Category Archives: intelligence

Just How Smart is a Border Collie?

By Linda Cole

Border Collies are considered one of the smartest dog breeds around. They excel at herding sheep and can learn voice commands, follow directions from a whistle or hand signals, and can understand more words than most dogs. Border Collies are smart, but just how smart are they?

The Border Collie sits at the top of the list of most intelligent dog breeds, and some people believe they are the smartest dog in the world. This is a dog who will keep his owner on their toes, especially if they don’t research the breed before getting one. Border Collies require a lot of exercise, and need to do a job to stay out of trouble. A bored Border Collie is capable of almost anything, because he will find something to do to entertain himself.

This is a dog breed that never stops thinking and has the ability to stay one step ahead of his owner. You can practically see the wheels turning in his head as he searches his environment and notices everything going on around him. If you take the time, this dog can learn almost anything you want to teach him and he thrives on learning. A Border Collie needs plenty of mental stimulation and physical exercise to keep his mind and body in good shape. Just be careful what you do teach him, because he won’t easily forget and he may use his intelligence to teach himself things you don’t want him to learn.

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The Three Types of Dog Intelligence

By Linda Cole

Most dog owners have some idea how smart their dog is. Every dog can learn basic commands as long as we make the commitment to teach them. Most dogs also know at least one trick you can show off to guests. However, some dogs take a little longer to learn, which can try an owner’s patience. And sometimes, a dog just doesn’t seem to get what an owner is trying to teach. Scientists and animal behaviorists have been studying dogs for many years, and have come up with three types of dog intelligence. One type of learning is a specific kind each dog breed has that helps them learn according to who they are and what their breed characteristics are.

Dog intelligence is defined as the ability to learn, think and problem solve. It’s easy to come up with a list of the smartest dogs, but in order to determine a dog’s intelligence, how quickly they learn is just one part of the equation. A specific breed’s characteristics and what they were bred to do plays a large role in their intelligence, and understanding this makes training a dog easier. Intelligence shouldn’t be confused with stubbornness though, and hard-to-train dogs need a consistent owner with plenty of patience and understanding along with a firm, yet gentle hand.

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How Smart is Your Dog?


By Linda Cole

We like to think our dogs are the smartest and cutest dogs around. Some breeds are more intelligent than other breeds, but they aren’t necessarily good with children or even other pets in the home. Responsible pet owners choose a dog based not on intelligence but how well they fit with their specific lifestyle and living quarters. Still, if you’ve ever wondered how smart your dog really is, reading on for a few ways to test his intelligence.

There are three types of intelligence in dogs: adoptive (problem solving), obedience (how well they learn commands) and instinctive intelligence (inherited or genetic behavior). IQ tests to determine a dog’s intelligence are used to measure their adoptive intelligence. All dogs can learn basic commands, although some may learn slower than others. A motivated dog is eager to learn, and a persistent dog is also a good sign of intelligence.

If your dog doesn’t perform well for all of the following tests, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not smart. He may need better motivation, or a rest. Make sure to have his favorite CANIDAE dog treats on hand.

The towel test. Have your dog sit in front of you and carefully place a towel over his head. Count how many seconds it takes for him to remove the towel. The faster he gets it off, the more points he gets. Score 3 points for less than 15 seconds, 2 points for 15-30 seconds and 1 point for 30 seconds or more.

Hidden treat test. How smart is your dog? Can he find a treat hidden under a can? Take three cans and place his favorite treat under one while he’s watching. Turn him around a few times and then let him find the treat. If he picks the right can the first time, he gets 3 points, two tries gets 2 points and 1 point for getting it on the third try.

Find your favorite spot test. Take your dog out of the room and rearrange the furniture. Score him by how long it takes for him to find his favorite spot. He gets 3 points if he goes right to his spot, 2 points if he has to look around for more than 30 seconds and 1 point if he just picks any spot.

