An Actual Comparison Of The Intelligence Of A Dog And A Two Year Old Human

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

May 6, 2016

How smart is your dog really? While we’d all like to believe that our furry friends are the brightest pick in the litter, rumor has it that dogs actually have the intelligence of a mere two-year-old toddler.


A 2009 study conducted by Professor Stanley Coren confirms this claim, finding that dogs “can understand about 165 words, signs and signals.


Those in the top 20 per cent were able to understand as many as 250 words and signals, which is about the same as a two and a half year old.”


But what are the day-to-day indicators of this finding? Using her two-year-old son and her family dog, Alexandra Horowitz, author of “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know,” put this theory to the ultimate test.


Horowitz tested for a number of factors when measuring intelligence, including self-awareness; play; identifying and exploring; and empathy; among others:

Self-awareness: “[My son] found the sticker I placed on his head one day by looking in the mirror and then touching his head. Dogs either do not care about the mark, or do not realize that the dog in the mirror is themselves.”


Play: “[My son] has begun sipping imaginary water from a cup: a kind of “pretend” that is an early stage of developing a theory of mind, the understanding of others’ perspectives. [My dog] never drinks imaginary water out of a water dish, unless I forget to fill his bowl.”


Identifying and Exploring: “[My dog] has located the places that his friends — human and dog — live in the neighborhood entirely by smell…[My son,] by contrast, is all about vision…”


Empathy: “My son has taken to kissing the scar left by my back surgery. My dog licks my tears when I cry. Neither wants to see me angry.”


So, what does this all mean? Are dogs as smart as 2 year olds? Horowitz certainly identifies the differences between the two, but it’s hard to say if one is smarter (or just as smart as) the other. Rather, it’s important to remember that – and this may shock you – dogs are not humans. And as long as they sit and fetch, what more can you ask for?

Featured image via o5com /Flikr
H/t to The New York Times

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

May 6, 2016

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A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.


A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.