The Dog IQ Test (Reliable Gauge, or Goofy Fun?)

We have all wondered how smart our pups are at one time or another. What we may not have realized, is that there are dog IQ tests that you can administer, supposedly to measure your pooch’s brainpower. But just how accurate are these exercises in canine mental capacity?

The Drive to Decipher Doggie Smarts

There have been variations of dog intelligence tests around for decades. Perhaps the most famous of these tests derive from the book The Intelligence of Dogs, written in 1994 by Stanley Cohen. The interest in dog smarts continues to shape and evolve today, as recent reports have demonstrated.

From a dog ownership standpoint, the impetus behind testing the smartness of our dogs probably comes from a place of pleasure; a way for us to connect with our four-legged friends on their level. From a scientific standpoint, the study of a dog's smarts is done with human ramifications in mind, such as trying to find a link between intellect and longevity.

Intelligence and Breeds

You don’t need to administer an IQ test to know that some breeds that are smarter than others. This breed-based intellect is largely driven by inherent traits, like an ability to work efficiently or a knack for pleasing crowds. Sometimes, their smarts make them easy to train, although in some cases, it may lead them to think that they’re the alpha dog.

Dogs classified as herding, working, or sporting dogs are generally considered among the brightest breeds in the canine kingdom. This makes a lot of sense, of course. After all, these dogs are bred to learn and execute some pretty complex tasks, from keeping livestock in line to helping to pick up the spoils from a good hunt.

That doesn’t mean breeds from other classes are dumb by any stretch. For instance, poodles and papillons tend to rank highly on the doggie brainpower scale, despite being non-sporting and toy, respectively. Some dogs from other categories get high intellectual marks for knowing how to “work a room,” using their charm to please those around him.

Of course, just because a dog is smart, it doesn’t necessarily make him an easy pooch to own. Sometimes, their instinctual need to work may translate into a desire to exercise a whole lot more than you do. In other cases, a lack of a stimulating environment to meet their brainy needs may result in some destroyed furniture, torn up out of boredom.

Conversely, that doesn't mean dogs that rank low in the intelligence scale isn't worthy of being your pet. For instance, bulldogs and beagles are traditionally on the bottom of these rankings, because of things like low obedience or training difficulty. However, they can be turned into loving, loyal family dogs with a patient measure of training.

What’s Usually in the Dog IQ Tests we Administer?

A basic dog IQ test is typically made up of a combination of problem solving activities, memory exercises, and language comprehension. These elements are supposedly designed to test various mental elements like logic, processing, recognition, and recall. If you use the rules that are laid out in Cohen's book, you'll be giving your dog eight tests.

With these tests, a highly intelligent dog is measured in metrics like the speed in which he can retrieve a treat from under a soup can or whether he responds to you calling his name once. On the other end of the spectrum, if your dog comes to you when you say “refrigerator” or if he doesn’t bother with the exercise in the first place, he’s allegedly a dim bulb.

How Much Stock Should I Take in These Tests, Really?

Generally, it is advised that anyone that puts their pooches through their respective IQ paces should do so with a grain of salt. Whether or not your dog figures out how to get a towel off his head in less than two minutes will not alter the fact he’s a loyal companion. And that’s why you wanted a dog in the first place, right?