Dog Intelligence – Citizen Scientists Helping Dog Studies



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Dog Intelligence – Citizen Scientists Helping Dog Studies


There are several types of dog intelligence that have a basic process. To explain this further, we are focusing on the latest dog study on canine cognitive abilities, compiled by scientists and dog owners alike. The study is called, “Citizen Science as a New Tool in Dog Cognition Research.”

Citizen scientists, such as the average dog owner who lives next door or an elderly lady who moved in down the street, can evaluate the quality of dog intelligence by using the website and its tools on their dog.

Dognition teaches you to play games with your dog[s], science-based games that are fun and help you evaluate the intelligence of your dog. The best part is discovering just how your dog’s mind works, even the older dogs who are losing this capability. Scientists, behavioral specialists, and dog trainers have created 20 games with their Dognition Assessment, helping you understand your dog’s unique genius.

Credit: Nancy Houser – “Ms. Holly Higgins, age 14”


The surprise that comes will be from dog owners who have always thought their dog was stupid. On a personal level, I have always thought there was no such thing as a stupid dog. Instead, I find that dog intelligence varies with the intelligence of dog owners. Dogs who act stupid were raised that way by dog owners with little knowledge of dogs.

The Dognition website

The website’s sub-title is, “Find the genius in your dog.” Below that it states that Dognition’s research between their scientists and citizen citizens has been published – compiling data regarding canine intelligence – providing a link that leads into the article.

What surrounds a dog’s personality are five basic processes:

  • Empathy – several studies show that dogs feel more empathy than any other animal. One study in particular shows how the brains of dogs react as the dogs view humans (published in PLoS ONE)
  • Communication – dogs are highly expressive, using their bodies and vocalizations to communicate with their people and other animals. Humans communicate verbally while dogs communicate non-verbally.
  • Cunning – the Dognition studies show that some dogs are aware of how cunning they are while others are not. And …. of those who are aware, they will use this ability to their advantage. Dogs who are cunning are generally wily, paying more attention to the attentive state of their owners.
  • Memory – at one time, dogs were said to remember no more than 14 seconds. But a study in Hungary has recently found that dogs do have long-term memories for remembering facts and information. Dogs are able to learn, retain and later repeat actions their trainers did previously.
  • Reasoning – Since 2007, European studies are showing that dogs are able to imitate selectively with perfect reasoning, depending on the situation. This is a sophisticated process known only to the human brain. These complex abilities by dogs have long been dismissed, an animal thought to have little intellectual or emotional life.

Credit: Nancy Houser – “Ms. Scotia and her baby”

Cognitive Processes of Dogs

In Dognition’s dog study, dog owners are told to have their dogs do exercises that can incorporate all five of the cognitive processes. This offers you a look into what your dog’s individual cognitive style is, regarding its thinking, learning, and problem-solving things that make up who your dog is.

What most people do not know is that over the past ten years, comparative psychologists have heavily o study dogs. They have found that dogs can easily solve social problems in the same manner as human infants, using these five processes.

The good thing is that once the exercises on dog intelligence are completed on, the dog’s Profile Report will reveal the dog’s Profile Type, of which there are nine. These nine types “represent a distinct combination of characteristics that shape your dog’s approach to everyday life:

  1. Ace – If your dog has an ace profile type, it places in the top 10% of all dogs. These are special dogs as they are accomplished problem solvers with superb communication skills. They are able to bond exceptionally well with their owners and trainers.
  2. Charmers – The charmer profile is 16% of all dogs and is considered a “smooth operator”! This is a dog with exceptional social skills, meaning that it is can read the human body language. Additionally, the charmer has social skills which are paired with independent problem solving skills – making it quite mischievous at times.
  3. Socialite – A social butterfly that encompasses 22% of the dogs, this is a dog that can gracefully interact with others while having the ability to gently communicate at the same time.
  4. Expert – with the lowest number of 7%, the expert dog prefers to work solo – yet will work in a team “if he has to”! They are seldom overly-reliant on humans for several reason: (1) they have a strong memory, (2) they can solve many problems, whether they have seen them before or not, and (3) they can solve daily problems on their own due to their high numbers of cognitive skills.
  5. Renaissance Dog – considered a dog of all trades, the Renaissance dog is good at a bit of everything at a 12% profile. At a consistent achievement level, Dognition considers this dog as the canine embodiment of reliability. This is a dog who shows impressive flexibility across all 5 cognitive dimensions.
  6. Protodog – At a 15% amount for all dogs, the protodog is described as “reminiscent of the first dogs to become much loved members of the human pack.” Considered early pioneer dogs, this dog had its beginning thousands of years ago.

Credit: Nancy Houser

Why dog studies are becoming popular with scientists

Dog studies are becoming very popular with scientists and animal behaviorists. Laboratory studies show in detail the dog’s cognitive flexibility, their constraintment and biases when applying their problem solving techniques.

Other reasons are because of the ubiquity of the studies, the studies are non-invasive, they cost very little, and each application has the potential for working dogs and/or other breeds or fields of dogs.

The dog studies have been easy to put together over the past ten years or so, as dog cognitive researchers have modeled the studies after human infant studies of developmental psychologists.

Reasons why scientists use dogs for studies

  • Dogs are biologically similar to humans
  • Dogs have short life-spans so studies can be approached over several generations or a dog’s entire life-span.
  • The environment around the dog can be easily controlled.
  • Health risks are approached more easily to dogs than people.
  • Dogs and two-year-old infants have similar cognitive abilities.
  • Dogs and people develop similar results on (1) attachment influences, (2) effects on relationships, (3) signal responses, and (4) appropriate play.

Before you bring home a dog you know nothing about, research the latest studies on dog intelligence and dog personalities. Better yet, become a citizen scientist and use the dog you have to help studies that are currently running or are getting ready to run.

Here are a few websites to get you started on dog intelligence:


WayCoolDog posts originally appeared on WayCoolDogs and are re-posted with the permission of Nancy Houser of WayCoolDogs © 2009 – 2015