Dogs, Chimps, and Toddlers

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If asked whether a toddler thinks more like a chimp or a dog, I would be inclined to guess chimpanzee, but then my toddler grandson was climbing up cabinets and dressers before he could actually walk. Turns out that research at the University of Arizona reveals that dogs and 2-year-old children area actually more similar than chimps and toddlers – when it comes to cooperative communication skills.

Most dog owners will tell you they consider their beloved pets to be members of their families. Now new research suggests that dogs may be even more like us than previously thought.

Evan MacLean, director of the Arizona Canine Cognition Center at the University of Arizona, found that dogs and 2-year-old children show similar patterns in social intelligence, much more so than human children and one of their closest relatives: chimpanzees. The findings, published in the journal Animal Behaviour, could help scientists better understand how humans evolved socially.

MacLean and his colleagues looked at how 2-year-olds, dogs and chimpanzees performed on comparable batteries of tests designed to measure various types of cognition. While chimps performed well on tests involving their physical environment and spatial reasoning, they did not do as well when it came to tests of cooperative communication skills, such as the ability to follow a pointing finger or human gaze.

Dogs and children similarly outperformed chimps on cooperative communication tasks, and researchers observed similar patterns of variation in performance between individual dogs and between individual children.

Read the rest of the study, Dogs, Toddlers Show Similarities in Social Intelligence

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About Author

Devoted pet owner and now, devoted pet editor, Judi worked in traditional offices, keeping the books and the day-to-day operations organized. Taking her dog to work every day for over a decade never seemed odd. Neither did having an office cat. She knows what it's like to train a new puppy and she's experienced the heartache of losing beloved companions. Retired, she currently lives with her spoiled dog and four chickens (who are, interestingly enough, also spoiled).

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