Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Smartest Dogs?

Well, guess what, there's this guy who thinks he's really clever because he has a PhD, and he made a list of a 110 dog breeds in order of how smart they are.  This man's name is Stanley Coren, and he put this list in a book called The Intelligence of Dogs.

The way he figured out how smart these dogs are was that he had a bunch of people who usually judge dog obedience trials give the dogs scores according to how good they were at learning commands and then following the commands.

This border collie can't think of anything to do
until somebody gives him a command.
So the dogs who are supposedly "smart" are good at doing whatever a human wants them to do, but is that what it really means to be "smart"?  In my opinion, it takes lots more intelligence to think up things to do all by yourself, without someone giving you commands.  And the smartest dogs of all are probably the ones who can figure out how to get away with doing stuff their human doesn't want them to do, such as stealing food off the counter or opening the refrigerator door or unlatching the gate.

But I don't have a fancy PhD in neuropsychology, so what do I know?

Anyway, now I will tell you the whole list of dogs, from smartest to dumbest, according to Dr. Coren.  The top 10 dogs are the "brightest" because they learned a new command in fewer than 5 repetitions.  Then they obeyed the command at least 95% of the time.
This poodle is smart enough to find
the best napping place in the house!

  1.  Border Collie
  2.  Poodle
  3.  German Shepherd
  4.  Golden Retriever
  5.  Doberman
  6.  Sheltie
  7.  Labrador Retriever
  8.  Papillon
  9.  Rottweiler
10. Australian Cattle Dog


      Dogs ranked 11 to 26 are "excellent working dogs" who understand a new command with 5 to 15 repetitions and then obey at least 85% of the time.
Four "excellent working" keeshonds

         11. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
         12. Miniature Schnauzer
         13. English Springer
         14. Belgian Tervuren
         15. Schipperke,
             Belgian Sheepdog
         16. Collie, Keeshond
         17. German Shorthaired
         18. Flat-Coated Retriever,
            English Cocker
            Standard Schnauzer
         19. Brittany
         20. Cocker Spaniel
         21. Weimaraner
         22. Belgian Malinois,
              Bernese Mountain Dog
         23. Pomeranian
         24. Irish Water Spaniel
         25. Vizsla
       26. Cardigan Welsh Corgi

These next dogs are "average working dogs."  They learn a new command after 15 to 25 repetitions, then they obey 70% of the time or better.

Sadly, this puli only gets
an average grade for intelligence.

         27.  Chesapeake Bay
                Retriever, Puli,
               Yorkshire Terrier
         28.  Giant Schnauzer
         29.  Airedale,
               Bouvier des Flandres
         30.  Border Terrier, Briard
         31.  Welsh Springer Spaniel
         32.  Manchester Terrier
         33.  Samoyed
         34.  Field Spaniel,
               Australian Terrier,
                Staffordshire Terrier, 
                Gordon Setter, Collie
         35.  Cairn Terrier,
               Kerry Blue Terrier,
               Irish Setter
         36.  Norwegian Elkhound
         37.  Affenpinscher, Silky Terrier,
                Miniature Pinscher, English Setter,
                Pharaoh Hound, Clumber  Spaniel
         38.  Norwich Terrier
         39.  Dalmatian

Dogs number 40 to 54 are of "average working/obedience intelligence."  It takes 25 to 40 repetitions of a new command for them to learn it, and then they obey at least 50% of the time.

Why are smooth fox terriers
smarter than wire fox terriers?

         40.  Wheaten Terrier, Bedlington Terrier,
                Smooth Fox Terrier
         41.  Curly-Coated Retriever,
                Irish Wolfhound
         42.  Kuvasz, Australian Sheepdog
         43.  Saluki, Finnish Spitz, Pointer
         44.  Cavalier King Charles Spaniel,
                German Wirehaired Pointer,
                Black-and-Tan Coonhound, 
                American Water Spaniel
         45.  Siberian Husky, Bichon Frise,
                English Toy Spaniel
         46.  Tibetan Spaniel,
                 English Foxhound,
                Otterhound, Greyhound,
                American Foxhound, 
                Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
         47.  West Highland Terrier, Scottish Deerhound
         48.  Boxer, Great Dane
         49.  Dachshund, Staffordshire Bull Terrier
         50.  Alaskan Malamute
         51.  Whippet, Chinese Sharpei, Wire Fox Terrier
         52.  Rhodesian Ridgeback
         53.  Ibizan Hound, Welsh Terrier, Irish Terrier
         54.  Boston Terrier, Akita

The next group have "fair working/obedience intelligence" and only learn a new command after 40 to 80 repetitions.  Then they obey the command about 30% of the time.

The Old English Sheepdog is only fair
at learning to herd the same sheep
a border collie herds so brilliantly.

         55.  Skye Terrier
         56.  Norfolk Terrier,
                Sealyham Terrier
         57.  Pug
         58.  French Bulldog
         59.  Brussels Griffon,
         60.  Italian Greyhound
         61.  Chinese Crested
         62.  Dandie Dinmont,
                Petit Basset
                Griffon Vendeen,
                Tibetan Terrier,
                Japanese Chin,
                Lakeland Terrier
         63.  Old English
         64.  Great Pyrenees
         65.  Scottish Terrier, Saint Bernard
         66.  Bull Terrier
         67.  Chihuahua
         68.  Lhasa Apso
         69.  Bullmastiff
And now we come to the really dumb dogs, at least according to Dr. Coren.  These dogs have the "lowest degree of working/obedience intelligence," need to hear a new command 80 to 100 times before they learn it, and then only obey it 25% of the time or worse.  And look which breed is listed as the next-to-the dumbest breed:  BASENJIS!  Only Afghan hounds are supposedly more stupid about obeying commands.
Does this dog look like the stupidest
dog of all?  No way!

