Category Archives: intelligence

Which is Smarter, Cats or Dogs?

By Linda Cole

Intelligence in dogs can be subjective because of the different jobs they were bred to do. The Bloodhound ranks at the bottom of the intelligence list, but that doesn’t mean he’s dumb. When it comes to finding a scent and following it, there’s no other breed that can top the tracking ability of the Bloodhound. Dogs and cats have different innate skills that set them apart from each other, too. According to scientists, there is a difference in their level of intelligence. But does that mean one species is really smarter than the other?

I’m not a fan of labels, like smartest or dumbest, to describe animals or people. Everyone is good at something, and we develop needed skills that allow us to be successful. A science whiz can carefully analyze statistics from a study, but may freeze in fear when presenting it to a group of peers. A chef can create an exquisite meal that melts in your mouth, but can’t fix the broken freezer in his kitchen. Cats and dogs use smarts they were born with as well as learned intelligence to process information they need to survive.

Cats do have smaller brains than dogs, but a smaller brain doesn’t necessarily translate into being “not as smart.” If you’ve ever watched a cat stalking a mouse, you see a disciplined and patient hunter that knows the exact moment to attack. The cat may not realize the mouse is food, but instinctively understands the process required to be an efficient hunter. A dog is more apt to race around chasing the poor mouse until it collapses from exhaustion.

The danger to cats is when people believe felines are such good hunters that they can take care of themselves. Kittens that were never taught by their mother to hunt, kill and eat are capable of catching prey, but won’t learn an important life lesson of survival. Lost cats have to learn that lesson on their own if they are going to survive.

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Is My Dog Dumb?

By Langley Cornwell

Of course I’m not asking that question about my dogs; they are perfect. (Ha!). There is a certain dog I’m acquainted with, however, that doesn’t seem to be progressing as quickly as other dogs in a training class we, um, somebody I know is in. This person tells me that her dog is not motivated by treats or affection and is all but impossible to train.

So I went to my most reliable sources – my animal-crazed friends – for feedback about how their dogs stacked up on the intelligence meter.

Heather said her family tried and tried to get their dog, Toby, to roll over on command, but he would just roll over onto his back. She says it was frustrating trying to get him to roll completely over. Finally, thinking he just wasn’t going to “get it,” they started rubbing his belly every time he “rolled over” onto his back.

According to Unleash Magazine, Heather’s dog isn’t dumb; her anecdote is an example of “profitable misbehavior.” Dogs do what works for them. For instance, if jumping on you makes you speak to, touch, or even look at your dog, he’s getting a payoff. Jumping on you is getting him the attention he wants. In cases like this, even if you are scolding your dog or pushing him off of you, he’s still getting what he wants: attention. This response can make dogs seem unwilling or unable to learn, but the issue is with the human who is unwittingly reinforcing undesired behavior.

Another reason people may think their dog is dumb is because he does not respond to them, perhaps due to lack of early human interaction. If I was to take a guess, I would say this is the core issue with our dog er, my friend’s dog because the dog spent his first year and a half in the shelter system and likely did not get enough time with humans. If a dog doesn’t experience enough human interaction during his formative years, he hasn’t learned that humans are relevant and that our words and actions should matter to him.

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What’s the Smartest Thing Your Dog Has Ever Done?

Jo’s “Smart Dog” Sadie

By Langley Cornwell

Pet people love to brag about their pets, and we love to read about them. So I asked this simple question: What’s the smartest thing your dog has ever done? I got loads of fun and interesting answers.

A common theme among the answers I received was “dogs trying to outsmart their humans or the other pets in the home.” Laura’s Dalmatian Sparky hated to be cold. If he was outside and wanted in, he rang the doorbell. If she didn’t answer right away, he kept ringing. He wore out several doorbells with his big paws! When she looked out, she’d see him standing up, looking back in the window chattering his teeth as if he was freezing to death. The family caught on to his act when one summer day he decided he wanted in and started ringing the doorbell. When they looked out, he was chattering his teeth – but it was 95 degrees outside!

Deborah’s dog is rebelling because he’s on a “diet.” The other day, when no one was home, he got into the box of dog treats. He hid them all around the house, in different rooms. He knew he’d get in trouble for spilling the box, so he hid each treat individually and genuinely thought he wouldn’t get caught going back to snack on those treats later on. This smart pooch also uses a bell at the door when he needs to go outside.

Jo’s Bichon Sadie will stare at her brother (a rat terrier of limited intellect) to try to get him to move from a spot she wants to occupy. If he ignores her, she runs to the front window and barks. Since terriers must guard and protect, the rat is easily lured to the window, at which time Sadie runs to claim the spot she initially coveted.

Sangay volunteers at a wolf and wolf dog rescue, and there is a pair of low ranking omegas who learned to separate other dogs and people from their treasures. Ex: One will pester the eating alpha male. When the alpha gets up to chase the pest away the other steals the prize and they both meet up (far away) to enjoy it.

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Can Dogs Really Understand Our Words?

By Linda Cole

Anyone who has lived and interacted with dogs knows how closely they pay attention to our words. I’ve even been known to spell out my intentions in an attempt to keep my dogs from knowing what I’m saying so they don’t get overly excited. In reality, I’m the one being fooled, and can attest that my dogs have mastered the spelling of certain words. There’s no question in my mind that dogs comprehend a lot more than they are given credit for, and can understand our spoken words and even some spelled words.

