You may think your beagle is the smartest dog on the block, but they have the dubious distinction of being one of the most difficult dog breeds to train. Next door’s snarling Doberman? They are quick learners.
Dog intelligence, like human intelligence, comes in various forms. And, while owners who are willing to put in the time and effort can bring out the best in any breed, there are some fixed realities when it comes to your animal’s inherent qualities.
The dog is more likely to be quick on its feet, eager to work, move, and please you if it was bred to hunt, herd, or retrieve. It will learn more quickly. It may appear distracted and dense if it was bred to be a livestock guard dog or a scent hound.
Despite the fact that some breeds are more agile than others, trainers say that any dog can learn the fundamentals of sitting and staying. It might just take them a little longer to figure it out. Knowing what your dog is built for and how to motivate them is the key.
Keep in mind, however, that the smartest dogs aren’t always the best pets. It’s up to you to choose a breed that fits your lifestyle and focus on bringing out the best in your dog.
The Best of the Best
Stanley Coren, PhD, focuses on trainability as a marker of intelligence in his best-selling book The Intelligence of Dogs.
The University of British Columbia psychology professor relied on the assessments of 110 breeds by more than 200 professional dog obedience judges who scored breeds based on working/obedience tests.
Is it true that smart dogs make better pets?
You might think a smart dog will do what you want it to do. Not necessarily.
“Smart doesn’t mean easy,” Coren says.
“A Doberman is going to get bored and destroy your sofa and vase collection if you’re out of the house for 8 to 10 hours a day, while an English bulldog may take 8 hours to figure out you’re gone,” Coren says. “You’ll come home and he’ll greet you and your pottery is still on the shelf.”
A border collie is bred to work all day, so if it doesn’t have an opportunity to work or exercise, it will be miserable, says Chris Redenbach, an Atlanta-based dog trainer who runs The Balanced Dog training programme. “Typically, it’ll come out in other areas, like destructiveness, running away, nipping at kids.”
Having a smart dog “is like having a very smart kid,” Redenbach says. “They’re always into something and will get into trouble if they’re bored.
Coren says his favourite beagle, a breed that scored low in behaviour tests, is ideal around Coren’s nine grandchildren since they don’t seem to mind — or remember — their yanking on their ears.