Christ Church research makes startling finding about dogs

Dogs are not as clever as we thought

Dogs are not as clever as they were thought to be when compared to other animals, according to new research by Canterbury Christ Church University.

Scientists reviewed evidence of dogs’ brain power set against other animals including domestic pets, hunters and carnivorans, an order of animals which includes wolves, bears, lions and hyenas.

A study led by the university examined more than 300 papers on the intelligence of dogs and other animals and concluded that there had been several cases of “over interpretation” in favour of dogs’ abilities.

Dr Britta Osthaus, senior lecturer in the School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology at Christ Church, said: ““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.”

Working with Dr Osthaus on the project was Dr Stephen Lea from Exeter University.

He said: “During our work it seemed to us that many studies in dog cognition research set out to prove how clever dogs are.

“They are often compared to chimpanzees and whenever dogs win, this gets added to their reputation as something exceptional.

“Yet in each and every case we found other valid comparison species that do at least as well as dogs do in those tasks.”

The scientists’ review focused on sensory cognition, physical cognition, spatial cognition, social cognition and self-awareness.

They came to a series of conclusions. Other species do at least as well as dogs in the following domains:

Following human pointing: goats, pigs, dolphins, seals, sea lions

Identifying humans by their smell: pigs

Identify humans by their faces: sheep, pigeons, chimpanzees

Identifying humans by their voices: cats

Detour solution: donkeys, mules, horses

String-pulling: wolves, racoons, hyenas

Tool use (none in dogs): dolphins, chimps, giant pandas, a lion, American badgers, and two species of bear, sea otters

Referential communication: goats

Mirror self-recognition (dogs can’t do this): chimpanzees, dolphins

Episodic-like memory (not in dogs): pigs, pigeons, chimpanzees


  1. “During our work it seemed to us that many studies in dog cognition research set out to prove how clever dogs are…”

    This might be true. However, poor research in some studies has no relation to “other species do at least as well as dogs.” Nobody suggests that dogs are the only (let alone the top) intelligent non-humans!

    Either this is poor research by the university, or your news team has misunderstood…


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