Smarty Pants: Determining Canine Intelligence

Close-up Studious Dog With Reading GlassesMany astute owners can attest to the fact that dogs are smart. Some perform supportive tasks for humans, and others have the capacity to learn complex tricks.

However, while dogs seem to excel when it comes to I.Q., determining canine intelligence is often shaped by strong opinions about what constitutes “smarter than the average dog.”

Types of Canine Intelligence

One of the reasons animal intelligence is hard to gauge is because our only reference is our understanding of human intelligence. In this regard, intelligence is based on concepts such as problem solving ability and adaptability.

Canine intelligence is often divided into three categories:

  • Adaptive intelligence – This measures how well a dog learns and adapts to day-to-day challenges and needs. It evaluates how quickly a dog can pick up on social cues to reach an individual goal, like bonding with an owner.
  • Instinctive intelligence – This form of intelligence accounts for the innate skills all dogs possess, as well as those enhanced by breed. For example, instinctive intelligence would incorporate a Border collie’s ability to herd (breed specific) and their ability to find their place in a pack (all dogs).
  • Working intelligence – Blending both adaptive and instinctive intelligence, some dogs are able to carry out specific tasks they’ve been selectively bred to perform. Working intelligence is the culmination of qualities that require specific temperaments, abilities, and training.

Is My Dog Smart?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. In addition, most canine I.Q. tests measure skills some dogs were selectively bred to inherit, so the results can be a little skewed.

For example, the American Kennel Club has recorded years of canine intelligence tests, and the following breeds consistently outperform others:

  • Border collie
  • Portuguese water dog
  • Poodle
  • German shepherd
  • Golden retriever
  • Labrador retriever
  • Doberman pinscher

Given that these breeds are often bred for work or sport, the results are unsurprising. But does this make your sweet beagle or pug any less smart?

The Eye of the Beholder

Our definition of canine intelligence is often based on the qualities we wish to see in our pet. For example, a healthy, happy, well-adjusted pup may be your version of a smart dog. On the other hand, breeds with high I.Q.’s (such as Rottweilers) may be more prone to aggressive behavior. After all, each dog is affected by a number of different variables that contribute to temperament and intelligence.

Rather than worry too much about whether your dog is a smart dog, focus on how amazing your pet is and the joy he or she brings to your life. Without a doubt, happy, affectionate dogs are intelligent in their own way and offer all the qualities we adore: loyalty, unbridled enthusiasm, and unconditional love. That’s definitely something to cherish!