Tag Archives: the intelligence of dogs

Dog Intelligence

Everyone’s always trying to determine how smart everyone else is. How smart are you? How smart are your children? How smart are animals? Is a dog smarter than a cat? And now, how smart is your puppy? And the answer is never simple. First, what kind of smarts are people talking about? There are now thought to be at least 7 different types of intelligence in humans: linguistic, logical, spatial, musical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.

Attempts to measure intelligence are always thwarted by the test itself and its biological appropriateness to the species under test. If you design a test to measure intelligence, like escaping from an enclosure, how well an animal performs depends on certain physical characteristics like possessing dexterous paws or flexible limbs.

If the test relies on observation, those animals most well equipped visually will score highest [a hawk could read a newspaper at 25 yards, if only it could read]. And we shouldn’t be too cocky about our own intellectual powers. Dogs’ reading of body language and identification and interpretation of odors leaves us in the dust. We have superior language skills (linguistic intelligence) but dogs are better at understanding the tacit communication of body language. So who’s the overall winner in the communication department?

To rate intelligence between dogs is a fairer task than to compare intelligence between species. The task, however, is still one beset with intrinsic difficulties similar to those found when designing and conducting human-human comparative intelligence tests. How well we fare on IQ tests depends on our background, experiences, and training. How well a pup fares on a puppy IQ test depends on its experience and training, its physical and emotional capabilities, and on the test itself. To say that everyone’s a winner may sound a bit trite, in light of what I have just said, it’s not to far from the mark. Yet people still push for the answer. Who’s smart and who’s not. Well, for these few perseverant people, let’s look at the situation from a more empirical perspective. For people, there seems to be such a thing as raw intelligence: the ability to think one’s way out of a paper bag, so to speak – no prior experience, no lessons. The same may well be true in dogs.

When assessing the intelligence of pups, one has to bear in mind that intelligence in youngsters can be something of a moving target. Nerve cells in pups’ brains are not fully developed until 4 weeks of age and visual centers are not up to speed until 7-8 weeks of age. Some senses are not fully developed until some time between 4 and 8 weeks and adult coordination may not be attained until the juvenile period is reached.

These fundamentals influence the ability of the pup to learn and respond, making estimation of intelligence far from cut and dried. Pups that are properly stimulated during the early weeks of life develop faster and better. They become better problem solvers and thus appear (or actually are) more intelligent than their under-stimulated peers. So, to some extent, intelligence can be molded, and how well molded it has become depends on the age when you test the puppies. Any time before 8-weeks of age may be too young to tell how smart the pup will eventually be.

Testing between 8-weeks and 6-months will be limited by the pup’s physical ability. Remember, full muscular coordination is not present until about 6-months. If you were to compare a 4-month old pup with an adult using Frisbee catching as a test, the adult would be more likely to emerge superior. Puppies are all very smart at things that they need to do to survive.

Early in life, all a pup has to do is locate mom’s milk bar and find a warm place to sleep. At these tasks, it excels. As time passes, pups become learning sponges, soaking up all kinds of extraneous information for later use. At this stage they are like a computer that is downloading information and may not perform well on tests that involve motor responses (but how else do you test a pup’s intelligence?). But in time, after the full package has been downloaded, the pup is primed with requisite information, and is at least semi-capable of coordinating an appropriate response. At this time, intelligence testing and comparison of peers may be somewhat valid.

Puppy IQ Test

The puppy must be at least 12 weeks old and must have been in the home with its new owners for at least 4 weeks.

What you will need:

  • Flat collar on your dog
  • Training lead
  • Treats
  • Small can or bowl (like an empty coffee can or some other Container)
  • Towel, sheet or some fabric that can completely cover your puppy
  • Two light cardboard boxes, a sheet of cardboard, and two appropriately sized, light weights
  • Scissors to cut hole in cardboard

Test 1 – Observation Learning

Choose an activity that your puppy has seen you do before many times and that it enjoys e.g. going out for a short walk in the yard or ride in the car, getting dinner ready, or preparing for a clicker training session. Engage in the behavior in five stages, scoring 5 points for your puppy’s immediate understanding of your intentions (you take one step toward the door and it approaches you and looks enthusiastic or runs to an appropriate place, signaling its understanding). Score 0 for paying no attention at all while you complete the entire maneuver. Intermediate scores 1-4 are awarded for intermediate responses.

Test 2 – Problem Solving

Take an empty can and your puppy’s favorite food treat. Show your puppy the treat and then put the treat under the inverted can. Score the puppy’s attempts to obtain the food on a similar 0 to 5 scale. A score of 5 is awarded if the puppy obtains the food treat by knocking the can over and getting the treat within 15 seconds; score the pup 4 for obtaining the food treat within 15-30 seconds; score 3 for completing the task in 30-45 seconds, score 2 for a time of 45-60 seconds, score 1 for eventually getting the treat; score 0 for the pup giving up, losing interest, and walking off defeated.

Test 3 – Problem Solving

Throw a tea towel or the corner of a sheet over the pup so it is completely covered and observe its attempts to think its way out of the situation. Use the same scoring method as in Test 2 above.

Test 4 – Social Learning

Wait until your puppy is near you but is not engaged in any particular activity. Look directly into its eyes and smile. Hold this pose. If the pup comes towards you, this is an excellent result indicating good social learning: score 5. If the pup ignores you, score 0. Intermediate scores are assessed, as before, on a timed basis.

