Sunday, August 09, 2009


Okay, we (all of us who have dogs in our families)already know this. But read on, below, to feel the joy!


Dogs as Smart as 2-year-old Kids
Jeanna Bryner
Senior Writer Jeanna Bryner
Senior Writer

The canine IQ test results are in: Even the average dog has the mental abilities of a 2-year-old child.

The finding is based on a language development test, revealing average dogs can learn 165 words (similar to a 2-year-old child), including signals and gestures, and dogs in the top 20 percent in intelligence can learn 250 words.
And the smartest?
Border collies, poodles, and German shepherds, in that order, says Stanley Coren, a canine expert and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia. Those breeds have been created recently compared with other dog breeds and may be smarter in part because we've trained and bred them to be so, Coren said. The dogs at the top of the pack are on par with a 2.5-year-old.
Better at math and socializing
While dogs ranked with the 2-year-olds in language, they would trump a 3- or 4-year-old in basic arithmetic, Coren found. In terms of social smarts, our drooling furballs fare even better.
"The social life of dogs is much more complex, much more like human teenagers at that stage, interested in who is moving up in the pack and who is sleeping with who and that sort of thing," Coren told LiveScience.
Coren, who has written more than a half-dozen books on dogs and dog behavior, will present an overview of various studies on dog smarts at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting in Toronto.
"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. "Their stunning flashes of brilliance and creativity are reminders that they may not be Einsteins but are sure closer to humans than we thought."
Math test
To get inside the noggin of man's best friend, scientists are modifying tests for dogs that were originally developed to measure skills in children.
Here's one: In an arithmetic test, dogs watch as one treat and then another treat are lowered down behind a screen. When the screen gets lifted, the dogs, if they get arithmetic (1+1=2), will expect to see two treats. (For toddlers, other objects would be used.)
But say the scientist swipes one of the treats, or adds another so the end result is one, or three treats, respectively. "Now we're giving him the wrong equation which is 1+1=1, or 1+1=3," Coren said. Sure enough, studies show the dogs get it. "The dog acts surprised and stares at it for a longer period of time, just like a human kid would," he said.
These studies suggest dogs have a basic understanding of arithmetic, and they can count to four or five.

