In the game show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” which ran on FOX several years ago, Jeff Foxworthy quizzed contestants with material taken from elementary school textbooks. Though they may not be quite as smart as fifth graders, many pets are very intelligent, including our dogs.
I recently took an adult education class at the local college about canine intelligence, and I learned some very fascinating facts; one of which is that scientists have determined dogs are as smart as most toddlers. In the book “The Intelligence of Dogs”, author Stanley Coren defines three aspects of dog intelligence: instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence, and working and obedience intelligence. Instinctive intelligence refers to a dog's ability to perform the tasks it was bred for, such as herding, pointing, fetching, or guarding. Adaptive intelligence is a dog's ability to solve problems on its own, and working and obedience intelligence refers to a dog's ability to learn from humans.
Through the eons of cohabitation between dogs and humans, canines have served in many capacities: herding livestock; guarding property and people; keeping vermin at bay; hunting; hauling; policing; rescuing those who are lost or trapped; and serving as military, guide and assistance animals. All of these “jobs” require intelligence, some even involve deductive reasoning.
Dogs can learn, on average, 165 words and signals. Some dogs exceed that. Rico, for example, a border collie featured on a German game show in 2001, knew nearly 250 words, and several other border collies over the years have been studied that knew even more. Chaser, a border collie from South Carolina, reportedly has learned more than 1,000 words, including names of objects. An interesting story and video about Chaser can be found here: http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/01/05/chaser-the-border-collie-the-smartest-dog-in-the-world/
So, which dog breeds are the most intelligent? According to Coren and other dog experts, the top ten smartest canine breeds are:
No matter what type of dog you have, no matter if your dog is smarter than a fifth grader – or a two-year-old – (or not), as the quote goes, “He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”
Discover how smart your dog is with an IQ test based on Coren's book. Visit http://pets1st.com/articles/00025adoggieiqtest.asp. Then, consider providing more stimulation for your special furry friend with agility events, pet therapy training, or other types of activity suitable for your dog and your schedule. Encourage your dog's intelligence and create an even stronger bond between you and your canine companion. Remember, your dog is not just “a dumb animal” – he may be smarter than your fifth grader!
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.