Dog intelligence 'not exceptional'

October 1, 2018, University of Exeter
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

People who think dogs are exceptionally intelligent are barking up the wrong tree, new research shows.

Scientists reviewed evidence that compared the brain power of with other domestic , other social hunters and other carnivorans (an order including animals such as dogs, wolves, bears, lions and hyenas).

The researchers, from the University of Exeter and Canterbury Christ Church University, found the abilities of dogs were at least matched by several species in each of these groups.

The study examined more than 300 papers on the intelligence of dogs and other animals, and found several cases of "over interpretation" in favour of dogs' abilities.

"During our work it seemed to us that many studies in dog cognition research set out to 'prove' how clever dogs are," said Professor Stephen Lea, of the University of Exeter.

"They are often compared to chimpanzees and whenever dogs 'win', this gets added to their reputation as something exceptional.

"Yet in each and every case we found other valid comparison species that do at least as well as dogs do in those tasks."

The review focussed on sensory cognition, physical cognition, spatial cognition, and self-awareness.

"Taking all three groups (, social hunters and carnivorans) into account, dog cognition does not look exceptional," said Dr. Britta Osthaus, of Canterbury Christ Church University.

"We are doing dogs no favour by expecting too much of them. Dogs are dogs, and we need to take their needs and true abilities into account when considering how we treat them."

The paper, published in the journal Learning & Behavior, is entitled: "In what sense are dogs special? Canine cognition in comparative context."

Explore further: Wolves found to be more cooperative with their own kind than dogs with theirs

More information: Stephen E. G. Lea et al, In what sense are dogs special? Canine cognition in comparative context, Learning & Behavior (2018). DOI: 10.3758/s13420-018-0349-7

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21 comments

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pntaylor
2.3 / 5 (8) Oct 01, 2018
No, of course, All dogs are not exceptional.
Speaking of domestic animals you can, reasonably, keep
in your home, dogs can be, amazingly, intelligent.
Assuming they are not pure breeds, who can be some of
the dumbest animals on the planet. There, again, not All
pure bred dogs.
People gush on their dogs (sometimes overly so), because
dogs give the closest domestic relationship, to a human, other
than another human and as opposed to birds, fish, rodents,
pigs and, yes, cats.
In the end, a rather useless study and article, comparing dogs to
the rest of the animal kingdom.
betterexists
1.3 / 5 (13) Oct 01, 2018
It is the Western nations (aided by massive machine farming) that have spread this nonsense to other nations.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.6 / 5 (8) Oct 01, 2018
dogs can be, amazingly, intelligent.
Assuming they are not pure breeds, who can be some of
the dumbest animals on the planet. There, again, not All
pure bred dogs
Dogs have been bred for obedience without question, not independent thinking and problem-solving. Nothing to do with purity of breeding.

Of course they're dumb.

This is also why hunter-gatherers are smarter than the average domesticated farmer/soldier. Same selection process.
herbalmagick
4.1 / 5 (8) Oct 01, 2018
Dogs may not be the smartest of animals. On the other hand, no other animal has been bred for 14,000 years specifically to be a companion for humans. A well-trained dog is a joy to know.
NoStrings
2 / 5 (4) Oct 01, 2018
It is like saying that people are exceptional because they figured general and special relativity. There was one person out of the billion that did it on the shoulders of few other rare individuals that moved humanity forward to that point.

Dogs have been bred for obedience without question, not independent thinking and problem-solving. Nothing to do with purity of breeding.

Same goes for most of the humans.
Of course they're dumb.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (6) Oct 01, 2018
Dogs may not be the smartest of animals. On the other hand, no other animal has been bred for 14,000 years specifically to be a companion for humans
They werent bred to be 'companions' until quite recently. They were bred to do work. Ie they used to have a purpose rather than being surrogate kids and spouses.
TheRocketeer
2.7 / 5 (7) Oct 01, 2018
Some of these comments are nonsensical, and quite frankly downright ignorant. I am less concerned with the intelligence of dogs, and more so with the intelligence (or lack thereof) of people.
NoStrings
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 01, 2018
TheRocketeer, of course, dogs didn't conduct this dumb study. Dumb humans did. Consider comments a peer review.
Question for you: write down Maxwell electromagnetism equations.
See, we can't talk about all people and all dogs. Yet, virtually all people can talk.
Iochroma
4.6 / 5 (5) Oct 01, 2018
No. Of course dogs are not exceptionally smart. When compared to young apes, or cockatoos, or keas, young humans are not exceptionally smart either.
I will say that a border collie learned more than a thousand names for toys, and that is a rare feat in the animal kingdom.
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (4) Oct 02, 2018
I think that it is true that dogs as well as most other predators may seem to be smart. Cause assuming they are not smart enough to eat you? Is a strike against your intelligence.

I think a lot of the confusion is the size of the predator's heads. People do not realize how much of that physical structure is strong muscles anchored on thick bones. There really isn't much room inside those thick skulls for large brains.

