The Ruff Report: Dogs, Safety and Behavior

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Hey dummy, your dog's much smarter than you think

Your pet is not such a dumb dog after all, because the average canine can count, understand 165 words, solve complex problems and is clever enough to deliberately deceive people and other pets, a leading researcher says.A dog's intelligence level is on par with a 2-year-old child, and they are more like humans and other higher primates than previously thought, according to Stanley Coren, a psychologist and professor at the University of British Columbia.

"Their stunning flashes of brilliance and creativity are reminders that they may not be Einsteins but are sure closer to humans than we thought," Mr. Coren states in a media release.

Mr. Coren,who has authored more than a half-dozen books on dogs and their behavior, presented his findings about dogs recently at the American Psychological Association’s 117th Annual Convention.

The average dog can learn 165 words, including signals, and some dogs can learn as many as 250 words, Mr. Coren says. "The upper limit of dogs’ ability to learn language is partly based on a study of a Border Collie named Rico who showed knowledge of 200 spoken words and demonstrated 'fast-track learning,’ which scientists believed to be found only in humans and language-learning apes."

Dogs also can count up to four or five and have a basic understanding of arithmetic, Mr. Coren said. They will notice errors in simple computations, such as one plus one equals one or one plus one equals three.

Mr. Coren examined four studies that looked at how dogs solve spatial problems by modeling human or other dogs’ behavior using a barrier-type problem. Through observation, Coren said, dogs can learn the location of valued items such as treats, can find better and faster routes to go to a location such as favorite chair, can learn how to operate mechanisms such as latches, and can understand the meaning of words and symbolic concepts by listening to people speak and watching their actions.

During play, dogs are capable of deliberately trying to deceive other dogs and people to get rewards, Mr. Coren said. "And they are nearly as successful in deceiving humans as humans are in deceiving dogs."

According to Mr. Coren, dogs can differ in intelligence by breed. They have three types of intelligence:

  • Instinctive, which derives from what the dog is bred to do.
  • Adaptive, which involves how well the dog learns from its environment to solve problems.
  • Working and obedience, which is the equivalent of "school learning."
Data from 208 dog obedience judges from the United States and Canada shows the differences in working and obedience intelligence of dog breeds, Mr. Coren said.According to the data, the most intelligent dogs are: Border Collies, first; Poodle, second; German Shepherd, third; Golden Retriever, fourth; Doberman Pincher, fifth; Shetland Sheepdog, sixth; Labrador Retriever, seventh; Papillon, eighth; Rottweiler, ninth; Australian Cattle Dog, 10th; Pembrook Welsh Corgi, 11th; Miniature Schnauzer, 12th.

The Borzoi, Chow Chow, Bull Dog, Basenji and Afghan Hound are at the bottom of the intelligence rankings.