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Kinkajou Profile Kinkajou : Dog Intelligence

Erasmus Profile Erasmus: Many people ask what are the most intelligent dog breeds? A seemingly simple question! But what is intelligence? We have enough trouble defining IQ tests in humans, much less defining these in animals. Too many of the tests we have undertaken in humans show a cultural or social bias, a shared understanding of the way of doing things, not necessarily a true test of problem solving abilities.

One definition of intelligence focuses on the amount of repetition that is required to learn a new skill and the percentage of times that the animal will perform this skill when requested. I.e. Repeat trainings required  to learn and perform a task. But is this really a definition of intelligence? Is it more a definition of memory function?

Dog Intelligence

I think we should look at the tasks from a dog’s point of view. Dogs may have their own idea as to how important, essential, necessary these tasks may be, in their view of the world and their role within it. So a dog may simply have decided – I’m not doing that or I don’t want to do that. Can this then be an appropriate basis for a test of intelligence?


Erasmus Profile Erasmus: If a photocopier had a brain (of sorts), it would likely perform very highly on this type of task. But would this mean that a highly performing photocopy machine was actually intelligent?

Many dogs are bred to perform specific functions, tasks based on their evolutionary roles. Hunting. Guarding and providing security for the young. Retrieving food. These are all roles that we can see nature and evolution has gifted to our doggie friends.

So if the human’s request does not fit well dogs evolutionary based capabilities, a dog is far more likely to ignore him and request, or to insist on doing it their way.

Erasmus Profile Erasmus: Rubbish, I can almost hear some of you say. Well then imagine coming home to find a scene of disaster and mayhem in your house. Why don’t humans drop to the floor like a dog and sniff around to see what they can learn about the situation? It makes sense to dogs – probably to almost all of them, so why not to us?

The answer of course lies in that humans have evolved to perform specific functions derived from their genetically based capabilities. Humans do what makes the most sense to them in terms of their perception of their own capabilities – so why not concede the same point to dogs?

Dog Learning a Trick OK ?


Erasmus Profile Erasmus: Another definition of intelligence to my mind is seeing a dog Understanding what is not taught: considering other’s needs. For example, my friends’ schnauzer is always very careful walking down the stairs when he has his lead and harness on. I would interpret this as being so as not to cause his owner to trip or stumble going down the stairs – and perhaps therefore minimising the dog’s own chances of being injured when his owner trips or stumbles going down the stairs.

I think many dog owners can give examples of their dog performing actions that require understanding of situation – and hence delivering unexpected outcomes/benefits to their owners.


Dog Taking Dog For a W Dog taking another dog for a walk.


Erasmus Profile Erasmus: Another definition of intelligence is to look at the plasticity/ adaptability of an animal’s behaviour. The ability to adapt its behaviours to a specific situation or owner. My friends’ schnauzer certainly performs very well on this measure.

He acts in a much more restrained and careful manner with grandma. He is much more enthusiastic and unrestrained with his “soft” alpha. He gives solid sensible behaviour with other members of the household who take him for a walk. In short his behaviour is individualised and adapted to the human individual with whom he is dealing. The dog has developed an understanding of how to improve his rewards from different people.



Kinkajou Profile Kinkajou : What Dog Breeds are Smart?

Erasmus Profile Erasmus: These Are The 'Smartest' Dog Breeds

Another view of intelligence focuses on definitions including s adaptive intelligence (i.e., figuring stuff out), working intelligence (i.e. following orders), and instinctive intelligence (i.e. innate talent) - not to mention spatial intelligence, kinaesthetic intelligence, interpersonal intelligence.

A friend of mine has an Australian Blue Cattle Dog who is capable of some amazing feats of athleticism. From a standing start he can catch a thrown ball, 20 m across the yard and 2m in the air. There are very few humans who can learn to perform at this level

So there is the point of view that humans tend to judge animal intelligence in limited and unfair terms and often bungle the experiment.

One metric: working intelligence: an assessment based on an experiment with dogs and backed up by the opinions of dog show judges, (the results of both being remarkably consistent).

Aussie Kelpie walking across Sheep Aussie Kelpie at work -
walking across the sheep.


Erasmus Profile Erasmus: Top tier - the brightest working dogs, who tend to learn a new command in less than five exposures and obey at least 95 percent of the time.

1. Border collie

2. Poodle

3. German shepherd

4. Golden retriever

5. Doberman pinscher

6. Shetland sheepdog

7. Labrador retriever

8. Papillon

9. Rottweiler

10. Australian cattle dog

Erasmus Profile Erasmus: Second tier - excellent working dogs, who tend to learn a new command in five to 15 exposures and obey at least 85 percent of the time.

