New Study Finds Dogs as Intelligent as Toddlers

Dennis Faas's picture

How smart is your pooch?

Many of us have often wondered how Rover, Rex, or Cocoa interpreted and understood the wider world around them. Now, a recent psychological study has pinpointed just how smart our dogs are, and the results are surprising.

The report was part of a presentation called "How Dogs Think," staged in front of a Toronto crowd this past weekend. The presenter: University of British Columbia emeritus professor of psychology Stanley Coren, perhaps the leading expert in the examination of dog intelligence.

Canines Think Like Toddlers

Coren's finding: that the best way to study dogs is to use the same tests we have traditionally used towards understanding human intelligence. The reason? Because he believes most dogs have the intelligence of humans between the ages of 2 and 2.5 years old.

"One of the most recent breakthroughs is that people began to use tests which were originally designed for young humans -- for pre-linguistic or limited-linguistic humans -- to see whether dogs had certain capacities," said Coren.

"And that allows you then to do a whole bunch of things, not only to determine whether a dog has a certain thinking skill but to place him in terms of where would you be in terms of human beings, as well as in terms of other animals." (Source:

Dogs Capable of Learning, Adapting Behaviors

Part of Coren's presentation included a discussion of just how intelligent our dogs are; he believes they are capable of learning between 165-250 words, including visual signals. In addition, Coren believes most dogs can count to about four or five and might even have an understanding of arithmetic.

Coren also finds that dogs are capable of learning and repeating behaviors that trick or deceive humans and other dogs in order to get the things they want (an entirely unsurprising finding). (Source:

Coren confirmed traditional beliefs that some breeds are smarter than others. The most intelligent: border collies, poodles, golden retrievers, German shepherds, and dobermans, a group he collectively refers to as "super dogs."

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