Is Your Dog Smarter Than a 2-Year-Old?
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Your pet dog is as smart as your two-year-old child when it comes to understanding words, counting, and solving problems, according to a Canadian dog intelligence expert Remember how smart Lassie was? Or the Austrian dog detective, Inspector Rex – the Alsatian who could play notes on an electronic keyboard, turn on light switches and stop machinery with a press of his paw?
Seems far-fetched, doesn’t it? Yet a Canadian psychologist who has studied dogs for 35 years says it’s true.
Pet Dogs as Smart as Toddlers at Math, Language, Problem-Solving
Dr. Stanley Coren, of the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, says the smartest breeds of dogs have the same language, math, and problem-solving abilities as the average two to two-and-a-half-year-old, even though they can’t speak human language.
In fact, dogs are almost as smart as chimpanzees – the animals closest to humans in cognitive abilities.
Dr. Coren described dogs’ smart thinking at the American Psychological Association’s 117th Annual Convention in Toronto, in early August. He has written a range of books on dog psychology.
Studying the Intelligence of 110 Dog Breeds
To develop his understanding of dog psychology, Dr. Coren reviewed all the research on how dogs think. “There has been an ‘explosion’ in research on how dogs think recently, so most of the data come from the last 15 years,” he said.
He has studied 110 dog breeds and involved obedience course judges in his understanding of the intelligence of these breeds.
“One of my studies involved contacting every dog obedience judge in North America and getting them to rate the working and obedience intelligence of dog breeds,” he said.
“In that study 209 dog judges responded, which is more than half of all of the dog judges in the US and Canada combined.”
The Seven Smartest Breeds of Dog
The intelligence of various types of dogs differs and the dog’s breed determines some of these differences, Dr Coren said.
“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’).”
The smartest dogs are:
- Border collie
- German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever
- Doberman pinscher
- Shetland sheepdog
- Labrador Retriever
Dogs Understand What We Say to Them
Most dogs can understand around 165 words, Dr. Coren said. The top 20 percent can understand around 250 words. As with young children, language ability is determined by their mental capacity.
“The upper limit of dogs’ ability to learn a language is partly based on a study of a border collie named Rico who showed knowledge of 200 spoken words and demonstrated ’fast-track learning,’ which scientists believed to be found only in humans and language learning apes,” he said.
Dogs can Add
Not only can they understand much of what we say, but they can also do simple math as well.
They can count up to four or five and can spot mistakes in simple addition, such as 1+1=3. They can also work out if something has been subtracted.
Smart Dogs can Solve Problems
“Through observation, dogs learn the location of valued items (treats), better routes in the environment (the fastest way to a favorite chair), and how to operate mechanisms (such as latches and simple machines),” Dr. Coren said.
In much the same way as small children do, dogs can understand the meaning of words and symbolic concepts by simply listening to people speak and watching their actions.
Dogs can be Deceitful, Too
Another trait that smart dogs share with little children is the ability to deceive others.
During play, dogs are capable of deliberately trying to deceive other dogs and people in order to get rewards. “And they are nearly as successful in deceiving humans as humans are in deceiving dogs,” Dr. Coren said.