Dog intelligence ‘not exceptional’

In what sense are dogs special?

Dog intelligence ‘not exceptional’
Image courtesy of Mitchell Orr

According to a new study, individuals who think dogs are astoundingly intelligent are looking in the wrong place.

Scientists at the University of Exeter examined proof that compared the intellectual power of dogs and other residential animals, other social hunters and different carnivorans. They found the cognitive abilities of dogs were at least matched by several species in each of these groups.

Scientists studied more than 300 papers on the intelligence of dogs and other animals. There were several cases of “over-interpretation” in favor of dogs’ abilities.

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

“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, social cognition, and self-awareness.

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

“We are doing dogs no favor 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.”

Scientists have published their paper in the journal Learning & Behavior.

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