What makes a dog dumb or smart

Yorks Hire Terrier Kingdom – So, what is the criteria to determine dog breed intelligence?

A study on canine intelligence was published in 2022 in Scientific Reports by University of Helsinki researchers entitled Breed differences in social cognition, inhibitory control, and spatial problem-solving ability in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Between March 2016 and February 2022, a total of 2,352 adult dogs (13 breeds plus mixed breeds) went through cognitive and behavior tests, called the smartDOG test battery. The researchers used the following criteria for the test:

  • Greeting behavior
  • Activity level behavior
  • Exploratory behavior
  • Learning
  • Short-term memory
  • Inhibitory control
  • Problem-solving ability
  • Social cognition
  • Logical reasoning
  • Human-directed gesture

The test concluded that pretty much the breeds performed how they were bred for, but not all. An example was the Kelpie and Malinois scored high in the gesture test, which you’d expect from these herding breeds. However, the Finnish Lapphund, also a herding breed, received the lowest score. The report went on to say, “Similarly, during the unsolvable task, the Australian Shepherd was the least likely breed to abandon the task, whereas the Kelpie was among the breeds most likely to abandon the task. It seems evident that breeds can vary behaviorally from each other even within their breed groups, since different traits may have been (both intentionally and unintentionally) selected for in different breeds, despite the breed group they belong to.”

The test did not cover the effects of training, environment, life experiences or the background of the dogs, which can also contribute to intelligence. The researchers hope to focus on that next.

Of course, the Border Collie scored high in the tests, while it was America’s favorite dog, the Labrador Retriever, that scored the lowest.

In 1994, a psychologist named Stanley Coren, PhD., DSc., FRSC, wrote a book called The Intelligence of Dogs (Atria Books). Dr. Coren ranked more than 100 dog breeds based on three specific types of intelligence:

  1. Instinctive intelligence (ability to perform tasks it was bred to perform like herding or hunting)
  2. Adaptive intelligence (ability to independently problem solve and learn from previous experiences)
  3. Working and obedience intelligence (ability to learn when being taught by humans)

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