Dog News: New Study Shows Dogs May Be Smarter Than Toddlers

August 9th, 2009 by Dan

A new study shows that even the most average of canines has the approximate mental capacity of a 2- year-old child. Stanley Coren, a canine expert at the University of British Colombia conducted a series of tests including math, social skills and problem solving and discovered some very interesting results. While the average dog is on par with a 2 year-old, some breeds who have been selectively bred for intellect or trainiblity are more like a 2.5 or 3 year old (and in terms of social conduct, far more advanced!).

Smart Poodle

Photo by betta design

Coren collected data from over 200 obedience judges and came up with his list of the smartest breeds:

1. Border Collie
2. Poodle
3. German Shepherd
4. Golden Retrievers
5. Doberman Pinscher
6. Shetland Sheepdog
7. Labrador Retriever

In order to compare canine intellect to that of humans, Coren created a modified version of the MacArthur Bates Communicative Developmental Inventories Test, which is used to measure language ability in children.

Here’s how scientists adjusted the arithmetic test (originally designed for children) for canines:

The dogs watched as a treat and then a second treat are lowered down behind a screen. Then the screen is lifted, and the dogs, if they understand the mathematical concept, will be awaiting 2 treats.

In these studies scientists also try removing one of the treats, or adding on an extra, so the math doesn’t add up. Coren says, “Now we’re giving him the wrong equation which is 1+1=1, or 1+1=3. The dog acts surprised and stares at it for a longer period of time, just like a human kid would.”

Coren also referenced a study we wrote about a while back where dogs knew if they were being treated unfairly. One dog received a treat for “giving paw” and the other does not. The dog who does not receive treats eventually stops preforming the trick.

Lab Giving Paw

Photo by Arjan van Tuijl

Primitive breeds, like Afghan Hounds and Basenjis tend to score lower on these types of tests. However any fancier of these breeds will definitely tell you their dogs are not dumb, but most likely describe them as independent and stubborn.

The final outcome? The average dog is capable of learning about 165 words and counting to 4 or 5. Breeds with a higher intellect (like the 7 named above) can learn up to 250 words and can preform basic arithmetic problems.

What’s my take on all of this? I know my dogs are pretty smart – and I’ve never met a house trained 2 year old!

Leave a Reply