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The Intelligence of Dogs

March 1, 2024

Ever wondered how smart your dog is? Our canine companions are extremely intelligent. Most of them can learn over 100 words and gestures. Some are capable of learning as many as 250 or more! Fido’s intelligence is about the same as that of a two-year-old child. Below, a local De Pere, WI vet discusses this fascinating subject.

Which Pooch Has The Highest IQ?

Fido’s breed definitely plays a role in his intelligence. There have been a number of studies conducted on this topic, and the same pups consistently top the list.

According the 1994 book The Intelligence of Dogs, written by Stanley Coren, PhD, here are the smartest dogs in the world:

  • 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

Cohen also separated doggy IQ into three distinct categories, as follows:

Instinctive Intelligence is calculated based on what the dog has been bred to do. An example would be the Border Collie, which was bred to herd cattle. As a result, pet Collies often have habit of trying to ‘herd’ their humans.

With Adaptive Intelligence, a dog’s thought processes change based on his environment. This may also apply to working dogs, such as service dogs that assist the visually impaired. Even when instructed to do so, they may refuse to lead their humans across a street if a car is approaching.

Finally, there’s Working Obedience, which describes how a dog will work to please his humans. For example, one study found that the smartest breeds responded to commands the first time 95% of the time. 

What Are the Signs My Dog Is Smart?

Your dog might be pretty smart if he’s figured out how to open the door or lock the cat in the bedroom. That said, there are a few specific ways you can measure your pup’s intelligence.

Word Play: If you usually call your dog in a certain tone, say something else in that same tone. The word can be anything. In fact, the more random, the better. If Fido ignores you when you yell, “spaghetti sauce!” or “pizza party!” but perks up when you say his name, he’s probably pretty bright.

Puzzle Toys: Give Fido a toy he must manipulate or handle in a certain way in order to get his treat. You can also try hiding snacks under a cup to test your pup’s IQ.

New Tricks: If you want to teach your dog some tricks, start with the basic obedience commands first. However, when training your pet, pay close attention to how long it takes him to master something new. This can be a sign of high intelligence.

Having said all this, even if your pet isn’t necessarily the smartest pooch in the neighborhood, he will more than make up for it with his adorable face and unconditional love.

Is There An Average IQ For Dogs?

Scientists have conducted quite a bit of research on canine intelligence. What they’ve discovered is that the average dog has an IQ of about 100. However, it’s important to note that dogs do not think the same way we do, and even the smartest pups do not process information the same way as humans. So, in a sense, this comparison is more like apples to oranges.

Who Are The World’s Smartest Dogs?

We’ve already listed all the smartest breeds. Now let’s shine the spotlight on a couple of smart pups in particular who just so happen to be Border Collies.

First up is Chaser who, as part of a training course at Wofford College, was able to identify over 1000 objects by name.

Prior to Chase making a name for himself, another Border Collie named Rico was also impressing humans with his knowledge of more than 200 words.

Of course, neither Rico nor Chaser could hold a fiddle to the smartest animal in the world. Believe it or not, a Budgie named Puck holds that record, having learned over 1700 words!

There are countless other examples of incredible pups. Just look at the average service dog and you can see how intelligent our canine companions truly are. These amazing pups can perform a variety of tasks, including guiding people around obstacles, retrieving the mail, switching lights on and off and more.

Let’s take a look at a few more ‘pawesome’ pups:

Colonel: This Denver-based doggo belonged to Charles Kestler, proprietor of the Merchants’ Hotel. Colonel’s favorite thing to do was to play with his ball, which Kestler kept in one of the drawers of his desk. Rather than just sit by the desk and hope his master would get the hint, Colonel took matters into his own paws and learned how to open the drawer himself.

Fellow: A man named Jacob Herbert fell in love with this German Shepherd as a young puppy. From the beginning, Herbert was impressed by Fellow’s intelligence, so he trained him to follow very specific commands, such as “jump over the sofa” and “go into the back room”.

Gander: This pup earned his reputation for his intelligence as well as his bravery. Hailing from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Gander became renowned for helping Canadian soldiers during World War II. The incredible pooch even carried a live grenade away from his soldier friends… ultimately sacrificing himself to save them. A true hero!

What Are The World’s Least Intelligent Dogs?

We have to state unequivocally that we love every canine patient we see in our De Pere, WI vet clinic, regardless of their IQ. Not every dog needs to fetch certain items or follow complex commands. That said, in case you were curious as to which dog breeds are considered to be the least intelligent, read on. 

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

It’s important to remember that these breeds are still good dogs who deserve plenty of love, treats, and belly rubs, just like any other pup. It’s also important to note that these pups may be smart in their own way. Nevertheless, with these particular pooches, we would recommend that you take extra precautions when pet-proofing, just in case. Ask your De Pere, WI vet for specific care and safety recommendations.

Learning Curve

Although Cohen’s research remains widely respected, several other studies have been conducted over the years that shed additional light on this topic.

One study in particular was conducted in Helsinki and published in 2022’s Scientific Reports.

Between 2016 and 2022, researchers assessed more than 2350 pooches. The dogs included a mix of purebreds and mutts, all of whom underwent a series of tests aptly referred to as the smartDOG test battery. These tests measured various aspects of canine intelligence such as greeting behavior, activity level, exploratory tendencies, learning abilities, memory retention, inhibition control, problem solving skills, logic, and gesture interpretation. 

While certain breeds performed as expected (such as the Malinois excelling in understanding gestures due to their herding background), there were also some unexpected results. For example, the Labrador Retriever, which is usually considered to be a smart breed, didn’t perform particularly well in these assessments.

Do you have questions or concerns about your dog’s health or care? Don’t hesitate to contact us, your trusted De Pere, WI animal hospital, anytime. We are here to help!

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