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The Intelligence Of Dogs

March 1, 2024

How smart is your dog? Some of our canine pals are extremely intelligent. Dogs can learn more than 100 words and gestures on average. Some of them can learn as many as 250 words and gestures, or even more! In fact, Fido’s intelligence is approximately the same as that of a two-year-old human child. That’s pretty impressive! In this article from Hassayampa Veterinary Services, serving Wickenburg and the surrounding communities, a local vet delves into this topic.

What Are The Smartest Dog Breeds?

Various studies and tests have been conducted on this topic, and the same pups always come out on top.

These are the smartest dogs:

  • Border Collie
  • Poodle
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Papillon
  • Rottweiler
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • Belgian Tervuren
  • Schipperke
  • Collie
  • Keeshond
  • German Shorthaired Pointer 

Stanley Coren, PhD, compiled this definitive list in his 1994 book The Intelligence of Dogs. Other studies have been conducted since then, and the order may have changed, but generally these dogs are at the top of the heap.

In addition, Cohen identified three distinct areas of dog intelligence.

Instinctive Intelligence measures what the dog has been bred by humans to do. An example of this might be the Border Collie’s habit of ‘herding’ his humans. This breed was developed to herd cattle.

Adaptive Intelligence is an assessment of a dog’s ability to adapt to their environment. Many working dogs, such as service dogs working with the visually impaired, are evaluated this way. Fido may, for instance, refuse to guide his humans across a street if a car is coming, even when instructed to do so.

Working Obedience describes how hard Fido will work to please you. It also takes into account how quickly dogs follow commands. For instance, in one study, the smartest breeds responded to commands almost 95% of the time the first time. Pups at the lower end of the scale had to be given commands several times.

We’re Still Learning About Doggy Intelligence

In the years since Cohen’s study, several other studies have shed more light on this topic. The journal Scientific Reports published an interesting study from Helsinki in 2022.

From 2016 to 2022, researchers studied the intelligence of a diverse group of puppies, totaling over 2350 furry subjects in all. This group included both purebred and mixed-breed dogs, all of whom participated in a comprehensive assessment called the smartDOG test battery.

This series of evaluations covered multiple aspects of canine cognition, such as social interactions, activity levels, curiosity, learning capabilities, memory retention, self-control, problem-solving abilities, logical reasoning skills, and interpretation of gestures.

Many breeds performed in line with expectations. For example, the Malinois excels in gesture interpretation, which makes sense for a herding dog. There were also some unexpected findings. One such surprise was the Labrador Retriever’s low performance. Despite being commonly regarded as a highly intelligent breed, Fido didn’t do very well. (Still a great dog, though.)

What Are the Signs That My Dog Is Smart?

Wondering how smart your dog is? If Fido can open the door or lock the cat in the room, he’s probably pretty intelligent. That said, there are a couple of ways to find out.

Petucation:  You should teach your pet basic obedience commands before focusing on new tricks. However, when you are training your pet, pay attention to how long it takes for him to learn.

Word Play: When you call your dog, do you usually use a certain tone of voice? If so, say something else in that tone. It can be anything. The more random, the better. If Fido ignores you when you say ‘Mozzarella’ or ‘TV time!’ but perks up when you call his name, you’ve likely got a smart pup on your hands.

Puzzle Toys: Give Fido a toy that requires him to handle it a certain way to get his treat. You can also try hiding snacks under a cup and see how he gets them. This is a good way to test your pet’s doggy IQ.

To be fair, not all of our canine pals are furry geniuses. There is a chance that your dog might not be the sharpest pooch on the block. However, even if he isn’t extraordinarily smart, he’ll make up for it with his adorable face and loyal friendship.

What  Is The Average Dog’s IQ?

We’re unable to give Fido written tests, so this one can be tricky to gauge. However, scientists have done quite a bit of research here. Studies indicate that dogs have an average IQ of about 100.

That said, there are some things to consider. Dogs do not think in the same way as humans. Even the smartest pups do not process information the same way we do. In a way, this is almost like comparing apples to oranges.

What Are The World’s Smartest Pups?

We’ve listed the smartest breeds separately, so we’ll shine the Spotlight on some smart individual pups for this one. 

Two Border Collies–Chaser and Rico– are at the top of that list.

In a training course at Wofford College, Chaser learned how to identify more than 1000 objects by name! Rico was making waves with his intelligence before Chase bounded onto the scene. He knew more than 200 words!

Both Chaser and Rico are playing second and third fiddle, respectively, to another animal; a Budgie named Puck. This feathered fluff ball learned over 1700 words!

These aren’t the only two to make waves with their intelligence. There are countless cases of amazing pups. One only needs to look at the average service dog to realize that our canine friends are quite intelligent. These amazing pups guide their humans around obstacles,  get mail, and even turn lights on and off. That’s just a few of the tasks these intelligent pups perform.

Here are a few more ‘pawesome’ pups:

Fellow: As a puppy, this German Shepherd won the heart of his owner, Jacob Herbert. Herbert trained him to follow very specific commands, such as Jump Over The Sofa and Go Into The Back Room. That Very Good Boy quickly became the talk of the town.

Gander: Born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Gander became famous during World War II for his intelligence and bravery in helping Canadian soldiers. The incredible pooch even picked up and carried a live grenade away from his soldier friends, ultimately sacrificing himself to save them. He was also known for repeatedly charging the enemy.

Colonel: This Denver doggie belonged to Charles Kestler, proprietor of the Merchants’ Hotel. It was Colonel Kestler’s favorite thing to play with his favorite ball, which Kestler kept in his writing desk drawer.  Hoping someone would play with him, Colonel sat by the desk. When no one indulged him, he took matters into his own hands (er, paws) and figured out how to open the drawer, which involved going under the desk and behind it, standing on his back legs, and pushing the drawer open!

What Are The World’s Dumbest Dog Breeds?

Before we go further, we have to state unequivocally that we love all of our canine patients. It doesn’t matter if Fido knows how to fetch specific things or follow complex orders: he’s still a great pet and companion.

That said, we also do have a list of the least intelligent dog breeds.

In case you were wondering, here they are:

  • Basset Hound
  • Mastiff
  • Beagle
  • Pekingese
  • Bloodhound
  • Borzoi
  • Chow Chow
  • Bulldog
  • Basenji
  • Afghan Hound

Obviously, these pooches are very sweet and cute, and they deserve treats, love, and belly rubs. It’s also important to remember that dogs can be intelligent in their own way.

A word to the wise: if your canine buddy isn’t exactly a furry Einstein, we recommend being extra vigilant about petproofing and taking extra safety precautions.

If you have any questions about your dog’s health or care, please do not hesitate to contact us here at Hassayampa Veterinary Services, serving Wickenburg and the surrounding communities. We are here to help!

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