Dog IQ Test May Aid Dementia Research
If you’ve ever had a dog, you know that they’re very intelligent creatures. This varies from breed to breed, of course. For some dogs, learning to sit is the maximum of their capabilities while others can be taught to perform all kinds of tricks, obey commands and carry out tasks. However, while human intelligence is a topic widely discussed and studied by science, this isn’t exactly the case with dogs. We know they’re smart; we just don’t know how much.
Fortunately, a couple of scientists from the University of Edinburgh are determined to change that. For this reason, they’ve started an interesting study that deals with canine intelligence. They’ve also made a discovery that, according to Dr. Rosalind Arden from the London School of Economics, could have “far-reaching implications for understanding human health and disease and canine health and disease.”
One of the main questions this study hopes to answer is the following: if a dog is good at a particular test, will they also be good at a separate one? According to the group of researchers, this is the first step in devising a practical, reliable IQ test which will be able to measure a dog’s intelligence.
Their test included 68 border collies who were put through a series of different cognitive tasks. One of the tests involved a reward that the dogs could see but couldn’t easily reach due to a barrier in front of it. The dogs had to figure out how to find a way around the barrier instead of trying to dig under it. Many dogs are natural diggers that act on instinct in order to reach a certain goal, but to really put their intelligence to use, they can’t act on instinct alone.
The second test evaluated how good the dogs were at weighing one option against another. Each pooch was presented with two plates of food, with one of them containing more food than the other. A human trying to encourage the dog to choose a particular plate was present to assess how suggestive or independent the dogs really are. And indeed, after completing these tasks, those dogs that performed well tended to perform above average in different types of tests, suggesting that it’s possible for a dog to be “more intelligent” in general.
This discovery means that we’re one step closer to finding out how dogs’ brains work, which also means that we’ll potentially be able to find out more about diseases and conditions that affect both humans and dogs. Like humans, dogs are prone to dementia as they get older, as their brain structure changes in the same way as ours. Just like people suffering from dementia tend to become more introverted and less trusting of other people, the same is true for dogs.
An advantage that dogs have over humans in this department, according to Dr. Arden, is that they’re completely “teetotal” – this means that unlike humans who like to indulge in unhealthy things such as booze, cigarettes and unhealthy foods, dogs do not. All of these factors increase the risk of dementia in older people, so without having to take these factors into consideration, it allows for a much more precise analysis.
So far, the researchers have definitely established that intelligence in dogs is something measurable, but they’ve yet to determine whether its linked to their health or not. Dr. Adams from Edinburgh University says that this is only the first step and that their ultimate goal is to create a reliable IQ test for dogs that can be administered quickly and easily. Such a test, according to Adams, could significantly improve our understanding of the link between canine intelligence and their health and lifespan. He also adds that dogs are really easy to work with, primarily because they seem to enjoy taking part in the tests.
So, the next time you see your dog, make sure to thank them – because they and their kind might just play a crucial role in finding a cure for one of the worst mental health conditions known to man.