Dog intelligence: How smart is your dog?

Your dog is obviously the cutest, most well-behaved, smartest pup on the planet, right? For many pet parents, their dog is their pride and joy. But how can you tell if your dog really is a genius, if they are just normal-dog smart, or if they might be less than gifted?

What is dog intelligence?

When it comes to dog intelligence, psychologist and dog behaviorist Dr. Stanley Coren classifies canine smarts into three major categories: instinctive, adaptive, and working and obedience. Your dog’s mental acuity is based on a variety of different factors, including their ability to learn and obey commands, solve problems, learn from others and their environment, understand humans, and more.

Instinctive intelligence

Just as the category name suggests, instinctive intelligence is inherited in dogs. Some behaviors come naturally to dogs depending on their breed and what they were traditionally bred to do. Herding dogs, for example, tend to be highly focused and attuned to their environment. Toy breeds, on the other hand, were selected for their social skills and were expected to be affectionate companion dogs. They easily and tightly bond with their humans and often lack predatory drive. So, while all dogs have natural instincts, they do not have the same instinctive intelligence.

Adaptive intelligence

According to psychologist Dr. Brian Hare, adaptive intelligence has allowed dogs to become the most successful mammals in history with regards to quality of life, population size, and distribution—apart from humans, of course. Dogs can learn through observation of their environment, learn to solve problems, and possess a social awareness that lets them understand expressions and gestures. Dr. Hare notes that even humans’ closest relatives, chimpanzees, cannot read social cues as well as dogs can.

Adaptive intelligence helps our canine companions learn how to open doors and comfort us when we feel sad. Whether it’s solving puzzle toys, climbing fences, or manipulating their people for more treats, adaptive intelligence helps dogs learn how to get what they want.



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