Dogs are no smarter than goats, scientists say
Pigs, pigeons and chimpanzees can remember the what, where and when of an event
“We are doing dogs no favour by expecting too much of them.” Photograph: Getty Images
Dogs are not exceptionally intelligent when compared with other animals, including dolphins and goats, scientists say.
The studies compared the cognitive abilities of dogs with other domestic animals, social hunters and carnivorans such as wolves, bears, lions and hyenas.
They showed that the skills of dogs — such as following human pointing and recognising faces — were at least matched by several species in each of these groups.
For example, dogs are unable to recognise themselves in a mirror, unlike animals including chimpanzees and dolphins.
Professor Stephen Lea, of the University of Exeter, said the research identified several cases of “over interpretation” in favour of the abilities of dogs in studies.
“During our work it seemed to us that many studies in dog cognition research set out to ‘prove’ how clever dogs are,” Prof Lea said.
“They are often compared to chimpanzees and whenever dogs ‘win’, this gets added to their reputation as something exceptional.
“Yet in each and every case we found other valid comparison species that do at least as well as dogs do in those tasks.”
The review focused on sensory cognition, physical cognition, spatial cognition, social cognition and self-awareness.
Dr Britta Osthaus, of Canterbury Christ Church University, said dog cognition “does not look exceptional” when compared with other domestic animals, social hunters and carnivorans.
“We are doing dogs no favour by expecting too much of them.
“Dogs are dogs, and we need to take their needs and true abilities into account when considering how we treat them,” Dr Osthaus said.
Goats, pigs, dolphins, seals and sea lions do at least as well as dogs at following human pointing.
Pigs are equally able to identify humans by smell, while sheep, pigeons and chimpanzees can identify humans by their faces.
Cats do at least as well as dogs at identifying humans by their voices.
Donkeys, mules and horses are as able to find their way around barriers as dogs, while wolves, raccoons and hyenas can pull a string to release food.
Dolphins, chimps, giant pandas, American badgers, two species of bear and sea otters can use tools at least as well as dogs.
Unlike dogs, animals including pigs, pigeons and chimpanzees have the ability to remember the what, where and when of an event.
The research is published in the journal Learning & Behavior. – PA