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Can dogs do mathematics? – Research suggests they can!

Dogs are often painted as unintelligent goofballs, who cannot comprehend what is happening around them. They are shown as creatures who have no idea what’s going on around them! But, studies and research into dogs and their peculiar behaviors has proven a lot of what we know about dogs as false.

Now, research suggests that we might want to consider dogs a little bit smarter than we think they are. In fact, dogs are such geniuses that they can even do mathematics. Yes, a subject many humans aren’t good at and dread studying, dogs can do it. Studies have shown that dogs have a tendency for numbers, and this is just like baby human beings and other primates.

Primates, including humans, have the ability to estimate quantities using an approximate number system. This is a skill that allows them to evade predators, search for food, and do other things. In order to see whether dogs have a system like humans, brain scans were done on 11 untrained dogs of different breeds.

The study

In this, an MRI machine was used to observe the brain function of puppies. Dogs were shown arrays of dots, and during this, the brain activity of dogs was tracked to see how it altered. This research was done on breeds like a golden retriever, border collie, and pitbull mix etc.

No training or rewards were required for the dogs to understand or respond to mathematics, their ability to process these numbers was at the spot and spontaneous. When dogs were shown the image, their parietotemporal cortexes were activated, similar to that in human beings.

However, brain activity was observed in eight of the eleven dogs, when researchers manipulated the dot-dispersement ratios and increased the space between numbers. This is a primary feature of the ANS, and it shows that dogs can do a little bit of math.

Other studies that have been done on this matter have even suggested that dogs can do basic mathematical functions like addition, counting and subtraction.

Previous Studies

However, this is not the first time that such a study has been conducted on dogs. In 2002, a study was published in which researchers used treats in a bowl to help present dogs with calculations. They were shown three sums, these were: 1+1=2, 1+1=1, 1+1=3.

Once this was done, researchers measured the amount of time it took them to look at the problem and then the solution. What they found was unpredictable! They concluded, from this experiment, that when the dogs saw an ‘unexpected’ result, they spent a long time looking at it. This suggested that they were predicting the right answer to the equation in front of them.

The ability to be able to count small numbers is not just limited to dogs, in fact, it is spread throughout the animal kingdom. This also suggested that the ability to count numbers and the mechanisms behind it are ‘conserved due to evolutionary time’. This was due to their role in foraging or predation.


While dogs cannot do complex mathematics and do just a little bit as means of survival. But it is still a revolutionary finding. It is highly interesting that dogs can do mathematics and know about numbers. The reason behind this is that canines are highly unpredictable, and we are learning more about them every single day.  

It turns out we don’t know as much as we thought we do about our dogs, and there is more to learn every day.

Research on canines and their behavior is being carried out on a regular basis, hence, don’t be surprised if you read something else about your dog!

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