Test 5 – Short Term Memory

Show the pup a delicious food treat and allow him to watch you hide it under a tea towel. Then lift him up in your arms and walk around the room in a large circle before depositing him at least 6 feet from where the food is hidden. If he immediately goes to the food treat and finds it, score 5. If he shows no interest in the treat and doesn’t look for it, score him 0. Intermediate scores are awarded for his finding the treat within 30 seconds, 1 minute, 1-1/2 minutes, and 2 minutes.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Which Dog Breeds Make the Smartest Dog Breeds?

 

You may have heard the recent VetStreet.com survey of the five smartest dog breeds. The top five breeds, according to veterinarians, are:

  1. Border Collie
  2. German Shepherd
  3. Poodle
  4. Australian Shepherd
  5. Golden Retriever

Given that my dog is an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix, according to this survey I may be living with the canine equivalent of a brain surgeon. My dog may in fact be smarter than your honor student.

It’s hard to top Chaser, the dog who knows more than 1,000 words.

 

And Sasha is smart — don’t get me wrong. But she’s not the caliber of Chaser, the Border Collie who knows the names of more than 1,000 objects. (He even has his own Wikipedia page.) And, she’s certainly not as smart as Lucy, the shrewd Beagle who knows how to get chicken nuggets out of a toaster oven. So why isn’t she as clever, given her “pedigree”?

Dr. Stanley Coren, author of The Intelligence of Dogs, uses trainability as a marker of intelligence, and he agrees with most of the veterinarians’ top five choices, but he substitutes the Doberman Pinscher for the Australian Shepherd. (Another ding for my dog, Sasha.) Rounding out his top 10 most intelligent breeds are: Shetland SheepdogsLabrador Retrievers,PapillonsRottweilers and Australian Cattle Dogs.

However, Dr. Brian Hare, author of The Genius of Dogs, has a differing theory on what makes some dogs smarter than others. Hare’s philosophy is that intelligence is not tied to breed. Hare says there is no scientific research on breed differences in relation to intelligence, and favors instead the “unique intelligence” of each individual dog. Hare says that some dogs are able to follow social cues and some dogs are better at making inferences, while others excel at understanding gestures or navigating.

I think I know what he means. I know that Sasha is not very adept at understanding gestures. When I ask her, “Where’s your ball?” and point in a certain direction, she looks frustrated and jumps at my hand, instead of looking toward the direction I’m pointing. But she is pretty good at understanding words, and we’ve even resorted to spelling certain trigger words (t-r-e-a-t) instead of saying them.

So where else does Sasha shine? Well, she’s really good at waking me and my husband up every morning promptly at 7 am. We no longer even need to set an alarm clock. And she’s also efficient at telling us when it’s time to go to bed (are you getting the picture that our dog runs the household yet?). She’s very effective at communicating to me when she’s hungry, and she can go and fetch the newspaper (as long as there’s not a squirrel in the vicinity). And, as far as her ultimate ability, Sasha excels at catching things. She can easily catch balls and Frisbees in midair.

And I’m not sure I’d want to have a dog who’s smarter than me, anyway! Hare says in The Genius of Dogs that he would like to see dog parents at the dog park trade information about their dog’s unique talents instead of talking about how smart breeds are.

Cathy Weselby

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

 

 

A University Study Proves The Intelligence of Dogs

The next time you wonder if your dog understands you,  think about this article! – Diana Davidson, WestsideDogNanny

In a recent study, published in Springer’s journal, Animal Cognition  concluded:

“Dogs can learn, retain and replay actions taught by humans after a short delay.

The research, conducted by Claudia Fugazza and Adám Miklósi, from …University in Hungary,…. provides the first evidence of dogs’ cognitive ability to both encode and recall actions.

The researchers said:

……Domestic dogs….learn by observing humans and are easily influenced by humans in learning situations. 

Living in human social groups may have favored their ability to learn from humans……

Eight adult pet dogs were trained by their owners with the ‘Do as I do’ method and then made to wait for short intervals (5-30 seconds) before they were allowed to copy the observed human action, for example walk around a bucket or ring a bell…………..

The test (results) show that dogs are able to reproduce familiar actions and novel actions after different delays… as long as ten minutes; novel tasks after a delay of one minute.

This ability was seen in different conditions, even if they were distracted by different activities during the interval.

The authors concluded: “The ability to encode and recall an action after a delay implies that the dogs have a mental representation of the human demonstration. ..(and) suggests the presence of a specific type of long-term memory in dogs.

This would be so-called ‘declarative memory,’ which refers to memories which can be consciously recalled, such as facts or knowledge.”  END  To read the article in full  ..visit sciencedaily.com

I believe that dogs have the cognitive ability to  recall and complete tasks as discussed by the researchers…   

I base this on years of observing dogs in all sorts of familiar and unfamiliar surroundings, under happy and stressful conditions.

Time and again they would adapt,  perform tasks without prodding, helping their guardians who have physical challenges and enjoying life as well

The point is that this study is just another bit of evidence supporting how special our dogs are

What do you think?

While you give that some thought we are being summoned by our “special 3″… they are ready for park time and treats.. so dutifully off we go…makes me wonder who is ‘teaching’ who in our pack ? 🙂

till next time

MR Bruno

Adopt a Dog- Save a SPECIAL Life

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372