Analysis / Dogs Are Dumb

This prejudice has been thoroughly demolished in recent years (at least in scientific circles), with all the research into animal intelligence revealing future planning and tool-using ability, the capacity to lie, self-recognition and basic mathematical abilities such as counting to four or five and doing sums in many different kinds of animals, such as for example the great apes, corvids, elephants and domesticated dogs (in contrast to wild wolves), just to list a few. In 2009, the associated press reported that Canadian psychology Prof. Stanley Coren announced that several studies support the findings that dogs can reach an intelligence comparable to two-and-a-half-year old children, can count up to five and understand on average 165 human words and gestures, with some breeds reaching up to 250 words.

Not surprisingly perhaps, since according to genetic analysis the gray wolf Canis lupus was the not only the ancestor of the modern dog but the very first animal Mankind domesticated, long before we domesticated species such as sheep or goats. The oldest known remains of domesticated dogs are estimated at 14.000 years old, but according to genetic analysis, dogs genetically diverged from wolves approximately 100.000 to 135.000 years ago, during the time when Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa and into the Middle East, pointing to a long co-evolution between our two species. Like humans, dogs retain "child-like" features important to intelligence well into adulthood, such as play behavior and the ability to learn new things, in contrast to the wolf which does not. Not only can dogs interpret human moods and facial expressions, research has found that small children who had never met a dog before could pretty accurately interpret body language and facial expressions of dogs in videos.

Some claim that there are more intelligent and less intelligent dog individuals and breeds, with breeds specifically bred for understanding verbal orders and acting independently leading in the intelligence spectrum. However, the "intelligence" of dogs is a controversial concept. It was invented by Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. His standards of defining intelligence were based on dogs' abilities to understand and obey commands. While the ability to understand and obey commands is a neccessity for any service dog, it is not an actual measure of intelligence. The "intelligence rating scale" is heavily weighted towards obedience, but not understanding or creativity—- features essential to hunting dogs that are unsuitable in service dogs.

It is very difficult to distinguish between disobedience and not understanding an order. Some dogs are stubborn by nature, and creatively choose to disobey orders. Dogs often play stupid in order to get away with misbehavior. (Many puppies do this. They will misbehave, then pretend that they are not aware of what they just did. Pekingese dogs are masters at this form of manipulation, likely because smaller dogs are usually treated like puppies by their packmates as well as their masters.) Dogs can and do lie in order to manipulate their owners into giving a certain reaction, and selective disobedience requires a certain degree of creative intelligence. Creativity and a stubborn nature might make a breed difficult to train, but it does not make them unintelligent.

One of the lowest rated, "least intelligent" dogs on the list are bloodhounds. However, anyone who has owned a bloodhound will tell you that these dogs are selectively disobedient, and keenly follow their instincts. They come up with solutions their masters do not, which makes them skilled hunting dogs. If anything, they go with what they feel is the best approach to the problem at hand and give their humans the choice to go along with it or let them do their thing.

Basically, compared to humans? Of course they're not the brightest. But by animal standards, they're downright geniuses.