Everyone likes to believe that their own dog is the smartest animal on the planet, capable not only of pawing at the door handle when it’s time to go out, but also of learning basic commands and building an unmanned spacecraft, if they had to. But British researchers believe they might have designed a more scientific — and accurate — way of determining a dog’s IQ, and they say it’s a test that could help them better understand human intelligence as well.
The researchers, led by Dr. Rosalind Arden of the London School of Economics and Political Science, designed a series of obstacles that were used to examine the problem solving abilities of 68 working Border Collies. (None of the dogs involved in the study were family pets). The dogs were presented with challenges that ranged from trying to get food from behind a barrier to determining which of two plates had more food.
The researchers discovered that the dogs who solved the problems the fastest were also the ones who did it the most accurately. They also found that dogs who did well on one test tended be better at the other tests.
Arden and her colleagues hope that the results of the test will help them learn more about the link between IQ and health. In humans, there is a slight correlation between high intelligence and better health.
“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,” Arden said in a press release from the school.
There is also hope that studying the dogs’ intelligence levels might even translate to research on dementia in humans, including determining the cause of the disease and developing more effective treatment options. That puts a lot of importance on those Border Collies and their differently sized plates of food.