Dog intelligence

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Dog intelligence is the ability of the dog to perceive information and retain it as knowledge for applying to solve problems. Dogs have been shown to learn by inference. A study with Rico showed that he knew the labels of over 200 different items. He inferred the names of novel items by exclusion learning and correctly retrieved those novel items immediately and also 4 weeks after the initial exposure. Dogs have advanced memory skills. A study documented the learning and memory capabilities of a border collie, "Chaser", who had learned the names and could associate by verbal command over 1,000 words. Dogs are able to read and react appropriately to human body language such as gesturing and pointing, and to understand human voice commands. Dogs demonstrate a theory of mind by engaging in deception. An experimental study showed compelling evidence that Australian dingos can outperform domestic dogs in non-social problem-solving, indicating that domestic dogs may have lost much of their original problem-solving abilities once they joined humans. Another study indicated that after undergoing training to solve a simple manipulation task, dogs that are faced with an insoluble version of the same problem look at the human, while socialized wolves do not. Modern domestic dogs use humans to solve their problems for them.

Evolutionary perspective

Dogs have often been used in studies of cognition, including research on perception, awareness, memory, and learning, notably research on classical and operant conditioning. In the course of this research, behavioral scientists have uncovered a surprising set of social-cognitive abilities in the domestic dog, abilities that are not possessed by dogs' closest canine relatives nor by other highly intelligent mammals such as great apes. Rather, these skills parallel some of the social-cognitive skills of human children. This may be an example of Convergent evolution, which happens when distantly related species independently evolve similar solutions to the same problems. For example, fish, penguins and dolphins have each separately evolved flippers as solution to the problem of moving through the water. With dogs and humans, we may see psychological convergence; that is, dogs have evolved to be cognitively more similar to humans than we are to our closest genetic relatives.

However, it is questionable whether the cognitive evolution of humans and animals may be called "independent", as the cognitive capacities of dogs have inevitably been shaped by millennia of contact with humans. As a result of this physical and social evolution, many dogs readily respond to social cues common to humans, quickly learn the meaning of words, show cognitive bias and exhibit emotions that seem to reflect those of humans.

Research suggests that domestic dogs may have lost some of their original cognitive abilities once they joined humans. For example, one study showed compelling evidence that dingos (Canis dingo) can outperform domestic dogs in non-social problem-solving experiments. Another study indicated that after being trained to solve a simple manipulation task, dogs that are faced with an insoluble version of the same problem look at a nearby human, while socialized wolves do not. Thus, modern domestic dogs seem to use humans to solve some of their problems for them.

In 2014, a whole genome study of the DNA differences between wolves and dogs found that dogs did not show a reduced fear response, they showed greater synaptic plasticity. Synaptic plasticity is widely believed to be the cellular correlates of learning and memory and this change may have altered the learning and memory abilities of dogs.


Most modern research on dog cognition has focused on pet dogs living in human homes in developed countries, which is only a small fraction of the dog population and dogs from other populations may show different cognitive behaviors. Breed differences possibly could impact on spatial learning and memory abilities.

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