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Doggy Brainpower: How Smart Is Fido?

March 1 2024

Some of our canine companions are incredibly intelligent. A typical dog can pick up more than 100 phrases and movements. Some can learn up to 250, or even more!  To be more precise, Fido has an IQ around the same as a human toddler! Below, a local Rancho Santa Fe, CA vet explores this intriguing subject.

How Is Canine Intelligence Measured?

Stanley Coren, PhD, delved into this in his 1994 book The Intelligence of Dogs. 

How well a dog does the tasks for which it was specifically bred is determined by its Instinctive Intelligence. The Border Collie’s tendency to “herd” his human family members is one example of this. (This breed’s original purpose was to help herd cattle.)

The ability of a dog’s brain to adapt to its surroundings is known as Adaptive Intelligence. This is something that might be relevant for many working dogs, including canines that assist the visually handicapped. For example, Fido might defy orders to lead his human across a street if there is an approaching car.

A dog’s level of Working Obedience indicates how diligently he will try to meet your needs. For example, almost 95% of the time, the most intelligent breeds correctly carried out the given order the first time around.

We’re Still Learning About Doggy Intellects

The journal Scientific Reports published an intriguing study out of Helsinki in 2022.

Between 2016 and 2022, researchers examined more than 2,350 puppies. Both purebred and mixed-breed dogs were among the canines studied. A battery of tests, appropriately called the smartDOG test battery, was administered to each of them. The tests evaluated several aspects of canine intelligence. 

When it came to breeds in particular, many of the findings were predictable. For example, a herding dog, the Malinois, responded well to hand signals, which is to be expected. However, it some of the outcomes were unexpected. The Labrador Retriever, for example, despite its reputation as an exceptionally bright dog breed, performed poorly. (Still a wonderful dog, though.)

How Do I Know If My Pooch Is Intelligent?

There are a number of strategies you can use to evaluate your puppy.

New Tricks: Before you even think of teaching your dog tricks, be sure he or she understands the basics of obedience. That said, keep track of how long it takes your four-legged friend to learn new things when you’re training him.

Word Play: When you call your pooch, do you typically use a specific vocal tone? Continue speaking in the same manner, but say something different. Any term will do. In a way, the more random, the better. Fido is likely rather perceptive if he pays little attention to what you’re saying if you say “Dairy products ” or “Zucchini!” but perks up at the sound of his own name.

Paw Buttons: These may turn out to be a game changer! Give them a try, and see how Fido does. 

Another great approach to see how smart your dog is is to give him puzzle toys. Give Fido a treat that he can only get by manipulating the toy in a specific way. Another option is to conceal food beneath a cup. Mental stimulation is just as important for cats, and providing them with an enriching environment, such as a catio, can help keep them mentally sharp. Learn more about creating a stimulating outdoor space for your feline friend in our article “Meow This: A Rancho Santa Fe, CA Veterinarian Discusses Catios“.

Of course, there are times when it’s easy to figure out that your puppy isn’t the brightest bulb in the box. But don’t worry. Even if your cute pet isn’t a furry, four-legged intellectual, his charming personality and unwavering loyalty will more than compensate!

Which Dog Is Considered To Be Smartest?

Breed certainly influences Fido’s IQ. There have been many tests and studies done on this. While there may be some variation or changes in order, generally speaking, the same puppies keep coming out on top.

Here they are! 

  • 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 

What Are The World’s Dumbest Dogs?

Before we even begin to discuss this one, let us make it clear: we adore every single one of our canine patients. Not every dog needs to know how to fetch certain items or follow sophisticated commands!

Just in case you were curious, we also have a list of the dog breeds with the lowest IQs.

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

Naturally, these puppies are still Very Good Boys, who, like any other dog, deserve praise, affection, and belly rubs.

That said, if your canine friend is on this list, or just isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed in general, be extra careful with petproofing, and perhaps consider some additional safety measures. Ask your Rancho Santa Fe, CA vet for information.

How Smart Are Most Dogs?

Despite the fact that we can’t really administer written exams to Fido, researchers have done a lot of work in this area. Research shows that most dogs have an IQ of around 100!

Who Are The Smartest Pups In The World?

We’ve already done a separate list of the smartest breeds, so this time around we’ll focus on a few very bright puppies.

At the very top of the ranking are two Border Collies. Chaser is up first. Amazingly, this puppy picked up the names of almost a thousand different things! Wofford College included the cute puppy in a training program. Rico, another Border Collie, was creating waves for his intellect before Chaser sprang onto the scene. Rico was a master of more than two hundred words!

