Clever boy! Busting myths about dog intelligence

Those who don't know dogs well might think that our pooches are just cute, funny animals. But nothing could be further from the truth. 

Dogs are some of the most intelligent animals on the planet, and years of socialisation alongside humans have turned them into very clever creatures indeed. In this blog post, we'll bust some common myths about canine intelligence.

Myth: Humans are always smarter than dogs

Fact: While it's true that most humans probably end up smarter in the long run than their canine companions, it's not always the case!

If dogs were allowed to attend nursery, they might well be more clever than some of the children. Researcher Stanley Coren found that dogs demonstrate skills and behaviours that are on a par with human children aged about two or three years old!

Myth: Dogs can't speak English

Fact: Stanley Coren also found that dogs have vocabularies and can retain around 150 words in their brains. While this varies from dog to dog, it's possible that the standard commands our dogs can remember - "Sit," "Stay," and "Down", for example - might actually just be the tip of the iceberg. Some studies show that the very cleverest of dogs can remember up to 250 words!

Studies also show that dogs are capable of understanding the circumstances in which the words they know are spoken. Think about all the times you've used the word "sit" in a sentence to another human, and your dog has overheard. He knows straight away that he doesn't have to sit, showing that dog intelligence isn't just about memory and hearing - it's about subtle factors like context, too.

What this talent for language means is that those who are looking to work with dogs or lead dog behaviour courses have a golden opportunity to nurture the animal's natural talents by slowly increasing the amount of words the dog can recognise.

Myth: Dogs don't understand any maths

Fact: Dogs also understand concepts like quantity, and have the capacity to count. Those who work with dogs have found that the animals can keep track of amounts in a way that other animals simply can't, and researchers sometimes use the "treat test" to assess counting abilities.

In this puzzle, one tasty treat is shown to the dog then lowered down behind a cover. Another treat is shown to the dog and placed next to the first one - but then quietly removed by the scientist. 

The salivating dog is ready for the two treats he counted to show up - and is stunned and confused when the cover is lifted and only one is there! Dogs are believed to be able to count to five, which for an animal is a strong talent.

Myth: Only humans are clever enough to lie, cheat and steal

Fact: Nobody's perfect, and we've all told a white lie from time to time. And the same goes for our clever canine friends!

Any dog training course provider would tell you that pooches have been known to go to great lengths to steal a biscuit from a tray, or cover up their tracks after breaking a golden house rule or tearing mum's favourite sitting room rug to shreds. Dogs often recognise when the people around them are not happy with their behaviour; not from a sense of guilt or understanding or that what they did was wrong - they simply read our body language!

Do you love dogs? Do you want to help raise the standard of canine care across the industry by training pets in a relationship-centred, aversion-free setting? The Canine Behaviour College offers a variety of courses on everything from canine first aid to dog training diplomas.

We are flexible too, offering distance learning courses and weekend 2-year programmes designed to fit around your lifestyle. Contact us today to find out more.

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