"How intelligent is your dog?

"How intelligent is your dog?

Education & Training

Different dogs have different levels of intelligence - just the same as we humans do. Some are great at playing catch and fetch whilst others will simply not understand that to continue the game they must bring the ball back. It is not however altogether a matter of chance. Certain breeds of dog are renowned for being bright and by finding out which they are in advance to buying you can choose your dog with a more discerning eye. It all depends of course what you are looking for in a dog but in general the more intelligent breeds will need more in the way of exercise and stimulation. Intelligence in dogs is measured by the following criteria:Understanding of new commands: this should be within less than five repetitions.Obey first command: to be placed in the top rankings a dog should obey a recognised command first time a minimum of 95% of the time.There is however a few simple tests we can carry out ourselves.

  • Place a treat on the floor in full view of your dog. Make him stay. Then place a tin can or similar cover over it. Next place two more cans on the floor. Then let them find the treat - if your dog finds the treat straight away give him three points, for two attempts two points, for three attempts or more, one point.
  • Re-arrange the furniture in a room of the house where the dog has a favourite spot - if he still identifies his spot and goes to it straight away then give him three points, if he takes 30 seconds or longer then give him two points anything else one point.
  • Construct a barrier that the dog cannot get over but could walk round. Make sure he sees you do the nest bit - throw a toy or treat over the barrier. If he walks round the barrier to retrieve straight away then - three award points. Takes thirty seconds or longer - two points. If they give up and sit down confused then one point.

If they score nine points - brilliant - five points - average - below five points - **not the brightest spark!**So which dogs might we expect to find in the top slot then?


This dog likes nothing better than to be on the move and to obey. Often referred to as the workaholic of the dog world, it is best known for its ability to herd sheep. A series of commands occasionally by voice but mostly with a series of whistles are given by the trainer and this will lead the dog to display a remarkable understanding of exactly what is needed. Be warned though this dog will never be content with a quick walk round the block and you really must have the space and time to give it at least two hours a day walking. It will also engage in agility games and has become well known as a support dog for disabled people. In the right hands a truly great family pet.


It may surprise you to know that far from being silly this dog is sharply intelligent - it excels in obedience training. When you consider that it was originally used as a water retriever for hunters in rural Germany, then you may begin to appreciate that it's worthy of a second look and does indeed have some finer qualities than merely being the pampered pet that some have more recently made it into. It has the added attraction of also being hypo-allergenic which makes it a great choice for those that are bothered by dog hair. It comes in a variety of sizes too and will fit nicely into more or less any size of home. It does however need daily exercise.


In a way the German Shepherd is its own worst enemy. Being fearless and dependable it has become most associated these days as a guard dog and often works as an integral part of the police force or within military organisations. Because of this it has taken on a rather sinister feel. Yet in reality this dog can make a great family pet. He is loyal and develops strong bonds with all the family including children. Their perceived aggressiveness comes from training and is not a natural part of their personality. Energetic and fun loving he requires plenty of exercise.


It's no coincidence that this dog is often used as a search and assistance dog. He is intelligent and more than eager to please with an uncanny instinct for not getting in the way. He is also extremely good looking and has beautiful golden coat as his name suggests. He is adaptable and will fit into your lifestyle with ease and all he will ask for is a couple of regular walks each day.

There are many more dogs in this ranking of course but the ones mentioned above are the cream of the bunch if you like. And so it goes on until we come right down the list to the very bottom and lowest degree of intelligence for working and obedience dogs. The Lowest degree of intelligence being judged thus: Understanding of new commands: 80 - 100 repetitions or more.Able to obey first command: 25% of the time.Amongst these you will find the Shih Tzu, Basset Hound, Pekingese, Borzoi, Chow Chow and others....However this does not mean they are unpleasant dogs to be around or that they are so stupid as to be untenable as a pet. And this can be seen very clearly if we look for instance at the Basset Hound who has other qualities in his own right that will endear him to you.


Instantly recognised and immortalised in the Fred Basset cartoons as the dog that observed life from the bottom up as it were. It maybe wasn't as far-fetched as it might have seemed. This dog is gentle and non confrontational yet it is also a great hunting dog and once onto something will follow the trail to the end. It will sniff out the truth of the matter no matter what...All this being said it has to be remembered that intelligence is a moveable feast and what one owner may consider really smart in their dog another may not. And any measure of intelligence has its limitations - in this case it is that we are not dogs and what we want and expect from a dog will be far different from what another dog would view as a valuable ( and therefore intelligent) trait in a pack member.

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