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Stanley Coren And The Intelligence Of Dogs

Stanley Coren is an American/Canadian professor of psychology, who published a book in 1994 explaining his researched theories of the natural intelligence of dogs, and the differences between dog breeds. A second edition of the book was later published in 2006, and these manuals are considered to be the only credible and definitive guides to assessing the genuine intelligence of dogs by breed today.

The findings published within the books and the accompanying and much talked about list of dogs ranked according to their intelligence levels are well known throughout the world. Coren’s list is often cited by canine behaviourists, dog trainers and dog breed authorities to explain the natural aptitude of some dogs to pick up learned skills and perform advanced tasks, and the failure of other breeds to achieve them.

The three facets of dog intelligence

In order to be able to quantify the intelligence of dogs and draw conclusions about canine intelligence on a breed-by-breed basis, Coren divided dog intelligence into three categories: Instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence, and working and obedience intelligence.

  • Instinctive intelligence refers to any dog’s natural propensity and ability to undertake the roles and tasks that it was bred to do, such as herding or guarding.
  • Adaptive intelligence refers to the problem solving ability of the dog, and their analytical skills when dealing with new situations.
  • Working and obedience intelligence refers to the ability of dogs to learn, retain and perform training commands, and their propensity and willingness to both understand and take direction from their handlers.

The evaluation process used for the purposes of compiling the dog intelligence list was mainly based around observing the working and obedience intelligence aspect of the study, as the results of this facet of intelligence are tangible and can be accurately measured.

Understandably, upon first publication of the list, the various international dog breed authorities as well as the everyday dog lover and owner had a lot to say about the study, and it took several years for the findings of the study and the layout of the list of breeds to become widely accepted as factually accurate.

However, today, the methodology and ranking process used in the study is almost universally accepted as a valid and accredited guide to dog intelligence by breed.

The list and rankings of dog intelligence by breed

A total of 131 dog breeds are ranked as part of the list, with the total number of places on the list being rather fewer, at 79, due to their being several ties for positions between breeds.

So, are you wondering if your dog is a potential canine genius, or possibly at the other end of the scale, not that quick on the uptake?

Here is the full 131-dog list as it currently appears in the 2006 version of The Intelligence of Dogs.

1.            Border Collie
2.            Poodle (all sizes)
3.            German Shepherd
4.            Golden Retriever
5.            Doberman Pinscher
6.            Shetland Sheepdog
7.            Labrador Retriever
8.            Papillon
9.            Rottweiler
10.          Australian Cattle Dog
11.          Pembroke Welsh Corgi
12.          Miniature Schnauzer
13.          English Springer Spaniel
14.          Belgian Shepherd Tervuren
15.          Schipperke
              Belgian Sheepdog
16.          Collie
17.          German Shorthaired Pointer
18.          Flat-Coated Retriever
              English Cocker Spaniel
              Standard Schnauzer
19.          Brittany
20.          Cocker Spaniel
21.          Weimaraner
22.          Belgian Malinois
              Bernese Mountain Dog
23.          Pomeranian
24.          Irish Water Spaniel
25.          Hungarian Vizsla
26.          Cardigan Welsh Corgi
27.          Chesapeake Bay Retriever
               Yorkshire Terrier
28.          Giant Schnauzer
29.          Airedale Terrier
              Bouvier des Flandres
30.          Border Terrier
31.          Welsh Springer Spaniel
32.          Manchester Terrier
33.          Samoyed
34.          Field Spaniel
              Australian Terrier
              American Staffordshire Terrier
             Gordon Setter
             Bearded Collie
35.          Cairn Terrier
              Kerry Blue Terrier
              Irish Setter
36.          Norwegian Elkhound
37.          Affenpinscher
              Australian Silky Terrier
              Miniature Pinscher
              English Setter
              Pharaoh Hound
              Clumber Spaniel
38.          Norwich Terrier
39.          Dalmatian
40.          Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier
              Bedlington Terrier
              Smooth Fox Terrier
41.          Curly Coated Retriever
              Irish Wolfhound
42.          Kuvasz
              Australian Shepherd
43.          Saluki
              Finnish Spitz
44.          Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
               German Wirehaired Pointer
              Black and Tan Coonhound
              American Water Spaniel
45.          Siberian Husky
               Bichon Frise
               King Charles Spaniel
46.          Tibetan Spaniel
               English Foxhound
               American Foxhound
               Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
47.          West Highland Terrier
              Scottish Deerhound
48.          Boxer
              Great Dane
49.          Dachshund
              Staffordshire Bull Terrier
50.          Alaskan Malamute
51.          Whippet
              Chinese Shar-Pei
              Wire Haired Fox Terrier
52.          Rhodesian Ridgeback
53.          Ibizan Hound
              Welsh Terrier

               Irish Terrier
54.          Boston Terrier
55.          Skye Terrier
56.          Norfolk Terrier
              Sealyham Terrier
57.          Pug
58.          French Bulldog
59.          Griffon Bruxellois
60.          Italian Greyhound
61.          Chinese Crested
62.          Dandie Dinmont Terrier
              Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen
              Tibetan Terrier Japanese Chin
              Lakeland Terrier

63.          Old English Sheepdog
64.          Great Pyrenees
65.          Scottish Terrier
              Saint Bernard
66.          Bull Terrier
67.          Chihuahua
68.          Lhasa Apso
69.          Bullmastiff
70.          Shih Tzu
71.          Basset Hound
72.          Mastiff
73.          Pekingese
74.          Bloodhound
75.          Borzoi
76.          Chow-Chow
77.          English Bulldog
78.          Basenji
79.          Afghan Hound

While the list does include the vast majority of common and popular domestic dog breeds owned today, a couple of the most recently formally recognised breeds and some rare dog breeds are absent from the list. This is due to there not having been sufficient numbers of dogs of those breeds available for study, and so a realistic picture of the average breed intelligence for these dogs could not be concluded.

Also of course, mixed breed and cross breed dog such as mongrels and hybrids (such as the Labradoodle) are not and could not be included within the list, as the diverse genetic and ancestral heritage of such dogs will vary widely from case to case. 

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