There are a few eminent and widely known canine behaviourists and dog trainers that most dog owners will have heard of, such as Barbara Woodhouse, Cesar Millan and Stanley Coren. Stanley Coren is one of the most eminent among this select group of canine experts, and one whose work has had a massive impact upon our understanding of how dogs think and what they are capable of. Stanley Coren’s work and research with dogs is widely known all across the world, and is often cited and referred to by dog trainers and behaviourists. Read on to learn more about Stanley Coren, and the work that he has done with dogs.
Stanley Coren is a Canadian/American professor of psychology and a researcher into neuro-psychology and sensory processes, who has undertaken high-level research into both dogs and humans! Born in 1942, Coren has to date published over 400 papers on vision, hearing, canine psychology, the thought processes of dogs and the intelligence of dogs. Perhaps his best-known research endeavour was his definitive ranking of the intelligence of dogs by breed, which not only ranked popular breeds according to their skills and ability in different fields, but also caused the canine world as a whole to review how we measure and judge the mental abilities and communication skills of dogs.
After many years working in neurological research involving people, such as why people may be right or left handed and how conditions such as colour blindness change perception, Coren’s later work is concerned with the study of dogs and canine behaviour.
Coren’s research techniques commonly take the form of large-scale observation and surveying of dog owners, in order to get a more comprehensive and inclusive picture of canine behaviour with more accuracy than would be possible with a small, controlled observation group.
One of Coren’s publications, “Why we love the dogs we do” considered the various aspects of how people’s personalities attracted them to particular breeds and types of dogs, and what factors were involved in the process of people selecting the dogs that they like, and how they interact with them. The process involved in researching this book involved personality testing over 6,000 dog owners, and then finding out their feelings about different breeds of dogs and how they interacted with the different breeds of dogs that they had owned. Today, the personality test used for the subjects interviewed in this research is often used by prospective future dog owners to help them to establish the breed or type of dog would be a good choice for them.
Building upon his work on the personality of people compared to their feelings for and impressions of different types of dogs, Coren went on to study the personalities of dogs themselves, and to outline how behaviour and personality vary between different dog breeds. Coren studied over 1,000 dogs, and produced a publication called “Why does my dog act that way?” which provided insight and advice to owners about the personality traits and natural behaviours of various different dog breeds.
Another eminent publication on canine behaviour is his work “How to speak dog,” which concentrates on explaining how dogs understand and interpret the commands that we give to them and the non-verbal cues that they read from our body language. This book has provided far-reaching and important insights into how to communicate effectively with dogs in a way that they understand, and how to decode the meaning of the ways that our dogs try to communicate with us.
Perhaps the most widely known work produced by Stanley Coren and the one that has had the greatest impact upon dog lovers and dog owners as a whole is Coren’s “The intelligence of dogs.”
This hugely popular work that caused quite a stir when it was first published, involved years of research, testing and observation of a wide range of different dog breeds, in order to rank the most commonly owned domestic dogs in order of their intelligence. When this study was first published, it came under a lot of scrutiny from dog owners and canine experts, and was not always seen in a positive light! After all, nobody really wants to hear that their dog breed is the canine equivalent of a dunce, or that their dog is towards the low end of the dog intelligence scale! However, this work has now widely been accepted as fact, and is often used and referred to as a guideline of canine abilities and as an insight into what to expect from and how to tackle the training of different breeds of dog.
One of the main questions that of course arose as part of this research into canine intelligence, was precisely how does one measure the intelligence of any given dog? Coren’s approach involved looking at three different aspects of canine behaviour and understanding, being obedience, instinctive intelligence and adaptive intelligence to gather a complete picture of individual dogs. While some dogs might rank highly in one area, they might not do so well in another and vice versa, so the ultimate ranking by breed was written based on the balance of scoring across all three areas.
If you are wondering how intelligent your own dog is or want to find out more about Coren’s canine intelligence ranking, check out our in-depth article on the intelligence of dogs, here.