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Doggy Intellect: How Smart Are Our Canine Companions?

March 1, 2024

Have you ever wondered how intelligent your dog is? Some of our canine companions are extraordinarily smart. The typical dog can learn more than a hundred words and gestures. Some can learn up to 250, or even more!  In fact, Fido has nearly the same IQ as a two-year-old human toddler! A local Olympia, WA veterinarian discusses this fascinating topic here.

How Do We Measure Intelligence In Dogs?

Stanley Coren, PhD, published The Intelligence of Dogs in 1994. The book included this definitive list. Other studies have been conducted since, and there may be some fluctuation or changes in order, but for the most part, these dogs are at the top of the hill.

Cohen also divided doggie intelligence into three basic categories. First, we have Instinctive Intelligence, which  assesses what the dog was bred by humans to do. An example of this could be the Border Collie’s propensity of ‘herding’ his humans. The breed was created to herd cattle.

Next is Adaptive Intelligence, which describes how a dog’s mental processes evolve in reaction to his surroundings. This could apply to a variety of working dogs, including assistance dogs who work with the visually impaired. They may, for example, refuse to assist their people across a street if a car is approaching, even if told to do so. Working Obedience refers to how hard Fido will work to please you. For example, in one study, the sharpest breeds replied to directions correctly more than 95% of the time.

We’re Still Learning About Fido’s Brain

Cohen’s research is still generally accepted, although various additional investigations have given new light on the subject since then.

One particularly fascinating study from Helsinki was published in the 2022 Scientific Reports.

From 2016 to 2022, researchers tested over 2350 puppies. The dogs were a mixture of purebreds and mutts. They were all subjected to a battery of tests known as the smartDOG test. The tests assessed several aspects of canine intelligence, such as greeting behavior, activity level, exploratory behavior, learning, memory, inhibitory control, problem-solving, reasoning, and gesture interpretation. 

Many of the tests’ outcomes were predictable, particularly for breeds. For example, the Malinois performed well with gestures, as would be expected of a herding dog. Some of the findings were surprising. The Labrador Retriever, for example, despite being regarded as a highly intelligent dog, performed poorly.

How Can I Tell if My Dog is Smart?

Are you wondering about how smart your dog is? If Fido can figure out how to open the door or lock the cat in the bedroom, he must be pretty smart.

Having said that, there are a few methods to put your puppy to the test.

Learning Aptitude: Before you begin to teach tricks to your canine companion, you should absolutely start with fundamental obedience commands. However, when training your pet, keep track of how long it takes him to learn something new.

Language Understanding: Do you normally use a specific tone of voice while calling your dog? Say something different with the same tone. The word might be anything. In some ways, randomness is preferable. If Fido ignores you when you cry ‘Awesomesauce’ or ‘Cowabunga!’ but cheers up when he hears his name, he’s definitely quite clever. 

Puzzle Toys: These are another great method to put your dog’s intelligence to the test. Give Fido a toy that demands him to operate or handle it in a specific way to receive his treat. You might also try hiding nibbles under a cup.

Of course, in other circumstances, it may be easy to recognize that your dog isn’t the sharpest doggie in the neighborhood. Even if your pet isn’t particularly bright, he’ll make up for it with his adorable personality and devoted friendship!

What Is Fido’s Average IQ?

While we cannot offer Fido written tests, scientists have conducted several studies in this area. According to research, the average dog has an intelligence quotient of around 100. However, keep in mind that dogs do not think like humans, and even the most intelligent pups do not absorb information in the same way. In some ways, it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

What Dog Breed Is The Smartest?

Breed undoubtedly influences Fido’s IQ. Several studies and tests have been conducted on this, and the same puppies have consistently ranked at the top of the list.

Here are the most clever 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.

Who Are the World’s Smartest Dogs?

We’ve already identified the brightest breeds, so this time we’ll focus on some brilliant individual puppies.

Two Border Collies are at the top of the list. First, we have Chaser. This remarkable puppy was able to learn to recognize over 1000 objects by name! The cute puppy was part of a training program at Wofford College. Before Chase arrived, Rico, another Border Collie, was making headlines with his intelligence. Rico knew more than 200 words!

While clearly extremely bright, Chaser and Rico may not have been the world’s smartest pets. Believe it or not, the smartest animal on record could be a bird. A Budgie named Puck learned more than 1700 words!

These aren’t the only two dogs with impressive intelligence. There are numerous examples of beautiful puppies. One need just glance at the average service dog to realize that our canine companions are highly intelligent. These incredible canines can perform a variety of jobs, like navigating people past obstacles, delivering mail, and turning off lights.

That being said, here are some more ‘pawesome’ puppies:

Fellow: This German Shepherd captured the heart of Jacob Herbert when he was just a puppy. Herbert was impressed by the dog’s intellect and trained him to follow very specific directions like “Go Into The Back Room” and “Jump Over the Sofa.”

Colonel: This Denver dog belonged to Charles Kestler, the operator of the Merchants’ Hotel.  Colonel’s favorite thing to do was play with his ball, which Kestler kept in his writing desk drawer. Colonel sat beside the desk, but when no one got the hint, he took matters into his own hands and worked out how to open the drawer. This involved going under and behind the desk, standing on his back legs, and forcing the drawer open!

Gander: This puppy is known for both his brains and fearlessness. Gander, who was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, rose to prominence after assisting Canadian soldiers during World War II. He was noted for repeatedly charging at the adversary. The heroic dog picked up a live grenade and carried it away from his soldier pals, eventually sacrificing himself to save them.

What Are The Least Intelligent Dog Breeds?

Okay, before we get into this one, we must state unequivocally that we adore all of our canine patients. Not every dog needs to know how to fetch certain items or follow sophisticated commands!

However, if you’re wondering which dog breeds are the least intellectual, we’ve got that list as well.

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

Of course, these puppies are still excellent boys who deserve treats, attention, and belly rubs just like any other dog. That said, if your canine companion is one of these, we recommend being especially cautious when it comes to petproofing and adopting extra safety steps. Ask your Olympia, WA veterinarians for advice on this. 

Have you got any questions about your dog’s health or care? Please feel free to contact us at any time. As your Olympia, WA local animal clinic, we are here to help!

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