Stanley Coren on Dog Intelligence
What do dogs know? How smart are they? Are dogs conscious? Do they have feelings like we do?
In a recent interview with Alex Tsakiris of http://www.skeptiko.com, Dr. Stanley Coren stated that dogs’ cognitive powers are roughly equivalent to those of two to three year old human children. Dogs solve problems, respond to language and play games in much the same way that toddlers do. We all assume that young children have consciousness. So doesn’t it seem logical to also assume that dogs have it as well?
Charles Darwin believed that all aspects of mental life, including consciousness, exist along a continuum. He also recognized that animal consciousness is not the same as human consciousness. Psychologists understand that very young children are conscious, but they don’t experience a full repertoire of emotions until they’re five or six years old. Considering this, it may make sense to study animal consciousness by using some of the same techniques commonly employed in studying very young children.
In doing this, we should also keep in mind that dogs and children are equipped with different kinds of intelligence, consciousness, sensory processing and other cognitive functions. So, while a dog’s problem solving abilities are similar to a two-year old human child’s – your dog very decidedly does NOT have all the same emotional, sensory and cognitive powers that a two-year old does, and vice-versa.
In other words, YOUR DOG IS NOT A FUR-BABY!
For example, your dog’s social consciousness is much closer to a teenager’s than a toddler’s. The dog is more interested in questions like who’s trying to move up in the pack and who’s sleeping with who than a toddler is. The dog is probably less interested in music and television than the toddler is. In addition, the dog also has different physical and sensory skills than the toddler does.
Toddlers don’t experience emotions the same way that adults do, but they do share all our basic emotions: fear, anger, surprise, happiness, sadness, etc. What they don’t yet have are the learned emotions like guilt, which don’t show up until about four to five years of age.
Given this information, it makes no sense to ascribe things like infinite wisdom or infinite empathy to dogs. Remember, their emotional makeup is similar to that of a two or three year old child, and it seems safe to say that toddlers do not have those qualities.
To read the complete transcript of the interview or download a podcast go to: http://www.skeptiko.com/t/37-stanley-coren-dog-intelligence.htm