According to the Institute For Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, some dogs can recognize up to 200 words, and even figure out what new words mean, making them mentally equivalent to a 3 year old child.
Just like people, animals have two kinds of intelligence: Fluid intelligence, which is their natural smarts like they know instinctively how to hunt or to stay away from the street. Then there's crystallized intelligence, which is how they process everything they've learned like when they put two and two together that when the alarm goes off in the morning, they get fed.
But according to the book "How Dogs Think", you can actually help your pet improve their brain power by teaching them new things that'll increase their crystallized intelligence. Here's how:
- You can teach your dog new words. Start by speaking to your dog daily, but not just about the weather. Give your dog consistent verbal signals. If you're going upstairs say "upstairs". Pretty soon when you say the word, they'll scamper up the steps automatically.
- And your cat can be taught using the same training method you use with your dog.
- Animals also need a rich environment to learn. They need the same stimulation that they'd get if they were running free. So when you get home spend at least half an hour playing with your dog. Here's a good one: hide some treats while the dog is watching then take him out of the room. After a minute, let him back in and see how many of the hiding places he can remember. Also, change the toys they play with often and vary the route you go on when you take walks.
A sharp mind also translates into a healthier pet. With nothing to do but sleep and eat, animals get bored and destructive and are more likely to be obese. Keeping their brain busy means your shoes won't be chewed, your cat won't obsessively groom, and your bird won't pluck their feathers out. If you'd like to know more, check out the book "How Dogs Think" by Stanley Coren.