Your dog understands more than he or she shows signs of

The words in the title come from Lilla Magyari of Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, the lead author of a study which delved deeper into the intelligence of dogs and discovered that canine abilities that were once considered to be exceptional and only demonstrated by gifted animals are in fact much more commonplace because dogs are smarter than we think.

In this study they had 18 dog participants. Their owners said that they were familiar with a small number of toys. The scientists wanted to find out how the dogs’ brain activity varied when they observed toys and the toys were given the incorrect or correct name. They wanted to find out how the dogs’ brains electrical activity varied when encountering this disparity.

Intelligent dog and cat friend
Intelligent dog and cat friend
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RELATED: How Intelligent Are Cats?

The dogs were fitted with electroencephalogram sensors which monitored the electrical activity in their brains.

The owners said the names of the dog’s toys one by one. When they did this, they held up either the correct toy or an incorrect toy. They recorded the brain activity under these different circumstances and it showed a clear difference in how the dogs reacted.

There was one pattern of brain activity when the dogs were shown an object and they called it by its correct name. When the verbal description and the toy did not match in the mind of the dog their brains flickered with a different pattern. The effect was stronger for dogs that were very familiar with certain words.

And Lilla Magyari said that:

[This] is similar to what researchers have seen previously in humans. The idea was that if the dogs understood the meaning of the words, their brain responses would differ between the presentation of matching and mismatching objects.

The researchers believe that a familiar word, specifically a noun, can “activate a mental representation of the object” in the words of Rhys Blakely, the science correspondent of The Times.

Apparently, it is usually collies who are the best at this sort of test. The dog breeds participating were collies, poodles and labrador retrievers.

The new findings, it is said, say that dogs of average intelligence can match up verbal descriptions with objects whereas at one time it was thought that dogs had to be exceptional to do this.

The report suggests “this ability is generally present in dogs and not just in some exceptional individuals who know the names of many objects”, according to Marianna Boros another author of the research and also based at Eotvos Lorand University.

The study is published in the journal Current Biology.

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Are dogs more intelligent than cats?

The question of whether dogs are more intelligent than cats is a topic of debate and depends on how one defines “intelligence.” Researchers in the field of animal cognition do not typically study “intelligence” as a single trait but look at different aspects of cognition, such as problem-solving ability, concept formation, and social intelligence.

For example, a study found that dogs have about twice the number of neurons in their cerebral cortexes compared to cats, which suggests they could potentially be about twice as intelligent. However, this does not necessarily mean that dogs are “smarter” in every way. Cats and dogs are adapted to different lifestyles and have developed skills that are advantageous for their respective environments and behaviors.

In essence, cats are smart at the things cats need to do, and dogs are smart at dog things. It’s like comparing a hammer and a screwdriver; each tool is designed for different tasks. So, while dogs may excel in certain cognitive tasks, cats may outperform dogs in others. It’s important to appreciate the unique abilities of each species rather than trying to determine a definitive answer to which is “smarter.”

Sources: Live Science, National Geographic and Britannica.

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