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  • Con Slobodchikoff, Ph.D.
    Slobodchikoff is President and CEO of Animal Communications, Ltd., specializing in pet behavior problems and in educating people about the behavior of animals.

« Getting Your Adopted Dog Off to the Right Start | Main | Canine Distemper in Puppies »

June 10, 2009


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James Drake'S Golden Retriever Guide

Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It will always be exciting to read through articles from other writers and use a little something from other websites.

dog food

Great article. Food for the brain.

Cheryl @ Allergy Friendly Dogs

I found the list about intelligent dogs very interesting, thankyou. Have bookmarked your site, and will return for more reading. Great article, thanks.


what about dalmation rank

Patrick C. Byrne

This is more of the same old intelligence based on a dog's willingness to follow what man wants. What a lot of nonsense. Breeds have specific qualities. I have bred pure bred dogs for forty years and am an AKC judge. I have heeard this flawed nonsense for years and I can tell you through long experience it is meaningless.


Great posting, thanks lots!

keep dogs

A book of breeding? this is interesting.. I found this site very useful for me because I'm new dog owner. thanks a lot. n_n

Janice Koler-Matznick, MS, ACAAB, CPDT

Dr. Coren is clear in this post that the "intelligence" the obedience judges were ranking was the "working" intelligence: the desire to gain approval of humans by following trained commands. This is the breed's "bidability" and the dogs that ranked highest were of course those dogs selected for their responsiveness to training. The lowest ranking breeds were selected to work on their own, without human direction: in other words, to use thier own judgement and self-motivation. In addition, Pekingese, Bulldogs and Bloodhounds are today highly abnormal dogs selected for unusual conformation and/or one heightened sense (scent in the bloodhound) and this strong selection for physical characteristics meant other traits such as native problem-solving ability (Coren's adaptive intelligence) were ignored.

The well-known early experiments by Scott and Fuller (Genetics and the Social Behavior of Dogs) showed that Shetland Sheepdogs were extremely biddable, scoring high on leash and stay training, but failed miserably on problem-solving such as the maze test. Beagles were better at problem solving than Shelties, but the best problem-solver of all was the Basenji, which failed miserably on the training tests.

As a dog ethologist I appreciate those dogs with high problem-solving ability, such as the Basenji and Afghan, as these are dogs that could survive on their own, while the Sheltie and Brder Collie would sit around waiting for a human to tell them what to do next . It is not that Afghans and Basenjis do not learn as fast as a Border Collie, as given appropriate motivation to pay attention they actually learn the task just as fast or even faster. These "independant-minded" breeds just see no point in doing the same thing over and over, and they highly resisted the old force/intimidation type of training. Given modern science-based positive reward training many of these formerly hard-to-train breeds are performing well in activities less rote routine than competitive obedience, like agility and rally.

Lastly, Coren said: "It is important because if dogs did not respond to human instruction, they would not be capable of performing the utilitarian tasks that we originally valued them for, which means that they would never have been domesticated and wouldn’t be with us now."

Since the first dogs attached themselves to humans long before there were any other domestic animals or any other "tasks" for dogs to perfom for humans, the ability to follow human generated commands certainly was not one of the factors in domestication of the dog. The only factors important for the domestication of the dog ancestor had to be its service as a camp sanitary worker (consuming human feces and what little garbage hunter-gatherer people produced) and as a "walking larder" to supply easily accessible meat when hunting failed. No ability to follow human commands was needed, and even today many dogs in less industrialized societies still live in this original pariah niche performing these neccessary functions.

Janice Koler-Matznick


there was nothing on why collies rank #1 on the intelligence list. maybe i might of skipped over it. im doing a project on types of dogs and need information.
also it was interesting. it wasn't the best information i could have gotten though.

saheem williams

Ok i have a full breed pitbul, and his species is "canine"!!!! What does this mean?????


I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Randall Johnson

Grisha Stewart raises an interesting point about how training methods might influence the ranking of dog intelligence by breed. If it hasn’t already been done, this would make for a very interesting research project. In the end, Dr. Coren’s list might look a good bit different. And while I’m on the subject, what does ‘trainability’ really have to do with an animal’s overall intelligence, however one defines it? What does it tell us about how an animal relates to its world, its conspecifics, and other species? From an ecological point of view, nothing much.

Rick Smith’s question about the intelligence of mixed breeds really hit home with me because most of my recent experience with dogs (other than my own) has been with street dogs in my community, most of which don’t conform to any recognizable breed description. I myself can’t imagine how a study could be designed to answer Rick’s question, but other DBB readers might have some ideas.

One more thing. I was perplexed by Dr. Coren’s closing comment that we should “think about what we consider to be the most important aspects of humans—well, the same applies to dogs!” And the aspect he chose was 'beauty'. Dogs clearly don’t share our very narrow Western concept of beauty—one more good quality in their favor! I would have chosen ‘loyalty’, ‘companionship’, or ‘unconditional acceptance’ as far more worthy, relevant qualities.

Grisha Stewart, Seattle dog trainer

One major factor to consider is the type of trainer doing the evaluation. Most obedience judges are traditional trainers, meaning they use choke chains and correction to train the dog. But some dogs that are considered dumb by force-based trainers are very trainable with positive reinforcement! Beagles are a case in point.

rick smith

This was a very interesting article and really made me think a lot deeper about the subject of canine intelligence in general and the variety of methods and terminology used to measure it. But one thing struck me immediately after I finished reading : What about the intelligence of mixed breed canines ? Since the vast majority of dogs in our human population are mixed breeds, I would hope some research has been done in this area or else we would be excluding the majority of our canine population. I was going to add a remark about comparing the intelligence of "different" people, but i'd better not go there :-)

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