Dogs are as intelligent as a 2 year old

September 10, 2009


I have never met a pet owner yet who isn’t convinced of the intelligence of their own particular love object, whether it’s an Akita or an armadillo, but science has come down on the side of the dog.

Stanley Coren is the canine researcher at the University of British Columbia and presented his findings on “How Dogs Think” at the American Psychological Association’s 117th Annual Convention this month.

Apparently they can also understand more than 150 words (though heel doesn’t seem to be universally obeyed) and can be manipulative enough to intentionally deceive other dogs and people to get treats. Has this man never watched a dog sitting gazing soulfully at its owner during dinner? Did he really need a research project to tell him that?

He is the author of more than a half-dozen popular books on dogs and their behaviour, and his reviews of numerous studies led him to conclude that dogs have the ability to solve complex problems and are more like humans than previously thought.

According to several behavioural measures, Coren says dogs’ mental abilities are close to a child age 2 to 2.5 years. In my experience they are also as stubborn, as the ‘terrible two’s’ but he doesn’t go into that.

Before you enrol Fido in play school, it seems the intelligence of various types of dogs does differ according to breed. It seems there are three types of dog intelligence: instinctive (what the dog is bred to do), adaptive (how well the dog learns from its environment to solve problems) and working and obedience (the equivalent of ‘school learning’).

Who is top dog?

In order of intelligence they are:

** Border collies

** Poodles

** German shepherds

** Golden retrievers

** Dobermans

** Shetland sheepdogs

** Labrador retrievers

Although the average dog can learn 165 words, including signals, the best dogs (those in the top 20 percent of dog intelligence) can learn 250 words. They can also count up to four or five and have a basic understanding of arithmetic and will notice errors in simple computations, such as 1+1=1 or 1+1=3. So no trying to cheat on the dog biscuit allowance or they will report you to Carol Vorderman.

Four studies he examined looked how dogs model the behaviour of humans or other dogs to learn the location of treats or toys, route mapping to find the fastest way to a favourite chair, how to operate mechanisms (which is how they can open the back door) and the meaning of words and symbolic concepts like fetch although ‘no’ doesn’t seem to register too often.

The most amazing characteristic to me is that during play, dogs are capable of deliberately trying to deceive other dogs and people in order to get rewards. Not only capable, but are nearly as successful in deceiving humans as humans are in deceiving dogs.

Remember, it always pays to tell the truth to people, and your pets.


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