As a pet owner you may have wondered which of your pets is smarter, or how your pet ranks against other animals.
If you own more than one pet, you may already have some inkling to which one is a bit smarter than the others.
If you have a pet parrot you’ve probably noticed just how intelligent they are, in fact, how could you not?
Compared to other pet’s intelligence they can usually come out on top, but are parrots smarter than dogs?
The answer to this question is… yes. For the most part in many of the standard pet intelligence tests parrots do much better than dogs. There are some tests where dogs compare, but ultimately parrots usually win.
This article will explain the differences and similarities between parrot’s and dog’s intelligence, who is easier to train, what parrot vs. dog communication tells us about who’s smarter, and what owners of both parrots and dogs think.
What is parrot and dog intelligence?
What we think as intelligence is often defined in human terms, but for parrots and dogs, it is seen as the ability to learn and apply knowledge, the ability to understand new or challenging situations and the ability to think abstractly.
Animal intelligence can be much harder to prove compared to humans, especially with parrots and dogs.
With human’s we can sit down and take a test, or solve a puzzle, but what an animal can do is very different, especially between different animals.
One of the reasons it is hard to truly know if parrots or dogs are smarter is because we can’t use the same methods to measure both animals, and it’s hard to measure either animal the way we measure human intelligence.
They also communicate in totally different ways.
It is really difficult to compare parrots and dogs, even just because of their abilities to use their claws vs. paws.
But despite how hard it may be, there are some tests that both animals can take so that we can compare and see who really is the smartest!
How do we know parrots are smarter than dogs?
There are a few ways that animals are tested to see just how smart they are, and some can be performed with parrots and dogs.
One of the most popular intelligence tests is an animal’s ability to recognise itself in a mirror, which is often used as a measure of intelligence and self-awareness.
In fact, human children only start showing signs of self-recognition at about 12 months.
With this test, parrots are one of the few animals known to have passed.
In comparison, dogs do not do well.
Often dogs see their reflection and think it is another dog and will bark or growl at it.
Sometimes dogs don’t even notice that they even have a reflection.
Parrots on the other hand will inspect themselves and look at parts of their bodies in the mirror that they can’t usually see, showing that they truly understand they are looking at themselves.
They will even play around in front of the mirror, twirling and posing in funny ways in order to examine their own movements in the mirror.
Even though they are playing, parrots have proven that they have self-awareness.
Other tests for animal intelligence are to show an animal different colored shapes to see if they understand object manipulation, such as changes in the shape, similar and different shapes, and to see if the animal can understand quantity or even count.
Parrots have an amazing grasp of basic concepts, and in these types of tests, they prove just how good they are at problem and puzzle-solving.
Parrots can communicate what they want or dislike, they know colors, and they can even add and subtract.
Dogs cannot recognize shapes, numbers, or colors.
However, dogs can think for themselves and solve problems so they can complete tasks.
They are able to make decisions out of sight of their owners and recognize specific people, but so can parrots.
Parrots can recognize faces and studies have shown they are able to distinguish between human voices.
With all of this in mind, some parrots can certainly be smarter than dogs.
Are parrots or dogs easier to train?
Some researchers looked at how well an animal could learn and remember training to test just how smart they are.
Most dogs were easier to train than parrots, or exactly on par with their trainability.
Because parrots are naturally more cautious than dogs, their training can take longer and must go slower.
However, both parrots and dogs are able to be taught intricate tricks and even remember them for years.
What if we compare the smartest dog to the smartest parrot?
African Grey parrots are commonly known as the Einstein of parrots, while the Border Collie is commonly accepted as one of the smartest dogs, and certainly earned the title as most trainable.
To compare these two animals, we can look at Alex and African grey, who was likely the smartest parrot, and a Border Collie names Chaser who was trained and owned by a psychology professor.
In fact, African Greys and Border Collies are very similar, though you may not have realized, so they are a great comparison to find out which is smarter!
Both African Grey parrots and Border Collies can become bored quickly if they are not given enough stimulation or attention.
Both Greys and Collies are very active and need owners who will spend a lot of time playing with them, especially because both animals have a tendency to become destructive if bored.
Parrots may start to pluck feathers while dogs will chew furniture or even people.
Chaser had been trained for five hours a day, five days a week, for nine years.
That’s a lot!
With all of this training, Chaser had more than 1,000 toys that she could identify the names of and match to each toy with a 95 percent accuracy.
She first learned the association when her owner pointed to each toy while saying its name.
With a similar test, parrots are able to identify and name various objects, sometimes up to 50 in a test.
Parrots also can understand the concepts of “different” and “same,” which dogs cannot do.
Alex the African Grey parrot had an intelligence comparable to a human toddler around 3 or 4 years old, but he likely had the logical intelligence of a five-year-old in certain tests.
Chaser wasn’t believed to have intelligence comparable to humans, which means that comparing the two animals, Alex was smarter than Chaser, even though Chaser could recognize more objects.
Though a border collie is considered to be the smartest dog, they aren’t smarter than African Grey parrots.
Alex the African Grey was probably the most intelligent animal in the world.
How do parrots and dogs communicate and what does that say about their smarts?
One of the main differences between parrots and dogs is their ability to communicate.
Parrots amazing ability to talk is one of their defining skills that sets them apart from other animals.
Parrots, specifically African Greys, can learn a rather impressive number of human words and even use them in context to communicate with us.
In many cases parrots are not actually communicating in human languages but merely imitating the sounds they hear.
An example of this is the classic saying of, “Polly wants a cracker,” where the parrot doesn’t actually know what it is saying, but rather has learned to associate those sounds with receiving a cracker afterward.
Mimicking it isn’t actually a conversation, but it shows a parrots learning and amazing ability of association.
African Grey parrots have shown that some are able to associate words with their meanings and form simple sentences, which is much more than mimicking sounds.
Dogs on the other hand speak a language all their own.
They bark, growl, grunt and howl, but they can’t copy human words.
Because dogs cannot make sounds that are like human language, parrots are much more advanced, especially since African Greys have proven that they are able to have real conversations.
Who do owners of both dogs and parrots think are smarter?
Usually, dog owners believe that their doggie companion is very smart, as well as more loyal and more empathetic than any other pet.
But parrot owners think the same thing!
Anyone who has owned a parrot can attest to their smarts, curiosity, and empathy to their owners.
But what do pet owners think if they own both a parrot and a dog?
Most owners of both parrots and dogs have witnessed their parrots pulling funny antics such as calling the dog’s name so that the dog would come rushing in to look for the human that called them and find no one there.
Owners have even seen their parrots train the family dog to fetch things for them, or even bring them food.