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What is the best dinosaur to have as a pet, if the goal is to have it do tricks?

It all started as a joke among us, the idle children of the technocratic class that effectively, in all but name, took over the United States in the mid-2030s. The lolcats of yore were replaced by dinosaurs, and a dino-craze took over us idle, over-educated children whose jobs had been AI'd out of existence. Even the brightest among us were too dumb compared to the AIs to be trusted with the Body Economic, and so we were left with our guaranteed minimum incomes and way, way too much time on our hands.

Then the idea came to us: with the super-Crispr (clustered regularly inter-spaced short palindromic repeats) gene editing technology, the artificial wombs/egglayers that replaced those inhumane poultry and meat factories, it would simply be a matter of gathering enough living bird DNA, doing some impressionistic splices based on cheap Amazon simulations, and voila, dinosaur. A bio-wikia was soon started, and within days the components all came together.

Now is the time for a decision. We want pet dinosaurs. I'm partial to a T-Rex myself, but vaguely concerned that with their walnut-brains, they might simply be too dumb to train, and the project might turn boring and bloody if the pets start chomping on their trainers or even worse on the human guests and other legal nightmares.

So, I want a dino pet. I want it to be as large and fierce looking as possible (roar). I also want it to rollover and play dead when I ask it to. What's the best species to choose for resurrection, if any?

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    $\begingroup$ Please feel free to comment on any downvotes, so that I may improve on the question if possible. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Dec 10 '15 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre Which is why I'm asking this in worldbuilding, rather than biology.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Dec 10 '15 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ Birds are dinosaurs already. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Dec 11 '15 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Oldcat And chickens are highly trainable! $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Dec 11 '15 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ Raptors can open doors. "Brownie - open the door! Good boy! Now do it more ominously... that's it! Have my little sister as a treat! Who's a good boy!" $\endgroup$ – Nahshon paz Aug 16 '16 at 11:33
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Troodon, without a second thought. 8 feet long and 3 feet tall, this was (based on our crude understandings so far) the smartest of all dinosaurs of its time. Largest brain to body size ratio of all (although I seriously question that standard for smartness) and a pack hunter.

You could definitely teach it tricks and stuff. You could also (obviously) train it to be an extremely swift and silent assassin (make sure you are at a safe distance when you order it to go on the rampage). It was nearly 50 kgs (110 lbs) in weight so I don't know if it could serve as a ride for a grown up and based on its diet, it would definitely not be a choice of a thoughtful parent for his/her kid's holiday ride.

It was an omnivore. If you could train a chick troodon from the start on herbivore diet (only supplementing it with dog or cat food proteins and no raw meat), it would probably be safe to keep one in a high-fenced backyard. The size and power of the animal are simply too much to be trusted with free keeping. Although it would hardly (if ever) consider a grown up human as a potential meal (forgive the bad manners in doing so), you wouldn't know what could trip the nerve of a troodon into going on a mood swing, ego trip or kill spree.

enter image description here

And here is a size comparison.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Being a pack hunter, I wonder if that means it could be domesticated. I guess it kind of depends on general temperament as much as anything. I mean, you can train a tiger to be friendly, but don't mess with it's food your'll see just how domestic it is. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Dec 11 '15 at 17:13
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    $\begingroup$ Being domestic means the thing learns to live peacefully (as long as it is well fed and properly treated) with humans. Doesn't mean you can stomp over it's tail and expect it to write a complaint letter to you for that "improper activity". $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Dec 12 '15 at 5:54
  • $\begingroup$ If its a pack animal as smart as a dog then there's at least a chance it could be man's new best friend. BTW people have domesticated wild wolf cubs in one generation. Biggest issue is human neighbours prejudices. $\endgroup$ – nigel222 Dec 12 '15 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ Are you comparing a reptile with a mammal in intelligence here? No way! Of course we don't really know how smart (or not) the dinosaurs used to be, the general consensus appears to be that they were seriously dumb when compared to mammals. But then again, considering they were close relatives of birds and birds are quite a thing in smartness, so ... well ... I think we'd never know for sure. If you ask my own little perspective, I think their behavior was intelligent (as in, smart hunting patterns were hardwired in their brains) but their learning abilities were little. $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Dec 12 '15 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ Dinosaurs were not reptiles. Birds are the last surviving dinosaurs (the small feathered dinosaurs did NOT go extinct). If dinosaurs had bird-type brains they might have been highly intelligent and of course many birds domesticate easily. $\endgroup$ – nigel222 Dec 12 '15 at 18:02
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While criteria for domestication is somewhat vague, the most important one for your question is:

