People who have dogs as pets know dogs can be clever and find ways to get what they want. You may have also noticed some dogs seem smarter than others. People who have studied the intelligence of dogs say a smart dog has the intelligence of a two to a three-year-old human child and they also say some are smarter than others.
There are also different kinds of intelligence. Some dogs may be smarter than others in certain areas, just as humans may excel in some areas and not in others. Part of that has to do with breeding. If one dog is better at herding, and another better at hunting, that does not mean one is smarter, they just have different strengths.
A Labrador Retriever will learn to fetch a lot faster than many other breeds. Even so, almost any dog can be taught to fetch to some degree. It’s like music. Some people are more gifted and learn it more easily, but anyone can learn.
All dogs seem to have great social cognitive skills, and relate to humans effortlessly. Some experts say that is due to evolution and others say it is socialization from being around humans so much. Either way, it is pretty obvious that dogs have great social awareness. That social awareness is what makes them such great companions. Did what we call dogs just evolve from the wolf family, or did some wolves happen to start hanging out with humans and develop great social skills as a result?
We know dogs are smart in their own way, but just how smart are they as compared to us?
What is the average IQ of a dog?
Dogs have the same IQ as a 2-3-year-old human child. Dogs learn a lot of words we say to them and some obey commands better than others. Dog experts say the average dog can learn 150 words humans say, while the most intelligent might be able to understand 250 words.
Dr. Stanley Cohen, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia, published a book in 2006, ranking the intelligence of dogs. He ranked about 100 dogs according to their obedience intelligence, and his rankings are widely used by people who work with dogs today.
Cohen said there are three aspects to dog intelligence:
- The instinctive ability to do jobs the dog was bred for, such as fetching, hunting, or herding.
- Adaptive intelligence is the dog’s ability to figure something out on his or her own. Some dogs are better at finding a way out of a fenced yard than others.
- Working, or obedience intelligence is a dog’s ability to learn things from humans.
Obedience intelligence is what he studied most. How obedient a dog is, is something that can be objectively measured through tests and observation. The same is not true for other areas of intelligence. He said 51 percent of a dog’s intelligence is from genes, while the rest is from the environment. Socializing with your dog then may have a tremendous impact on how smart it turns out to be as an adult dog.
What dogs have the highest IQ?
Cohen ranked the dogs based on how quickly they learned new commands. How many repetitions did it take until the dog could know what was wanted without prompting?
Cohen ranked dogs in various categories. The smartest ones could obey commands with just five repetitions. The best working dogs can learn new commands in 5-15 repetitions and obey 80 percent of the time. Above-average dogs can learn new commands in 15-25 repetitions and obey 70 percent of the time. The next lower level took 40-80 repetitions to learn something and obeyed 30 percent of the time. The lowest level needed up to 100 repetitions, and only obeyed 25 percent of the time.
According to Cohen’s rankings, here are the most intelligent dogs.
- Border collie
- German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever
- Doberman Pinscher
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Labrador Retriever
- Australian Cattle Dog
What dogs have the lowest IQs?
Cohen ranked 90 breeds of dogs. Here are the ones at the bottom of the group, starting with No. 90.
- Afghan Hound
- English Bulldog
- Chow Chow
- Basset Hound
- Shih Tzu.
The dogs at the lower end of the scale had a hard time learning to obey commands. It took a lot more repetition, and even then, 100 percent obedience was not achievable.
Dr. Cohen measured the dog’s ability to learn new commands, but it is hard to measure other kinds of intelligence. Dogs near the bottom of his list excelled in other areas.
Beagles, for instance, are considered smart by most people, but according to his research, they are one of the least trainable dogs.
While a Beagle is No. 71 on Cohen’s intelligence list, they have one of the best noses among dogs, and dogs have the best noses in the world. Beagles are used to sniff out illegal drugs around the world. They are also great companion dogs even if they don’t learn tricks well.
It’s not that the dogs on the lower end of the scale are “dumb,” it’s just that it takes longer for them to catch on to what you are teaching. They may also forget over time and have to have a refresher class on things like going outside to pee.
Should you get a smart dog?
Dogs are great pets regardless of breed. We all have our favorites and develop a strong relationship with them. We may not care if they are the smartest dog in the pack.
Smart dogs are great at learning tricks. They are also good at picking up on things and learning stuff they should not learn. Have you ever come home to your dog eating the cake that was on the kitchen counter because he found a way to get there?
A Doberman is one of the smartest, but they need activity and will find that activity somehow because they are smart. If you leave a Doberman alone for too long, he will wreck your house.
The same is true for a border collie, the smartest of dogs. They are also very high-energy dogs. If you cannot give them opportunities to burn off some of that energy, they will find another way to do it, like tearing up your couch while you are away.
Dogs are also unique and different, just like people are. You could have a Border Collie that isn’t as smart as your Beagle, for instance. One drawback of smart dogs is that they also figure out what they can get away with, so you have to spend more time teaching them boundaries.
The most important thing is to find a dog that fits your lifestyle. If you are not a very active person, it might be best to get a lower-energy dog that is cool while hanging out on the sofa. If you are an active outdoors-type person, a better dog might be a Labrador Retriever, who likes activity in all kinds of weather.
If you really want a dog that you can teach tricks, a Border Collie might be a great choice. If you want a dog to hang out on the couch with you and be a good companion, a Bassett Hound, or a Shih Tzu might be a better choice.