Actually, intelligence could handicap a predator. Slowing their reflexes with trivial pondering.

The point I think is important that I did not find covered in this report or comments? That dogs can be trained to understand Human signalling. Even across a distance. Whistles, shouts, hand-signals. And based upon that communication, hunting or herding dogs can perform intricate maneuvers.

That is why I admire Kindergarten teachers, that they can control a rabble of five-year olds!
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
5 / 5 (2) Oct 02, 2018
I don't have a dog in this fight - mostly because katz - but the article is identifying a science bias problem (and takes down dogs to the rest of typical carnivores in the process), not more.

When compared to young apes, or cockatoos, or keas, young humans are not exceptionally smart either.


It may be even harder to compare adolescent animals, since they develop with different rates and in different ways. Comparing adults, it makes sense that dogs are much as intelligent as the average carnivore, and humans as the average ape. By genes and culture we manage to get ahead in some areas, but not by much; c.f. how bonobos are much as peaceful as we are for instance.
Zzzzzzzz
not rated yet Oct 02, 2018
Human intelligence is only measured by Humans. Humans have a strong tendency to misinterpret the capacity for self delusion and the tools developed to sell delusion as intelligence. Remove that capacity and tools from Humans, and they are not much different from other earth based life forms.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Oct 03, 2018
It may be even harder to compare adolescent animals
There are no adolescent animals. Adolescence is an artificial human cultural construct invented to reduce the birthrate.
Remove that capacity and tools from Humans, and they are not much different from other earth based life forms
Typical progressive misanthrope bullshit. The naZzzzzzzi is forgetting language and science and medicine and even art etc.

Technology is what made us human. It's what separates us from the animals.
antigoracle
1 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2018
The greatest indicator, that dogs are intelligent, is the fact that they have fooled these "scientists" into believing that they are not.
rrwillsj
5 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2018
Well auntie, that's what the Indonesians claim about orangutans. The apes pretending to be animals. In order to avoid having to pay taxes.

Hmm, explains the similarities between the trump seniors and simians, in looks and behavior!
eric96
3 / 5 (2) Oct 04, 2018
No species as a whole is exceptionally intelligent.
If we say that humans are exceptionally intelligent, this likely refers to language processing/memory and thus formulation of complex thoughts. However as we all know, such abilities do not guarantee success; just potential. And if they are no guarantee of success how can we say humans are exceptionally intelligent. It is incorrect to equate complex thoughts with "necessarily superior".

The distribution of intelligence for dogs depends on the breed; some are better hunters, some are better shepherds and some are better companions. Since we can get them to do more things than most other animals, they are erroneously elevated to exceptionally intelligent, but this is not true. What is true is that golden retrievers and labradors have exceptional emotional intelligence. But to say that all species of dogs or a particular breed are exceptionally intelligent overall is necessarily incorrect.
Zzzzzzzz
not rated yet Oct 04, 2018
I think that it is true that dogs as well as most other predators may seem to be smart. Cause assuming they are not smart enough to eat you? Is a strike against your intelligence.

I think a lot of the confusion is the size of the predator's heads. People do not realize how much of that physical structure is strong muscles anchored on thick bones. There really isn't much room inside those thick skulls for large brains.

Actually, intelligence could handicap a predator. Slowing their reflexes with trivial pondering.

...........................................

That is why I admire Kindergarten teachers, that they can control a rabble of five-year olds!

Caught in the trap of assuming that your own human "intelligence" is actually intelligence.....most of us are caught in that trap at some point.
physicalphin
not rated yet Oct 06, 2018
TheGhostofOtto1923:

I have a dog that would argue that you are wrong.

She's not very obedient and spends most of her yard time trying to find a way to get the possum that's living in the woodpile.
Macrocompassion
not rated yet Oct 08, 2018
Does empathy behavior count for dogs? Even without necessarily having highest measurable intelligence, my experience with how dogs help people without being trained, suggests to me that their intelligence is more deeply rooted.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Oct 08, 2018
She's not very obedient and spends most of her yard time trying to find a way to get the possum
And what makes you think that compliance and complacency arent signs of old age rather than maturity?

For the entire time humans have been human they didnt live much beyond their late 20s and, like any other animal, began reproducing as soon as they hit puberty. Society spends a great deal of time and effort convincing them they are not mature enough to reproduce until they are safely past what has always been their most prolific years.

Past the mid-twenties, childbirth begins to endanger a womans health. The human head is simply too big. Childbirth was the leading cause of mortality for women, and still is in many parts of the world.

Women instinctively know this, especially if they have already experienced birth, and will avoid pregnancy for the good of the family they already have. Orphans did not fare well in overcrowded tribes during the pleistocene.
EnricM
not rated yet Oct 18, 2018
"found the cognitive abilities of dogs were at least matched by several species in each of these groups."

So, the title actually would have to be that many carnivorae have a similar level of intelligence. I have never heard anybody claiming that a dog could be more intelligent than a wolf, a bear or a racoon.

Interesting subject but clickbait title.

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