Lastly, with the exception of the cat, all the major domesticated animals conform to a social hierarchy dominated by strong leadership. This has allowed us to easily modify them so that they'll recognize their human caretaker as the pack leader.

This is easy for herbivores. But the the largest carnivore that runs is packs was probably Deinonychus:

Deinonychus

At 11 feet long, although a significant portion of that is tail. They're much shorter than humans.

If you're willing to go with herbivores, based on this chart:

Brain size

I'd go with Triceratops for the best combination of size, brain power, herd instinct, and looking dangerous with the horns. You can see that they're comparable in size to a T-rex, if not in height but in mass:

Dino Chart

They're estimated to grow potentially twice as big as modern elephants in mass, which is a pretty substantial animal. But they should be fairly intelligent, hopefully enough that you could teach it a few tricks.

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  • $\begingroup$ Could you explain what the x axis is on that chart please? $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Dec 10 '15 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ @SerbanTanasa: The link goes into more detail but: "The Encephalization Quotient (EQ) is the ratio of the brain weight of an animal to the brain weight of a similar animal of the same body weight. The scale is designed so that the expected score for an animal is one." - so Triceratops is a little low on the scale, but not horribly so. $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske Dec 10 '15 at 18:43
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We don't really know how bright or stupid dinosaurs might have been. As an example of a small-brained animal displaying surprising, and even remarkable, intelligence, I point you to Alex the parrot.

Alex had a complex vocabulary, would express sadness at living in a lab instead of being outside, would ask to be taken on "walks", and would get frustrated and try to teach "dumber" parrots to count/speak.

It was able to look at a combination of shapes of different colours and answer questions such as:

  • What's different about these objects? Shape
    • What's similar about them? Colour

If a bird with a brain the size of walnut is capable of such analytical reasoning, it clearly indicates that brain size isn't everything.

In a similar vein, please note that some animals have larger brains than us, but they are not sapient.

On that note, however, I would rather train a parrot with a walnut-sized brain, instead of a dinosaur of unknown intelligence capable of ripping my arm off for a snack.

Note: if you have the tech to "invent" dinosaurs, then you probably have the tech to implant a command and control chip in their brains or something. Or to augment their intelligence and obedience by genetic manipulation.

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    $\begingroup$ Alex's last words were "You be good, see you tomorrow. I love you." I tear up every time I think about it. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Dec 10 '15 at 15:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Draco18s - it should really cause us to pause and consider the world around us a little more closely. If a mere bird can prove to be so clever/intelligent, what other species might surprise us? $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Dec 10 '15 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ Homo sapiens sapiens? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Dec 10 '15 at 16:22
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    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM Oh, I know. The things that have classically separated humans from other animals (tool use, language) have eroded so much in the past decades that I cannot even think of one factor. Dolphins have language, corvids plan and utilize tools, other animals can make tools...nothing surprises me any more. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Dec 10 '15 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ "Mere" birds have brain architecture vastly superior to mammalian and approach chimp if not human intellect on walnut sized brains. And NB NB birds are last surviving dinosaurs! Same evolutionary lineage as T Rex. No way to know but big dinosaurs may have been VERY smart. $\endgroup$ – nigel222 Dec 11 '15 at 14:57
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One dinosaur I think most people would particularly enjoy would be Compsognathus (Compy for short). it is a small carnivorous dinosaur about the size of a 3 year old to a 9 year old in length and weight about as much as a small house cat. Here are a few tips for caring for it;

They ate Bavarisaurus which were about 12 inches long, so I would not recommend kibble for this dinosaur, I would recommend geckoes or something similar, although fresh meat or fish would work just fine.

