Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Have you ever wondered how smart your dog really is?
Do you question if your pet understands the words you are saying, or if he is simply reacting to your tone of voice?
Most dogs have the mental abilities of a two-year old child. They can understand up to 150 words and can count to 4 or 5. If you compare this to most other animals, this is considered pretty smart in the Animal Kingdom.
Just like in humans, there are different kinds of intelligence. For dogs, there are two basic kinds: Instinctive and adoptive intelligence. Instinctive intelligence comes with the breed and the type of dog, so certain dogs and dog breeds have inherent differences in natural ability.
But there is also a learning ability, and this can include environmental learning, social learning, language comprehension, and task learning. This is similar to humans - some human beings are better at math or logic questions, and others may fare better at creative solutions to problems or interpersonal relationships.
But these strengths are not better than the other - they are simply different types of intelligence. The same theory works for different dogs - so while your dog may do well at one kind of test or another, it may not be due to intelligence as much as the dog's natural ability to achieve those results as well as their own way of looking and thinking through a problem.
Here are some standard tests you can do with your dog, as well as a scoring system to keep track of intelligence. Make these tests fun for your dog - treat them like games. Do not try them all in one day! No matter how high or low they score - give them lots of love and positive attention afterwards.
Take a large towel or blanket and gently place it over your dog's head.
If he frees himself from the towel in less than 15 seconds, give him 3 points. If it takes 15-30 seconds, 2 points. Longer than 30 seconds earns 1 point.
Place a dog treat or a favorite toy under one of three buckets placed next to each other. Let the dog know which bucket the treat is under, than turn the dog away for a few seconds. Then, let her find the treat. If she immediately goes to the correct bucket give her 3 points. If she takes two attempts, score 2 points. If your dog looks under the other two buckets first, score 1 point.
With your dog out of the room, rearrange the furniture. When he re-enters the room, if he goes directly to his favorite spot give him 3 points. If it takes him 30 seconds to investigate before he finds his spot, give him 2 points. If he decides on a new area completely, score 1 point.
Place a treat under a table or chair low enough so your dog can only fit her paw and cannot fit her head. If your dog figures how to reach the treat within one minute, score 3 points. If she uses her paws and nose, score 2 points. If your dog gives up, score 1 point.
Go for a walk! On a day or time you normally do not walk your dog, quietly pick up your keys, and his leash while he's watching you. If he gets excited immediately, score 3 points. If you have to walk to the door before he knows it's time to go out, score 2 points. If he sits and just looks confused give him 1 point.
Construct a barrier from cardboard that is 5 feet wide and taller than your dog when she's on two legs, so she cannot see over it. Attach two boxes to either side as support structures. In the center of the cardboard, cut a 3 inch-wide rectangular aperture - it should run from about 4 inches from the top to about 4 inches from the bottom. (This way, the dog can see through the barrier but cannot physically get through.) Toss a toy or treat to the other side of the barrier, or have someone stand on the other side. If your dog walks around the barrier within 30 seconds, give her 3 points. If she goes around the barrier between 30 seconds and one minute, give 2 points. If she gets her head stuck in the aperture trying to get through, give her 1 point for effort!
Scoring and results
16 points or higher - Brilliant!
13 to 16 points - Well above average
9 to twelve points - Average
5 to 8 points - Below average
1 to 4 points - Not the brightest kibble in the bag, but we still love 'em!
This testing can be fun, and can give you a general idea about your dog's intelligence, but wise pet owners maintain their own criteria. Your dog may not win the Nobel Prize, or even first place at a dog trial - he may even lose his favorite ball once in awhile - but when it comes to making us happy and feel good, most of our pets are just downright brilliant!