Dog Intelligence on Par with Two-Year-Old Humans; Border Collies Smartest


Last month at Discovery News we told you how a dog's ability to understand gestures is comparable to that of a two-year-old human child.

Now comes this news from the American Psychological Association:

Renowned canine researcher puts dogs' intelligence on par with 2-year-old human

Border collies are brightest

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


can also understand more than 150 words and intentionally deceive other

dogs 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.


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 primates 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 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.


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


Data from 208 dog obedience judges from the United

States and Canada showed the differences in working and obedience

intelligence of dog breeds, 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.

(Image: John Haslam)


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."

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