parrots vs. dogs intelligence

Are Parrots As Smart As Dogs?

Parrots are well-known for being intelligent animals, while dogs are better known for their loyalty and affection. Are parrots smarter than dogs, or are our canine friends not given enough credit for their intellect?

Parrots and dogs show their intelligence differently. Parrots are seen as being smarter because they can mimic human words and phrases. However, dogs can understand up to 250 words and commands and interpret human emotions. Both parrots and dogs can show emotions, can be taught tricks, and have puzzle-solving skills.

Parrots and dogs have high levels of intelligence, some of which are markedly similar. However, it’s very difficult to determine which is the smarter species, as both animals failed the mirror tests, which measures self-awareness. This means their neural passageways work in similar ways.

How Smart Are Parrots?

Parrots are one of the smartest creatures and are considered to be among the most intelligent bird species. PLOS One explains how their smartness comes from a genome sequence that’s more advanced in parrots than other birds.

It gives parrots their impressive:

  • Memory
  • Language skills
  • Ability to mimic words and phrases
  • Spatial awareness

Alongside the genome sequence, parrots have well-developed brains that possess many human qualities. Their brains aren’t too dissimilar from ours.

According to the University of Alberta, researchers found that a specific region of the brain called the medial spiriform nuclei is responsible for a parrot’s intelligence.

This neural circuit connects the cerebellum and the cortex and enables parrots to:

  • Communicate
  • Talk like us
  • Mimic words they hear

Their neural circuit is similar to the one that primates and humans possess, so they have similar abilities to us. Not only that, but their brains are shaped to be asymmetrical, which is a unique feature amongst animals.

The left hemisphere controls language, which helps parrots communicate with their flock.

How Smart Are Dogs?

Experts believe that the most intelligent dogs have a similar intelligence level to a 2.5-year-old child. This is because they evolved from wolves, who were quick to adapt to living around humans.

Dogs can:

  • Understand up to 250 words
  • Interpret human emotions and react to them
  • Pull off tricks to earn treats
  • Understand voice commands

As social animals, dogs are highly attentive to humans and respond to different cues, giving them excellent social cognitive skills.

Not only that, but dogs have episodic memories and have been studied recalling past events, including complex human actions. Larger dogs tend to have better memories and self-control than smaller canines.

However, while dogs display some levels of intelligence, they’re not exceptionally smart. Many animals match and exceed their intelligence, but dogs can perform well in various tests across several categories, giving them a well-rounded level of intellect.

are parrots more intelligent than dogs?

What IQ Does A Dog Have?

Experts believe that the average dog has an IQ of 100, which is about the same as a two-year-old human.

The most intelligent dogs include:

  • Border collies
  • Poodles
  • German shepherds

Many dog breeds are smart enough to join the military and police forces.

Are Parrots More Intelligent Than Dogs?

Judging parrots vs. dogs’ intelligence isn’t black and white, which means it’s not easy to compare the smartness of the two species. Instead, we need to analyze their intelligence levels subjectively.

Both parrots and dogs are clever, but carrying out experiments and observing the outcome is the best way to compare them. The mirror test is a good measure of intelligence.

The Animal Mirror Test

The animal mirror test measures self-awareness, which is a marker of intelligence. It’s designed to determine whether animals can identify their reflection in the mirror or whether they believe they see another animal – the latter of which is most common, causing them to fail the test.

The test comprises of the following steps:

  1. The dog or parrot needs to be sedated so they can’t see where markers are placed.
  2. Once the animals are asleep, researchers place markers (usually made by stickers or colorful pens) on the body.
  3. The markers need to appear where the animal can see it in the mirror, like the head.
  4. As soon as the animal wakes up and comes around, it’s placed in front of the mirror while researchers monitor the outcome.

During observations, researchers check whether the dog or parrot sees any of the markers and goes to investigate. This would suggest that the animal understands that it sees a reflection of itself.

Dogs either invite the reflection to play or fail to react. Parrots react aggressively and attempt to bite the mirror, believing they’re face-to-face with another bird.

Neither dogs nor parrots have been able to pass the test so far, suggesting they have the same number of neural passageways and similar intelligence levels.

How Do Parrots Show Intelligence?

