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The Science Behind Dog Intelligence


The Science Behind Dog Intelligence – The effect of their partnership with humans is so great that the brain of the domestic dog is notably different to the brains of its wild relatives.

Research has found evidence that dingoes perform better than dogs in non-social problem-solving tasks.

The Science Behind Dog Intelligence – Several studies have presented dogs and wolves with impossible tasks, like puzzle boxes that simply can’t be solved.

The Science Behind Dog Intelligence – In these studies wolves kept trying different approaches, whereas dogs looked to the humans in the room as soon as they ran out of ideas.

It could be that dogs have sacrificed some of their puzzle-solving abilities in favor of social skills and cooperation with humans.

The Science Behind Dog Intelligence – With safe homes and regular meal times, independent problem-solving simply isn’t a life-or-death skill any more.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that dogs have lost their smarts entirely.

The Science Behind Dog Intelligence – They’ve been shown to work out simple math problems, recall past events and even learn as many words as the average two-year-old child. Chaser, a Border Collie who lived with psychologists in South Carolina, had a particular knack for language; by the end of her life, she knew the names of more than 1,000 items.

In case her impressive vocabulary wasn’t enough, she was also capable of deduction.

The Science Behind Dog Intelligence – Hearing an unfamiliar name, she’d run to her toy pile and search for the one she’d never seen before.

This demonstrates a type of inference known as the exclusion principle, which had only ever been observed in human children before.

The Science Behind Dog Intelligence -It adds another method of learning to a dog’s arsenal; they’ve also been shown to pick up new behaviors and abilities through trial-and-error and by watching humans or other dogs.

Another indicator of a highly intelligent animal is the capacity for deception.

The Science Behind Dog Intelligence – Deception involves planning and working out what those around you know or think.

Adult mockingbirds sometimes feign injury to lure a predator away from their nests, and chimps verbally lie’ to each other when they don’t want to share their secret food stash.

Dogs are often on their best behavior when they know they’re being watched, and get up to more antics when people turn their backs or even close their eyes.

The Science Behind Dog Intelligence – Behavior like this suggests they have a rudimentary theory of mind: the ability to think about the mental state of others, such as what they might want, intend, know, believe or feel.


Dogs Are Smart in Their Own Way

Dogs versus cats is a time-old debate, but when it comes to intelligence there’s no clear answer.

Cats and dogs have evolved for completely different ways of life, so they have an entirely different set of skills and abilities.

Dogs are adapted for group living, cooperation and endurance, whereas cats are fairly asocial stealth hunters.

One of the challenges in assessing canine intelligence – or indeed the intelligence of any non-human animal – is that we’re biased to the skills and intelligence that we have.

Dogs don’t recognize themselves in mirrors, and for a while this was taken as evidence that they weren’t very bright.

But, while humans rely primarily on vision to understand the world, dogs get a lot more of their information from scent.

Subsequent research found that dogs can recognize changes in their own smell, indicating that they do in fact have some sort of self-awareness.

Remembering that dogs sense, experience and interpret the world differently to us is one of the keys to a good human-dog relationship.

It’s important to note that the findings of all these studies
don’t necessarily reflect every dog.

Just like people, dogs vary massively in their skills, abilities and personalities.

There’s variation between the breeds, and variation between each individual.

Some dogs have all the skills needed for hunting, while others are equipped for herding or guarding.

Some are expert puzzle-solvers, others have great memories, while some struggle with cognitive challenges but excel at bringing joy to their owners’ lives.

You can test your own dog’s smarts by presenting them with challenges.

Give them a puzzle feeder and watch them figure out the solution.

Build some sort of see-through barrier and place a small treat behind it.

How long does it take your pup to realize they need to go around the barrier to reach the food?

Whatever level they’re at, setting new puzzles, taking them to new places and letting them experience new things can help keep your dog engaged and mentally stimulated.


Dog Intelligence in Numbers

530 million is the number of neurons in the average dog’s cerebral cortex.

For context, humans top the rankings among land animals with a whopping 16 illion.

1:125 is the brain-to-body ratio of a dog.

Humans have a brain-to-body ration of 1:40.

But a dog’s brain is still pretty large relative to its body – lions have a ratio of 1:550, horses come in at 1:600 and sharks are just shy of 1:2,500.

One factor that can be directly compared is neuron number.

Cats have around 250 million brain cells in their cerebral cortex (the outermost layer of the brain) – less than half the number of cortical neurons in the average dog.

This would suggest that dogs are capable of more complex cognition, but having fewer neurons doesn’t stop cats from being incredibly good at the skills they need for survival.

Some experts reckon dogs are at least as clever as the average two-year-old – some think their cognition might be even closer to that of a five year old child.

165 is the number of words (including signals) that the average dog can learn, according to a psychologist and canine researcher.

The Science Behind Dog Intelligence – The intelligence of dogs is a very broad term and has been the subject of many studies and much research. A dogs intelligence is generally defined as the ability of a dog to think, learn and solve various problems.

In the past, most studies of animal intelligence were focused on observation of behavior, based on the famous Pavlov’s dog experiments.

The Science Behind Dog Intelligence – Today there are numerous tests and researches which study the subject of intelligence in dogs in detail.

Certainly one of the most popular and recognized research in this field is “The Intelligence of Dogs” by Stanley Coren.

The Science Behind Dog Intelligence – When the book first came out in 1994, there were a lot of negative commentaries and bad media attention.

Particularly controversial was Coren’s list of the smartest dog breeds.

The Science Behind Dog Intelligence – But the methodology he used in ranking the breeds become accepted and valid over the years.

The Science Behind Dog Intelligence

There are three types of intelligence according to Coren’s book

Adaptive – learning and problem-solving ability, which is individual and measured by canine IQ tests.

Instinctive – also individual and measured by canine IQ tests.

Working intelligence – also called obedience intelligence, which depends on the breed.

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