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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Study of 13 Breeds sets Belgian Malinois To Be the Most Intelligent Dog

The Belgian Malinois may be the most intelligent dog in the world, according to researchers.

The Border Collie is frequently considered to be the brightest dog in the world due to its working heritage and inclination for herding. A Malinois is a popular choice for people who need police, security, or sniffer dogs, and research now demonstrates that these dogs are the best option since they are independent, skilled problem solvers, fast to react, and able to read people. Researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland sought to compile the most thorough dataset yet on the cognitive domains in which various breeds thrive. More than 1,000 canines of 13 different breeds were enlisted, and the smartDOG battery of tests’ creators evaluated the performance of the dogs on 10 tasks (seven cognitive and three behavioral).

According to Ms. Saara Junttila, study author and a Ph.D. researcher in canine cognition at the University of Helsinki, “most breeds have their unique strengths and shortcomings.” For instance, the Labrador Retriever excelled at interpreting human motions but struggled with spatial reasoning. Some breeds, like the Shetland Sheepdog, scored fairly consistently across the board, i.e., they had no particularly high or extremely low test scores. The owner and CEO of smartDOG, Dr. Katriina Tiira, continued, “The Belgian Shepherd Malinois stood out in several of the cognitive activities, getting extremely good scores in a majority of the tests.” In many of the tests, Border Collies also did well.

The scientists determined that the logical thinking test, in which the dog presented two food bowls and could recognize that one was empty, would be the best indicator of overall intelligence. It was intended to test the animal’s ability to deduce that the food was in the second dish, which was covered. Data, however, showed that there was no distinction between the dog breeds for this job. But the three tests that were chosen by the researchers, each assessing a different facet of canine cognition, did produce results and revealed the differences between the breeds. A V-detour challenge, in which the dog must navigate a translucent V-shaped barrier to reach a food reward it can already see, assesses problem-solving skills in part.

Dogs’ responses to five different human gestures—constant pointing, brief pointing, pointing with the foot, pointing at something while facing another direction, and following our gaze—were scored to determine how well they could comprehend human gestures. The researchers also looked into a dog’s independence and how soon it approached a human for assistance. This feature was tested using an impossible task (trying to get food from a box that couldn’t be opened). According to Ms. Junttila, “understanding human gestures is a test of social cognition, thus dogs that did well in that activity are strong at reading and understanding humans.”

“The unsolvable exercise tested a social aspect as well; some breeds scored very well on human-directed behavior, indicating they made an effort to ask the human for help with the difficult task, whereas dogs were working independently to solve the problem. These two responses are both applicable in various circumstances. According to research, the Belgian Shepherd Malinois was the sixth most autonomous breed and ranked first for both the human gestures and the V-detour test. The Malinois comes in first with 35 points out of a possible 39 points when measuring total intellect using these three attributes, with 13 points for first place and 1 point for last place.

With a score of 26, Border Collies lived up to their reputation. The Hovawart won the bronze with a score of 25, one point better than the Spanish Water Dog. The Labrador and Golden Retriever, which are renowned for their emotional sensitivity, performed well on the gesture test but poorly on the other two, placing 13th and 9th, respectively. The group claims that understanding which breeds excel at particular tasks over others is more valuable than ranking each feature individually or overall. Any ranking method would be much less helpful than a cognitive profile of each breed. Breed-specific cognitive profiles can be developed using the almost 5,000 canines in the smartDOG database as of right now, according to Dr. Tiira, who spoke to The Telegraph. Published in Scientific Reports is the study.

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