“If you’ve ever wondered whether dogs can count, try hiding three treats in your pocket, and then give your dog two.”
Dog intelligence is something that is often taken for granted, in that many people never consider the overall intelligence of a given breed they’re considering. Recently, Study published in ScienceDirect.com took an in-depth look at the native intelligence of dogs.
That study found that, generally:
1) The structure of cognitive abilities in dogs is similar to that found in people;
2) Dogs that solved problems more quickly were also more accurate;
3) Dogs’ cognitive abilities can be tested quickly, like those of people;
4) Larger individual differences studies on dog cognition could contribute to cognitive epidemiology
It’s been my experience that different breeds do, indeed, have vastly different intelligence levels. Oftentimes, a pet’s natural IQ is indicative of the work they’ve been bred to do.
One of the smartest breeds we know is the German Shepherd Dog. Bred as a herding animal, and now used widely for guard duties and protection, it is one of the most loyal and intelligent dogs. Likewise, is the Chow Chow. Bred in China and Mongolia as a hunting and – later – a royal guard dog, they are incredibly intelligent and uber loyal to their family. Other dogs that we see in the clinic that I would characterize as highly intelligent include:
- Border Collie
- Australian Shepherd
- Most of the terriers, including Yorkies
Other dogs are bred for purposes that do not require the same level of intelligence. Most of my clients know my golden retriever, Ava. Like the Labrador and Chessie, the Golden Retriever was bred as a gun dog, used in the field to retrieve downed waterfowl. The retrievers and pointers have been described as having medium intelligence, and being very trainable. However, their level of intelligence does not rise to the level of those dogs listed above, although the Chesapeake seems to be a notch above the others when it comes to IQ.
Other pets have evolved away from their original intent so far that they no longer show the intelligence that was originally bred into them. Nonetheless, given the right motivation and consistent training, all pets can learn and assimilate knowledge on a scale to make them great pets. The key is persistent and consistent work, and positive reinforcement.