If you have ever looked at your dog and thought that you have one smart pet, you are not alone. In one study, researchers sent a survey to dog owners and asked them to rate their pet's smartness as compared with a human. Over 70% of respondents felt that their canine friend had the human intelligence of a three-year-old or above. The same study found that over 10% felt that their pet had the smartness of someone 11 years or older.
Pet owners perceive their dogs as very intelligent pets. They feel they can respond to emotions, figure out puzzles, and interact sociably amongst humans and other dogs. Due to this, there are many canine intelligence research centers at prestigious universities like Yale and Duke. Researchers at these institutions have concluded that dogs are smart pets, but do not possess some superintelligence.
Dogs are particularly social creatures, and they have evolved alongside humans over many years Dogs can respond remarkably well to human communication and cues. It's possible to point to a container with food, and, after enough training, the dog will remember and respond to the pointing gesture. There's also evidence to suggest that dogs can respond to human voice intonations and pitches. In short, humans and dogs coexist so well because dogs are smart enough to learn from humans and vice-versa. We can communicate with our canine friends, even if we don't speak the same language.
Canines are also acutely aware of their physical surroundings. This awareness is evident when training a dog to run through an obstacle course like an agility run. It is possible to teach a dog to run through a complex set of mazes to find the food, indicating that they have a powerful sense of their surroundings. Other pets, like cats, find these types of large spatial puzzles much more difficult to navigate. Dogs not only do them, but they have fun doing so. It's also interesting to note that there is recent research indicating that dogs have a unique section of the brain dedicated to processing human faces.
Researchers did fMRI scans on dogs and found that when presented with human faces, individual parts of the brain lit up that were not involved in processing faces of other dogs. This research suggests that, since dogs have evolved alongside us, they have particular parts dedicated to interacting with humans. The fact that it is 2019, and we are just discovering that the dog brain can parse human faces separately indicates that they may be intelligent in ways we previously didn't know. Research into canine intelligence and cognition in pets is still in its infancy.
Fortunately, many prestigious institutions are dedicating resources and energy to exploring it further. What is clear is that humans perceive their dogs to possess significant intelligence. Research, although still early, is supporting that belief. They may not possess the superintelligence of a 16-year-old human, but they do have many unique attributes and intelligence that make them particularly great companions for humans. If you're a dog owner, you probably knew that already! Rest assured, your dog is smart, and science is backing that up!