How Do I Know If My Dog Is Smart
There’s a lot of debate about whether or not your dog is smart. Some people say that all dogs are intelligent, while others believe that some dogs are smarter than others.
Even though your dog may be intelligent by human standards, it’s important to remember that all humans are just as ignorant regarding intelligence as any other animal.
So how do you know if your dog is smart? Looking at your dog's intelligence to help make decisions is important.
When knowing if your dog is smart, you may want to keep some things in mind, including considering his size, activity level, and natural ability.
Additionally, it’s important to look at the stands he’s been on and the situations he’s been called upon to handle. If you think your dog is smarter than average, then it’s time to start thinking about his intelligence in an entirely different way.
Ways To Know If Your Dog Is Smart
He sometimes appears to listen when you talk to your dog (don't be embarrassed; we all do it). He's the family's cutest, most well-behaved, and adorably naughty member.
But how does your dog compare to other members of his breed and the greater dog world regarding intelligence?
There is currently no formal IQ test for dogs – at least not yet. However, you may do several small things to see if your four-legged best friend is intelligent. Find out how to tell if your dog is smart by reading on.
1. Your Dog Brings You Toys To Play
Many dogs will enjoy a game of tug-of-war or fetch, but smart dogs will initiate these games of their own volition.
Cabral explains that if your dog “talks” to you, strokes you, brings you toys, or does things that you taught him or her of his or her own free will, his or her intelligence level is particularly high. And no, wild barking and jumping from place to place are not behaviours you’ve taught them.
2. Your Dog Knows Where You Are Taking It
If your dog gets excited on the way to the park and starts getting nervous on the way to the vet, this is a sign that they're especially smart.
This means they can recognize their environment and remember the way there. Brandenburg explains that their familiarity with the different locations and directions shows a more advanced intelligence than other dogs.
3. Your Dog Is Being Careful
When we take our dogs out for walks, we must teach them to stop before crossing the street. Veterinarian Yvonne Brandenburg says that if your dog stops before crossing a street when you didn’t teach him or her, it is a sign that they are more intelligent than other dogs.
Brandenburg explains that dogs that tend to be cautious in certain situations, such as street crossings, new places, meeting strangers, etc., are much smarter.
4. Your Dog Is An Escape Artist
Whether he’s figured out how to lift the gate handle, manipulate his crate’s door lock, or even turn the handle and open the back door, any dog who masterminds his escape is very smart. It can be frustrating for owners, but this trait is a mark of superior intelligence.
5. Your Dog Remembers Commands Without Practice
Whether you’ve gotten lazy about teaching your old dog new tricks or you adopted a shelter pet and aren’t exactly sure what they already knew, sometimes commands don’t remain consistent. But if you can go months or even years without saying, “Roll over!” and your dog still remembers how to do it easily, then you probably have an intelligent canine.
6. Your Dog Tries To Tell You What It Wants
Dogs who know how to get what they want, whether by whining at an empty food dish or bringing you a leash so you’ll put down your phone and go for a walk, are very smart. Some experts say it’s a bit like the dog is training you just as you train them.
7. Your Dog Recognizes Its Surroundings
Does your dog get excited during your drive to the park but cower in fear while travelling to the vet? Ever wonder how they know the difference? Only smart dogs will recognize landmarks or mannerisms you have on trips to the vet that are different from going someplace fun.
8. Your Dog Quickly Learn Tricks And Commands During Training
A dog that quickly learns tricks and commands generally shows one of the signs of dog intelligence. However, this isn’t the end-all, be-all of dog intelligence.
Many dogs understand commands and choose not to respond because something else suits them better, they’re bored, they have a stubborn streak, or they don’t see the point of performing for you.
Another thing that indicates intelligence in dogs is the ability to learn and interpret when tricks or specific actions are rewarded. If your dog stops responding to a command it used to complete successfully once you no longer provide a reward or treat, it may be smart enough to recognize that responding to that command no longer benefits them the way they want.
9. Your Dog Solves Puzzle Toys
You may have seen those complicated-looking puzzle toys at the pet store and wondered if something like that would keep your dog entertained.
Often these toys will force a pup to perform certain tasks to get a treat out of the puzzle. If they can do it, it proves their problem-solving skills are top-notch.
You can also create your own puzzle game by hiding treats in your house and seeing how long it takes your dog to find them.
10. Your Dog Snuggles With You When You Are Upset
Is there anything better than gently nudging your dog’s nose against your elbow when you’ve had a terrible day?
