Purebred Shetland Sheepdog outdoors on grass meadowIf you could measure your dog’s intelligence, what criteria would you use? For many dog owners, traits like responsiveness, obedience, and good behavior might come to mind when factoring intelligent dog breeds.

The study of canine cognition and behavior is nothing new. From Pavlov to more recent studies on emotional intelligence, learning about sociable pack animals like dogs have helped us gain insight into their world and into human behavior.

While you may think your dog is the smartest one around, there are specific metrics used to determine intelligent dog breeds and why they excel.

Measuring Canine Intelligence

The first test to measure canine intelligence was unveiled in 1976 and involved problem-solving metrics, coupled with memory and agility. These obedience and problem-solving tests are primarily used by organizations such as the American Kennel Club to determine varying abilities between breeds.

Since then, dog intelligence has expanded into the areas of perception, social learning and emotional intelligence, and the ability to learn and interpret words. One such champion was Chaser, a border collie who learned the names of over 1,000 objects, which he retrieved after verbal command.

Psychologist and author Stanley Coren is a leading authority on canine intelligence who has been researching intelligent dog breeds for decades. He’s identified three basic types of canine intelligence:

  • Instinctive – the skills or characteristics a dog was bred to perform or exemplify
  • Adaptive – how well a dog can adapt to or learn from the environment
  • Obedience and working – the skills and commands dogs learn or how well they’re able to hone instinctive skills through obedience training

Teacher’s Pets: Intelligent Dog Breeds

Now that you know the basics of what determines intelligence in dogs, how does Rover measure up?

Based on current findings among more common breeds, here are the top 10:

  1. Border collies
  2. Poodles
  3. German shepherds
  4. Golden retrievers
  5. Dobermans
  6. Shetland sheepdogs
  7. Labrador retrievers
  8. Papillons
  9. Bloodhounds
  10. Rottweilers

If your dog didn’t make the grade, don’t worry. There are many factors that make a great canine companion. In fact, mixed breeds are often good examples of the best qualities of certain breeds, but without the health issues associated with purebred dogs.

Another important factor in intelligence is how much time an owner invests in environmental enrichment, interaction, and training. The more opportunities a dog has to learn and to be challenged, the more likely he or she is to become a well-adjusted, happy pet.

In any event, at the end of the day, what we value most in man’s best friend is loyalty, companionship, and unconditional love.

Do you have some examples of intelligence in your best canine friend? The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital would love to hear from you.