Your Dog Is a Genius: How Smart Are Dogs?

Your Dog Is a Genius: How Smart Are Dogs?

Dogs are our best friends. Yet we also view them as our loyal servants. Many people see no limit to the dog’s devotion and intelligence. So, just how smart is your individual canine companion? Modern research has shed light on various aspects related to this question. Including their social awareness, learning behavior, innovative thought process, communication style, and even their ability to be trained to perform complex tasks. How smart are dogs?

“Dogs Decoded”

This year’s BBC Radio 4 series “Dogs Decoded” featured an interview with Dr. Jean Donaldson. Who studied dog psychology’s behavioral and genetic basis at the University of California. She claimed that dogs have “a big personality.” Furthermore, she stated that every dog has a unique set of skills and characteristics. Based on its breed-specific nature. The fascinating program went on to explain how. Specific types of intelligence factor into general mental ability in canines. This is often described as working (obedience), obedience (trainability), herding, scenting (detecting contraband substances such as bombs or drugs), hunting, guarding [police/military], tracking, agility, and obedience.

Ability to Solve Problems

Research performed by Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver indicates that a dog’s intelligence is measured by its ability. To solve problems based on its environment. He placed various breeds in different categories of intelligence. With dogs such as Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs scoring relatively high compared to other common breeds.

All Breeds Have Unique Skills

Coren stated, “Working dogs are good at problem-solving because they need it to succeed in their job.” His findings proved helpful for trainers who could target specific behaviors. By working with a dog’s abilities rather than trying to train them through force or harsh measures. In the final analysis. He believes that all breeds have unique skills. That make them great companions for people. This statement seems consistent with observations made of many different types of companion animals, including cats.

Dog’s Ability to Learn From Its Mistakes and Behavior

One aspect he did not mention was the dog’s ability to learn from its mistakes. And behavior as a reflection of its personality. For example, dogs with high levels in the category “obedience” may be inclined to obey instructions given by their owner or handler. However, they will likely disregard commands issued by others. This characteristic would make them an excellent choice for search and rescue missions (for example). On the other hand, breeds which score very low on this particular scale are better. Suited to taking orders from individuals without any apparent rank or authority position within a group setting. Other common traits include agility skills. Like tightrope walking [Acrobat], searching out contraband substances such as bombs or drugs. And a tendency to respond with heightened levels of aggression when provoked or challenged.

A Dog’s Personality Has Also Been Shown to Be Directly Related to Its Cognitive Capabilities

In one study conducted by Stanley Coren, he studied trends in human-canine relationships. Based on the behavior demonstrated toward pet owners from different countries. He found that dogs were rated differently depending upon the culture they came from. Most notably, people from collectivist cultures such as Korea preferred “submissive” dogs. While people from individualistic cultures such as the United States preferred “dominant” dogs.

It Would Seem Natural to Me That There Are Personality Traits Built Into Each Breed

Coren states, “It would seem natural to me that there are personality traits built into each breed.” This statement is consistent with behavioral patterns seen in various breeds over time. Particularly those related to a dog’s origin. For example, dogs bred for hunting or herding are generally more active than others bred for companionship purposes only. On the other hand, show breeds are considered “calmer”. Since genetics is deemed less important than how they look.

However, studies performed by Drs. Barry Eaton and Caroline Washabau from the University of Pennsylvania indicate that intelligence can be adjusted based on environmental factors [upbringing]. Their research showed that dogs raised in families with children rated higher. When it came to problem-solving skills compared to those raised as pets only. The study also found that shelter animals had lower ratings. Since most have not been exposed to similar conditions to which they would need to adapt to survive. In fact, their scores were comparable to those found in animals that have been bred for research purposes only.

Having Children Is a Good Way to Enrich Dogs’ Environments and Stimulate Them Mentally

These findings led the researchers to believe “Having children is a good way to enrich dogs’ environments. And stimulate them mentally.” This statement would also seem consistent with studies performed on other companion animals. However, cats are considered an exception. Since they tend to be more independent than dogs due to their solitary nature [feral]. Could this say something about our ability to affect other species based on how we relate to them?

Another aspect of canine intelligence has been discussed through a comparative analysis of dog breeds over time. The saying goes that “A Jack Russell Terrier has the heart of a lion but the bark of a mouse.“. This phrase exemplifies the personality characteristic associated with Jack Russells. They are generally happy, bouncy dogs that tend to be stubborn and playful at the same time. Their high energy levels make them ideal for hunting rodents like mice. Furthermore, their tendency to nip hands may be seen as a reflection of an aggressive temperament. Which could also explain why they were bred to hunt in packs or small groups [pack mentality].


While there is no doubt that each breed has its own unique set of characteristics with regard to physical appearance and function. One particular trait is consistent among all breeds: trainability. This suggests that intelligence cannot be exclusively defined by individual traits. But rather by our ability to test specific cognitive skills within various circumstances. Furthermore, it would seem logical that this endeavor must include a person’s emotional state in order to judge the animal’s response. Tests conducted at the Clever Dog Lab in Berlin, Germany, have been set up. Using various sets of parameters to test for intelligence within dogs. One study showed that dogs could remember how to get food at different angles and locations after training sessions consisting of two trials per day. The researchers concluded that “working memory may be among their strongest cognitive skills.”

The Similarities Between Animals and Humans When It Comes to Intelligence

“Comparative studies have shown that higher scores on standardized tests correlate with greater success on later achievement measures such as vocabulary, math, reading recognition, and general information.” These findings are consistent with similar research performed on primates. Drs. Allan and Beatrix Gardner from the University of Nevada thought it was important for scientists to understand the similarities between animals and humans when it comes to intelligence. Their research has become a standard for studies involving cognitive learning in animals [non-human].

Since Dogs Are Considered Our Best Friends, Is It Possible That We Have Impacted Them Psychologically?

Can we say with certainty that pet parents choose breeds based on personality, or do they simply buy the dog with the cutest face? Furthermore, do people treat certain breeds differently than others, leading to a similar change in behavior? For instance, if you were raised by an owner who was very demanding of your attention, would you grow up to be more obedient just because of their demeanor towards you? Would this mean that Jack Russells are not naturally playful but perhaps encouraged into such behaviors by owners seeking this specific trait?

Dogs May Not Be as Far Behind Humans When It Comes to Episodic Memory

One thing is for certain; we will continue to learn more about dog intelligence and what it means for our relationship with our best friends. Studies at the Clever Dog Lab in Germany have proven that “dogs may not be as far behind humans when it comes to episodic memory,” which suggests that dogs can recall events from their past just like people do. This finding does not come as a surprise given the fact that research conducted on non-human primates demonstrates that “great apes… are capable of remembering things for short periods of time and understanding cause-and-effect.” After all, this aspect of intelligence is also used by researchers in lab tests involving other species [non-humans].

Overall, it would be fair to say that dogs have a reflective quality in which their personality matches up with their intellectual capacity. Studies at the Clever Dog Lab in Berlin have also shown that dogs can recall memories of events from their past just like humans. Dogs are not as far behind on intelligence levels when compared to humans and primates.

By Geoffrey Gilles

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