How Smart is Your Dog?

April 11, 2008 at 6:17 pm 4 comments

A Canine Genius?

The CBS “Early Show” recently featured a story about canine intelligence.  They published a list of the top 10 smartest — and dumbest dog breeds.   The list appears to have been taken from Dr. Stanley Coren’s book The Intelligence of Dogs.

Top Ten Dumbest Dogs:

10. Basset Hound
9.   Beagle
8.   Mastiff
7.   Pekingese
6.   Bloodhound
5.   Borzoi
4.   Chow Chow
3.   English Bulldog
2.   Basenji
1.   Afgan

Top Ten Smartest Dogs:

10. Australian Cattle Dog
9.   Rottweiler
8.   Papillon
7.   Labrador Retriever
6.   Shetland Sheepdog
5.   Doberman Pinscher
4.   Golden Retriever
3.   German Shepherd Dog
2.   Standard Poodle
1.   Border Collie

It’s interesting to note that the ‘Smart’ list is full of the biddable working breeds favored by obedience competitors and that the ‘Dumb’ list has a preponderance of independent-minded breeds with exceptionally strong instincts to track or chase.

Some breeds are easier to train — and to live with — than others.  My Kelpie’s intense drive and obsessive compulsive tendenciesfocus would drive most people crazy.  The calm, sweet-natured dog I lost last year to cancer would have been an easy dog for almost anyone to live with.  But – I’m absolutely certain that my darling Kelpie is not the brighter one of the pair.  Like a good Bloodhound or Borzoi, she can become so focused on one aspect of a situation that everything else fades into pointless background noise.  And when that happens I may as well not exist.

If (as I am) you are convinced that CBS’s rankings leave something to be desired, you can now buy a nifty new product to test your dog yourself.  The PoochIQ Kit lets you test your dog’s intelligence and, most importantly, have fun doing it.

The kit includes a testing booklet, scoring key and the dog toys, puzzles and props needed to complete the test.

The price tag ($50) seems a bit hefty to me.  If anyone out there has purchased it, please leave me a comment.  I’d like to find out more about this product before I spend money (it being tax time and all…)

Here’s an interesting video clip of a television reporter testing his producer’s dog with the PoochIQ Kit.

The video provides some interesting clues about how the test is run and makes me wish there was a ‘booklet only’ option.  Since I own a dog training business I have more dog toys, props and related paraphernalia than any sane person needs.  I’d rather not have to buy more stuff I don’t need.

If you’d like to give your dog the relatively short, simple intelligence test designed by Dr. Stanley Coren (author of The Intelligence of Dogs), check out this Australian website.  I just gave the test to my dogs.  It only took about 20 minutes to test the three of them and I had all the equipment I needed on hand.

If you’re interested, young Audie came out as the “genius” of the group with a score of 28 out of 30.  Zip and Zorro were rated are “smart but not ready for Harvard.”

Drop us a comment to let us know how smart your dogs are or take our survey and we’ll publish the results in a week or two.


Entry filed under: dog, dog obedience, dogs, pet, pets. Tags: , , , , .

What Did You Say? The Best Dog Ever

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Caveat  |  April 11, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    Well, you know how I feel about Coren. Or maybe not but let’s say I don’t agree with his self-proclaimed ‘expert’ status.

    Stanley’s book the I of D, was very interesting and I bought it when it first came out.

    His definition of intelligence is not mine. He does explain that he is talking about working/obedience intelligence, which as you say, is biddability. This quality and actual intelligence, which I define as the ability to problem-solve and generalize, are not really related.

    People say Afghan hounds (one of my secret longings is to have one) are ‘stupid’. Not at all. They, like most sighthounds and in fact hounds in general, tend to be (because breed generalizations are specious at best, dangerous at worst) inner directed rather than other-directed, which does not equate with intelligence.

    Just because someone doesn’t leap to satisfy my every whim, it does not mean they have been shortchanged in the brains department – if anything, in my opinion, it illustrates the opposite.

  • 2. SmartDogs  |  April 11, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Yeah. I have a great fondness for the molossor (mastiff) breeds. As a group, they’re certainly not known for eagerly following every command. In my opinion, this is because they have Opinions About Things, not because they are dim.

    OTOH, I believe that my Kelpie, who is a lovely, biddable dog and follows most people’s definition of smart is of average intelligence at best.

  • 3. Amber  |  April 12, 2008 at 12:39 am

    I also see problems with the Coren definition of intelligence. It’s no coincidence that there are so many hounds on the “dumbest” list, considering hounds are bred to work independently. Notice there is not a single sporting dog on that list.

    The Pooch IQ kit doesn’t seem to be a very good indicator, either. Seriously, you’re going to gauge a dog’s intelligence by their interest in a ball? My dogs would flunk. But that doesn’t mean their not smart. You have to take into consideration that the dog won’t “solve” a problem where it doesn’t see one. If I put a ball under a cup, my dog would look at me and say, “Yeah, ok. Good for you. Whatever makes you happy, human.”

  • 4. Miss Cellany  |  January 11, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    If being biddable does not equate to intelligence and they are “not related” then biddability doesn’t equate to lack of intelligence either (otherwise they’d be related i.e. negatively correlated).
    Working/obidience intelligence is one type of intelligence. There are many different types of intelligence – a genius has high ranking in multiple categories.
    Working intelligence can be defined as the ability to learn from someone else – or the ability to be trained. Humans that have high working/obedience intelligence do well at school and may go to university. They are generally thought of as smart people.
    Problem solving ability is another type of intelligence – we could define it as the ability to solve problems alone (without training). Many of the “independent” breeds tend to have high problem solving ability. So do many of the top 10 breeds on the list. It is possible to have high ability in multiple categories of intelligence.
    Therefore: a dog who is trainable and biddable (high working intelligence) is not by definition less able to problem solve or less intelligent overall.
    If someone would test problem solving skill on multiple breeds and then publish the results I’d be very interested to read them but I’d expect many from the top 10 list of working intelligence to place highly on the problem solving tests also. In humans, very intelligent people are usually good in multiple areas of intelligence – so I expect the same to be true of most other animals also (we are all animals after all).

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