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Mensa mutts? Dog IQ tests reveal canine 'general intelligence'

Dogs have measurable IQs, like people, suggests new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the University of Edinburgh.

The research, published in the journal Intelligence, looked at whether dog intelligence is structured in a similar way as in humans. When IQ, or 'general intelligence', is tested in people, individuals tend to perform comparably across different types of cognitive tasks –  those who do well in one type of task, tend to do well in others.

Dog IQ testThe researchers created a proto-type dog ‘IQ test' which they used to assess the intelligence of 68 working border collies. These tests included: navigation, tested by timing how long it took the dogs to get food that was behind different types of barriers; assessing whether they could tell the difference between quantities of food and; their ability to follow a human pointing gesture to an object.

The researchers found that dogs that did well on one test tended be better at the other tests. Furthermore, dogs that did tests faster were likely to do them more accurately.

Dr Rosalind Arden, a Research Associate at LSE, said: “Just as people vary in their problem solving abilities, so do dogs, even within one breed. This is significant because in humans there is a small but measureable tendency for people who are brighter to be healthier and live longer.  So if, as our research suggests, dog intelligence is structured similarly to ours, studying a species that doesn’t smoke, drink, use recreational drugs and does not have large differences in education and income, may help us understand this link between intelligence and health better.

Quantity task"In addition, dogs are one of the few animals that reproduce many of the key features of dementia, so understanding their cognitive abilities could be valuable in helping us to understand the causes this disorder in humans and possibly test treatments for it."

The suite of tests was conducted in under an hour per dog, which is comparable with the time it takes a person to do an IQ-type test.  Previous research on canine cognitive abilities has taken much longer to administer.

Dr Mark Adams, Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This is only a first step, but we are aiming to create a dog IQ test that is reliable, valid and can be administered quickly.  Such a test could rapidly improve our understanding of the connection between dog intelligence, health, even lifespan, and be the foundation of ‘dognitive epidemiology’

"Dogs are excellent for this kind of work because they are willing to participate and seem to enjoy taking part.”

In order to get a large sample of dogs from similar backgrounds the researchers recruited working border collies, which meant that there weren’t big differences in how they were raised. The dogs were tested at Kinloch Sheepdogs.


Notes to Editors

‘A general intelligence factor in dogs’ by Rosalind Arden and Mark James Adams doi:10.1016/j.intell.2016.01.008 appears in Intelligence, Volume 55, March–April 2016, Pages 79–85 published in Elsevier.

A copy of the paper is available from the LSE press office

Copies of this paper are also available to credentialed journalists upon request from Elsevier's Newsroom at newsroom@elsevier.com or +31 20 485 2492

Pictures of the sheep dogs undertaking the 'IQ test' are available from the LSE press office. Pictures should be credited to: Dr Angela Driscoll/Kinloch Sheepdogs  

For more information

Sue Windebank, Senior Press Officer, London School of Economics and Political Science, T: + 44 (0)20 7849 4624, M: + 44 (0)7838 382798 E: s.windebank@lse.ac.uk