11. Pembroke Welsh corgi

12. Miniature schnauzer

13. English springer spaniel

14. Belgian Tervuren

15. Schipperke, Belgian sheepdog

16. Collie Keeshond

17. German short-haired pointer

18. Flat-coated retriever, English cocker spaniel, Standard schnauzer

19. Brittany spaniel

20. Cocker spaniel, Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever

21. Weimaraner

22. Belgian Malinois, Bernese mountain dog

23. Pomeranian

24. Irish water spaniel

25. Vizsla

26. Cardigan Welsh corgi

Trick or Treat Schnauser
Schnauser at Halloween



Erasmus Profile Erasmus: Third tier - above-average working dogs, who tend to learn a new trick in 15 to 25 repetitions and obey at least 70 percent of the time.

27. Chesapeake Bay retriever, Puli, Yorkshire terrier

28. Giant schnauzer, Portuguese water dog

29. Airedale, Bouv Flandres

30. Border terrier, Briard

31. Welsh springer spaniel

32. Manchester terrier

33. Samoyed

34. Field spaniel, Newfoundland, Australian terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Gordon setter, Bearded collie

35. American Eskimo dog, Cairn terrier, Kerry blue terrier, Irish setter

36. Norwegian elkhound

37. Affenpinscher, Silky terrier, Miniature pinscher, English setter, Pharaoh hound, Clumber spaniel

38. Norwich terrier

39. Dalmatian

Erasmus Profile Erasmus: Fourth tier - average working dogs, who tend to learn a new trick in 25 to 40 repetitions and obey at least 50 percent of the time.

40. Soft-coated wheaten terrier, Bedlington terrier, Smooth-haired fox terrier

41. Curly-coated retriever, Irish wolfhound

42. Kuvasz, Australian shepherd

43. Saluki, Finnish Spitz, Pointer

44. Cavalier King Charles spaniel, German wirehaired pointer, Black-and-tan coonhound, American water spaniel

45. Siberian husky, Bichon Frise, English toy spaniel

46. Tibetan spaniel, English foxhound, Otterhound, American foxhound, Greyhound, Harrier, Parson Russel terrier, Wirehaired pointing griffon

47. West Highland white terrier, Havanese, Scottish deerhound

48. Boxer, Great Dane

49. Dachshund, Staffordshire bull terrier, Shiba Inu

50. Malamute

51. Whippet, Chinese shar-pei, Wirehaired fox terrier

52. Rhodesian ridgeback

53. Ibizan hound, Welsh terrier, Irish terrier

54. Boston terrier, Akita

Fifth tier - fair working dogs, who tend to learn a new trick in 40 to 80 repetitions and respond about 40 percent of the time.

55. Skye terrier

56. Norfolk terrier, Sealyham terrier

57. Pug

58. French bulldog

59. Brussels griffon, Maltese terrier

60. Italian greyhound

61. Chinese crested

62. Dandie Dinmont terrier, Vendeen, Tibetan terrier, Japanese chin, Lakeland terrier

63. Old English sheepdog

64. Great Pyrenees

65. Scottish terrier, Saint Bernard

66. Bull terrier, Petite Basset Griffon, Vendeen

67. Chihuahua

68. Lhasa Apso

69. Bullmastiff

Erasmus Profile Erasmus: Sixth tier - the least effective working dogs, who may learn a new trick after more than 100 repetitions and obey around 30 percent of the time.

70. Shih Tzu

71. Basset hound

72. Mastiff, beagle

73. Pekingese

74. Bloodhound

75. Borzoi

76. Chow Chow

77. Bulldog

78. Basenji

79. Afghan hound

 So perhaps we should be thinking they are dogs may not be unintelligent but rather independent-minded, stubborn, and unwilling to follow orders. Cats are often ascribed only and instinctive intelligence. But it is much more likely it is our assessment of their intelligence that is unfairly based on human expectations in that it does not take into account simple unwillingness to follow orders.

Certainly my friend with her schnauzer would often see the schnauzer obeying orders to much different extent from her the alpha versus anyone else in the family. And even this is based on the dogs own choices. The dog will obey the command to “come inside” from the more stubborn and directing members of the family, but not from the alpha. Whereas the dog is much more willing to go for a walk with the alpha, rather than any other family member.

Goo Goo : The assessment of intelligence is a complex task. Best undertaken and commented on by their owners.


Avalanch rescue Dogs
Life Saving Working Dogs



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