LifestyleBelgian Malinois tops intelligence list, concludes extensive dog breed study

Belgian Malinois tops intelligence list, concludes extensive dog breed study

Malinois and border collie achieved the best results in the smartDOG test.
Malinois and border collie achieved the best results in the smartDOG test.
Images source: © Pixabay

11:30 AM EST, January 16, 2024

A study assessing pet intelligence was published in the scientific journal "Scientific Reports." The team of experts focused on the differences between individual dog breeds, moving away from the previous focus on breed groups. The research centered on the investigation of inheritable cognitive traits such as problem-solving ability, social cognition, inhibition control, and memory.

Identifying the smartest dog breed

The objective of the study was to "provide more clarity on between-breed differences of cognitive traits in dogs," and it included a diverse selection of 13 breeds. The scientists deployed the cognitive test 'smartDOG', which they applied to 2352 adult domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) from March 2016 to February 2022. Eligible dogs for the study were those willing to cooperate in exchange for food rewards, showing no aggression toward people.

The study was limited to pets aged between one and eight years, as the experts posited cognitive traits might not be fully developed in younger dogs, and older dogs might demonstrate cognitive function deterioration. The scientists clarified that only breeds with at least 40 individuals tested were included in the study. This resulted in a final sample size of 1002 dogs, representing 13 breeds, and one category consisting of mixed breeds.

Most dogs were owned by private individuals who had given consent for their pets to participate in this "intelligence test." The tests required the dogs to solve various cognitive and behavioral tasks, with treats or toys as motivation. For instance, researchers assessed the dogs' ability to understand human gestures, their autonomy (i.e., when they sought human help or couldn’t open a closed food container), and their behaviour during a task known as V-run, where the dog had to navigate around a transparent V-shaped fence to reach a reward.

In the smartDOG test, the Belgian Malinois Shepherd topped the list, scoring 35 out of 39 possible points. Them came the Border Collie with 26 points, closely followed by the Hovawart with 25 points. However, it’s crucial to mention that these studies do not represent the entire dog population. Rather they can be viewed as a starting point for creating cognitive profiles specific to certain breeds or for directing further analysis.

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