Of course, both Chaser and Rico are playing second and third fiddle, respectively, to another animal. You won’t believe this, but a little bird might actually be the brightest animal ever! A Budgie named Puck picked up more than 1700 words.

Rico and Chaser aren’t the only two dogs with impressive intelligence. Check out these other “pawesome” puppies:

Colonel: The owner of the Merchants’ Hotel, Charles Kestler, had this Denver dog.  Kestler stashed Colonel’s favorite ball in his desk drawer. When no one took the hint, the determined Colonel decided to open the drawer by himself. This involved crawling under and behind the desk, standing on his hind legs, and pushing it open!

Fellow: Even as a young puppy, this German Shepherd captured the heart of owner Jacob Herbert. Herbert was so impressed by the puppy’s intelligence that he taught the pooch to obey highly precise commands, including “Jump Over the Sofa” and “Go Into The Back Room.”

Gander: This young dog garnered a stellar reputation for being courageous and smart. Known for his assistance to Canadian troops in WWII, Gander rose to fame on the battlefield. Hailing from St. John’s, Newfoundland, the brave was known for his bravery in charging the adversary again and again. The heroic dog went so far as to rescue his soldier companions by snatching up a live grenade and bringing it away from them. He actually gave his life to protect them!

Our Advice on How Smart Is Fido in 2024

How does a dog’s environment and upbringing influence their intellectual development?

A dog’s environment and upbringing play crucial roles in their intellectual development. Stimulating environments with plenty of mental and physical activities enhance cognitive abilities. Regular interaction, training, and socialization foster problem-solving skills and adaptability. Positive reinforcement techniques during training encourage learning and retention of commands and tricks. Conversely, a lack of stimulation, socialization, or training can hinder intellectual growth, leading to behavioral issues and lower problem-solving abilities. Providing a nurturing, engaging, and enriched environment is essential for maximizing a dog’s cognitive potential and overall well-being.

Are there any cognitive tests or assessments that veterinarians or animal behaviorists use to evaluate a dog’s intelligence level?

Veterinarians and animal behaviorists often use various cognitive tests and assessments to evaluate a dog’s intelligence. One well-known method is the smartDOG test battery, which measures different aspects of canine intelligence, such as problem-solving skills, memory, and adaptability. These tests might include tasks like puzzle toys, navigating mazes, and following hand signals. Observing a dog’s ability to learn new commands and perform specific tasks also provides insights into their cognitive abilities. Such assessments help tailor training and enrichment activities to enhance the dog’s mental development and overall well-being.

How does a dog’s intelligence level affect their ability to learn and respond to different types of training?

A dog’s intelligence level significantly impacts their ability to learn and respond to different types of training. Highly intelligent dogs, like Border Collies and Poodles, quickly grasp new commands and tasks, often requiring fewer repetitions. They excel in complex activities and advanced training, such as agility and obedience competitions. However, intelligent dogs also need consistent mental stimulation to prevent boredom and destructive behavior. Conversely, dogs with lower intelligence may take longer to learn commands and require more patience and repetition. Tailoring training methods to a dog’s cognitive abilities ensures effective learning and a well-adjusted pet.

Are there any studies that have compared the intelligence of different dog breeds to other animal species?

Yes, studies have compared the intelligence of different dog breeds to other animal species. Research by Stanley Coren and others has shown that dogs, particularly intelligent breeds like Border Collies, Poodles, and German Shepherds, possess cognitive abilities comparable to those of young human children. Studies have also highlighted the remarkable problem-solving skills of some dog breeds, placing them on par with certain primates and birds like parrots and ravens. For instance, a Border Collie named Chaser learned over 1,000 words, showcasing canine intelligence in relation to other highly intelligent animals.

How do factors such as age, diet, and exercise impact a dog’s cognitive function over time?

Factors such as age, diet, and exercise significantly impact a dog’s cognitive function over time. As dogs age, cognitive decline can occur, similar to humans. A balanced diet rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and essential nutrients supports brain health and can slow cognitive aging. Regular physical exercise and mental stimulation through training, puzzles, and interactive play help maintain and enhance cognitive abilities. Keeping dogs mentally and physically active promotes overall brain health, reduces the risk of cognitive dysfunction, and improves quality of life as they age.

Make An Appointment At Your Rancho Santa Fe, CA Animal Clinic

Do you have questions about your dog’s health or care? Please feel free to contact us anytime. As your local Rancho Santa Fe, CA animal clinic, we offer a wide range of Veterinary Services to keep your furry friend healthy and happy. We are here to help!

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