It’s not your imagination – smart dogs understand your moods and seek comfort when you’re sad. Your pup’s cuddling happens on purpose to make you feel better!
11. Your Dog Knows When You Are Leaving
Ever notice how your dog starts acting more hyper and needier when you start packing up your suitcase?
This proves that she’s very observant and recognizes a change is happening. If you’ve gone on trips before, a smart dog might even associate that suitcase with going to the kennel and being apart.
12. Your Dog Passes Intelligence Tests
While there are no standardized IQ tests for dogs, you can try a few simple activities at home to test your dog’s intelligence.
Challenges like finding hidden treats, testing your dog’s memory, and staging treasure hunts can give you a good baseline for how smart your dog is.
13. Your Dog Knows How To Get Your Attention
Rubbing up against your hand to get scratches behind the ears, giving you a paw to get a handshake, and exposing his belly to inspire some tummy rubs to prove that your dog wants attention from you. He knows how to get it. Only the smartest dogs do this.
14. Your Dog Knows How To Stay Safe
Whether your dog walks carefully across busy intersections or hesitates before crossing a bridge, an interest in staying safe is the mark of an intelligent dog. And if she tries to block you from crossing that potentially dangerous intersection? That proves she’s even smarter than you thought.
15. Your Dog Learns By Watching
If your dog mimics your actions to achieve similar results, such as opening doors or gates, it proves he’s pretty darn smart. This is even truer if you’re not trying to teach him the trick he masters. Learning through pure observation is a marker of superior intelligence.
16. Your Dog Takes Cues From You
If your dog looks to you before taking action, it means she knows you’re in charge and cares about what you think of her.
The smartest dogs won’t just follow explicit commands – they’ll ensure that their owners always approve of their actions.
17. Your Dog Exhibits The Best Qualities Of Its Breed
A bloodhound will always have a better sense of smell than a Pekinese – that’s just biology, and it’s unfair to compare the two.
Similarly, when testing intelligence, you need to consider the natural abilities of your dog’s breed to assess its level of smartness.
But no matter how smart he is, remember – he’ll be your best friend forever, so cherish the moments!
18. Your Dog Recognizes Guests
When your dog recognizes a new guest after only one or two visits, it can signify your dog's intelligence. A friendly greeting is a sign of recognition, as is your dog bringing a toy to a guest who has previously played with them, especially if it’s the specific toy the guest used previously.
Sometimes this is just a coincidence and is the sign of a very friendly dog. But, it can also indicate better memory skills and good long-term memory.
Dogs who forget new people and objects tend to have poorer long-term memory or get too distracted when they get excited.
19. Your Dog Uses Its Paws To Its Advantage
A dog that knows how to use its paws to its advantage often shows signs of dog intelligence. They may use their paws to fetch things from beneath furniture, flush the toilet, open the door, swipe things off the table, and more.
Just because your dog may wait for you to retrieve their toy or help them out doesn’t mean they aren’t smart.
Dogs that use their paws are better at doing things for themselves and thinking outside the box to get what they want.
20. Your Dog Tries To Communicate With You
Dogs are always giving us cues in an attempt to communicate their needs and want. As humans, we don’t always understand.
A dog that goes to the door and barks likely wants or needs to go outside. A dog that brings you a leash likely wants to go for a walk. They’re probably trying to initiate playtime if they bring you a toy.
Most dogs need to be trained into these cues during house training, but some come up with their own over the years.
Dogs that try different cues on their own and then repeat the ones that work show not only adaptive intelligence but also social intelligence by trying to find communication that works. Sometimes, this results in our dogs training us!
21. Your Dog Initiates Play
Most dogs will run after a ball if you throw it. But if you notice your dog bringing you the ball to encourage playing, that’s a sign that he’s made the association between those inanimate objects and your attention. It may not seem like much, but this is very impressive for a dog.
22. Your Dog Masters New Tricks With Ease
Just about any dog can be taught basic commands – but how quickly they master a new skill is a marker of intelligence. If you teach your dog something new, and he instantly understands and practices it, you can rest assured that he’s smarter than the average canine.
23. Your Dog Tends To Get Into Trouble
If your dog gets into trouble, it may just be boring and need you to provide mental stimulation or more exercise.
Destructive behaviours like chewing on things they shouldn’t, getting into the trash, and more can be signs of boredom. They can also be signs of stress or anxiety, so it’s important to pay closer attention to your dog to figure out which it is.
