Dogs aren’t as smart as we thought

We all think our pets are amazing, but scientists reckon dogs are pretty average

Dogs have been thought of as remarkably intelligent for many years, but now researchers think we might have been overestimating them the whole time. In a new study, the intelligence of pet dogs was compared to that of other domestic animals, other species that hunt in groups, and other carnivores.


After analysing hundreds of scientific papers on the brainpower of the animals – including studies into cognition, social ability and self-awareness – the researchers found that dogs are not exceptional. While they are undoubtedly clever, their intelligence is matched by several species in each of the three comparison groups.


The authors of the new study suggest that perhaps we’re biased towards our pooches and have been conducting research with the aim of proving how much smarter they are than other animals. Dr Britta Osthaus from Cantebury Christ Church University says “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.”


The paper – titled ‘In what sense are dogs special? Canine cognition in comparative context‘ – is published in the journal Learning and Behaviour


Image: Sasha/flickr