Did you know that dogs are capable of complex feats of social intelligence and emotional sensitivity? Yes, indeed! Stanley Coren, a psychologist and dog researcher estimates the average intelligence of dogs to be roughly equivalent as that of a 2.5 -year-old baby’s.
Delving into the complexities of canine intelligence has been a favorite subject of hundreds of research studies. The smartest dogs appear to have the ability to learn hundreds of words. Behavioral experiments using more sophisticated technologies, such as MRI, are now being used to dig deeper into the dog psyche and these are what dog behaviorists have uncovered--
- Dogs are experts at understanding human cues. They are capable of interpreting the body language of humans even the most subtle ones such as a nod of the head, a change in the tone of voice, a gaze, a blink of an eye, etc. In fact, dogs are better off in these aspects than chimps.
- Dogs have the ability to learn hundreds of words. There are some dogs, however, that have particularly remarkable memories and can be trained to remember more than a thousand different words.
- Dogs can process not only the tone of our voice but also the actual words that are spoken.
- Dogs have an emotional connection to their owners. They are able to “sense” the vibes that their humans “give off” and “feed” on them. Thus, your dog will know when you’re happy, sad, afraid, or anxious.
- Dogs can feel pangs of jealousy.
Each dog is different
Just like people, dogs differ in their intellectual capabilities. Take note, however, that there are different types of canine intelligence. Dogs vary in how they excel in various situations. Some dogs may have outstanding social qualities and do well in social situations, while some are a whiz at learning words and those with excellent abilities for problem-solving. Whatever may be the case, dogs are very attentive and responsive to humans. This demonstrates how excellent the social-cognitive skills of dogs are.
Are dogs socially savvy?
Although animal behaviorists don’t entirely agree on the reasons why dogs have excellent social cognitive skills, it is believed that the social intelligence of canines is evolutionary -- from their wolf-ancestors to domestication, dogs have metamorphosed into the pets we have today. Breeding is geared towards favorable qualities, such as friendliness and human affinity, making them good companions to humans.
Some experts believe that dogs acquire their social cognitive skills through the amount of time they spend with humans. This is one particularly important reason why puppy socialization is a must.
Nurturing Your Dog’s Cognitive Abilities
Dogs possess a keen sense of smell which is more powerful than that of humans. Being primary creatures, humans navigate by sight. On the other hand, dogs live in a scent-based world. They process the world around them using their noses. Their skills at scent detection far more exceed what humans are capable of smelling.
Experts believe that the best way to cultivate a dog’s cognitive abilities is to “let them sniff”. Let your dog explore the world with his nose, give him plenty of freedom to sniff around. A study conducted by canine behavior researchers, Dr. Alexandra Horowitz and Dr. Charlotte Duranton, has found out that “dogs who are allowed to sniff have a more optimistic approach to the world”.
Which are the most intelligent dogs?
The 10 smartest canine breeds according to the popular dog whisperer, Cesar Millan, include:
- Border collie
The border collie was primarily bred to work in herding sheep. The breed is known for its “herding eye”. They excel in agility and dog athletic sports. As pets, they are affectionate and are great cuddlers.
The poodle is well-loved for being smart, active, and hypoallergenic. They can be easily trained to hunt, retrieve, and obey.
- German shepherd
German shepherds are courageous and smart dogs. They excel as service dogs or police dogs. These dogs are oozing with confidence and are fiercely loyal to the pack. They’re also great with kids.
- Golden retriever
Golden retrievers are intelligent sporting dogs. They excel in various jobs-- as a seeing-eye dog, hunting companion, search-and-rescue dog, etc. They are friendly and affectionate, making them excellent pets for families with kids.
- Doberman pinscher
The breed is popular for its remarkable speed, strength, and endurance. They can be trained to work as police dogs or in the past, as war dogs.
- Shetland sheepdog
These smart herding dogs can easily learn new tricks. They are very playful and do well with kids. Shelties are affectionate and loyal pets. However, they are not as friendly towards strangers or unfamiliar faces and tend to bark at people. These qualities make them great watchdogs.
- Labrador retriever
Labrador retrievers are your quintessential family dogs, intelligent, gentle, and great with kids. These dogs live to please. They are among the top choices for guide dogs and rescue dogs.
Papillons are well-loved for being smart and friendly. They excel in canine sports and can be trained to perform all kinds of tricks.
The bloodhound is known for its excellent sense of smell. This and their determination make them outstanding in sniffing out bombs, explosives, drugs, contraband, etc.
Rottweilers make excellent guard dogs. But their loyal and loving streak make them suited to various tasks -- as therapy dogs, police dogs, service dogs, while excelling in obedience trials, and as devoted family companions.