Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | September 23, 2009

Intelligence of Dogs

Stubby the Smartie

Stubby the Smartie

Stanley Coren

, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, canine researcher and author of “How Dogs Think” and “The Intelligence of Dogs”, is touting the newest research strategy for understanding dogs – utilizing tests meant for very young children.  He states that these tests designed for pre-linguistic or limited-linguistic humans are now successfully being applied to see whether dogs have certain mental capacities.

Coren states, “And that allows you then to do a whole bunch of things, not only to determine whether a dog has a certain thinking skill but to place him in terms of where would he would be in terms of human beings, as well as in terms of other animals “.  Thus Coren’s research has found that the mental abilities of dogs are close to those of a human child between 2 and 2½ years old.

Coren’s research reviews numerous studies that show how dogs are more like humans than previously thought. He says dogs can learn about 165 words and signals (265 for the more intelligent dogs), can count up to four or five, and have a basic understanding of arithmetic. Also, he says, dogs can intentionally deceive other dogs and people to get things they want.

Raving about the abilities of dogs, Coren stated: “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. Their stunning flashes of brilliance and creativity are reminders that they may not be Einsteins but are sure closer to humans than we thought.”

My name is “Stubby”, a very bright dog here at the Second Chance Shelter, and I would offer some words of caution regarding the application of this data.  Anthropomorphizing intelligence indicators of dogs can be misleading as there are breed specific “intelligences” that humans would not value as highly but that indicate a “canine” intelligence that was important to the development of that breed.  For instance, the tracking abilities of the Hound breeds, the breeds on the bottom rung of the “intelligence” would be more important to that breed than other skills that humans value. 

Thus, just because the Border Collie is considered the most intelligent dog by obedience trainers does not mean that it is the best dog for everyone.  As Coren points out, depending upon your lifestyle it may be more difficult to live with a more intelligent, rather than a less intelligent dog.  An intelligent dog that is not appropriately trained, socialized, exercised, or mentally stimulated will find other ways to manage these energies – and often these behaviors tend to be undesirable for pet parents.

As a smart Jack Russell Terrier, I will do best in a home where I can receive vigorous daily exercise and plenty of companionship – come visit me at the Shelter today!

Call the Second Chance Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter Financial Assistance, Volunteer & Foster Care, or other Programs.  Visit our shelter pets online:  Direct Pet Column questions to:  kelly@secondchancehumanesociety.orgPhoto by Real Life Photographs.


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