How smart your dog actually is?

toller with brain gif

Did you know your dog has the IQ of 2 year old kid

Btw, I know sometimes you are in a hurry. Therefore, each article will always start with a 30secs summary for you to have the big picture. Then you can always read the more in-depth version.

The 30 secs summary

A team of researchers led by Stanley Coren studied dogs' mental abilities. Here are their conclusions:

How many words can a dog understand?

Dogs can learn around 165 words. The smartest ones can learn up to 250 words.

Are dogs good at maths?

Dogs are better than 2 year old kids at maths. This was tested by hiding 2 treats behind a screen. When the screen is lifted, the dog expects 2 treats. When there's only one or 3 treats, the dog is uncertain.

What emotions do dogs have?

Dogs can experience emotions such as happiness, anger and disgust. But guilt and jealousy are out of their toolbox.

The full article

Ever heard of Stanley Coren? Simply put, this psychologist is a genius who decided that dogs were worth studying.

Thanks to him, we now have a better understanding of what dogs can and cannot feel.

In his research, he compared the language ability of kids and dogs. It turns out that your dog can learn 165 words with signals and gestures. The best 20% of dogs could learn over 250 words.

But here's the kicker.

Dogs are better at maths and socializing

In maths and socializing, dogs were much better than 2 year old kids. On these aspects, they had a score comparable to 3-4 year old kid. 

Math test

For this one, dogs watch as one treat and then another treat are lowered down behind a screen. When the screen gets lifted, the dogs, if they get arithmetic (1+1=2), will expect to see two treats.

When the scientist swipes one of the treats, or adds another so the end result is one, or three treats, respectively. "Now we're giving him the wrong equation which is 1+1=1, or 1+1=3". Sure enough, studies show the dogs get it. "The dog acts surprised and stares at it for a longer period of time, just like a human kid would," Coren said.

Spatial problem-solving skills

Dogs can also locate valued items, such as treats, find better routes in the environment, such as the fastest way to a favorite chair, and figure out how to operate latches and simple machines.


Dogs also show some basic emotions, such as happiness, anger and disgust. But more complex emotions, such as guilt, are not in a dog's toolbox. (What humans once thought was guilt was found to be doggy fear, Coren noted.)

Jealousy, what's that?

Dogs don't know if they are treated fairly, they don't grasp the concept of equity.

When one dog gets a treat and the other doesn't, the unrewarded dog stops performing the trick and avoids making eye contact with the trainer. But if one dog, say, gets rewarded with a juicy steak while the other snags a measly piece of bread, on average the dogs don't care about the inequality of the treats.

dog in a merry go round

Smartest Breeds

These breeds have been developed more recently and have been trained to perform specific task which explains why they have a higher IQ score: 

  • Border collies
  • Poodles
  • German shepherds
  • Golden retrievers
  • Dobermans
  • Shetland sheepdogs
  • Labrador retrievers

Dumber Breeds

First, don't be sad or disappointed in your dog if its breed shows up below. A dumb dog is as a loving dog as a smart one. And my GF thinks dumb is cute (I guess that's me).

  • Bassett hound
  • Afghan hound
  • Bulldog
  • Beagle
  • Basenji

Are dogs smarter than cats?

Don't worry if your dog's a basset hound, it is still smarter than a cat. A recent research has shown that dogs have 530 millions cortical neurons while cats only have 250 millions (you as a human have 16 billions).

If a dog and a cat are given an unsolvable puzzle, the dog will try and turn to the human for help while the cat will keep trying.

In the end, you'll love your dog no matter what. I hope you liked this email and learned something.

Talk soon,


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