When it comes to canine intelligence levels, all dogs are not created equal; there are distinctive and measurable differences in the working intelligence of different dog breeds, which can be assessed and measured in comparison to other breeds. This is the principle of the Coren Scale of canine intelligence by breed, which is widely accepted as the benchmark for assessing the working intelligence of different dogs by breed.
Dogs that fall towards the very top of the list are the smartest dogs, and the ones that are most likely to be found performing working roles, taking part in canine sports and generally, that are quick and keen to learn, able to remember a lot of commands and able to think on the go. The dogs towards the bottom of the scale, on the other hand, are likely to only be able to manage a few simple commands.
Taking this information into account, it might seem self-evident that the most intelligent dog breeds and those that come in at the very top of the list-such as the Border collie, Poodle and German shepherd-should therefore be the easiest breeds to train and achieve a lot with.
However, while it is true that most dogs of the smartest breeds are generally in theory capable of doing lots of things and learning lots of skills, training them to do so is not always so easy!
Training a very intelligent dog comes with a lot of potential challenges as well as rewards, and it is important that anyone who seeks to train such a dog for the first time is aware of them, and knows how to avoid problems along the way.
In this article, we will look at some of the challenges that can accompany training highly intelligent dogs, and how to tackle them. Read on to learn more.
One thing that many of the smartest dog breeds have in common is that as well as being clever, they are also often among the most high-energy of dogs as well, which means that they have dual requirements for not only a lot of mental stimulation, but a lot of exercise too.
Breeds like the Border collie need to spend several hours every day exercising and running, in order to meet their needs; and working with a high-energy dog that is full of unspent energy can be a challenge.
As is often the case with children in school and other learning environments, the smartest of dogs are easily bored, and are left twiddling their thumbs waiting for everyone else to catch up. This boredom can manifest as a lack of attention and an inability to learnt, either because what is being taught is below their interest threshold, or because they have already switched off and so, have got behind.
Keeping an intelligent dog entertained and training them successfully means accounting for their quick learning speed and fast-moving minds, and so following a generic training protocol that is aimed at middle of the road dogs is not usually appropriate.
Going over the same old things over and over again is of no value to dogs like this-if a smart dog will not follow basic commands like sit and stay, it is unlikely to be because they don’t know what you are asking from them, but because they are already fed up of it.
Smart dogs learn new things very quickly, and being able to keep up with their learning speed and be able to keep the dog challenged through repetitive training and fine-tuning skills is important, in order to keep your dog working and concentrated.
A clever dog may well learn a command in just a couple of repetitions, but if you are working towards higher level skills like agility or heelwork when everything has to be spot on, managing to achieve the fine details without boring your dog is vital.
Because clever dogs learn quickly, they may well be learning a whole lot of things that you never planned for, or didn’t even realise was happening! Clever dogs can learn by observation, and may also make mental connections based on your actions and responses, which can mean that without care, you may accidentally end up teaching your dog bad habits!
Training highly intelligent dogs successfully is challenging, because you have to continually challenge the dog to keep their interest and make them want to keep on working for you.
This means that you will have to be inventive, energetic and adaptive when it comes to your training sessions, all of which are skills that you need to learn over time, and that do not come naturally to everyone.
Experience of training average intelligence dogs is always helpful, but it is very important to ensure that you adapt your skills to match that of the dog that you are training, and don’t take a one size fits all approach.