived with you since birth, he can never remember where you keep the cereal–could that actually be true?
As you know, we live in a world that is slowly being overtaken by free online tests. I’m not sure how I learned anything about anything before Buzzfeed asked me which Disney princess I was. Just in the past few weeks, I have taken a free test to measure my EQ by looking at photographs of people’s eyes and another free test that measures how many words I can type in 60 seconds. I now know that I have a higher EQ than my husband and can type faster than my 17-year-old. How will this information enrich my life? For starters, I could get a job in a typing pool and make money on the side predicting when co-workers will burst into tears.
But now I have entered a new phase: Kristin’s Online Testing 2.0. Meaning a) I paid money to take an online test; b) someone is going to use my data for their own professional gain; and c) I “learned” something I already sorta-kinda knew. Now that’s progress!
I’m talking about Dognition.com. Dognition is a very cool, user-friendly website that will tell you if your dog is smarter than my honor student. O.K., it will cost you $19 to find out, but what is $19 compared with your incalculable love for and confidence in your furry best friend? And who doesn’t want to drop everything and think about dogs? That’s why I follow @EmergencyPuppy on Twitter and you probably do too.
The smarties behind Dognition.com recently published a paper in PLOS One that trumpeted the value of “citizen science”–meaning they ask a bunch of people (and in this case, dogs) to send them data and then use it to, oh, I don’t know what, as I’ve just been hoodwinked by it for the very first time. The whole concept is new to me. In fact, citizen science is such a new phrase that it didn’t even enter the Oxford English Dictionary until last year (at the same time as upcycling and branzino).
But let’s talk about my dog! First of all, Iggy is a Lab, which means he is sweet and popular and will eat anything, including twigs and rocks, a detail that luckily did not come up when I had to fill out his profile on the site. (Note to Dr. Gilbert, D.V.M.: We are using the cage muzzle as instructed, even if it makes Iggy look like Hannibal Lecter.) Aside from the whole making-me-pay-them-to-use-my-data thing, the point of Dognition.com seems to be twofold: find out how smart your dog is and discover which of nine personality types he embodies. To achieve these goals you must do 20 tests, which feel like 120 and involve more dog treats than you can count. You need two people to do the tests, and I recommend they be two people your dog actually respects. (Note to Dognition.com: You may want to add a disclaimer about the participation of teenage boys who feed the dog toast crust under the table. Not a lot of treat-withholding authority, as it turns out.)
The tests were fun for the whole family, and I say that without a trace of sarcasm, so the $19 plus feeling I was being taken advantage of were totally worth it. We learned that Iggy is highly collaborative, his empathy scores are off the charts, and when he stares at us for no reason, he may just be “hugging [us] with his eyes.” He overindexes on memory, but his scores on cunning are, well, too embarrassing to go into here.
Most important, Iggy is a “socialite.” In other words, a friend to all who uses you and other humans in his pack to get what he wants. Which is extremely good to know, as I just got an email from Natural Balance pet food claiming that people love dogs who are just like them. O.K., maybe that is not citizen science, or even science at all, but …
Here’s what I’m going to do. If Iggy is a socialite, then the owner who loves him is also a socialite, meaning I can hug people with my eyes and make money doing it. I am launching a new business: Kristnition.com. Pay me $19 and upload a closeup photo of your face and I will tell you if you feel sad. Pay me another $5 and I’ll predict whether you’re about to cry. Who’s in?
Van Ogtrop is the editor of Real Simple
This appears in the November 16, 2015 issue of TIME.