The Border Collie holds the top spot when it comes to the most intelligent dog breed, so it was no surprise that Chaser, a female Border Collie, was crowned the smartest dog in the world in 2010. Within a three year period, she learned the names of 1,022 different toys, and even learned how to correctly categorize them.

Understanding words and vocalizing, of course, are two different abilities. Dog owners learn how to read their dog’s body language and recognize their dog’s unique yips, yaps, whines and barks. We can communicate with our best friend with or without the use of words.

Dogs learn language skills from us when we repeat and reinforce what we say to them. That’s all training is – telling your dog what you want, and then reinforcing his compliance with a tasty treat, like soft and chewy CANIDAE TidNips™ or crunchy Snap-Bits™. Some breeds are more stubborn than others, which require his owner to be even more dedicated and consistent when it comes to teaching basic commands. However, after living with multiple purebred and mixed breeds dogs, I am convinced dogs do have an innate ability to learn. We just need how to learn to focus on motivating them so they are interested in learning.

Chaser’s owners Alliston Reid and John Pilley, who are also researchers, conducted a study with their dog at Wofford College. The study showed that their dog had the same vocabulary skill as a three year old child. Their research also concluded that dogs have the ability to learn and develop a more extensive understanding of words than was once believed. They even believe the study proves our canine friends can learn words for specific objects and put them into categories according to shape and function. Chaser was also able to pick out a new object in a group of familiar ones by using reason. She knows proper names and remembered the names of toys better than they did. Reid and Pilley believe Chaser is capable of learning even more words if they take the time to teach her.

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What is the Smartest Cat Breed?

By Langley Cornwell

It’s easier to measure a dog’s intelligence than a cat’s intelligence. I hope that statement doesn’t raise my cat-loving friends’ ire, but think about it: how do we measure a dog’s intelligence? Usually by noting how well a dog interacts with humans. How long it takes us to train a dog to learn what we want him to is another intelligence gauge. Same for cats. We rank a cat’s intelligence based on the interest he has in interacting with us and doing what we want him to do. Because this is the most common way of determining smart cat breeds, the breeds that are known to be more comfortable interacting with humans are often considered the smartest.

Are breeds that are commonly social, curious and active really more intelligent, or are we measuring them with an anthropomorphic prejudice?

Because cats use their acumen to solve problems relevant to cats (and not to humans), accurately measuring their intelligence or determining which breed is the smartest is difficult. We can train cats to perform simple tricks, using standard cat-training techniques coupled with healthy treats like FELIDAE TidNips. Still, humans may think some cat breeds are unable to learn on their own, but usually it’s just that the subject matter doesn’t interest the cat. Moreover, cats aren’t known to be good research subjects because, as most cat guardians know, they are not particularly cooperative. This fact makes measuring a cat’s problem-solving abilities nearly impossible.

Even so, Animal Planet took a stab at ranking the intelligence of most of the well-known cat breeds, giving each a score from one to 10. Of course, because it’s so hard to rank the intelligence of cat breeds, their data is subjective. And just like humans, there are substantial variations within a breed. Some cats are smarter than others within a breed. Those of you who have lived with more than one cat in the same house can attest to this.

Animal Planet’s Smartest Cat Breeds 

The only cat breed to achieve 10 out of 10 was the Sphynx. The list of cat breeds that received a high 9 out of 10 include (in alphabetical order, not order of intelligence):
• Balinese (essentially a long-haired Siamese)
• Bengal (a wild Asian Leopard Cat/domestic cat cross)
• Colourpoint Shorthair (a breed developed from the Siamese, and American and British Shorthairs)
• Havana Brown (a cross of Siamese and black British or American Shorthairs)
• Javanese (an Oriental Shorthair-Balinese cross)
• Oriental (developed from numerous breeds, including the Siamese)
• Siamese (a naturally occurring breed)

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The Easiest Dog Breeds to Train

By Linda Cole

If you’re willing to put in the time and commitment needed to train your dog, any canine can and will learn. However, some breeds are easier to train than others. A dog’s intelligence plays a role in training, but so does a willingness to pay attention so they can learn. Keep in mind, though, each dog is an individual and the ability to learn depends on how committed you are and the method you use to train them. All of the dog breeds on the list below are highly intelligent; it’s their eagerness and ability to learn that makes them among the easiest breeds to train.

The Border Collie, as you may know, is considered at the top of the list in intelligence. He has an eagerness and need to learn as much as he can. A Border Collie’s mind is always going, and he is capable of learning so much more than most owners realize. He loves competition and excels in agility, sheepdog trials, Frisbee competitions and obedience. If you’re looking for a happy, smart and energetic dog, this is a great breed –but only if you know what you’re getting into. Border Collies are for owners who understand the dog’s work ethic and need for lots of exercise which keeps them from developing behavior problems.

The Poodle was bred as a water dog and the traditional cut wasn’t meant to be for show. The purpose of the “Poodle cut” was first done by hunters to help protect the dog’s joints when he was in the water. The hair is left around the joints and specific parts of the body to protect vital organs from the cold water. The Poodle is ranked in the second spot behind the Border Collie in intelligence and does very well in obedience training as well as agility, hunting, tracking, rally, and in the show ring.

The German Shepherd is probably the most versatile working dog of all of the breeds. An athletic, loyal, and powerful dog, the GSD has the heart and intelligence to excel at a variety of jobs. They are used as seeing eye dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs, in search and rescue, mine detection, avalanche rescue, on bomb squads, drug detection, guard dogs, for herding, protection, in police work and for tracking. This dog is also exceptional at agility, Schutzhund, herding, Frisbee, obedience training, flyball and endurance.

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