If you were asked to name a smart animal, you might choose a chimpanzee or a monkey. Other people might say whales or elephants. Recently, scientists have discovered that birds seem to be able to solve some pretty complicated problems too, so some of you might even suggest a crow. With all these animals to choose from, it might seem odd that we’ve chosen to study dog intelligence. After all, dogs are often seen as friendly but silly; in stark contrast to their cunning cat adversaries.
However, current research suggests that dogs are a lot more intelligent than we give them credit for. For example, dogs seem much better at following human pointing gestures than chimpanzees, our closest living relative. Young children and dogs also seem to have a similar grasp of what people can or cannot see. Dogs using this understanding to choose to beg for food from somebody whose view is not blocked, and steal food faster when their owner isn’t looking at them.
In short, far from being friendly but dumb, dogs appear to have a sophisticated social intelligence which they use to navigate a world full of often useful but occasionally unpredictable humans. Our lab is focused on understanding how dogs think, particularly when it comes to thinking about their owners. We hope our research will not only shed light on the selective pressures which shape the evolution of intelligence, but will also lead to a better understanding of dog-human social interactions. To learn more about our research visit our news section where you will find articles about our latest research, upcoming projects and events. If you or someone you know would like to volunteer a dog to take part in one of our projects, please fill in our registration questionnaire.