Toddlers Are More Similar To Dogs Than Chimps In Social Intelligence

dog cuddling human

Dog owners are sure that their pets know what’s going on. When people tell dog owners that their pet is “just a dog,” it can be frustrating. Because, let’s face it, our dogs aren’t just dogs, they’re our children and members of our family who act strikingly similar to people. And now there’s further proof that dogs are in fact very similar to people – specifically 2-year old children.

According to a study done at the University of Arizona , human toddlers and dogs are more alike than we’ve previously thought in regards to social and communication skills. In fact, researchers discovered that two-year olds and dogs show more similar patterns in social intelligence and have far more in common when it comes to social intelligence than toddlers and chimpanzees, animals widely thought to be one of the closest relatives to humans.

Evan MacLean, the director of the Arizona Canine Cognition Center at the University of Arizona, and a team of researchers conducted cognitive tests on dogs, 2-year old children and chimpanzees.

University of Arizona Study
Credit: Photo courtesy of Evan MacLean

“What we found is that there’s this pattern, where dogs who are good at one of these social things tend to be good at lots of the related social things, and that’s the same thing you find in kids, but you don’t find it in chimpanzees,” MacLean said.

 A possible explanation for the similarities found in the social behavior of canines and children is that humans and dogs evolved under similar pressures that favored a “survival of the friendliest,” with benefits for more cooperative social behavior.

"Our working hypothesis is that dogs and humans probably evolved some of these skills as a result of similar evolutionary processes, so probably some things that happened in human evolution were very similar to processes that happened in dog domestication," MacLean said. "So, potentially, by studying dogs and domestication we can learn something about human evolution."

boy and toddler

The study could have the potential to aid in a better understanding of human disabilities, such as autism, that may include lapses in social development or deficits in social skills.

So, next time someone tells you your pup is “just a dog,” you can tell them that according to scientific research, having a dog is actually a lot like having a human child!

Written By: Gaita

 Dog Author



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Katelyn Buck