First of all, let’s be clear: Every dog is the best dog, especially yours. But unfortunately, it looks like your drooling, howling, underwear-sniffing, sock-eating angel of perfection is not, you know, especially smart.
This distressing news comes from a new study in the journal Learning & Behavior, which seeks to answer the question, “Are dogs really that special?”
While our hearts say yes, the data says no.
The study compares canine cognition to other carnivores, social hunters and domestic animals (all groups that dogs fall into). Researchers used existing information on the behavior of several animals, including wolves, cats, dolphins, chimpanzees, pigs and pigeons to see if dogs possessed any special skills that weren’t recorded in other species.
They did not.
Fido’s just not that exceptional
“We cover sensory cognition, physical cognition, spatial cognition, social cognition, and self-awareness,” the study reads.
“Although the comparisons are incomplete…we conclude that dog cognition is influenced by the membership of all three of these groups, and taking all three groups into account, dog cognition does not look exceptional.”
The good news is, there are a lot of different ways the study explores intelligence, which means you are free to cherry pick the parts in which dogs did as well, if not better, than other animals to make yourself feel better.
For instance, while they’re not particularly great at physical cognition (interacting with and understanding objects around them), dogs seem to be at least average, if not ever-so-slightly above average, when it comes to social cognition, especially when they are taking cues from humans.
Still, the study concludes, “when a broad-enough set of comparison species is considered, there is no current case for canine exceptionalism.”
Frankly, we feel attacked.
This all may be hard to hear, but please remember that your sweet and wonderful doggo is gifted in many other ways, and you need to remind them that their self-worth should not be based in their rather average level of animal cognition.