Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dogs and intelligence

Border Collies rank high in all
three forms of dog intelligence and
are generally considered the smartest
dogs. They also excel at getting
into mischief. :-) 
Dogs are clever, no doubt about it. Several studies have been made comparing their intelligence to that of children, and some dogs have been tested on over a thousand words, basic math, and grammar. But, when talking about dog intelligence it's important to understand that just like humans, dogs can be smart in different ways.

Humans have different talents and personalities. This goes for dogs too, and when choosing a dog it's important to take the breed into account.

When talking about dog intelligence, there are three main categories:

Instinctive Intelligence

Instinctive intelligence is what a dog is bred to do and what it will do naturally, without special training. These instincts have been honed through generations, and when choosing a dog it's vital to consider the breed's instinctive intelligence.

That means that not all herding dogs have a knack for herding, but the vast majority will herd being trained to do so, whether it's appropriate or not. Not all hunting dogs are great hunters, but many hunting breeds are likely to give chase.

Adaptive Intelligence

Adaptive intelligence is what a dog is able to learn out on its own. Many smart dog breeds teach themselves to open cupboards and drawers, figure out how to turn on a water tap, and similar unexpected things.

Obedience Intelligence

Obedience intelligence refers to what a dog can be taught to do.

How smart is a dog?

The average dog can learn 165 words without too much effort. Smarter breeds can understand around 250 breeds, and the smartest move 1,000. Depending on breed they can count at least up to five, and they understand addition and subtraction.

When discussing dog smarts, most people think of obedience intelligence. This isn't necessarily related to brain power - some breeds are more eager to please humans than others, and they will be easier to train than a breed that might be smarter but cares less about people.

A dog's brain needs to be trained, just like a human's. If a dog is raised in a stimulating environment, it will learn faster and become smarter than a dog raised in boring environment with little attention. New experiences and challenges are vital for dogs as well as humans.

Ask yourself what you want from your dog. Do you want someone who will learn tricks and do what you tell them, someone who can figure things out, someone instinctively specialized in hunting, herding, or guarding, or a combination? It is also important to understand that many of the breeds who score high in all forms of intelligence have a lot of energy and get bored easily.

~ Maria Sadowski ~


  1. Mom enjoys us challenging independent types, she finds the lab, border collie breeds boring as they are way too eager to please.

    1. I bet she does since she has a Kuvasz and you guys ;-) My Border Collies haven't been particularly eager to please, but it probably depends on the individual, lol!

      Thank you for coming over! =D