Dogs can count, understand more than 150 words and intentionally deceive other dogs and humans to get treats, according to psychologist and canine researcher Stanley Coren, of the University of British Columbia. After reviewing numerous studies, Coren concluded that dogs can solve complex problems and are more like humans and other higher primates than previously thought, their abilities close to those of a 2- 2 ½-year-old human child.

Dr. Coren concluded that the intelligence of dogs differs according to breed and described three types of dog intelligence: (a) instinctive (what the dog is bred to do), (b) adaptive (how well the dog learns from her environment to solve problems) and (c) working and obedience (the equivalent of school learning). Based on data from 208 dog obedience judges from the United States and Canada, Dr. Coren’s conclusions about the order of intelligence of the top dogs are as follows:

  1. Border collies
  2. Poodles
  3. German shepherds
  4. Golden retrievers
  5. Dobermans
  6. Shetland sheepdogs
  7. Labrador retrievers

According to Dr. Coren, the average dog can learn 165 words, including signals, and super dogs, those in the top twenty percent of dog intelligence, can learn 250 words. The upper limit of dogs’ language-learning ability is based, in part, on a study of a border collie named Rico, who showed knowledge of 200 spoken words and demonstrated fast-track learning, which scientists believed to be found only in humans and language-learning apes.

Dr. Coren also notes that dogs also can count up to four or five and have a basic understanding of arithmetic; for instance, they will notice errors in simple computations, such as 1+1=1 or 1+1=3.

Four studies looked at how dogs solve spatial problems by modeling human or other dogs' behavior using a barrier type problem. Through observation, dogs can learn the location of valued items (treats), better routes in the environment (the fastest way to a favorite chair), how to operate mechanisms (such as latches and simple machines) and the meaning of words and symbolic concepts (sometimes by simply listening to people speak and watching their actions). Further, during play, dogs are capable of deliberately trying to deceive other dogs and people in order to get rewards, Dr. Coren concluded, adding that they are nearly as successful in deceiving humans as humans are in deceiving dogs.

Conclusion: Dogs are far smarter and more complex than many of us give them credit for. Do not underestimate them.

For the complete Science Daily article, go here.

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