Our canine companions can understand more than we may think.
But do you know about them?
BY JACKIE BROWN
Based on our interactions with dogs, it is easy to see that they are an intelligent species - but just how sharp is the average dog? It turns out that dogs can learn words, read human body language, solve problems, discern between thousands of different smells, and comprehend and execute complicated skill sets. The intelligence of an average dog is roughly comparable to that of a two-year-old human child. Some breeds and individual dogs are even smarter, on par with a two-and-a-half- to three-year-old child.
The comparison of dog intelligence to human intelligence was pioneered by Stanley Corney, author, neuropsychological researcher, and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia. As part of an extensive study, he found dogs can solve complex spatial problems, including some requiring operating mechanisms such as the latch on a gate. He even found that, to achieve rewards, dogs can deliberately deceive both humans and other dogs.
The average dog is able to learn up to 165 words, and dogs with above-average intelligence can comprehend up to 250 words. They can also count to four or five and, amazingly, can usually even understand very basic math, such as one plus one equals two.
A border collie named Chaser is considered the smartest dog that has ever lived. Chaser was owned by a retired psychology professor who spent hours every day teaching her the names of toys and objects, keeping a journal so he himself could remember each toy's unique name. Before she passed away in 2019 at the age of 15, Chaser knew more than 1,000 words. According to Coren, Chaser's intelligence equivalency was about that of a three-year-old child.
With a vocabulary of more than 340 words, the border collie Betsy had above-average intelligence
Get to Know a Dog's Nose
Every dog has a unique nose print. Much like human finger-prints, no two dogs' nose prints are the same. A 2021 study found that by the time a beagle puppy is two months old, its nose print is fully formed and will not change over time.
Like humans, dogs have two nostrils but with slits along the sides. Air goes in the round section out through the slits. This way, the exhaled air doesn't get in the way of incoming smells. And, unlike humans, dogs can use each nostril on its own, each independently of the other. This means a dog can smell one scent with the right nostril and another scent with the left nostril, all at the same time.
Research has shown that dogs actually prefer using different nostrils for different scents; unfamiliar scents are explored with the right nostril and familiar scents with the left. Though nose color doesn't effect smelling ability, dog noses do come in many different shades, including black, gray (usually referred to as blue). pink, red, and brown (usually called liver) - and even spotted.
Bloodhounds help police by tracking human quarry. The breed's distinctive, loose skin helps the dog follow the trail by capturing scent and keeping it close to the nose.
There is a biological reason your dog feels like family. Dogs such as this English springer spaniel (RIGHT) have evolved to commandeer the human brain's bonding system, something theorized as intended to create strong social connections between adults and children under their care. When looking into each other's eyes, for example, the brains of mothers and babies release a feel-good hormone called oxytocin. Sometimes called the "love" hormone, oxytocin helps create strong feelings of bonding and attachment. Studies have shown that dogs elicit the same release of oxytocin in their owners' brains, an effect seen most strongly when dog and human gaze deeply into each other's eyes. Dogs also release oxytocin into their own systems when they participate in mutual gazing. Research has found that wolves, even those raised by humans, do not participate in eye gazing and do not cause the same increases in oxytocin when interacting with humans.
Can't keep my eyes off you
Read the full findings at
Naional Geographic Special Issue : The Secret Life of Dogs
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