But destructive dogs, due to being bored, are also usually intelligent – they’re just finding ways to entertain themselves that you don’t necessarily like.
You can easily turn a destructive behaviour into a constructive one by giving them more attention, giving them more exercise, or redirecting that boredom into something more preferable.
Often, dogs in these situations are understimulated and looking for a job. This is particularly true for working dogs.
Digging can be another one of these “troublesome” behaviours. There are a lot of reasons why dogs dig.
Some dog breeds are more prone to digging than others, but being bored and trying to find a job are other reasons dogs dig.
Often, you can redirect the behaviour. If digging is instinctual, you can often direct it to a spot dedicated to being your dog’s area to dig.
24. Your Dog Finds The Open Door
Some dogs are great escape artists, and although this can frustrate their owners, it is a sign of high intelligence. Cabral explains that one of the ways to test this skill is to let your dogs out of one door, close it and then open another. The smartest dogs can find their way back in or out, even if their original exit and entry points are closed.
How To Test Your Dog's Intelligence
Test 1 – Problem-Solving
Allow your dog to smell and familiarize itself with a large towel or blanket. Once comfortable, place it over your dog’s head. This task will provide insight into your dog’s ability to solve problems.
- Give your dog three points if he figures out how to free himself in under fifteen seconds,
- two points if it takes fifteen to thirty seconds, and
- one point if it takes more than thirty seconds.
Test 2 – Find The Treat
Place a treat on the floor and place a towel over it. Grab your stopwatch and see how long it takes for the dog to get the treat.
- Give your dog three points if he figures in under fifteen seconds,
- two points if it takes fifteen to sixty seconds, and
- one point if it takes more than sixty seconds.
Test 3 – Retaining Information
Place two or three empty buckets or cups upside down in a row. While your pup watches, place a treat under one of the containers.
Distract him for a few seconds before allowing him to look for the treat. This test will help determine how well your dog learns and retains information.
- Give him three points if he goes straight to the container hiding the treat,
- two if he checks one empty container before finding the right one, and
- one point if he checks both wrong containers before locating the treat.
Test 4 – Using The Paw
Underneath a piece of furniture (low enough to the ground that only your dog’s paw will fit), place a treat within the paw’s reach. This task will test your dog’s reasoning and problem-solving skills.
- Give your dog three points if it takes under a minute to reach for the dog treat using only his paw.
- If he tries to fit his head into the space first or uses both his nose and paws, give him two points, and
- one point is if he gives up entirely.
Test 5 – Creativity
This one will require a bit of creativity on your behalf, but it is a good test to give your dog. Show your dog a treat through a slit in a large cardboard barricade that is too high to be jumped by the dog, and the slit itself is too narrow for the dog to fit through.
You, as the handler, will have to keep encouraging the dog to get the treat for exactly 60 seconds and then stop. Use your stopwatch to keep track of the dog’s time and score accordingly:
- Give your dog three points if he takes 30 seconds (or less) to figure out he needs to walk around the barrier to get the treat.
- If he takes more than 30 seconds to figure it out, give him two points, and
- one point if he tries to climb through the window or bulldoze his way through the barrier instead of going around.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Smart
If you think your dog is smarter than average, then it’s time to start thinking about his intelligence in an entirely different way. You can do a few things to help your dog become smarter than average.
First, creating an environment that is productive and stimulating for your dog is important. This means setting him up with enough toys, food, and water and ensuring he’s had enough exercise.
Once you’ve created this environment, you should consider putting your dog to work. This means setting him up with activities that will keep him busy and giving him something to do regularly.
Second, you may consider using brain training software to train your dog on a specific skill. This will cost money but will allow you to improve your dog’s intelligence while not worrying about it.
Third, you may consider using cognitive therapy to help your dog understand how he got as smart as he is. This will cost money but can be very effective in helping people learn how to improve their intelligence.
What To Expect When Your Dog Is Smart
When your dog is smart, the world is going to be a very different place. Your dog can understand complex concepts more easily than ever before.
He or she will be able to make decisions more quickly than ever. And most importantly, your dog will be able to pick up on cues from other people and understand signals.
No matter what you think of your dog, there’s a way to know for certain if they are smart — just like that.
The testers recommend taking a simple question or question that your dog can understand, like “What are some of your favorite books?” If your dog can understand this question, they are likely smart.
I trust you enjoyed this article on How Do I Know If My Dog Is Smart? Please stay tuned for more blog posts to come shortly. Take care!
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