Are dogs getting dumber? Swedish researcher says yes
Are dogs becoming progressively dumber with each generation? Ethologist Kenth Svartberg of Sweden's Stockholm University says yes -- and he blames modern breeding practices which, he says, are "affecting the behaviour and mental abilities of pedigree breeds, as well as their physical features."
Svartberg tested 13,000 dogs to determine the degree to which they exhibited traits such as curiosity and sociability. He used the findings to rate the intelligence of 31 breeds. The Telegraph reports on the results:
He found that those bred for appearance, and especially for shows, displayed reduced levels of all these qualities. He also found that attractive appearance was often linked with introversion and a boring personality.
Dr. Svartberg said: "Perhaps the genes behind attractive looks could also be closely linked to those that cause fearfulness."
Svartberg's research showed that some breeds that were originally intended to perform important jobs requiring skill and intelligence -- such as the smooth collie, bred for herding, and the Rhodesian ridgeback, bred for hunting -- were among those hardest hit by the trend of breeding for looks.
Further, "[the] trend is reflected in the popularity of so-called 'handbag dogs'," notes the Telegraph.
Dr. Alan Wilton, a senior lecturer in genetics at Australia's NSW University, offered this take: "You can have lap dogs that are very intelligent. It's just that, if they're just sitting around doing nothing and you breed for many generations without selecting for intelligence, it is possible that their intelligence over time will diminish...That's what we expect is happening to some breeds."
Photo: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times