Everyone is fully convinced that their dog is by far the smartest creature to ever roam the earth. But how smart is your dog? The answer just may leave you thinking that babies are dumb.
In a study by researchers at the university of Columbia (as reported by LiveScience), a dogs intelligence is very similar to a two-year-old human’s. Based on a “language development test” in which certain verbal cues were used to instruct or prompt a response. The data showed that a dog’s language development is similar to a two-year-old child’s. The study states that, just like children of that age, dogs are capable of retaining and comprehending 165 words. The smartest dogs can learn up to 250 words, putting them in contention with children two and a half years old.
Socially, dogs were proven to be more developed than children. The social complexities that can sometimes befuddle a child are better handled by dogs according to the researchers in the study. They suggest that a dog has better social skills than humans until children reach their teenage years.
But the dog v.s human comparisons do not stop there. Through altered math tests created by researchers in which treats are used as basic arithmetic exemplifies (the details are further explained in the article), it was shown that a dog’s aptitude for math is similar to a three to four-year-old human.
Before you gaze at amazement at the genius that is your pup, let us consider some possible issues with the study. First off, dogs were not given the exact same tests as the humans. In order to account for the fact that dogs cannot speak, write, or can be held accountable for having their elbows on the table during dinner, the scientists had to alter the way they compared a human’s social interaction, mathematical aptitude, and language comprehension. For example, included in the researcher’s definition of a dog’s language are symbols, adding many communicative pathways to interact with the dog. However, a baby is not taught certain symbol as they are developing their communicative skills like dogs are, limiting their language to primarily vocal cues.
Even though the researcher is extremely qualified, the information regarding the social skills of a dog compared to a human are purely observational.
In regards to the mathematical test, different tools were used. The dogs were given treats as a method of solving math problems. The children were given toys. This makes the dogs more motivated to complete the presented challenge because the reward was food. If you have a dog, you know that all they really care about is food. The children were minimally motivated to complete the challenge because their reward was just a toy.
Even though I am poking holes in this study, the findings still tell us a lot about how dogs match up to infants and toddlers. However, making broad statements and assumptions that dogs truly compete with humans in intelligence can be very misleading.