Summary: Researchers say people may be over estimating the cognitive abilities of dogs. A new study reveals dog intelligence is matched with that of other domestic animals, social hunters and carnivores.
Source: University of Exeter.
People who think dogs are exceptionally intelligent are barking up the wrong tree, new research shows.
Scientists reviewed evidence that compared the brain power of dogs with other domestic animals, other social hunters and other carnivorans (an order including animals such as dogs, wolves, bears, lions and hyenas).
The researchers, from the University of Exeter and Canterbury Christ Church University, found the cognitive abilities of dogs were at least matched by several species in each of these groups.
The study examined more than 300 papers on the intelligence of dogs and other animals, and found several cases of “over interpretation” in favour of dogs’ abilities.
“During our work it seemed to us that many studies in dog cognition research set out to ‘prove’ how clever dogs are,” said Professor Stephen Lea, of the University of Exeter.
“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 focussed on sensory cognition, physical cognition, spatial cognition, social cognition and self-awareness.
“Taking all three groups (domestic animals, social hunters and carnivorans) into account, dog cognition does not look exceptional,” said Dr Britta Osthaus, of Canterbury Christ Church University.
“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.”
Source: Alex Morrison – University of Exeter
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Original Research: Open access research for “In what sense are dogs special? Canine cognition in comparative context” by Stephen E. G. Lea and Britta Osthaus in Learning and Behavior. Published September 24 2018.
In what sense are dogs special? Canine cognition in comparative context
The great increase in the study of dog cognition in the current century has yielded insights into canine cognition in a variety of domains. In this review, we seek to place our enhanced understanding of canine cognition into context. We argue that in order to assess dog cognition, we need to regard dogs from three different perspectives: phylogenetically, as carnivoran and specifically a canid; ecologically, as social, cursorial hunters; and anthropogenically, as a domestic animal. A principled understanding of canine cognition should therefore involve comparing dogs’ cognition with that of other carnivorans, other social hunters, and other domestic animals. This paper contrasts dog cognition with what is known about cognition in species that fit into these three categories, with a particular emphasis on wolves, cats, spotted hyenas, chimpanzees, dolphins, horses, and pigeons. We cover sensory cognition, physical cognition, spatial cognition, social cognition, and self-awareness. Although the comparisons are incomplete, because of the limited range of studies of some of the other relevant species, we conclude that dog cognition is influenced by the membership of all three of these groups, and taking all three groups into account, dog cognition does not look exceptional.