Basic emotions

Other studies Coren notes have found that dogs show spatial problem-solving skills. For instance, they can locate valued items, such as treats, find better routes in the environment, such as the fastest way to a favorite chair, and figure out how to operate latches and simple machines.
Like human toddlers, dogs also show some basic emotions, such as happiness, anger and disgust. But more complex emotions, such as guilt, are not in a dog's toolbox. (What humans once thought was guilt was found to be doggy fear, Coren noted.)
And while dogs know whether they're being treated fairly, they don't grasp the concept of equity. Coren recalls a study in which dogs get a treat for "giving a paw."
When one dog gets a treat and the other doesn't, the unrewarded dog stops performing the trick and avoids making eye contact with the trainer. But if one dog, say, gets rewarded with a juicy steak while the other snags a measly piece of bread, on average the dogs don't care about the inequality of the treats.
Top dogs
To find out which dogs had the top school smarts, Coren collected data from more than 200 dog obedience judges from the United States and Canada.
He found the top dogs, in order of their doggy IQ are:
Border collies
German shepherds
Golden retrievers
Shetland sheepdogs
Labrador retrievers
At the bottom of the intelligence barrel, Coren would include many of the hounds, such as the bassett hound and the Afghan hound, along with the bulldog, beagle and basenji (a hunting dog).
"It's important to note that these breeds which don't do as well tend to be considerably older breeds," he said. "They were developed when the task of a hound was to find something by smell or sight." These dogs might fare better on tests of so-called instinctive intelligence, which measure how well dogs do what they are bred to do.
"The dogs that are the brightest dogs in terms of school learning ability tend to be the dogs that are much more recently developed," Coren said. He added that there's a "high probability that we've been breeding dogs so they're more responsive to human beings and human signals." So the most recently bred dogs would be more human-friendly and rank higher on school smarts.
Many of these smarty-pants are also the most popular pets. "We like dogs that understand us," Coren said.
We also love the beagle, which made it to the top 10 list of most popular dog breeds in 2008 by the American Kennel Club. That's because they are so sweet and socialable, Coren said. "Sometimes people love the dumb blonde," Coren said.
And sometimes the dim-wits make better pets. While a smart dog will figure out everything you want it to know, your super pet will also learn everything it can get away with, Coren warns.
Our beloved Australian Shepherd(a "cousin" to Border Collies),"Frisco",has been gone now(she was stricken with spleen cancer at age 10-and-a-half)for a long time.
We still have sweet, goof-y "Louie", our Golden Retreiver, who we adopted as a one-year-old, from Golden Retreiver Rescue of Atlanta, back in 1998.
We added "Afton", our German Shepherd (found abandoned with five puppies)when we discovered her through Big Canoe Animal Rescue, only six weeks ago.
All these dogs were/are incredibly smart. "Frisco" liked entertaining herself, and taught herself tricks like bouncing the tennis ball on her nose, seal-like, and then bouncing it on the ground. I often caught her all alone, doing this(she did not know I could see her)!
"Louie" is what I'd call "craft-y", as he will sneak around to find treats, and even hide them(!) from the other dog, or me. And "Afton", our newest addition--is clever, resourceful, and a quick-study.
In playing hide-and-seek the other day, she found me quickly, then immediately went to the pantry door, and nudged me to open the door. Curious, I did. It was then that I realized what she was after: the dog-treats are stored there, and she quickly pushed her nose to the box, then sat immediately and looked up at me, then at the box, then at me, then the box.
It was hilarious! And needless to say, it worked(I gave her a treat!).
Later in the day, I was remembering this, and suddenly recalled that the first day we brought her home, I took her to the pantry, had her sit, and then rewarded her. I guess she figured out if she does any "task" or "trick", she can get rewarded.

How about you? Do you have any smart-dog-stories to share?

Peace, kids.


YogaforCynics said...

Fascinating...I've tended to find that the biggest difference between people and dogs is that we're a bit smarter, but they have better personalities. I'm still convinced of the second point, but now you've thrown the first into question...

Lisa Allender said...

Yoga--Yeah,re: "we're a bit smarter":
That's definitely in question; I guess you could say "Afton" is training me! ;)

Anonymous said...

There only needs to be a test of cats, so that the on-going pet war can finally be settled. :P

Lisa Allender said...

Keith Wilson--I think kitties are awfully "independent", and frankly, they've only been domesticated for a bit over 400 years, whereas dogs became domesticated approximately 4,000 years ago(!).
It would not be fair to cats, to measure their type of smarts against dog smarts. One's not "better",than the other, but I think they are "different". Different as........cats and dogs!

Anonymous said...

My family in Ireland always had Border Collies on the farm. They are definitely the smartest dogs I have ever come across. Aussie cattledogs are very quick too. What an interesting study!

Lisa Allender said...

Selma in the city--Hi there; Thank You for stopping and commenting! I love Border's so sweet picturing them herding the sheep, goats, etc.... ;)

Mo said...

I've had the good fortune to share my life with five Labradors over the years - still have two. They all managed to have me trained (Puppy Whipped) within a week of coming home. They influence everything we do, where we go, the cars and furniture we buy, the house we built, even the clothes we wear (tip: get a dark dog or a light colored dog and adjust your wardrobe to match. Having both colors is not a good idea -grin). I suspect the study underestimates their intelligence or over estimates humans (or it least mine).

Lisa Allender said...

Good on you!
It is delightful how "influential" dogs are, on the choices we make, as you so eloquently expressed.
LOL on the clothing-color-options.
Please visit again soon!
Peace yo.
Headed to see your profile, blog, etc...