Let’s go for a walk test. Pick a time you don’t usually go for a walk. With your dog watching, do what you usually do when getting ready to go for a walk. If he responds immediately when you pick up his leash and gets excited, give him 3 points, if you had to walk to the door before he gets the clue, give him 2 points, and if he doesn’t respond, 1 point.

Chair puzzle test. This one is designed to see how smart your dog is at problem solving by making him work to get a treat. Place a treat under a chair or table that sits low enough that he will have to use his paws to get the treat. If he gets the treat out in a minute or less, he gets 3 points, if he has to use his paw and his nose, only 2 points, and if you have to get it out for him, 1 point.

Go around a barrier. Using cardboard, make a barrier five feet wide and taller than your dog when he’s standing on two legs. Cut an opening in the middle of the cardboard going from the top to the bottom, but only large enough for your dog to see through. Toss a treat on the other side of the barrier. If your dog walks around the barrier in 30 seconds or less, 3 points, 30 seconds to a minute scores 2 points and if he tries to get through the hole in the middle or doesn’t respond, 1 point.

Scoring:

16 points or more – your dog is a genius
13 to 16 points – above average
9 to 12 points – average
5 to 8 points – below average

IQ tests only measure how smart your dog is at problem solving. The above tests are standard IQ tests you can make into a game while testing your dog. Don’t try doing all of them at the same time if he doesn’t seem interested in the game you want to play. To truly measure your dog’s intelligence, take his entire learning ability into consideration. Some dogs respond to commands better than others , and some have superior instinctive intelligence.

Regardless of how the score turns out, you know your dog best – and his loyalty and love can’t be measured by a few tests. How smart is your dog? With the right kind of motivation and patience, he just might surprise you.

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Can Dogs Think On Their Own?


By Linda Cole

We teach dogs how to do tricks, retrieve things, herd sheep, flush out birds and wrangle geese. Dogs learn how to lead the blind, assist the disabled so they can live in a home environment, and use their incredible noses to find those who are lost. We know dogs can be taught, but can dogs think on their own?

Research has shown that dogs have the mental capacity of a 2 to 2-1/2 year old. We know dogs understand up to 165 words. They also understand the body language we use along with our words. Compared to 100 different breeds of dogs, the Border Collie tops the list in intelligence, followed by Poodles and German Shepherds. The Afghan Hound sits at the bottom along with the rest of the hound group, but where do dogs who aren’t purebreds fall? Regardless of whether a dog is purebred or mixed, if dogs have the intelligence of a 2 year old, it’s reasonable to believe dogs think.

Ethologist (scientists who study animal behavior in their natural habitats) can rank different species according to how they survive in and react to their environment, if they use tools, or can figure out how to overcome a specific problem in order to obtain food. Chimps and parrots are at the top of the list. Both species have learned our language and communicate with us verbally or with sign language, but other animals and birds have reacted to situations showing their ability to think. Ravens have learned how to pull a piece of string up to retrieve meat at the end of it. Otters use rocks to break into clams, their favorite food.

Trying to determine how dogs think is more complicated because they are not studied in the wild. A wolf pack is the closest cousin we can compare dogs to, but dogs aren’t wolves. A dog’s natural habitat is someone’s home or backyard. Ethologists have a difficult time trying to determine dog intelligence for that reason, and they know far more about other animals than they do about dogs. The emotional bond we share with our dogs creates conditions that make it challenging to accurately test how smart dogs are.

Years ago I had a male dog, Bear, and female, Mindy. They were siblings, a Collie/Shepherd/Irish Setter/Great Dane mix. My dog pen is behind my house with inclines outside a 5-foot fence on the east and west sides. Bear and Mindy invented a game they loved to play. My office window and kitchen window overlook the pen. One day, I glanced out the kitchen window and saw them on the outside of the pen. Frantic to get outside before they ran away, I raced out the front door and ran to the side yard. The dogs were gone. I tore back inside to get their leashes, preparing for an afternoon or longer searching for them. Bear and Mindy were waiting in the basement.

