There are 3 kinds of dog intelligence
Find out where your dog ranks on each! We’ve got the facts about how dog intelligence is measured, plus links to tests or assessments that will help you understand your dog’s unique abilities.
Is a smarter dog a better pet? That depends entirely on what you want out of your dog. Smart dog breeds don’t necessarily make for better dogs, but rather dogs that are either really great at problem solving or good at learning a job. Intelligence doesn’t make him or her any cuter or better-behaved. In fact, a smarter dog is more likely to suffer from boredom—and the unwanted behaviours associated with trying to stay entertained.
- Adaptive Intelligence refers to problem-solving and social awareness (skills like reading facial expressions or recognizing frequent visitors.)
- Instinctive Intelligence refers to inherited traits, such as the instincts to herd or retrieve, or a strong prey drive.
- Working Intelligence refers to obedience and the trainability necessary for high level “dog jobs” like being a guide dog.
Adaptive intelligence is truly the foundation upon which developing a dog’s skills rests. How quickly your dog learns and picks up social cues during training directly affects how easily you can shape his instinctive intelligence into useful skills, and how well he performs a job. This is especially apparent when things get a little complicated, like when your dog is asked to blend multiple commands into a seamless performance. Think Agility or Obedience coursework, or solving a complex problem while doing guide work.
The Adaptive Intelligence Test in Coren’s book consists of six simple timed tests to give you an idea of how quickly your dog figures things out on his own. This test has the greatest bearing on your day-to-day life with your dog.
You probably already have a good sense of your dog’s prey drive, retrieving, or pointing instincts based on your hours of play together. This Personality Profile from “Dog Training for Dummies” gives insight into how to better work with your dog based on his inherent instincts and natural responses.
Doing a Herding instinct test requires a little legwork on your part, mainly finding a local organization with the facilities to issue such tests. Many dogs who are not obvious herd dog breeds will show a talent for and enjoyment of herding. If you do find a club in your area, I recommend going to watch a trial and consider signing your dog up for a test if you think he’d get a kick out of it. You can also learn more about what it takes to get Herding Instinct Certified.
Dogs with a high Working/Obedience Intelligence excel at any job requiring quick learning and the temperament to reliably execute that training. Dogs with high working intelligence make great service dogs and excel in dog agility.
While any dog can enjoy and benefit from obedience or agility training, some breeds have shown over time to be especially bright in this area.
What do you think of the official AKC top ten Obedience dog breeds? What similarities do you see in the top ten and which are a surprise? You can see the full rankings here.
- Border Collie
- German Shepherd Dog
- Golden Retriever
- Doberman Pinscher
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Labrador Retriever
- Australian Cattle Dog