Can Dogs do Mathematics?

Today, our post will be about Man’s best friend and how dogs can do Mathematics. Or can they?


Some people doubt that dogs are capable of even the most rudimentary form of quantitative thinking. The most basic form of analyzing the world in a quantitative way involves the judgment of size, namely, answering the question of whether one thing larger than another. Early researchers would put out two balls of hamburger, one large and the other small, and when they found that dogs were as likely to choose the small one as the large, they concluded that dogs could not estimate size. However there is a flaw in this test. Dogs think in an opportunistic manner, a sort of “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” mentality. If the two plates were a different distances, the dog would always grab the closest. However if they were at equal distances, the dog would show that he understood the notion of size by going after the larger one. Norton Milgram, at the University of Toronto confirmed that dogs can judge size well using a tray which contains two objects of different sizes. If the dog pushes the correct object, then underneath it he will find a food treat. Dogs can be taught always to pick the larger (or smaller) of two objects, regardless of the shape or identity of the objects, and they learn this fairly easily.

Watch the above video, about Maggie the Jack Russell that can do Arithmetic!

You can also watch the video at:

Maggie’s a Jack Russell terrier who can add, subtract, multiply and divide! Watch her do math for Oprah.

Read more:

Maggie the Jack Russell is a maths genius (for a dog!), watch her compete with a class of 7 year olds.

However, there has been the case of Clever Hans, a horse that seemingly can do Mathematics.

However, it was “not actually performing these mental tasks, but was watching the reaction of his human observers”. (Wikipedia) Could Maggie be observing the subconscious signals of her owner? The owner might not even be aware of that, like in the case of Clever Hans.

Is Maths Dog Maggie a Fraud? Robert De Franco devises a series of tests to see if owner Jessie is somehow prompting Maggie the right answers.


Clever Hans (in German, der Kluge Hans) was an Orlov Trotter horse that was claimed to have been able to perform arithmetic and other intellectual tasks.

After a formal investigation in 1907, psychologist Oskar Pfungst demonstrated that the horse was not actually performing these mental tasks, but was watching the reaction of his human observers. Pfungst discovered this artifact in the research methodology, wherein the horse was responding directly to involuntary cues in the body language of the human trainer, who had the faculties to solve each problem. The trainer was entirely unaware that he was providing such cues.[1] In honour of Pfungst’s study, the anomalous artifact has since been referred to as the Clever Hans effect and has continued to be important knowledge in the observer-expectancy effect and later studies in animal cognition. Hans was studied by the famous German philosopher and psychologist Carl Stumpf in the early 20th century. Stumpf was observing the sensational phenomena of the horse, which also added to his impact on phenomenology.

Author: mathtuition88

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