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Dogs Can Think Like Two-Year-Old Children

Pet Dogs as Smart as Toddlers at Math, Language, Problem-Solving Aug 20, 2009 Sue Cartledge (extract)

Your pet dog is as smart as your two-year old child when it comes to understanding words, counting and solving problems, according to a Canadian dog intelligence expert

Remember how smart Lassie was? Or the Austrian dog detective, Inspector Rex – the Alsatian who could play notes on an electronic keyboard, turn on light switches and stop machinery with a press of his paw?
Seems far-fetched, doesn’t it? Yet a Canadian psychologist who has studied dogs for 35 years says it’s true.

Dr Stanley Coren, of the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, says the smartest breeds of dogs have the same language, math and problem-solving abilities as the average two to two-and-a half year-old, even though they can’t speak human language.
In fact, dogs are almost as smart as chimpanzees – the animals closest to humans in cognitive abilities.
Dr Coren described dogs’ smart thinking at the American Psychological Association’s 117th Annual Convention in Toronto, in early August. He has written a range of books on dog psychology.
To develop his understanding of dog psychology, Dr Coren had reviewed all the research done within the last 15 years on how dogs think and studied 110 different dog breeds.

The Smartest Breeds of Dog

The intelligence of various types of dogs differs and the dog’s breed determines some of these differences, Dr Coren said.
“There are three types of dog intelligence: instinctive (what the dog is bred to do), adaptive (how well the dog learns from its environment to solve problems), and working and obedience (the equivalent of ‘school learning’).”
Shepherds range on place three of the smartest breeds of dogs.

Dogs Understand What We Say to Them

Most dogs can understand around 165 words, Dr Coren said. The top 20 per cent can understand around 250 words. As with young children, language ability is determined by their mental capacity.

Dogs can Add Up

Not only can they understand much of what we say, they can do simple math as well.
They can count up to four or five, and can spot mistakes in simple addition, such as 1+1=3. They can also work out if something has been subtracted.

Smart Dogs can Solve Problems

"Through observation, dogs learn the location of valued items (treats), better routes in the environment (the fastest way to a favorite chair), and how to operate mechanisms (such as latches and simple machines)," Dr Coren said.
In much the same way as small children do, dogs can understand the meaning of words and symbolic concepts by simply listening to people speak and watching their actions.

Dogs can be Deceitful, Too

Another trait that smart dogs share with little children is the ability to deceive others.
During play, dogs are capable of deliberately trying to deceive other dogs and people in order to get rewards. “And they are nearly as successful in deceiving humans as humans are in deceiving dogs,” Dr Coren said.

Read more at Suite101: Dogs Can Think Like Two-Year-Old Children: Pet Dogs as Smart as Toddlers at Math, Language, Problem-Solving