In a brand new study, researchers have now discovered that your most loyal pet – your dog – might not be as smart as we’ve all been led to believe by research conducted in the past.
Researchers at two British universities, including researchers from the University of Exeter and Canterbury Christ Church University recently published in the scientific journal Learning & Behaviour their efforts that lead them to examine more than 300 papers written about how smart dogs and other animals really are and found several instances where the results were over-interpreted in favour of dogs.
“According to a new study on dog intelligence, any thoughts that your dog is exceptionally smart just aren’t true,” tech website ,Silicon Republic published.
Although how smart dogs are, particularly in comparison to cats, has long been the subject of not only scientific research, but also the seemingly common feud between cat owners and dog owners, researchers discovered that there’s recently been a lot of focus on canine cognition, which is allegedly what inspired Stephen Lea, a professor emeritus at the University of Exeter, to take a closer look at the logistics.
The study came to light when Lea and his coauthor, Britta Osthaus of Canterbury Christ Church University, studied more than 300 papers on the intelligence of dogs and other animals. While conducting the study, the duo looked at research that covered three groups: carnivorans (another name for carnivores), social hunters and domesticated animals. Dogs are one of the few animals that fall into all three of these groups. The pair quickly discovered that when it came to brainpower, dogs don’t particularly excel in any of the groups, compared to other animals. During the study, there were species in each group that were on par with or better than dogs in cognition comparisons. In total, the study considered sensory, physical, spatial and social cognition, and self-awareness, and concluded that, “taking all three groups into account, dog cognition does not look exceptional.”
“Taking all three groups (domestic animals, social hunters and carnivorans) into account, dog cognition does not look exceptional,” said Osthaus in a statement. “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.” he said.
Dogs do, however, stand out from their smart counterparts because they perform well in all three categories. While the research suggested that we’ve overlooked their true intelligence – or arguably, their lack of – researchers didn’t find that dogs are particularly unintelligent, per se, but rather, that they have similar intelligence levels of animals in three groups: other carnivorans, other social hunters, and other domestic animals.
“Every species has unique intelligence,” Lea told Popular Science. “Their intelligence is what you would expect of an animal that is … recently descended from social hunters … that are carnivores and that have also been domesticated… There’s no other animal that fits all three of those criteria.”
So, it turns out that your pooch may only be about as smart as an animal like a wolf, cat, spotted hyena, chimpanzee, dolphin, horse, and even a pigeon, according to this research. Still, some experts say dogs are about as smart as a 2-year-old child, as suggested in previous studies. According to professionals, intelligence in your dog can definitely vary from dog to dog, and even from breed to breed, depending on their upbringing and training.
If you’re curious about whether your fur baby is a little Einstein or not, you can probably guess by whether or not they pick up tricks easily. Professionals have also expressed that some dogs can recognise up to 250 words, commands, hand gestures, etc at once. So, if after a weeks of training, your little pooch just can’t seem to figure out how to sit on command, you might find their strong point in another area.