Dogs have mental abilities resembling a two-year-old child, according to a University of British Columbia expert.

Stanley Coren, a psychology professor, said most dogs understand about 165 words and gestures.

The “Superdogs,” or dogs that represent the top 20 per cent of the canine intelligence community, can recognize about 250. Those dogs have the same level of intelligence of a 2½-year-old child, he said.

Coren told the American Psychological Association convention in Toronto this weekend that psychologists have been taking tests that were designed for testing very young children with a limited verbal capacity and modifying them for dogs.

“The neat thing is it gives you not only an estimate to whether dogs have that particular mental ability, but also you begin to get age equivalents.”

In 10 years, researchers have determined that dogs can understand simple math by evaluating their confusion after the dogs watched a specific number of treats get dropped behind a screen, but the actual number revealed contained more or less than expected.

Dogs also have a sense of fairness, said Coren. He explained that when researchers had two dogs perform simple tasks but only rewarded one, the unrewarded dog lost interest in participating.