Did you know your dog may have the intellect of a three year old human child? Find out exactly how dogs and toddlers share similar smarts below!

Your dog may play dumb when you tell him not to eat the cat’s food, but don’t let him fool you. He understands perfectly well. Dogs don’t miss a trick. Because not only is he smart (see our past tip with the Top Ten Smartest Dog Breeds) and able to comprehend pointing gestures (remember the tip about this Recent Study), but your dog understands up to 165 words, including signals and gestures. And, you may want to sit down for this one; he just might intentionally deceive other dogs and people to get treats.

We’re not making this stuff up, we promise. Leading canine researcher Stanley Coren, PhD, of the University of British Columbia broke the news during his speech “How Dogs Think” at the American Psychological Association’s 117th Annual Convention last Saturday. The bottom line: Even the dumbest dogs have roughly the same mental abilities as a 2-year-old person. Whoa.

Smartest Breeds Master 250+ Words, Experts Say

As it turns out, some super brainy dog breeds (those in the top 20 percent) can even master 250 words including signals and gestures. Coren explains “Border Collies, Poodles, and German Shepherds, in that order – those breeds have been created recently compared with other dog breeds, and may be smarter in part because we’ve trained and bred them to be so. The dogs at the top of the pack are on par with a 2.5-year-old.” Those pups near the bottom of Coren’s list shouldn’t despair. They might do better on so-called instinctive intelligence, which measures how well dogs do what they’re bred to do, for instance, how well a hound can track something by smell or sight.

And don’t get Coren started on the math skills. He insists that most dogs “would trump a 3- or 4-year-old in basic arithmetic.” So, in other words, your dog can count too. No long division here, but enough basic math to know when you’ve left his 3rd favorite toy at home.

The Scoop: 

Read more about Coren’s research at these two sites, and see his top and bottom five smartest dog breeds.


See Woof Report’s past related tips…

Dogs Understand Our Pointing Gestures as Well as Toddlers

The Top Ten Smartest Dog Breeds

Thank you to our Woof Report Friend Jasmine for the photo.

Originally published January 2011, reviewed and updated July 2017