Researchers Believe Dog Intelligence May Be Hyped Up

New research from the scientists in England suggests that dogs may not be as intelligent as many seem to think they are.


Scientists from the University of Exeter and Canterbury Christ Church University in England looked at the brain power of dogs when compared to other domestic animals and social hunters and decided that dogs are not unique in their cognitive abilities.


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In essence, the researchers believe that dogs aren’t as smart as many of us believe they are. Or, at least uniquely that intelligent, as several species of social hunters and other carnivorans that included wolves, bears, lions and hyenas seemed matched in brain power.


The researchers looked at over 300 papers that have been written about the intelligence of dogs as well as other animals, and found overwhelmingly that there was an over-interpretation of results that favored the abilities of dogs. Professor Stephen Lea is with the University of Exeter and said that it seemed from the papers they read, the researchers’ goals in most were to prove that dogs were as smart as they believed them to be, and conducted research based on that assumption.


Dr. Lea said that when dogs are compared to chimpanzees (which is often), their ‘wins’ end up being added to research as an exceptional event and showing them to be unique. The research supports, however, that other comparisons with other animals show that they are able to perform as well as (or better) than dogs, and therefore, dogs’ intelligence is not really all that special.


The scientists looked at papers that researched cognition in several areas: physical, sensory, spatial, social and self-awareness and found that the brain power of dogs does not appear to be anything exceptional when compared to other domestic animals, social hunters and carnivorans.


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Dr. Britta Osthaus is with Canterbury Christ Church and said that when we use ‘research’ to place unreasonable expectations on dogs, we are not doing them any favor. She said that dogs are dogs, not furry humans, and we need to look at true ability and needs when we factor our treatment and expectations of them into our behavior.


I won’t lie; I’m a dog lover with exceptionally brilliant dogs. I just have to ask…was this research review funded by cats?

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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