Here’s How This New IQ Test For Dogs Can Help Dementia Research
Canine intelligence is something that people have been aware of for a long time. It’s pretty obvious to anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of spending time with a dog that they’re alert to the things happening around them and that they can successfully interact with their humans to perform all sorts of tricks and obey commands.
Before the advents of modern science, dogs have been used for a lot of different tasks, but there might be a bigger role for them to play in the future. A team of scientists at the University of Edinburgh have begun a research that aims to explore canine intelligence and come up with an IQ test for dogs. Dr. Rosalind Arden at the London School of Economics claims that this test could have “far-reaching implications for understanding human health and disease and canine health and disease.”
One of the first issues this team had to tackle was the following: if a dog performed well at a certain test, does that mean that they would perform above average at a completely different one. This, according to the scientists, is the first step in devising an effective IQ test for dogs.
The first test included 68 border collies that were put through a couple of different cognitive tests. The test involved a reward that was visible to the dog but unreachable due to a barrier. This barrier was devised so that the dog could not simply dig underneath it to reach the reward (usually food). Instead, they had to find another way to reach their goal. Dogs have very powerful digging instincts and this would probably be the first thing a pooch would do in order to solve a problem like this. However, since the researchers wanted the dogs to intelligently solve the problem, they weren’t allowed to rely on instincts.
Another separate test analyzed how capable the dogs were when weighing one option against the other. This was accomplished by presenting the dog with two plates of food, one of which contained more food than the other. A human encouraging the dog to choose one of the two plates was also present, so the scientists could observe how human suggestion affected the dog’s decision. From these tests, the team discovered that dogs who performed better on the first test had above average results on the second one. This suggests that dogs have the same general intelligence as people.
What’s more important, this discovery means that we’re yet another step closer to figuring out how a dog’s brain works, which in turn means greater advancements in the fields od neuroscience and neuromedicine. That brings us to dementia, a mental condition that kicks in as people get older. One of the most famous diseases caused by dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which is characterized by extreme memory impairment. A separate study has previously confirmed that dementia affects dogs in a very similar way as humans, which implies that studying dogs’ brains could answer some questions about our own brains as well.
Studying dogs has an additional advantage because dogs are completely “teetotal,” according to Dr. Arden. This means that unlike people who love indulging in unhealthy things such as booze, junk foods and cigarettes, dogs have no such tendencies. And due to the fact that substance abuse is one of the factors that increases the risk of dementia in people, it’s one less factor that you have to look out for in dogs. This could lead to a more precise analysis.
The bottom line is that scientists have determined that it’s possible to measure intelligence in dogs, though they aren’t completely sure whether intelligence is linked to their health or lifespan. However, this is only the first step, according to Dr. Adams at Edinburgh University. Ultimately, the goal is to fashion a good, reliable IQ test for dogs that would be simple and effective enough for wide usage. Adams also adds that dogs are fairly easy to work with because they are obedient and genuinely seem to enjoy the tests (and being rewarded for a good performance, of course).