4 Ways Your Dog Proves They’re Smarter Than People Think

Written by: Regina Lizik

April 9, 2015

You may not realize it, but your dog is actually a puzzle-solving, mind-reading genius!


A lot of non-dog lovers are adamant that there’s not much going on in our pooches’ brains beyond “Bacon!” and “SQUIRREL!”- science, however, is on our side. Using MRIs and a series of behavioral experiments, researchers like Stanley Coren, have discovered what we already know: Dogs are totally smart!

smart dog in glasses

1. Dogs Understand Our Behavioral and Physical Cues.

We’re used to our pups cuddling up to us when we’re sad or sick. We also know that dogs talk to us, and each other, via physical cues, like the tilt of a head or the wag of a tail.

has a sad

A study by Duke University professor Brian Hare found that dogs are wiz kids at interpreting our gestures. In the study, (kind of a Dog IQ test, really) a researcher would hide a treat under one of two cups, then point to the one with the treat inside. More often than not, the pup chose the correct cup, even when both cups smelled like treats.


The pawticipants also interpreted subtle cues, like a head tilt or even a stare.

What’s really cool is that, according to studies, dogs are better at this than babies and chimps.


Researcher Gregory Burns says,

Dogs are unique animals, and I think in many ways they’re one of the best animals for understanding social behaviors.”

2. Your Dog Really Loves You

If you think emotion and intelligence have nothing to do with one another, think again! Using MRI technology, Gregory Berns tested the neurological responses of dogs when they were introduced to their owners’ smell.

roscoe the heeler

When a pup sniffed out their human’s scent, it activated the caudate nucleus, a part of the brain that deals with emotional attachment. However, it didn’t activate when researchers introduced a stranger’s scent.

This just goes to show that your dog knows YOU like the back of their paw.

3. Dogs Can Get Jealous

We already know that dogs have a possessive streak when it comes to food, and every dog owner knows how much our pups hate those attention stealing smartphones (which are never full of pictures of other dogs, I swear!).


Actual jealousy involves a higher level of emotional intelligence. Previously, scientists thought that only primates were capable of these complex feelings.

Two separate studies, one by Christine Harris and another by the National Academy of Sciences, debunked this view. While the pups weren’t pleased when their hoomans were looking at inanimate objects, they didn’t display jealousy until their best friends were interacting with toys that resembled dogs. Of course, puppy pouts were in full force when more than one dog was competing for human attention.

your dog understands you

But, there’s a lot more than “the feels” going on between those soft, adorable ears.

4. Dogs Can Remember and Understand Our Words

We’ve all muttered something under our breath or let out a bit of snark when someone leaves a room. It’s okay because no one’s around besides our pup and they have no idea what we’re saying.


Yeah, well, from now on, you need to watch out.

Dogs can understand more than 1,000 words – and we really mean understand. There’s a rumor going around that dogs only respond to our intonations and have no clue what the real meaning is behind our words.

Nope. Wrong.

chaser the border collie

In 2011, a study documented Chaser, a Border Collie, who can recall the names of 1,022 different toys. Even crazier, she knows the difference between “pick up” and “put.” She understands that “pick up” means to grab something with her mouth and “put” means she needs to touch something with her paw or her nose.

Similarly, psychology researcher Victoria Ratcliffe discovered that dogs take in language in the same way that we do. We typically process language through our brain’s left hemisphere and tone from our brain’s right hemisphere.

Ratcliffe observed that a dog would tilt its head to the right when they heard a word or sound they were familiar with. If an unfamiliar sound was played, they turned to the left to process the information through their right hemisphere.

All of this basically means that your dog absolutely knows how to sit and stay, but is instead just messin’ with you.

derpy selfie

Still, scientists say that we can’t expect our dogs to graduate from college or anything. In fact, she probably won’t graduate Kindergarten. On average, researchers estimate that dogs have the intelligence of a 2.5 year old tiny human.

If you think about a dog’s behavior, that’s pretty much the perfect age for them. Two-year-olds are super curious and so our dogs. They explore their world through sniffing and mouthing everything they can. Well, 2-year-olds probably don’t sniff, but they do try to put things up their nose.

Also, remember that while your pup is smarter than you thought, he doesn’t always know the difference between right and wrong. No matter how many times you have “the talk” about that Pit Bull hottie at the dog park, your pup may not understand why he should keep his affections to himself.

h/t Vox

Featured image via @therealtofudog /Instagram

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Written by: Regina Lizik

April 9, 2015

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