Many pet parents wonder how intelligent their dogs are. Some dogs are capable of search and rescue, while others would rather relax and sit on the couch with their owner. Both dogs are intelligent in their own way, but certain qualities can be measured to test a dog’s smarts. Here are four that I’ve encountered in my work as a Canine Behaviorist; one is much longer than the others—but also my favorite.
1. Dognition and Dr. Brian Hare
There are many different ways to define intelligence. Dr. Brian Hare of Duke University, author of the superb book The Genius of Dogs, has developed an interactive, fun way to test a dog’s intelligence, which is one of the best methods I’ve discovered. It’s also quite involved! You can our read our full review of Dognition here.
In this testing, a dog’s intelligence is based on several factors, including:
Understanding each aspect allows you to fully understand your dog. Some dogs have an excellent memory but low empathy, for instance, and vice versa.
Dr. Brian Hare’s test of intelligence, known as Dognition, incorporates 20 tests that can be performed at home with general household items. Following the completion of the Dogniton evaluation, you are provided with a full report of your dog’s results.
Dr. Hare and his team have developed 9 intelligence profiles for dogs, which are:
- Ace: Ace accounts for 10% of all dogs. Aces are excellent problem-solvers with top-notch communication skills.
- Charmer: The Charmer profile accounts for approximately 16% of all dogs. Charmers have excellent social skills and are able to read your body language effectively.
- Socialite: Socialites are social butterflies with excellent communication skills and account for 22% of all dogs. Socialites may not possess excellent problem-solving skills but they do know how to get what they want.
- Expert: An expert dog has a strong memory with sharp problem-solving skills and account for approximately 7% of all dogs. Expert dogs tend to be more independent and rely less on humans.
- Renaissance Dog: Renaissance dogs are extremely attentive; they account for approximately 12% of all dogs. Renaissance dogs are reliable and possess traits from all of the other categories.
- Protodog: Flexible and spontaneous, protodogs account for approximately 15% of all dogs.
- Einstein: This accounts for approximately 3% of all dogs. Einsteins have an incredible memory and excellent problem-solving skills. Einsteins are essentially the ‘rocket scientists’ of the dog world, but they struggle socially.
- Maverick: Approximately 7% of all dogs are considered “maverick,” or very independent problem solvers.
- Stargazer: Accounts for approximately 8% of all dogs. They are commonly seen as aloof and often struggle both socially and with training.
Other Methods for Testing Dog Intelligence
There are other, shorter methods that also give you insight into your dog’s intelligence. Tests known simply as “getting into trouble,” “number of corrections” and “hide-and-seek” can assist you in learning about your dog’s intelligence.
Getting Into Trouble
This one isn’t so much a test as it is a common sign. Does your dog get into trouble? If so, this indicates intelligence! Smart dogs aren’t satisfied just sleeping all day. They want a job, and they will find “jobs” of their own if left to their own devices. These can include raiding the trash can, pestering the cat, chewing up your shoes, and cracking the baby gate code.
If your dog is getting into trouble when he’s alone, he’s bored and looking for something to keep him mentally stimulated. Puzzle toys are recommended for these dogs, along with plenty of exercise.
Another way to tell if your dog is intelligent is to play hide-and-seek.
- Grab 3 opaque cups,
- show the dog a treat,
- hide the treat under one of the cups,
- and walk around the cups and distract the dog.
Then, let the dog find the treat. If he finds it immediately, his memory is above average.
Number of Corrections
On average, how many times do you have to correct your dog before he understands what you are asking him to do? The average dog requires approximately six corrections to understand.
A dog with a higher level of intelligence will understand after two to three corrections.
I’m a Canine Behaviorist, which means I regularly assess various aspects of dog behavior and intelligence. Of the tests mentioned, the most effective and comprehensive method for testing canine intelligence is Dognition. It allows you to fully understand your dog and determine how to best communicate with each other.
Every dog is unique and intelligent in his own way. If your dog doesn’t have an excellent memory, he still may possess excellent communication skills. I work with many different dogs and have seen that overall intelligence doesn’t necessarily indicate a more successful outcome or bond.
If you do have a very bright canine on your hands, plenty of training is in order!