Your Dog Is Probably Dumber Than You Think, a New Study Says

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Source: Time

Your dog may be a good boy—but he’s not as smart as you think, a new research article suggests.

Dogs have a unique set of cognitive abilities, but they’re not inherently smarter than other animals, says the new paper, which was published in the journal Learning & Behavior. “Dogs are special, but they’re not exceptional,” says co-author Britta Osthaus, a senior lecturer in psychology at Christ Church University in the UK. “They’re smart, but they’re not stand-out smart.”

The research was inspired by lead author Stephen Lea’s prior role as editor of the journal Animal Cognition, Osthaus says. Lea, now an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Exeter in the UK, saw plenty of papers about the special abilities of dogs, but noticed that other animals were rarely tested using the same types of cognitive tasks. Working with Osthaus, Lea decided to set the record straight by analyzing more than 300 existing studies on animal cognition in an effort to compare dogs to other equivalent species.

Dogs fit into three main classifications, the paper says. They’re carnivorans, an order of animal mostly made up of meat-eaters; they’re social hunters, meaning they work together to find and retrieve food; and they’ve been domesticated by humans.

For their new paper, Osthaus and Lea compared dogs to species in each of those three categories, such as wolves (a close ancestor), wild dogs and hyenas (carnivorans and social hunters), cats (carnivorans and domesticated animals), dolphins and chimpanzees (social hunters) and horses and pigeons (domesticated animals). Across many cognitive categories—from the ability to draw information from sensory stimuli to problem-solving to social intelligence—the researchers found that other animals could match or exceed dogs’ abilities.

Dogs fit into three main classifications, the paper says. They’re carnivorans, an order of animal mostly made up of meat-eaters; they’re social hunters, meaning they work together to find and retrieve food; and they’ve been domesticated by humans.

For their new paper, Osthaus and Lea compared dogs to species in each of those three categories, such as wolves (a close ancestor), wild dogs and hyenas (carnivorans and social hunters), cats (carnivorans and domesticated animals), dolphins and chimpanzees (social hunters) and horses and pigeons (domesticated animals). Across many cognitive categories—from the ability to draw information from sensory stimuli to problem-solving to social intelligence—the researchers found that other animals could match or exceed dogs’ abilities.

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