Tag Archives: IQ

Mensa dogs

Dogs have measurable IQs, like people, suggests new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the University of Edinburgh.

The research, published in the journal Intelligence, looked at whether dog intelligence is structured in a similar way as in humans. When IQ, or ‘general intelligence’, is tested in people, individuals tend to perform comparably across different types of cognitive tasks –  those who do well in one type of task, tend to do well in others.

Dog intelligence test

The researchers created a proto-type dog ‘IQ test’ which they used to assess the intelligence of 68 working border collies. These tests included: navigation, tested by timing how long it took the dogs to get food that was behind different types of barriers; assessing whether they could tell the difference between quantities of food and; their ability to follow a human pointing gesture to an object.

The researchers found that dogs that did well on one test tended be better at the other tests. Furthermore, dogs that did tests faster were likely to do them more accurately.

Dr Rosalind Arden, a Research Associate at LSE, said: “Just as people vary in their problem solving abilities, so do dogs, even within one breed. This is significant because in humans there is a small but measurable tendency for people who are brighter to be healthier and live longer.  So if, as our research suggests, dog intelligence is structured similarly to ours, studying a species that doesn’t smoke, drink, use recreational drugs and does not have large differences in education and income, may help us understand this link between intelligence and health better.

“In addition, dogs are one of the few animals that reproduce many of the key features of dementia, so understanding their cognitive abilities could be valuable in helping us to understand the causes this disorder in humans and possibly test treatments for it.”

The suite of tests was conducted in under an hour per dog, which is comparable with the time it takes a person to do an IQ-type test.  Previous research on canine cognitive abilities has taken much longer to administer.

Dr Mark Adams, Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This is only a first step, but we are aiming to create a dog IQ test that is reliable, valid and can be administered quickly.  Such a test could rapidly improve our understanding of the connection between dog intelligence, health, even lifespan, and be the foundation of ‘dognitive epidemiology’

“Dogs are excellent for this kind of work because they are willing to participate and seem to enjoy taking part.”

In order to get a large sample of dogs from similar backgrounds the researchers recruited working border collies, which meant that there weren’t big differences in how they were raised.

Source:  London School of Economics and Political Science media release

Personal comment:  Dogs must be a popular research topic if even the London School of Economics is getting into the act!

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Dog intelligence

Most dog owners have an opinion about their dog’s intelligence.  I regularly hear comments like, “He’s so smart, he’s ahead of the rest of his obedience class” or “He’s not very bright, but we love him.”

 When I was working on my management qualification years ago, we were told to go home and ask our partner/flatmate about how they solved problems.  Ebony, my Labrador flatmate at the time, came up with these tips, which I thought were very intelligent:

  1. Remember that chasing your tail does not get you anywhere.  It also makes you dizzy and less able to focus on the task at hand.
  2. Eat regularly and often.  Problem solving is hard work and requires energy.
  3. Don’t underestimate the value of a nap.  A problem looks different after you’ve had a good sleep.
  4. If you stare at a problem long enough, it might move on its own.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Try looking cute.
  6. If looking cute doesn’t work, try whining.
  7. If whining fails, loud retching noises are guaranteed to get the attention of those around you.
  8. Some problems soften over time.  Burying them in the garden hastens this process.
  9. Some problems require more immediate attention.  An immediate problem, if left unattended, is likely to result in a much more smelly mess to be cleaned up later.

There are many published works on the subject of dog intelligence.  Over the years, I’ve read countless research studies into this subject.  There are many institutions involved in the research.  All projects have the goal of understanding how dogs think.

Professor Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia has authored several books about dog intelligence.  He states that dogs have the intellectual capacity of a two-year old and can understand more than 150 words.[1]

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have studied the ability of dogs to interpret human gestures.  When researchers hid food beneath one container in a group and pointed to the ‘right’ container, dogs consistently picked up on those cues better than even chimpanzees (a species widely studied because of the evolutionary link between apes and humans).

Earlier this year, a research team at the University of Otago reported on their study that showed that dogs could readily distinguish happy human sounds from sad or angry ones, suggesting an ability to understand human emotions.

Even the dog toy market has recognised that dogs need mental stimulation.  The Nina Ottosson range, for example, offers a range of skill level toys designed to make your dog think about how to reveal their food reward.

Daisy demonstrates her intelligence with a Nina Ottosson toy

Despite all of this evidence, including videos of my Daisy using her interactive toys, many of the non-dog people in my life remain unconvinced about the intelligence of dogs.  I believe that persistence will pay off.  Over time we will see more and more research about the intellectual capacity of our dogs.  The non-believers will become believers.


[1] Science Daily, 10 August 2009