Renowned canine researcher puts dogs' intelligence on par with two-year-old human

Aug 08, 2009
dog

Although you wouldn't want one to balance your checkbook, dogs can count.

They can also understand more than 150 words and intentionally deceive other and people to get treats, according to psychologist and leading canine researcher Stanley Coren, PhD, of the University of British Columbia. He spoke Saturday on the topic "How Dogs Think" at the American Psychological Association's 117th Annual Convention.

Coren, author of more than a half-dozen popular books on dogs and dog behavior, has reviewed numerous studies to conclude that dogs have the ability to solve complex problems and are more like humans and other higher than previously thought.

"We all want insight into how our furry companions think, and we want to understand the silly, quirky and apparently irrational behaviors [that] Lassie or Rover demonstrate," Coren said in an interview. "Their stunning flashes of brilliance and creativity are reminders that they may not be Einsteins but are sure closer to humans than we thought."

According to several behavioral measures, Coren says dogs' mental abilities are close to a human child age 2 to 2.5 years.

The intelligence of various types of dogs does differ and the dog's breed determines some of these differences, Coren says. "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')."

Data from 208 dog obedience judges from the United States and Canada showed the differences in working and obedience intelligence of , according to Coren. "Border collies are number one; poodles are second, followed by German shepherds. Fourth on the list is golden retrievers; fifth, dobermans; sixth, Shetland sheepdogs; and finally, Labrador retrievers," said Coren.

As for language, the average dog can learn 165 words, including signals, and the "super dogs" (those in the top 20 percent of dog intelligence) can learn 250 words, Coren says. "The upper limit of dogs' ability to learn 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," Coren said.

Dogs can also count up to four or five, said Coren. And they have a basic understanding of arithmetic and will notice errors in simple computations, such as 1+1=1 or 1+1=3.

Four studies he examined looked how dogs solve spatial problems by modeling human or other dogs' behavior using a barrier type problem. Through observation, Coren said, dogs can learn the location of valued items (treats), better routes in the environment (the fastest way to a favorite chair), how to operate mechanisms (such as latches and simple machines) and the meaning of words and symbolic concepts (sometimes by simply listening to people speak and watching their actions).

During play, dogs are capable of deliberately trying to deceive other dogs and people in order to get rewards, said Coren. "And they are nearly as successful in deceiving humans as humans are in deceiving dogs."

Source: American Psychological Association (news : web)

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docknowledge
4 / 5 (2) Aug 09, 2009
One might also throw in here the huge premium that many dog owners place on intelligence. The dog that can herd sheep, defend against intruders, save someone's life, or maybe especially do clever tricks is greatly valued (and individually encouraged).

While it may be true that modern dogs can understand scores of words, it's a fair bet that a 100,000 years ago, they had less capability. Selective breeding for intelligence.
Birger
3 / 5 (2) Aug 09, 2009
Dogs have co-evolved with humans for tens of thousands of years. The dogs that are best at interpreting human body language and generally getting along with humans have passed on their genes for every generation. While modern dogs may not be more intelligent than wolves, we can certainly understand and communicate with them better than with other animals. The intelligence of dogs is thus more "visible" to us than that of wild animals.
Diotrephes
5 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2009
I'll post before the global R-tard beats me to it:
Can we abandon the "humans are unique" and must therefore be "divine" crap now? God is dead.

a la crows
docknowledge
4 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2009
A thought just struck. How many of our canine friends understand pretty well "stupid dog" and "bad dog"? Maybe we tell them more than we intend to.
SMMAssociates
3.3 / 5 (3) Aug 09, 2009
The Jack Russell Terrorist is a curse on mankind, propagated by my daughter, I think....

But we still love him, and tolerate the kid. Or maybe the other way around. IAC, he KNOWS how many treats he gets on a certain occasion (like when he goes into his cage if he's going to be left alone), and will get upset if you miscount down. Extra treats are welcomed without comment....

I work midnights, and sleep a good part of the day. He'll wake me at _my_ lunchtime, though....

I think we have bred intelligence into 'em, of course, but also just seem to prefer a smarter dog. It's actually upsetting when my little guy can't remember where he put his favorite ball, and kind of funny when I tell him "kitchen"....

We had a terrier-poodle mix many years ago who was even smarter.... He understood hand signals as well as voice commands, and had somehow learned to NOT bark when he wanted outside in the evenings. He'd stand by the door and bark during the day, but at night he'd nudge your leg. (The folks we got him from had one too many kids. "Don't wake the baby", no doubt, but....)

A Cocker, later, couldn't quite get the difference between grass and carpeting, and was otherwise dumb as a rock, but did a fairly good job as an alarm system.
payaam
1 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2009
now I feel relief that I'm more than a two-year-old human.
sometimes I felt that the dogs are reading my mind and forecasting me !
but now, yess , I do understand more than dogs. thank you Dr.Coren