Even though parrots haven’t yet passed the animal mirror test, they’re an intelligent species.

They show their smartness through several behaviors, such as:


Parrots are known for their ability to mimic words, phrases, and numbers. African grey parrots are the most advanced talkers, but even small budgies can build a large vocabulary of easy words.

The best speaking parrots can learn the following amount of words:

  • Budgies: 1,000 words
  • Amazon parrots: 300 words
  • Indian ring parakeets: 250 words
  • Cockatiels: 250 words
  • Quaker parrots: 50-60 words

Some parrots can gain a contextual awareness of what the words mean.

For example, if an owner says “hello” to their parrot when they walk into the room, the parrot will eventually learn to say the word back. They don’t necessarily know what the word means but understand when to use it.

Body Associations

Because of their higher functioning brains, parrots can associate human body parts with limbs of their own.

For example, they can understand that an arm produces the same movement as their wing. If a human lifts their arm in front of a parrot, the parrot will lift its wing in response.


Other than humans, few animals dance. Parrots are the exception. Dancing isn’t part of their primal instincts or natural movements – parrots dance for fun.

They can also hear and process music, enabling them to move spontaneously every time a song gets played. When multiple parrots are in the same cage, they prompt each other to dance.

Memory Function

Parrots can navigate mazes and find hidden objects because of their ability to remember paths and objects.

They also remember specific things they’ve seen, such as certain animals or stand-out features on people, such as long hair. Their good memories are another reason why parrots can recall such large vocabularies.

Learn Languages and Dialects

Wild parrots develop unique calls or dialects that they use to communicate with other parrots. Whenever they change groups, they change their calls, enabling them to find each other.

They also learn the flock’s language, which is how they communicate. Captive parrots assign these calls to their owners, regarding them as part of their flock.

Display Emotions

Like dogs, parrots show jealousy and can recognize the bonds they share with humans.

Parrots can display feelings and emotions, such as:

  • Happiness
  • Excitement
  • Boredom
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Aggression
  • Grief

While they don’t show their emotions the same way as dogs, they do so by singing, dancing, purring, chattering, ruffing their feathers, and pinning their eyes.

Puzzle Solving Skills

Parrots can solve puzzles because they understand how they work.

They can unlock puzzle boxes, navigate games, and play games. Some parrots even break out of their cages after working out how the lock system works.

How Do Dogs Show Intelligence?

Dogs are also yet to pass the animal test. However, as mentioned, dogs are more intelligent than many people realize.

Dogs are clever enough to exhibit the following behaviors:

Read Human Cues

According to Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, researchers discovered that dogs are better at reading human social and communicative behavior than primates. They use human communicative gestures, such as finger-pointing, to find hidden food.

A researcher set two cups down on the ground and pointed to the one hiding the treat. Unlike dogs, chimps and babies couldn’t understand this as a cue and investigated the first cup they encountered.

are parrots smarter than dogs?

Learn Words

A study by Behavioral Processes found that dogs can remember around 1,000 words with training.

A border collie named Chaser learned the names of 1,022 different toys and retrieved the correct toy when asked 95% of the time. On average, dogs within the top 20% of intelligence can learn about 250 words.

Process Speech

According to Current Biology, dogs can process the tone of their owners’ speech and the words they say.

Human and parrot brains process language through the left hemisphere. The right hemisphere processes emotion and tone. When sounds enter the right ear, they’re directed to the left hemisphere. The same applies to the other side.

Dogs’ brain works similarly. When researchers gave commands that the dogs were familiar with, their heads turned to the right. When researchers played commands in a language they hadn’t heard before, they turned to the left.

Feel Jealousy

According to PLOS One, researchers found that dogs feel jealous when their owners display affectionate behavior toward other dogs. Jealous behaviors include:

  • Snapping
  • Getting between the owner and the object
  • Pushing and touching either the object or owner

This suggests some form of jealousy exists within dogs, particularly those that are bonded with their owners.

Even though it’s hard to determine whether parrots are as smart as dogs, it’s fair to say that both animals are intelligent in their own right.

Parrots are better mimickers and puzzle solvers, whereas dogs can be trained as military and police dogs. They’re also able to understand commands and words. Even though parrots can speak, they don’t always gain a contextual awareness of words.