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How Smart is Your Dog?

Last month, a study came out that dogs are not as smart as we think. While we have a bone to pick with the title of the article (pun intended!), we do think it makes a good point. “Dogs have a unique set of cognitive abilities,” states the article, “but they’re not inherently smarter than other animals.” Here’s our takeaway…

In the study, dogs were compared to other animals that check off the key characteristics of our furry friends, including domestication and pack mentality. The animals — wolves, cats, dolphins, chimpanzees, horses, and pigeons, were run through a series of tests that assessed their problem-solving abilities and social intelligence. The results? Dogs performed on similar levels as the other animals, and in some cases, worse.

One common assumption about our four-legged canines is that domestication has made them cognitively more attuned to humans and thus more intelligent. While it’s true that dogs are exceptionally equipped to work alongside humans and be excellent guides for the blind, for instance, it doesn’t mean they are actually smarter. The article goes on to argue that part of the reason we find dogs so smart is because of our love for them and thus our bias. They’re lovable, and so we enjoy making them the topic of research studies and we like to know that the animals in our homes are just as smart as we think they are. Of course, this has just as much to do with how we’re defining “smart” here. What does a smart dog look like? Does he have a large vocabulary and know the difference between “stick” and “ball”? Does he push harder on a door when it appears stuck? Can he guess which hand is holding the treat?

To us, it has less to do with intelligence and more to do with the remarkable ease in which dogs have acclimated to human life. How they just seem to know that couches are man’s greatest creation. How they can sense their owner is upset and most importantly, know exactly how to comfort us. How they are equally as happy to see us when we return from a trip or return from taking out the garbage. To us, that makes them the smartest animals alive!

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