Just How Smart Are Our Dogs?

10 Jul 2017 | Written by Freshpet
Have you ever found yourself marveling at how smart your pup is? You're not alone in your belief. Recent scientific research has uncovered dogs' ability to do some amazing things, including understanding our facial expressions, understanding what we mean when we point to things and understanding how to socialize. We dug up some of the most tail-wagging research out there to uncover just how smart our dogs really are. The next time you see your dog do something brilliant, there's no reason to be surprised.  

Smart Dogs: Research Trends

Research into the intelligence of dogs isn't a new thing. In terms of modern research, some dog studies from the early 2000s revealed fascinating details about intelligence, including results that indicated an ability to count and understand pointing gestures. That's right! When you point at something, your dog usually knows what you're trying to communicate.    

Source: NYTimes

    In 2002, a study examining dogs' responses to pointing gestures was published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology. After completing a series of three experiments, researchers found that dogs appeared to understand what the person using the pointing gesture was trying to communicate and responded appropriately. A study published 10 years later went a step further and compared the responses of dogs to the responses of chimpanzees — often thought of as one of the smartest animals. It found that dogs responded well to human communicative cues like pointing, while chimpanzees did not.  

Dogs Can Learn — Maybe Even Better Than We Do

Humans don't always pick up on subtle cues from teachers, but pups usually do. At the Canine Cognition Center at Yale University, Dr. Laurie Santos studies the ways dogs learn new skills. Her research indicates that while humans typically imitate their instructors in detail, including unnecessary steps, dogs seem to sense when a step is irrelevant and skip it. For example, in one exercise Santos gave her dogs a puzzle box with a lever that wouldn't help solve the puzzle. The dogs typically skipped using the lever, even when their teachers attempted to use it.    

Source: Canine Cognition Center

    When asked about her work with dogs, Santos notes, "Dogs are very good at picking up on human social information." Not only can they follow cues from actions like pointing and gesturing, dogs "seem to know something about our emotional expressions," she says. So, if you feel like your dog is reacting to your facial expressions, you're probably right!  

Dogs Have Social Smarts

Dr. Santos isn't the only researcher out there studying smart dogs. According to research conducted by Evan MacLean, director of the Arizona Canine Cognition Center at the University of Arizona, your dog might be able to socialize as well as your 2-year-old. Dr. MacLean's study of 552 dogs of varying breeds examined the similarities in social cognition between dogs, human infants and chimpanzees. The results showed similar patterns in people and dogs, suggesting that our communication skills are more similar than you might have imagined.         Even more surprising, the striking similarity between 2-year-old children and dogs isn't shared by chimpanzees. Chimps, although considered to be one of our closest relatives, don't share the same pattern of social intelligence. This suggests that besides having social intelligence, dogs may have evolved under similar circumstances as humans.  

Do Dogs Watch Television?

Have you ever noticed your dog intently watching the television screen? Your dog perceives the images on the screen much like you do. As a 2013 study published in Animal Cognition revealed, dogs can even pick out other dogs on a screen filled with human faces and other animals. Their viewing experience is a little different than ours, however. Dogs process images at a faster rate than we do, and their dichromatic vision only allows them to see two primary colors — blue and yellow.    

Source: DogTV

    Next time you leave the television on for your dog when you leave the house, change the channel to DogTV. This high-definition cable channel has a higher frequency of frames per second and special coloration to accommodate the way dogs see images. It might be just the trick to ensure you come home to one happy — and smart — pooch.

Responses to this Post

19 Jul, 2017 at 01:28 pm
I loved this article! In fact, I love all your articles and I buy Freshpet as often as I can, but why do you not offer coupons every now and again? I would be able to buy much more often if you did but either way, I still love your articles and have picked up many new tips from Freshpet! Thank you
Jacqui Ford
19 Jul, 2017 at 01:54 pm
I have lived with dogs every day of my life for nearly 70 years. I have lived with many different breeds of dogs. I have found that there are definitely breeds of dogs who are innately smarter than others and dogs who have been loved, well cared for and respected will usually fair better than a poor dog who has been abused, neglected, is unloved and has never had a good home with a good person to love them. I have lived with dogs who I consider absolutely brilliant, one being Poodles and Poodle/mixes. My Shih Tzu's, sweet little dogs, but dense as a rock. My German Shepherds, very smart, wily, protective. The list goes on. Bottom line, there is nothing a wonderful as a dog. They have been my companions since I was 2 years old and I love them dearly. They are far nicer, far more loyal than any human being I have ever met.
19 Jul, 2017 at 02:38 pm
Our dog is smart enough to have us all wrapped around her little paw!
Nancy Murray
19 Jul, 2017 at 02:57 pm
My dogs both understand many things we say and respond accordingly without further direction. They understand when we get ready to go out to the pool. They know they Florida and road trip are different then a ride in the car. My one dog can identify "cows" separately from horses & other farm animals. She also knows Aunt Rea when she calls on the phone or she waits at the window. She knows when my husband is on our block even before his truck comes into view.
19 Jul, 2017 at 07:49 pm
Interesting article. This proves what I already know. My dog is as smart as me?
Janet Rancan
19 Jul, 2017 at 09:40 pm
I adopted my dog, when he was already an adult dog. I don't know his past, but he quickly learned the phrase, "Do you want a bacon?" Every morning, he responds to get a slice of Fresh Pet Turkey Bacon. He loves it, & I feel good giving him a healthy treat.
19 Jul, 2017 at 10:25 pm
Love the research you find and forward to pet lovers. I was told by a vet that dogs don't really understand when you point to something what it means, but I argued mine did. Now with this research, I was right! Good to know, thanks! Keep the articles coming.
Joseph Diluzio
19 Jul, 2017 at 10:53 pm
I know that my Rat Terrier understands my facial expressions.. she will beg for food while I'm having a snack at night .... after my stern look directly into her eyes . Her ears drop back then she looks the other way ... Zoey has been very spoiled by my spouse and she takes full advantage of it ... I have heard great things about Television for dogs can I have the channel on Comcast xfinity please .
7 Aug, 2017 at 05:50 pm
My dog, Sugar, is a Hevense/Maltese/mix is a four month old puppy. I got her when she was 10 weeks. She is a smart little dog. She is house broken, knows how to pretend, she wants to go out side, go through all the motions of through doing both acts, so she can receive two treats (even though she knows, she should not receive any!!!!!. She knows how far we walk and will turn to o back home, she thinks, she has gone too far. She knows her bed schedule (10 pm) and her morning schedule to go outside with a bark (6 AM). Other dogs may do his, however, I think she is pretty smart.
10 Aug, 2017 at 07:58 pm
I had a deaf dog who liked to watch Martha Stewart. MS used to come on after a morning news show I watched. Promptly at 9 am, my dog would trot into the living room, hop up in the recliner, and settle down to watch for the whole hou. She'd only look away from the TV during commercials.

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