That’s what neuroscientists have started researching – and here’s what we know so far:
Dogs can understand simple math. In a study, dogs were shown two treats being put behind a screen. Then, the screen was lifted to reveal either both treats – or only one treat remaining. When only one treat was revealed, the dogs stared at the treat longer than when there were two. The researchers say that shows the dogs were aware the math didn’t add up.
Dogs understand human language too. The average dog can easily learn 165 words. And “superdogs” can learn 250!
Dogs can also work out spatial calculations. For example, figuring out the shortest route to get to a comfy chair, or locating a hidden treat - or even learning to use a touch-screen device, like an iPad, to get a treat.
What may make them man’s best friend is their ability to read our emotions. They’re the oldest domesticated species and dogs have learned to respond to our gestures. They can follow our gaze and dogs will even yawn in response when we yawn. That shows they’re trying to bond with us. In fact, dogs are better at reading people than chimps, which are our closest primate relative. Researchers say dogs can read us as well as a human 2-year-old. And because humans essentially created dogs – by domesticating the most docile and human-responsive wolves – they’re primed to want to please us.