In tests of human intelligence, researchers have observed consistency of performance across different tasks. In other words, people who perform well at one type of task tend to do well at other tasks, too.
New research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the University of Edinburgh suggests that the same is true of dogs. The goal of this research was to understand whether dogs’ cognitive abilities are structurally comparable to humans. And according to the findings of the study, they are.
The researchers developed a dog IQ test, which they administered to 68 working Border Collies. They chose and recruited working Border Collies because they wanted a sizeable sample of dogs from comparable backgrounds.
Having a relatively homogenous sample population helped researchers eliminate variables (such as how individual dogs were raised and trained) that would have been present in a randomly selected sample population of dogs.
The dog IQ test, which took less than an hour per dog to administer, included timed navigation and problem-solving tasks, tasks that tested the dogs’ ability to distinguish between different quantities of food, and tasks that measured the dogs’ ability to respond to directional gesturing toward an object.
Not only did the researchers discover consistency of performance across tasks comparable to results of human intelligence testing, they also found that the dogs that performed the tasks faster had greater accuracy than their slower counterparts.
LSE Research Associate Dr. Rosalind Arden notes that the research is not just valuable in terms of understanding dog intelligence, but also will help scientists understand the relationship between intelligence and health. She suggests:
“Just as people vary in their problem solving abilities, so do dogs, even within one breed. This is significant because in humans there is a small but measurable tendency for people who are brighter to be healthier and live longer. So, if as our research suggests, dog intelligence is structured similarly to ours, studying a species that doesn’t smoke, drink, use recreational drugs, and does not have large differences in education and income may help us understand this link between intelligence and health better.”
This research has further crossover value in that dogs are among the few species that exhibit some of the hallmark features of dementia. Understanding how their brains work might help researchers understand the causes of dementia in humans, as well as and develop and test potential treatments for it.
Dr. Mark Adams, a Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, says that the eventual goal is to develop a standardized dog IQ test that will help scientists understand the relationships between dog intelligence, health, and lifespan.
The study was published in the journal “Intelligence.” You can check it out here.