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Prof. Alexandra Horowitz on the relative intelligence of dogs and toddlers

In the Opinion section of The New York Times, psychology professor and dog cognition expert Alexandra Horowitz compares the behavior of her 2-year-old son and her 4-year-old dog.  An excerpt:

"“I heard that, in intelligence, dogs are like 2-year-old children.”

One of my psychology students recently lobbed this statement at me. It’s an assertion I have heard — and dismissed — dozens of times, the reiteration of what must seem a profound, pithy truth about dogs’ mental abilities. From my perspective as a researcher of canine cognition, it at once overstates and understates dogs’ abilities to claim that they are equal in some unifying, cross-species “intelligence” to 2-year-olds.

But then the other day, sitting at home with my family, I was reminded of why the dog-child comparison is so often made. There was my 2-year-old child. Next to him lay our 4-year-old dog. There are undeniable similarities in their behavior.

For instance, they are both moderately impolite: my son stares unyieldingly at the large hairdo on an obese man on the sidewalk; my dog greets my friend at the door with a sniff right in his crotch. They both love many of the same things — squeaking objects, bagels, other dogs — and share a hatred of loud noises.

So I decided to get fully quasi-scientific about it. How are dog and child alike? How are they not? Herewith I report anecdotal instances of their behavior over one week, with some cherry-picked research to complete the story."

Read the full article here

Prof. Horowitz's research is in animal cognition. She is currently testing anthropomorphisms made of the domestic dog, through experiments with dogs in natural settings. She is the author of the book Inside of a dog: What dogs see, smell, and know.