- A study suggests dogs aren’t geniuses in the animal kingdom.
- Researchers from the University of Exeter claim dogs aren’t special compared to other animals like lions, seals, dolphins, and chimpanzees.
- Dog owners on Twitter are furious.
- When Scientific American shared a tweet about the study, one Twitter user told the publication to “delete your account.”
- Regardless of intellect, dogs have a special place in our hearts.
- They have been proven to be good for our health, too.
A new study published in the journal Learning and Behaviour has made dog lovers furious.
Researchers from the University of Exeter found that compared to other animals like wolves, bears, lions, dolphins, chimps, and hyenas, the intelligence of dogs is “not exceptional.”
The team analysed more than 300 papers about the intelligence of dogs and other animals, and found that dogs’ abilities have been somewhat over-hyped.
“During our work it seemed to us that many studies in dog cognition research set out to ‘prove’ how clever dogs are,” said Professor Stephen Lea, lead author of the study. “They are often compared to chimpanzees and whenever dogs ‘win,’ this gets added to their reputation as something exceptional.”
But in every case, Lea claims, the researchers found valid comparison species that do at least as well as dogs in those tasks.
For instance, pigs have a better sense of smell than dogs, and dolphins and seals are able to follow human hand signals just as well.
“Dog cognition does not look exceptional,” said Dr Britta Osthaus, second author of the study from Canterbury Christ Church University.
“We are doing dogs no favour by expecting too much of them. Dogs are dogs, and we need to take their needs and true abilities into account when considering how we treat them.”
On Twitter, however, dog lovers are not having any of it. After Scientific American covered the research, the tweet received a lot of attention from people saying the study must be wrong or written by cats.
no one asked you, science https://t.co/giISqf9eL1
— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) November 27, 2018
Even Dictionary.com expressed some doubt about the research.
The word "may" is used to express possibility.
— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) November 27, 2018
Even if they’re not geniuses, research has shown how in tune to humans dogs are – which may be why we think of them as being so clever.
Research from 2017 found that dogs’ faces react differently when someone is looking at them, and they may be using facial expressions to get people to do things for them.
Another study from June found that dogs really do communicate with their owners. Researchers identified 19 different gestures, and concluded they could mean “give me food or drink,” “open the door,” “fetch my toy or bone,” or “scratch me.”
Dogs are also excellent company, and may even help keep your cardiovascular system healthy, according to a study from Sweden,published in Scientific Reports. Not only to dog owners stay more active with walks, owning a canine friend reduces the physiological damage caused by isolation and loneliness.
Even if they aren’t as smart as we thought, dogs are much more important than their cognitive abilities anyway. And the uproar at the suggestion they are not that special makes it clear dogs have a place in our hearts regardless of what the science says.