Is your pet dog exceptionally intelligent?
Various studies have shown that the cognitive capabilities of dogs are quite enhanced in a variety of domains. To explore dog intelligence further, researchers from the University of Exeter and Canterbury Christ Church University conducted some research on canine cognition.
The researchers compared dogs alongside appropriate comparison groups. This involved comparing dog cognition with that of other carnivores, social hunters and domestic animals, particularly wolves, cats, spotted hyenas, chimpanzees, dolphins, horses and pigeons. The study examined more than 300 study papers on the intelligence of dogs and other animals and the researchers found quite a few studies that over-interpreted the results in favour of dogs.
The review focussed on sensory cognition, physical cognition, spatial cognition, social cognition and self-awareness. For each domain, the researchers evaluated dog cognition as either similar or different to comparative species.
The study found:
- While dogs’ olfactory abilities are excellent, the perceptual abilities of dogs do not differ from other comparison groups. Their sensory cognition seems to be similar to that of other carnivores and social hunters that have been tested.
- Physical cognition is not a domain in which dogs excel. Their performance is at least equalled by other members of at least two of the three comparison groups.
- Dogs show good performance in spatial tasks, but the same is true of other species in all the comparison groups.
- In associative learning, there was no evidence that associative learning is in any way unusual in dogs.
- Dogs have an impressive ability to use other animals’ behaviour (particularly humans) as a cue. However, some other carnivores are even better at these tasks, and some other domestic species may do just as well. No other social hunters (except wolves) have been shown to do just as well.
- Dogs have an impressive capacity for social learning. They seem to do better at these tasks than any other carnivores, except wolves. However, some social hunters, particularly dolphins and chimpanzees, have shown clearer evidence of motor imitation than dogs.
Taking all three groups into account (domestic animals, social hunters and carnivores), the study concludes that dog cognition does not look exceptional. The researchers recommend that dog owners must take their pets’ true abilities into consideration and not have a false enhanced view of their cognitive abilities when interacting with their pets.
Source: Learning & Behavior