Bet they are wrong!

It seems to me, that although the science is good it can’t be perfect!

I saw this recently and, ….. well you decide!


Dogs may not be as exceptionally smart as we think they are

Mary Jo DiLonardo


October 3rd, 2018.

Dogs have a scientific reputation for being rather brainy, but a new study says that may not be deserved. (Photo: Shevs/Shutterstock)

I know I’m biased, but I think my dog is brilliant. I’ve been bringing home animals all my life — from parakeets to ducks, cats to horses. But of all my feathered and furry pets, it’s no contest: Dogs are by far the brainiest. They are quick learners and great communicators with an incredible ability to solve problems.

But a new paper in the journal Learning & Behavior finds dog intelligence is “not exceptional.”

Although animal smarts have long been the subject of scientific research, recently there’s been a lot of focus on canine cognition. And that’s what triggered Stephen Lea, professor emeritus at the University of Exeter, to take a closer look. He was editor of the journal Animal Behavior, where he saw so many papers dealing with the mental abilities of dogs.

“Through the process of working as an editor [and] seeing all this research, I definitely got a sense that we as a collective had gotten a bit overexcited about dog intelligence,” Lea told Popular Science.

History of studying dog smarts

Dogs can learn problem solving, but raccoons often solve puzzles more easily. (Photo: Joerg Huettenhoelscher/Shutterstock)

Dogs and their brains have been studied for centuries (remember Pavlov and his bell?), but then were pushed aside for more popular studies with primates and other species. It wasn’t until the 1990s when dogs came back into focus. Lea wondered whether humans were giving dogs too much credit.

Lea and his coauthor, Britta Osthaus of Canterbury Christ Church University, studied more than 300 papers on the intelligence of dogs and other animals. They looked at research that covered three groups: carnivorans (another name for carnivores), social hunters and domesticated animals. Dogs fall into all three groups.

They discovered that when it comes to brainpower, dogs don’t particularly excel in any of the groups. There were species in each that were on par with or better than dogs in cognition comparisons. Raccoons, for example, seem to solve puzzles more easily, and hyenas seem to follow the cues of their pack more handily.

“Taking all three groups (domestic animals, social hunters and carnivorans) into account, dog cognition does not look exceptional,” said Osthaus in a statement. “We are doing dogs no favor 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.”

Dogs do, however, stand out from their smart counterparts because they perform well in all three categories.

“Every species has unique intelligence,” Lea told Popular Science. “Their intelligence is what you would expect of an animal that is … recently descended from social hunters … that are carnivores and that have [also] been domesticated …There’s no other animal that fits all three of those criteria.”

Sounds pretty brilliant to me.


It seems to me that science it taking far to narrow a look at our dogs.

For if one expands the range of qualities then one can include:

  • Unconditional love,
  • Companionship,
  • Sensitivity,
  • Consciousness,
  • Spirituality,
  • Bravery,
  • and a whole lot more besides.

23 thoughts on “Bet they are wrong!

  1. While I understand what was being conveyed in the article, I don’t necessarily agree with it. I can only go on what is presumed to be my illogical nature. To me, dogs are intuitive. They can sense things more acutely than other animals. A raccoon may be adept at figuring out how to get food from a locked garbage can but can a raccoon understand when I have had a bad day or am in emotional distress? Dogs pick up on our cues. It is a very symbiotic relationship. In my mind, that equates to intelligence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agree with you! To my mind there is a narrow definition of smartness, one that looks at a defined list of talents, such as mathematics, that clearly show intelligence, and another, more broader, list that covers that symbiotic relationship. As you say, dogs are intuitive. Wonderful response, Susan.


  2. I am always suspect of testing. So many times the criteria used might be skewed.

    I could imagine that if they had tested humans on some of their tests, the humans might have struggled with dexterity (you should see how well raccoons can use their hands)!

    I watched a man and his girlfriend walk by me with his German Shepherd (Alsasian) on a lead. The beautiful dog was cautious of the lady and cowered if she moved her hands. I looked hard at the dog and smiled. She was beautiful but timid. She looked back at me and tried to come over, but the guy pulled her away. The next day, I was out on a walk, and spotted the same guy, coming towards me with his dog. She looked at me… I saw recognition in her eyes. As he turned the corner to go up some steps with his back to me, but the dog kept turning back to look at me with curiosity registering on her face.
    That does not suggest to me that dogs are dumb. This strange dog was well aware of me, and she recognised seeing me for a second time. Not many people out walking would recognise a stranger again if they saw them twice. That dog was aware.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What I said was that we have a German Shepherd named Cleo that was the most intuitive dog ever. She is soft on her feet, both literally and metaphorically, and was always the first to come to our sides when we were feeling a little off. Cleo carries the memories of Pharaoh perfectly.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it is all relative really. If we are comparing their mental abilities to a human, then they will not score too high …. but against other animals? I read once that the dog is the only animal that, if you point to something, will look at where you are pointing. Other animals (cats!) will look at your finger! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Omg, there is a study for everything. Go with your own observations and experience and you will realize the innate intelligence of dogs. Oh, we’ve also rescued a grey wolf years ago. Ditto! Aloha


      1. Yes, Samson only lived just under seven years. We rescued him while living in New Mexico from an onion bag fate. His siblings were not so lucky. Had to buy formula to feed him, too young to eat anything else. He curbed every impulse of his wild self; somehow knowing he was blessed with freedom on sixty-five acres of lakeside woods in Maine. He never ran deer; did not run away at all. Guarded the girls, loved their friends, but we couldn’t trust him around babies and very young children. His eyes were always sharp, he was hypervigilant in a way no other dog has been in our midst. He developed some issues near the end which revealed his body was full of tumors. We had to put him down. So though short, his life was well met, considering his origins. Aloha Paul, and hope you enjoy your weekend!


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