Relieved, but confused, I opened the door and put them back outside. Back in the kitchen, I could hear them running around the pen and went to the window to watch them. They ran around the pen 4 or 5 times and then, as if on cue, looked at each other and jumped the fence in one bound, turned around and jumped back into the pen. They reversed direction, ran a couple of circles before jumping the fence onto the hill on the other side of the pen, then jumped back inside. They continued running and jumping the fence a few more times before tiring of the game. Bear walked over to the back door, took the door knob in his mouth and turned it, holding the door open for Mindy to walk through. Mindy stopped long enough to allow Bear to move in front of the door so he too could enter the basement. My confusion about how they had gotten into the house had been answered.

Can I equate Bear and Mindy’s actions with dogs thinking? They noticed the ground was higher in those two sections of the back yard. To me they demonstrated a certain amount of reasoning by synchronizing their jumps and inventing their entertainment which appeared to have been thought about beforehand. I didn’t teach Bear how to open the door. He taught himself, and to me that proves dogs think.

Scientists haven’t been able to definitively conclude whether dogs actually think; however, if you own a dog, you don’t need anyone to tell you how smart your dog is. Observant dog owners see every day how their pet reacts to their environment. I’m constantly amazed at what my dogs come up with. To me, dogs do think, and it’s time we gave them credit for it.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Are Cats Smart? Smarter Than Dogs Even?


By Julia Williams

I can hear the dog owners scoffing and the cat owners saying, “Heck yeah!” I’m not really going to get into this age-old debate. For starters, I don’t believe there has ever been a scientific study which clearly proves either species is more intelligent than the other. Dogs and cats are both smart, in different ways. Furthermore, any study done is negated in my eyes by the fact that they are measuring intelligence in terms of what “humans” would do or are capable of. As I see it, you simply can’t measure the intellect of a dog or cat through human means.

Animal behaviorist, cat owner and cat expert Randall Lockwood said it best: “A cat is very smart at being a cat. Does it better than anybody.” If you asked a cat to write an 80-page thesis on nuclear fusion or the synthesis of carbon nanotubes, he would seem pretty dim-witted, wouldn’t he? But if your cat asked you to go out and catch a gopher with your bare hands, without getting so much as a scratch on you, you wouldn’t seem so bright either.

Dog owners often claim that because their canine companion learns commands and tricks much quicker than cats do, this translates to a higher degree of intelligence. However, what they fail to take into account is that dogs are pack animals with a strong desire to please the “top dog,” which coincidentally happens to be the human doing the teaching.

Cats, on the other hand, are inherently solitary creatures that are motivated more by the need to survive than to please. Moreover, felines have survived thousands of years in radically different environments and living conditions, which demonstrates just how crafty and adaptable they are. If we measured an animal’s intelligence solely by the ability to be self-reliant and resourceful, then cats would clearly be smarter than dogs.

Cats are smarter than dogs at cleaning themselves and covering their own waste. But dogs are smarter than cats at understanding “cause and effect” and memorizing commands. Then too, dogs will “protect and serve” but cats rarely work for anyone other than themselves. Cats almost never eat garbage or rotten food, but most dogs will wolf it down and suffer the gastric consequences. But perhaps the most compelling argument in the “cats are smarter than dogs” debate is that dogs are trained by humans, whereas cats train humans to do their bidding. Or, as the saying goes: “Dogs have masters, cats have staff.”

I hope you know that all of this is meant in fun. I’m not championing the intelligence of cats over dogs or vice versa. In the end, I think what it comes down to is this: some cats are smarter than dogs, some dogs are smarter than cats, and all of them are far more intelligent than any human can possibly comprehend. Further, cats and dogs all have the ability to make us laugh with their antics, and to make us want to be close to them every day. That means far more to me than any measure of intelligence.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.