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Dog Sleeping after Studying
Dog Sleeping in her Notebook after Studying

Dogs Are Not as Intelligent as Seals?

That doesn't sound right to you? Putting aside the hoopla around IQ tests for furries and flipperies, there is a serious science question about what “intelligence” really is

A Special Pleader/Charles Burton Barber, 1893

Dog lovers may be surprised (and displeased!) by a recent study of animal intelligence that dismisses the intelligence of dogs, compared to that of marine mammals:

… systematically reviewing the animal cognition literature, British psychologists Stephen Lea and Britta Osthaus found dogs to be unremarkable in their cognitive capabilities compared to wolves, cats, dolphins, chimpanzees, pigeons, and several other species. For example, dogs seem no better at learning associations—such as between a behavior and a reward—than other species. Similarly, dogs can spatially navigate within small spaces, but other species can, too. And while dogs have an excellent sense of smell, the “pig’s olfactory abilities are outstanding and might even be better than the dog’s.” DAVID Z. HAMBRICK, “Your Dog May Not Be a Genius, after All” at Scientific American

Hambrick, a cognitive psychologist, also notes that bottlenose dolphins and the grey seals were better able to follow human hand signals, even though dogs are bred to be sensitive to human communications.

As we have seen with crows, anole lizards, and octopuses, animal intelligence does not follow any simple pattern that we can put down to, say, brain size, type, or evolution.

One reason dogs appear quite intelligent to us is that we share many feelings and needs with them. So we and they understand each other. We love them and they love us. If a New Zealand crow turns out to have better problem-solving skills on tests than a dog, we might doubt that the crow really has “greater intelligence” anyway. And if an octopus turned out to be as smart as a dog, we might not really care. We factor in social and emotional intelligence. Apart from the relational qualities that make some animals unique, problem-solving as such might not seem like intelligence at all.

Putting aside the hoopla around IQ tests for furries and flipperies, there is a serious science question about what “intelligence” really is:

Uncovering the neural networks involved in intelligence has proved difficult because, unlike, say, memory or emotions, there isn’t even a consensus as to what constitutes intelligence in the first place. It is widely accepted that there are different types of intelligence—analytic, linguistic, emotional, to name a few—but psychologists and neuroscientists disagree over whether these intelligences are linked or whether they exist independently from one another.Max Miller, “What Is Intelligence?” at Big Think

That was written in 2010 and nothing much has changed. And the mystery of human consciousness still floats above it all—untouched, unexplained, and unmatched.

See also: Crows can be as smart as apes

Yes, Even Lizards can be smart

Is the octopus a “second genesis” of intelligence?


Furry, feathery, and finny animals speak their minds. Listen.

Dogs Are Not as Intelligent as Seals?