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How To Make Your Dog More Intelligent

Updated on November 15, 2016
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr Mark is a veterinarian in Brazil. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

My dog practicing kinhin, Zen walking meditation, as she helps collect seaweed for my garden
My dog practicing kinhin, Zen walking meditation, as she helps collect seaweed for my garden | Source

Making My Dog More Intelligent

All dogs have a basic intelligence based on their nature. They are easy to house train because it is natural not to mess up their home, they are easy to bite-inhibit because it is natural to respect the leader, they are easy to obedience train when we ask them to perform natural movements like sit and lie down.

But is it natural to learn new words and odd behaviors?

A dog can be more attuned to his owner and easier to train if he is socialized more. The more you talk or give hand signals to your dog, and work on giving commands, the more likely your dog is going to learn new commands. A lot of people consider assistance dogs intelligent, but anyone who prepares them will tell you that they have to be very well socialized. If they are not, they are never going to be considered as assistance dogs, and thus they will not be considered intelligent.

To improve my dogs intelligence, I made sure she had:

  • Early manipulation
  • Socialization, especially during the sensitive period before 16 weeks
  • Early training
  • Continued exposure to tests and problems
  • Introduction to new tricks and other commands during training
  • Lots of praise when she displays intelligent behavior

Helping A Puppy Become More Intelligent

Early touching may make a puppy more willing to learn and perhaps more intelligent.
Early touching may make a puppy more willing to learn and perhaps more intelligent. | Source

Almost everyone of us want a dog that is considered smart. The path to intelligence should start early.

Puppies can be touched and manipulated even before they are able to hear or see. As soon as a puppy is about 5 weeks old, he will be able to learn basic obedience commands if taught in very short sessions.

If your puppy is already 8 weeks old when you bring him home, training should begin from the first day. The more you teach your dog, and the more you ask of her, the more intelligent she can become. Are there genetic limits to the intelligence that can be gained through training? Probably. No matter how much we teach, however, we are not even getting close to reaching those limits.

If you have a very young dog, follow the superdog training schedule outlined in this book to make your dog even smarter. There are also tests you can give your dog to determine his level and type of intelligence.

One reason my dog is so smart is that I have been giving her intelligence tests since she was young. Dogs are amazing animals and will learn what we want and how to respond.

But Is My Dog Really More Intelligent?

Recently I discussed this subject with a misguided young man who wanted to select his dog based on the breed´s intelligence score. Intelligence scores, of course, are determined by humans and are a human method of deciding which breed is the most intelligent. Most intelligent means most trainable, in some eyes. Most trainable does not mean most intelligent.

Intelligence is the ability to learn and think, not just do what I command.

Some breeds are considered more intelligent because they are easier to train than others. Border Collies, Poodles, and German Shepherds are easy to train and rank high on many intelligence lists. When I was young the German Shepherd Dog was considered the most intelligent breed since they had won most of the obedience awards at dog shows. Later a Border Collie was made famous since he could remember over 200 words and knew how to string some of the words together. Labrador Retrievers are popular in this area because they have made the list of “The 10 Most Intelligent Dog Breeds”.

But what happens when you take an “intelligent” dog breed and ask it to do something contrary to its breed intelligence? Can you teach a Border Collie to kill chickens like a Siberian Husky? (Okay, maybe that’s not the best example but anyone who has owned a Siberian will realize why that is one of the first things I thought of.) Can you teach a French Bulldog to point out birds in the field and retrieve them without damaging the flesh? Can you teach your German Shepherd to run rabbits like a Beagle?

My dog, a Pitbull cross, is intelligent enough to shepherd the rabbits, collect coconuts on the beach, and act as my therapist when out collecting seaweed for my garden. Her main job is to guard my house.

Is my dog more intelligent?
Is my dog more intelligent? | Source

Who is the ultimate judge of intelligence? The list spread out over the internet may say that my Siberian Husky was stupid compared to a Border Collie, but he would work all day to solve the puzzle on how to open the door of the rabbit hutches so he could enjoy a snack. (We had built the rabbit hutches in a dog-proof style. For a dog of normal intelligence I am sure they were. They were not Husky proof.)

Is my Pit Bull cross stupid because she practices kinhin (walking meditation) instead of doing my neighbor´s algebra homework? I guess I could be accused of the same level of stupidity.

I am not saying that my dog is more intelligent than your dog…yes, I guess I am!


