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Your Dog May Be Smart, but She’s Not Exceptional

The authors reviewed existing studies and data on animal cognition and found that while dogs are smart and trainable, they are not “super smart,” despite what most dog owners will tell you.

LAURA M. HOLSON: ‘A recent study published in the journal Learning & Behavior suggests that dogs are no more exceptional than other animals when it comes to canniness and intelligence… The authors reviewed existing studies and data on animal cognition and found that while dogs are smart and trainable, they are not “super smart,” despite what most dog owners will tell you… Stephen Lea, an emeritus professor in the psychology department at the University of Exeter in Britain, was editor of Animal Cognition, a journal that seeks to explain cognition among humans and animals in the context of evolution. Dog research, he said in an interview last week, was quite popular in the 1990s and continues to be so…

Dr. Lea wondered: Had dog lovers (and scientists, for that matter) imbued their pets with extraordinary capabilities they did not possess?… He and Britta Osthaus, a senior lecturer in the School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology at Canterbury Christ Church University in Britain, set out to test the hypothesis. They compared dog cognition with members of three similar groups: carnivores, social hunters and domestic animals. Among the animals they studied were wolves, cats, chimpanzees, dolphins, horses and pigeons. What they found, Dr. Lea said, was that “dog cognition does not look exceptional”…

Dr. Lea said dogs cannot use tools, unlike dolphins, New Caledonian crows and chimpanzees, which have been observed using plant stems to fish for termites. Homing pigeons are trained to fly home, sometimes crossing hundreds of miles of unfamiliar terrain. “Far be it for me to suggest that pigeons are smarter than dogs; they are not intellectual giants,” Dr. Lea said. “But if you want to get 1,000 miles, I trust a pigeon over a dog”.’ SOURCE…

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