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Some breeds are smarter than others

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Updated: August 30, 2012 6:21AM



Dear Ollie: There it is in print once again. I had to read a list of the smartest breeds of dogs. Of course, I’m just a mixed breed and don’t fit in anywhere. But I know how to get what I need in the house and I sleep in the big bed with my two pet parents.

My pet parents pay good attention to me so I’m never left alone or outside too long or trapped in a vehicle. So, I think of myself a pretty darn smart.

If there a list of mixed breed dogs that are smart, I should be on it.

Reggie, a very smart
former shelter dog

Dear Reggie: Dogs are very smart animals or so I am told because I’m not on this list either. In fact, some scientists estimate that the average dog is as smart as a 3-year-old. That means he is smart enough to understand more than 150 words, smart enough to count to five, and smart enough to outsmart the humans like you.

Yes, dogs are very smart — and some breeds are smarter on average than others.

Psychologist Stanley Coren, a leading canine researcher, psychologist and widely published author from the University of British Columbia, studied data from 208 professional dog obedience judges in the USA and Canada to determine which breeds are the smartest on average and which ones were at the bottom of the list. He developed a list of 80 breeds with the top 12 and bottom five listed below.

Coren’s Ranking of Breeds

1. Border collie

2. Poodle

3. German shepherd

4. Golden retriever

5. Doberman pinscher

6. Shetland sheepdog

7. Labrador retriever

8. Papillon

9. Rottweiler

10. Australian cattle dog

11. Pembroke Welsh corgi

12. Miniature Schnauzer

At the low end of the intelligence rankings are:

76. Borzoi

77. Chow chow

78. Bulldog

79. Basenji

80. Afghan hound

Now, living with more intelligent dogs can present its own challenges. Coren writes in his book, “The Intelligence of Dogs,” that intelligent dogs are inadvertently taught many unwanted behaviors. By increasing the activity level in a household, and increasing the number of people that are present in it, the likelihood that chance associations will be learned. For the intelligent dog this means that there is a greater opportunity to learn things that will be useful in adapting to everyday life, but also provides a greater opportunity for the dog to learn “odd” or annoying associations.

Consider the case of Prince, a border collie whose great joy in life was to race around outdoors. Whenever someone was about to leave the house, Prince would race after them, trying to get outside. Once, after Prince had started his mad dash for the exit, the screen door swung closed and the dog ended up crashing through the wire mesh.

Rewarded by the chance to romp outside, the dog learned from this one instance that it could create its own “doggie door” by simply running full tilt at the screen. After several repairs had been attempted, Prince’s owners added a protective layer of heavy farm wire that the dog could not break through. Frustrated by this new development Prince began casting around the house and noticed that many of the windows were open and only covered by the same material used to cover the screen door. For this intelligent dog it was easy to reach the conclusion that these windows could also be used as exits.

By the way, there is no data on the intelligence of mutts. Reggie, you are unique and for that reason, there is no data on your smarts. What really bothers me is that according to this list, I’m at the No. 70 spot. And here I thought I was a whole lot smarter.



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