         70.  Shih Tzu
         71.  Basset Hound
         72.  Mastiff, Beagle
         73.  Pekingese
         74.  Bloodhound
         75.  Borzoi
         76.  Chow Chow
         77.  Bulldog
         78.  Basenji
         79.  Afghan Hound

Okay, so like I said before, I think it shows much more intelligence for a dog to be able to solve problems such as finding a way to get to the yummy snacks in the cat box than it does for a dog to learn a bunch of dumb commands.  A lot of the dogs who rank lower on the intelligence list are terriers and sighthounds, which are dogs that are actually quite smart when it comes to hunting, because they can run their prey down or dig it out of the ground.  They don't have to wait for a human to shoot a duck or pheasant and then bring it back to the human and hand it over without a second thought, like a retriever would.

Run, sheep, run!
Some of the comments I read about this list of smart dogs said that it can actually be a problem to have a smart dog such as a border collie in your family.  And this is because dogs like border collies have been bred to herd sheep or do some kind of work like that, and if they don't have anything to do, they get bored.  And if they get bored, they start chewing up everything in your house.  These same people who wrote the comments said that if you had a bulldog, for instance, instead of a border collie, the bulldog would just be happy to sleep all day and would hardly know that you were gone.

But I don't think this has much to do with intelligence, at least not the way Dr. Coren defines it.  I think it has a lot more to do with how much energy a dog has.  Because terriers and basenjis can tear up everything in your house while you are gone, just like border collies can, and it doesn't have anything to do with whether they are "smart" or "dumb."

Well, I guess that's all I have to say on this annoying topic.  I just can't believe that anybody could think a basenji was the next-to-the-most-stupid type of dog.  It may be true that basenjis are harder to train than some other kinds of dogs, but it's not because we're dumb -- it's because we are smart enough to see that there is no point in doing certain silly tricks!


  1. My mom says that when Mr Coren puts over 30 titles on a basenji or Afghan, then she'll listen to him. Until then, she's done okay NOT listening to him. ;-)

    --Zest, superstar in training
    (and for the record, my brother Digital the brindlewonderkid is the basenji with over 30 titles to his name)

  2. Dear Zest,
    I was totally sure you would agree with me that Dr. Coren has it ALL WRONG when he says that basenjis are not the smartest dogs! Maybe the problem is really the trainer, because a smart trainer can make any dog look smart, just like your mom did with Digital. And I'll bet you have 30 titles soon, too!
    Your friend, Piper

  3. Dear Piper,
    I think Dr.Coren was very mean to the poor dogs, I think he is judging them too quickly! What I really think is that the last dogs on the list were brave enough to NOT listen to the commands because they were probably stupid ones and didn't want to be caught doing silly things! I guess the scared dogs didn't want anything to happen to them so they obeyed quickly. Plus I think it is unfair he made a list because not ALL dogs are the same, I bet you'd be one of the TOP ten of the world smartest dog!
    UR #1 fan, Tas

  4. Dear Tas,
    I just knew you would see things my way! Thanks for being my #1 fan!
    Love, Piper

  5. Well....I think Mr. PhD Stanley Coren needs to be tested himself!! There's absolutely NO WAY a poodle or Sheltie is smarter than a Basenji!! Don't get me wrong, I like poodles an shelties...but Mr. PhD tests just weren't conclusive enough to me by any means! I'd like to see a poodle go up against a Basenji if say a squirrel or rabbit was in the yard....yeah...we'd show him!! Also - I've been around alot of Bloodhounds, and my relatives in West Virginia would NOT be happy with their category either! Since you know the Basenji IS the SMARTEST breed of dog...I would completely IGNORE the results of Mr. PhD!!
    Love, AP

  6. Dear Piper,
    I just noticed a picture in today's blog, it is really funny! It says run sheep run! That is hilarious! I bet you could have gotten those sheep to run away!
    Your #1Fan Tas

  7. Dear Aunt Patty,
    Thanks for backing me up on my opinions about the smartness of dogs. Yeah, I could beat a poodle or a sheltie any day, if I wanted to! And my friend Zest, Superstar in Training, REALLY could beat the pants off of any of those top 10 dogs (if they were wearing pants!). And how do bloodhounds find the bad guys if they aren't smart enough to sort out all the smells and figure out which one to follow? Anyway, 'nuff said!
    Love, Piper

  8. Dear Piper,
    My dad is getting a Norwegian Elhound. It's rank is 36. So its not the smartest. But if you go on you tube you can find a Australian Shepherd that was the smartest in the world.Yet its rank is 10. So if I traun my n.e. and if it were to become the smartest would thar be possible?

  9. My Basenji learned to sit, lay down, spin and come in less than ten repetitions each and he obeys these commands 85% or more of the time. I'd say that he's quite smart. That said, he is also a typical Basenji in that he is hard headed and does what he wants to do also. Overall, I'd say that ranking them as the 78th most intelligent dog is complete bunk...they are much higher than that in reality.

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      I think your basenji clearly shows how smart the members of that breed really are. If Piper were still here, she would be barooing in agreement and thanks for your comment! Now that I look at Dr. Coren's list and see that chihuahuas only rank #67, I have to say I feel quite annoyed about that. We chis know exactly how to get what we want, which is usually attention and yummy little treats. And that, after all, is a skill that requires a great deal of intelligence!
      Sincerely, Dorrie

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