A lot of people wonder how smart their dog is. Does he really understand what's going on? Does he remember what happened yesterday and is he able to anticipate events? I think the answer to these questions is a qualified yes.
When we interpret their intelligence the way we'd interpret our own, a dog's comprehension appears equivalent to that of a two- or three-year old child. That said, dogs are very good at doing what they do best, and in that respect have some outstanding mental skills.
Sure, they're not sparkling conversationalists, but they're excellent readers of body language. They don’t ruminate on the meaning of life (at least, not they we're aware of), but they're acutely aware of the now. They don’t read books, but they're aroma super-sleuths, living in a world of olfactory understanding we can barely imagine.
Of nine types of human intelligence, they excel at three: naturalist intelligence (“nature smarts”), body kinesthetic intelligence, and spatial intelligence. In addition, they're not too shabby when it comes to interpersonal intelligence and have their own version of linguistic intelligence (their ability to read, understand, and communicate body language signals). The four types of intelligence they may fall a bit short in are musical intelligence, logical mathematical intelligence, existential intelligence, and intra-personal intelligence (self-smarts). Perhaps we could add a tenth intelligence, predatory intelligence, in which most dogs excel and humans show some talent.
And how do dogs compare to their wolf cousins? Are wolves smarter? Current research points to the fact that pet dogs might have been dumbed down by domestication. A famous Gary Larson cartoon shows a couple of wolves watching a third one sitting by a campfire next to a caveman: One wolf says to the other, “Look at that glassy stare, those vacuous eyes. He’s been domesticated, I tell you.” Although it is true that wolves are extremely clever, able to solve puzzles that dogs could never solve, what they gain on the evolutionary swings they lose on the domestic roundabout. Thus pet dogs are less fearful, less skittish, less reclusive, more open, more affectionate, and, seemingly, more understanding of social worlds other than their own.
Human, wolf, or dog, we all have our various intellectual strengths. I’m not trying to argue that dogs and wolves are smarter than people, because they’re not. Just that their intelligences are at least comparable to humans and differ quantitatively as opposed to qualitatively. Does a dog learn and remember the past? Absolutely! Does he have emotions that are similar to our own? You bet! Is he capable of great trust, loyalty, and affection? If you own one you will find that out for yourself.