A test designed to look at the IQ of man’s best friend has discovered when it comes to clever canines, humans and dogs aren’t that different, and this could have implications for finding a link between intelligence and health problems

Humans have got Mensa to measure their IQ, and now dogs have test that can check their intellect, too. That’s what researchers from the London School of Economics and Edinburgh University have said in a recent study.

They’ve developed a test that can measure IQ in dogs, and they’ve noticed that dog intelligence is very similar to human intelligence. That is, clever canines who perform well at tasks tend to do well at other tasks, too, much like humans who are clever.

With recent studies suggesting that brighter people tend to live longer and have a lower risk of dementia, this test could now be used to decide whether the same can be said for dogs. The main implications of this is that it could potentially be used to discover whether there’s a link between intelligence and health issues such as dementia.

Researchers studied the intelligence of 68 working border collies (a notoriously intelligent breed of dog) and set a range of tasks. The dogs who performed well in one task, tended to do well in all tasks. And because dogs can develop dementia in the same way as humans, their intelligence can be compared against their health to see if there’s a link.

This is much harder to do in humans normally because results can be skewed because of lifestyle choices – smoking, eating, drinking and exercise – which can impact on health.

However, dogs are more likely to eat well, exercise (and you’d hope they don’t smoke or drink alcohol!) so the results won’t be affected.

‘Dogs are very reliable on that front; they don’t touch pipes, don’t touch cigars, kid around with recreational drugs – lots of things that muck up our findings in human reports can be very much better studied in non-human animals,’ said Dr Rosalind Arden, a research associate at the London School of Economics.

If a dog develops dementia, they start to exhibit symptoms that have some similarities with human dementia.

‘You’ll find a dog that changes its social habits, it doesn’t want to be petted any more, it becomes introverted and alone. They produce lots of the disturbances found in human dementia,’ says Dr Arden.

Dr Mark Adams, research fellow at the University of Edinburgh adds:

‘This is only a first step, but we are aiming to create a dog IQ test that is reliable, valid and can be administered quickly. Such a test could rapidly improve our understanding of the connection between dog intelligence, health, lifespan, and be the foundation of cognitive epidemiology.’