A recent study has shown that dogs may not be as intelligent as many people assume them to be, relative to other animals.

Psychologists from Exeter and Canterbury universities published their findings in last December’s issue of the scientific journal Learning and Behaviour.

The researchers investigated the cognitive abilities of dogs in comparison to those of other animals and they explored various aspects of intelligence including sensory cognition, spatial cognition and social cognition.

They explain that dogs have been used in many areas of behavioural and psychological research during the last century, such as Pavlov’s ’classical conditioning’ experiments, due to their status as convenient ’model organisms’.

But much of this research did not compare the cognitive abilities of dogs with those of other animals.

The researchers state that dogs do not appear to be any better than many other animals at associative learning, such as when they are being trained to respond to verbal cues by an owner.

They found, for example, that horses were able to communicate with humans just as well as their canine peers.

Furthermore, while many may think that dogs have the best sense of smell in the animal world, this may not be the case, with the researchers stating that the olfactory abilities of pigs are outstanding and that they might be even better than a dog’s.

Next week’s article will examine the debate over whether dogs and cats know their names, which is seen by some owners as proof of intelligence, but most cat owners would admit that teaching their felines to obey commands is a thankless task.

Dogs, however, can be trained to obey commands, but do they actually understand the words and is this a sign that they are intelligent?

Or are they just good at working out that if an owner calls it usually means food or a bit of attention?

Many trainers will say that the most important command (or ’cue’, to use the modern parlance) to teach your dog is ’down’, because it could be life-saving if he or she is about to run into danger, across a busy road for example, or is behaving in a threatening manner towards another dog or a human.

’Down’ should not be combined with ’sit down’ (’sit’ on its own is sufficient) so that the command clear and its association is easier for the dog to recognise.

Devlin, the handsome Akita Staffie cross, has had several months of training with staff and volunteers.

He knows all the basic cues and he clearly loves engaging with his human companions, which is something Staffies are renowned for.

He also walks beautifully to heel, and his recall is good. However, he can be a bit headstrong around other canines and so his new owners will need to continue with his dog socialisation training.

Devlin is very people-orientated and he enjoys playing and having cuddles as much as his, more formal, training.

Such is his love of people he doesn’t cope well with being left on his own for long periods and so his new owners will need to have a lifestyle that enables them to be at home as much as possible.

He can be rehomed with older children, and so he could be a perfect, fun-loving family pet; but he could just as easily be a loyal and devoted companion for a single person.

It’s so much more rewarding to adopt a rescue dog than to shop for a puppy.

All dogs need a stable, secure and loving home to call their own - but the dogs in our rescue kennels deserve a second chance of happiness more than most.