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Smart Dog - As Clever as a Two Year Old

Updated on March 20, 2012
Barney and Tiggy
Barney and Tiggy
Barney kissing a calf
Barney kissing a calf

The Research

In his recent report psychologist Dr Stanley Coren PhD from the University of British Columbia concluded that smart dogs do indeed have more intelligence than we give them credit for and that the learning levels of some breeds was similar to that of human two year olds.

He found that on average most dogs could understand around 150 words, symbols and actions, with the super clever breeds knowing as many as 250 words. They were able to count up to four, answer simple sums and were capable of deceiving other dogs and humans to get rewards as well as solve basic problems. How to open a cupboard, which is the quickest route home.

The Einstein of the canine world is more likely to be found in the Border Colley, followed by the Poodle, German Shepherd, Golden Retrievers and the Sheepdogs. Russian wolfhounds and Afghan hounds being amongst the most lovable but stupidest group.

Chic Dog
Chic Dog

Case Study

So where does this put Barney? My boy is an adorabale, 11 year old Colley, Spaniel cross who has lived with me since he was abandoned in a park, when 3 weeks old. Throughout his life this smart dog has demonstrated a great understanding of language and he has also constructed associations with certain words.

Although many of them mean "Barney gets biscuit!"

He is also able to express his needs by indicating towards objects that he has taught me the meaning of. Looking at the cupboard means "now I get biscuit", watching the top of the fridge means "lets go for walk". When you go for a shower he invariably follows you in to the bathroom and sits washing himself as well and when it's his time for bed he wanders off to sleep.

The Rule Book

Barney has developed a list of things which warrant a treat and he will stubbornly sit by the cupboard until he gets his reward. These include:

Having a shower,

Returning from a walk

Being brushed

Having his ears cleaned

Groomed for ticks

Having his paws checked for grass seeds

Coming home with shopping

Any of the above means he's a good boy and deserves a snack for doing so. He also adds up, if you clean his ears then brush him, he wants two treats. So there are rules to his logic as well. He also tells lies and will pretend he hasn't been fed if you were not there when he was originally given food.

The great adventurer
The great adventurer

English - Dog Translation

Not all phrases have an understandable logic to them and although it is normal to admonish a pet by saying "Bad Boy", "No!" Barney also will cower away in a corner if you ask him "Do you want a bath".

He understands that when you sweep the floor, you have to sit on the bed away from the action and begging at the dinner table doesn't get you anything but just sitting by me and looking sweet will work a treat. He hates sprouts and will pick them out of his bowel before starting to eat, Banana and grapes are not on his menu and despite telling you he wants one will spit it out and ask for another.

There are quite a large number of words that will get a response from him, provided he is in the mood to perform. "Sit", "Paw" and "Lie Down" are the ABC of dog language. "Give me a kiss", obviously means spit all over my face and "what do good boys get" means if I sit still there's a buscuit in it for me."Where's Mommy" and "Where's the ball" get him looking around and "walk", "Stroll" or "out" will get him jumping mad. Even though we tried to use different words to mean "go out" he learnt them. Just hasn't mastered spelling yet.

He also hates military airplanes, thunder and certain people, even from a distance. Unlike my mother in laws dog who hates scooters Barney doesn't bat an eye lid. He also believes that if asked "Did you do that" simply looking the other way means you are talking to someone else and it's nothing for him to worry about.

So whether any of this means I have a Canine Mensa candidate or the next winner on X Factor I don't know, What I do know is for years now he has provided me with endless amusement, laughs and love. And all for a biscuit. Love him.

Sad Farewell

As an update, sadly my beautiful boy died on March 6th 2012. After 15 years with me, old age finally got the better of him. He was such an entertaining, comical and loving friend and I miss him dearly.He taught me to say goodbye like its the last time you'll see someone, greet them with the love of a long absense. Remeber you always deserve a treat for a job well done and welcome everyone you see as a new friend. Take regular exercise but also enjoy a sleep, cuddle lots and eat well and you'll go far. Seemingly, not a bad philosphy for a dog.


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    • knell63 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Umbria, Italy

      Thanks Miss Lil Atlanta, did you know Corgi is Welsh for Dwarf Dog. Glad you stopped by and enjoyed the hub.

    • Miss Lil' Atlanta profile image

      Miss Lil' Atlanta 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      It's so true. Intelligent dog breeds really are just as smart as two year olds. And as difficult as two yearolds can be at times, you just can't help but love them!

      Well, I know I love two yearolds and intelligent dogs anyways, especially Border Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Pembroke Welsh Corgis.

      ~ Miss Lil' Atlanta

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 

      9 years ago from Connecticut

      Love this! Barney sounds so sweet...and hungry. :) Very interesting research too. I'm not sure how my dog measures up.She is a bit below average (but incredibly sweet).

    • Sarah_Callahan profile image


      9 years ago

      Great Hub!!


    • knell63 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Umbria, Italy

      Thanks Amanda, Paradise and USAPooltoy.

      It was fun to write, just thinking of all the words and actions he has that make him unique to me. And its all scientifically proven. Thanks to the Boffin Coren, definately a biscuit for him.

    • USAPoolToy profile image


      9 years ago from Florida

      Wonderful hub!!


    • Paradise7 profile image


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Hey Knell, I really enjoyed this Hub. Thanks for taking the time to share. I loved my dog--I like your dog a lot, too. I know what you mean.

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 

      9 years ago from UK

      Hi Knell, I don't have a dog these days, but Barney's antics put me in mind of Kimmy, the black labrador we had at home when I was growing up. Kim would do anything for a treat, my brother would put a chair on top of a table, and Kim would somehow scramble up there and wait for his reward. He was a great escapologist, too, and a bit of canine Casanova. Most of the local mongrel pups had a look of Kim about them!

    • knell63 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Umbria, Italy

      Thanks Pee, its funny how they make their own rules to suit the occassion. I'm not sure whose rule book is bigger, his or my wife's.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great hub! I really enjoyed this. We live with an Alaskan Malamute named Rocky and a big grey cat named Franz. What always amazes me is how the can look at me and communicate fairly effectively just with a certain intense look. There's a look for "outside" and a look for "my dish is empty" and one for "something is wrong outdoors," etc.

      I really related to the biscuit routine though. Rocky gets a biscuit after all sorts of things too, and he's always looking to expand the number of biscuit-worthy events. He gets a biscuit when he comes in at night and goes to bed, but if he can, he'll go sit in the front room when he comes in, get a biscuit there, then go to bed and want another. This is because he gets a biscuit both for going out to do his business AND for bed, so he figures (apparently), Hey, this is a two biscuit deal here.


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