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Dog breed and intelligence: University of Arizona studying link between dog size, how smart they are

Posted at 4:39 AM, Feb 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-15 08:34:31-05

When it comes to your pet, does a bigger breed mean that dog is smarter?

Researchers at the University of Arizona are looking to see if bragging rights can go to those larger dogs.

This all started because of similar studies done with primates.

UA anthropology doctoral student and lead researcher in this study, Daniel Horschler, said that those studies found that as the primates' brains got larger through evolution, they also added more neurons.

"Was it some sort of artifact of unique aspect of primate brain evolution or... was it... a phenomenon we would see across other animals, as well?" Horschler asked.

He decided to choose dogs to find out the answer to that due to the huge variation in brain size with each and every breed.

"So, we used the citizen science data where people would complete these different experiments in their own home and they would upload their dogs' responses to the website," Horschler described. "And they would do a bunch of different tasks and we were able to look at how differences in brain size related to the dog's performance in those tasks."

The data included more than 7,000 dogs from more than 70 different breeds.

So, with all the research - which dog is top dog?

Right now, researchers are still fetching for the exact answer.

"... There's different ways to measure smarter," Horschler said.

Overall, they found that larger breeds were stronger when it came to short-term memory tests, as well as self-control. That was regardless of the amount of training the dogs had received.

But, breed and brain size does not seem to be directly linked with all types of intelligence, like social intelligence.

"Well, what we see is - we see the same thing that we see in primate studies and studies across species," Horschler explained. "Which is that brain size is linked to these executive function measures, but not necessarily other measures."

Horschler said he would like to continue testing and that there are plenty of ways your dog can get involved in helping them conduct some of that research just by playing.

You can find more information here.