Could dogs help to unlock the secret to better health and to our longevity

Mon, 08 Feb 2016

Our canine companions may hold the key to helping us live longer, according to some scientists who looked into similarities between canine and human intelligence, and how they compare to life expectancy.

It is thought that more intelligent people tend to live longer, but this is very difficult to test. IQ aside, people still drink and smoke, and their eating habits can differ so much that it is hard to figure out if there is a link between intelligence and long term health.

In an IQ test, researchers with Edinburgh University tested to see whether intelligence in dogs worked the same as humans. If a person has a high intelligence, they not only tend to be good at one task, but their ability to complete all tasks is higher.

To test if this was the case with dogs, the researchers took 68 border collies and gave them a task to do. They then recorded the performance and gave them more tasks, recorded the performance on those, and compared the results.

They found that the dogs which performed better on one task, tended to also perform better on other tests, indicating that higher IQ in dogs is transferable between tests.

The tests themselves included tasks such as allowing the dog involved to see food, but through a barrier, and having them find their way around that barrier in the shortest time, or making them choose between a larger or a smaller meal, and see if they learned the next time they were presented with the option.

Because dogs live an effectively pure and healthy life, unlike humans who eat junk food, smoke, and drink alcohol, and also live relatively shorter lives, they could be a good indicator for longevity in humans.

The research could have "far reaching implications for understanding human health and disease" according to Dr Rosalind Arden, who carried out the research. Information garnered from the lives and intelligence of our canine companions could potentially help us to better deal with conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

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