They have a relatively small size for a dinosaur, so can fit into small spaces and work well as an indoor pet. These little pets are also energetic so it is recommended you set up a small area outside so they can run around. they are also very social, so they are not the best options for busy families, but this can be counteracted by getting a second Compy as a playmate.

A problem I've heard about is that they can get snippy if they are harassed or their personal space bubble is popped, so It is not meant for small children. i'd say ages 9 and up are a safe bet.

They also have a variety of colors you can choose from including blue, brown, green, red, orange, black, and white.

In short, these are cute little dinosaurs that are a perfect edition to an older family. a picture of them can be found below:

Compy

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  • $\begingroup$ Sadly, the dinosaur's true colors are unknown... The colors you see on pictures are the artist's guess, not the reality. $\endgroup$ – Ghajini May 22 '18 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ true ghajini, but that is what I would estimate these colors to be as you pointed out, good observation $\endgroup$ – Sabers the fox May 22 '18 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ thank you for the edits Renan, I am new to the editing here, so I appreciate pasting the picture on the page. $\endgroup$ – Sabers the fox May 23 '18 at 16:50
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Given enough time and effort you probably could domesticate any species into new, tame races. But I think you want something out of the box, right?

We are not talking about animals that have been evolving in our world after humanity overtook most of it. We are talking about wild beasts that had never had anything on them that went in any directions towards being tame. I highly recommend you skip any carnivores.

You could go for ornithopods, though. Not all of the species are cute. They would (probably) not want to kill you, and who knows if they wouldn't see you as the herd leader if trained from birth?

Given the general form of their bodies, most species I can think of could walk either on two or four legs. They seem agile enough for tricks. Depending on their size, you could even ride them.

I would suggest Leaellynasaura for a house pet. They are dog-sized and would probably be safe enough for kids. Or you could go for Parasaurolophus if you want something big that you can ride in a farm land.

However, if you want something fierce, angry and capable of a lot of destruction, skip the ornithopods, go for the ceratopsids. Triceratops would be a nice choice. Imagine riding a rodeo bull, only it is 30 feet long, twice as heavy as an adult male african elephant and has horns which are as long as you are tall. In other words, a Jurassic tank. It won't try to eat you, but don't anger it without a really good reason!

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I would choose Psittacosaurus or Dryosaurus to be my pets because they are small herbivores, and not quite dangerous.

These dinosaurs don't have defenses, so they can't hurt you. These dinosaurs like Psittacosaurus are quite smart, too, like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, so it might act like a Chicken, but it's still a dinosaur, right?

And Psittacosaurus and Dryosaurus are quite cute! I would love to see these dinosaurs roaming in my garden - hiding, playing, and eating. The only Problem is that I don't have a garden.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't believe this answers the question. OP asked for a dinosaur that's large, fierce-looking, and can do tricks; you've suggested a dinosaur that's small and cute-looking, and haven't mentioned tricks at all. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Mar 9 '18 at 9:11
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In a series of SF pen-and-paper role-playing games I ran (and did the worldbuilding for), there had been a fad for genetically engineered miniature dinosaurs with dog brains.

The T-Rex had a chiuaua's brain. One of the spiky herbivores had a lab's brain (always puppiesh and trying to get into everything). Since these games were set in habitats nobody really wanted a full-sized t-rex. Since they didn't have the full genome, they did have to guess at things. And they were made to all be herbivores since the liability of creating a pet that would eat little darling Johnny (the kid probably tortured his minisaurs when his parents were looking) would ruin a company. Unfortunately some of the little 'saurs did get loose and packs of 12-inch tall dino's roamed the hallways of more than one huge space ship.

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