Pup fiction: Why your dog isn't nearly as clever as you think


Pup fiction: Why your dog isn't nearly as clever as you think

When it comes to cognitive ability dogs are at least matched by several species, a study has found

Henry Bodkin

Dogs are less intelligent than most people think, a new study has found, revealing that canines are no smarter than pigeons, sheep or goats.
Researchers from the University of Exeter reviewed more than 300 papers on animal brain power, comparing dogs with other domestic animals, social hunters and carnivores such as wolves, bears, lions and hyenas.
They found that dogs were at least matched by several species in each of these groups when it came to cognitive ability.
For example, dogs are unable to recognise themselves in a mirror, unlike animals including chimpanzees and dolphins.
Professor Stephen Lea, of the University of Exeter, said the research identified several cases of “over-interpretation” in favour of the abilities of dogs in studies.
“During our work it seemed to us that many studies in dog cognition research set out to ‘prove’ how clever dogs are,” Lea said.
“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 focused on sensory cognition, physical cognition, spatial cognition, social cognition and self-awareness.
Dr Britta Osthaus, of Canterbury Christ Church University, said dog cognition “does not look exceptional” when compared with other domestic animals, social hunters and carnivorans.
“We are doing dogs no favour 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,” Osthaus said.
Goats, pigs, dolphins, seals and sealions do at least as well as dogs at following human pointing.
Pigs are equally able to identify humans by smell, while sheep, pigeons and chimpanzees can identify humans by their faces.
Cats do at least as well as dogs at identifying humans by their voices.
Donkeys, mules and horses are as able to find their way around barriers as dogs, while wolves, raccoons and hyenas can pull a string to release food.
Dolphins, chimps, giant pandas, American badgers, two species of bear and sea otters can use tools at least as well as dogs.
Unlike dogs, animals including pigs, pigeons and chimps have the ability to remember the what, where and when of an event.
The research is published in the journal Learning & Behavior.
– © The Daily Telegraph

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