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Dog Intelligence Research
Sit, shake -- now tutor that toddler*
Most dogs have the intelligence of a 2-year-old human, capable of learning 165 words and counting to 4 or 5, according to recent research.
The top 20 percent of the smartest canine breeds in North America, led by boarder collies and poodles, can learn as many as 250 words and signals and perform basic arithmetic, according to psychologist Stanley Coren, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia and author of dog behavior books.  He spoke about his research at a meeting of the American Psychological Association in Toronto (Aug 2009).
Selective breeding over the years has improved dog intelligence, Coren said in a telephone interview. Understanding canine mental abilities has led to the development of smarter breeds that show more humanlike traits.
"We've made dogs smarter," said Coren, whose book, "The Modern Dog: A Joyful Explanation of How We Live With Dogs Today," was published last year (2008). "I'd like to come back in 200 years and see if I'm able to talk to my dogs."
Coren modified the MacArthur Bates Communicative Developmental Inventories test, which measures language abilities in children, to determine a dog's mental equivalence to humans. He found that dog smarts can be separated into three categories: instinctive, adaptive, and working and obedience.
Working and obedience intelligence concerns how well a dog learns under human control. Coren describes that as "the doggy equivalent of school learning."
"Suppose I point at something -- the dog recognizes that I'm indicating something in that direction and looks," Coren said, referring to a 2004 experiment carried out by Harvard anthropologist Brian Hare, which focused on the increase in dog IQ from domestication. "They do this even if they're 8 to 10 weeks old, whereas a wolf, reared since puppyhood in a human environment, would look at the hand," Coren said.
With help from half of all dog obedience judges in North America and data collected since the early 1990s, Coren has ranked 110 dogs breeds according to working and obedience intelligence. The smartest dogs after 1) border collies were 2) poodles, followed by 3) German shepherds, 4) golden retrievers, 5) Doberman pinschers and 6) Shetland sheepdogs.
* by Anne Ferre, Bloomberg News (Aug 2009)
"If you can't decide between a Shepherd, a Setter or a Poodle, get the all . . .
adopt a mutt!" -- ASPCA