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      Kristina Harman 3 years ago

      I could teach my border collie to do anything. He doesn't herd sheep. He opens and closes all of the doors in our house, he brings me each of my shoes- by name, he retrieves each of my dogs- by name (granted, he does herd them), he can open the fridge and bring you a soda, he turns the lights on and off, he watches tv for hours, and after he learned the word for bath and then learned the spelling b-a-t-h, he figured out the sign for it too. He watched me hit the garage door opener one time and after that, he figured out how to do it himself. I'm not saying other dogs aren't smart or don't do some pretty incredible things... But I have four other dogs, and while they are awesome, the border collie really does continue to bewilder me each and every day. He can count. If I ask him to give me "ocho besitos", he will give me 8 little kisses. If I ask him for "tres besos" he will give me three big kisses. That's because he not only understands commands in English but also in Spanish. I don't even speak Spanish. My ex did, and the dog just kind of figured out what she was asking. He understands more than 200 words, I can promise you that, and I think what makes this breed so different from other smart breeds is that they are the only dogs I've ever met who have some basic ability to reason- or at least to come to conclusions on his own cognition. I am not a dog trainer. He is just so perceptive. Again, I'm not saying other dogs aren't incredibly smart too... But I am saying that I definitely could teach my border collie to go fetch a bird and bring him back gently. He knows the word "gentle" and when I ask him to pick up a pack of cigarettes "gently" he does just that. I jus thought I would put my two sense in... Because owning a border collie has completely changed my opinion of dogs altogether. They are bred for intelligence, and quite frankly, they are the only dog that the AKC certifies based on intelligence alone. Their intelligence and ability to work are the only breed standards for this kind of dog.

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      DoItForHer 5 years ago

      I really liked the comment how the dog needs to be socialized or it will never be considered intelligent. Have been thinking a lot how to respond to people who tell me that the Border Collie part of my pit bull mix is what makes her so intelligent. Of course that's not true, but how to communicate that?

      You may have given me a gem. Will let you know how that works.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment Suhail. I was talking to a girl yesterday and she wants to get a Beagle, rated as one of the 10 least intelligent breeds. Does it matter? Not to her, as the dogs fits her lifestlye just like the Kuvasz fits your family and locale. I guess not all of us, nor our dogs, are too stupid!

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 5 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Great hub that came as a big confidence builder for I always thought that its one's lifestyle that is more important than a dog's intelligence to decide what dog one should have. I captured this in practical terms in my hub on Kuvasz dog breed as follows:

      "As a family, we decided on Kuvasz breed after lot of research work. We wanted to have a medium to large size guard dog that had low prey drive, was hypoallergenic, was a couch potato inside and able to accompany us on long-distance hiking adventures outside, was able to cope with the extreme winters of southern Ontario, and wasn’t overly affectionate and demonstrative. We did not only talk to the dog experts, we also took dog breed quizzes on the reputed websites.

      The key learning from dog experts and quizzes was that it pays to have a dog matching with one’s lifestyle. Surely, if one is into water based activities in the freezing big lakes, getting a Borzoi will not be a good option even though it is also a cold weather breed."

      Again, a very informative hub.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      I would feel bogus writing an article like "How to Trade Stocks on Wall Street" but would be fine with alternate subjects like "How to Split Your Skull Open During a Seizure" or "Ten Easy Ways to Lose 300,000". I´ve already thought about the slacker and Zen though and one article is published, more on the way.

      I hate to be dense but I did not understand the Holiday Inn joke! Guess I need to spend more time thinking about it as I pick off my fleas!!!!!!!!!

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      No I think that one can still be consider a SLACKER and write an article about their slacking abilities or lack of any abilities besides writing articles on a SLACKERS best friend.

      Yes reading articles by people whom pretend to be an expert sucks!

      Now I'm not an expert but I play one on Hub Pages and I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night . . . I won't tell you with whom but she told me to tell you hello!

      However because the subject of SLACKERDOM is so wide spread in the human species it would require more than just a couple of hours to produce, thus producing a possible scenario in which one might have to give up their SLACKERTUDE ways . . . so it could turn into a learning experience.

      My suggestion stick subjects you know . . . sand fleas and dog breath!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Thanks Angie. I can see from that great picture you have that you have your own most intelligent dog! Great, isn't it?

    • angie ashbourne profile image

      angie ashbourne 5 years ago

      Hi! DrMark1961 Great story!!! Angie

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      WOW that would be a great subject for a hub, somethingblue, but there lies the conundrum: if I were to sit at the computer several hours and write an article about slackers, would I not be removing myself from the category and thus deny myself from having the right to write about the subject. (when I first joined hubpages I read a hub about dogs written by a guy who does not even have dogs. I turned it off immediately)

      What do you think?

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      Every time I get on the computer I make money, enough to support me, pay my bills and eat. When you and if you get to that point in life you may change your tune of course being a beach bum wouldn't be a bad life either if you enjoy being a SLACKER!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Could send Cloudy via air mail! ;-) If she doesn't scramble out of the bag by then!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Thanks! Still searching for that perfect Westie to keep us company though.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      You have one cool dog!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      At least she is smart enough to lay out in the grass instead of wasting time on the computer!

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      The real question is whether your dog is smarter than you?

      1. You feed him not the other way around.

      2. You take care of him, making sure he doesn't have fleas.

      3. And so far he creates the subjects you write about.

      I vote he is smarter than you but doesn't write as well!