Last Updated: Apr 14, 2022
How Smart is a Dog?
According to Prof. Stanley Coren, a Canadian Dog Psychologist, a dog has the mental capacity of a 2-year-old human child.
However, there is a difference in intelligence among dog breeds. Some breeds are smarter. That said, let us now look more into the intelligence of dogs, and see how different dog breeds are of different intelligence.
There are three types of intelligence that make up a dog`s intelligence:
- Instinctive Intelligence: This is the natural intelligence that comes from instinct. For example, dog breeds that have been historically bred to be guard or hunt dogs will have a high `guarding` or `hunting` intelligence compared to dogs that were not bred for guarding or hunting.
- Adaptive Intelligence: This indicates what a dog can learn to do for himself or herself. Adaptive intelligence is specific to each dog, and not specific to a breed. You can improve your dog`s adaptive intelligence (and therefore its overall intelligence) by investing time to train your dog.
- Working/Obedience Intelligence: This is the intelligence that is the subject of this article. This type of intelligence is breed-specific. Certain dog breeds tend to have higher working/obedience intelligence than some other breeds. This intelligence is the closest to what we might call school-learning ability and it is based upon what the dog can learn to do when instructed by humans. This type of intelligence can be measured for each dog breed and compared to that of other dog breeds.
You can tell what type of instinctive intelligence a dog breed will have based on which dog group it belongs.
Coren did extensive scientific research where he `measured` the Working/Obedience Intelligence of more than 130 different dog breeds.
Note that the working/obedience intelligence of a dog is one of the three intelligence components that constitute a dog`s intelligence.
When doing his research ranking the intelligence of dog breeds, Prof. Coren consulted with:
- Over two hundred dog obedience judges
- Over sixty veterinarians, and
- Fourteen guard dog experts
From his research data, Prof. Coren ranked dog breeds according to their obedience intelligence from the smartest to the least smart.
The smartest dog breed is the Border Collie. Border Collies are very smart dogs. They can understand new commands after fewer than 5 repetitions.
The Border Collie is the smartest dog breed.
The least smart dog breed is the Afghan Hound. Afghan Hounds are among the dog breeds with the lowest degree of Working/Obedience intelligence. The will take 80 to 100 repetitions or more for an Afghan Hound to learn a new command.
The Afghan Hound is the least smart among all dog breeds.
Furthermore, Coren placed dog breeds into one of six intelligence categories based on how smart the dog breed is
- Brightest Dogs: Tend To Learn New Commands After Fewer Than 5 Repetitions
- Excellent Working Dogs: Tend To Learn New Commands After 5 To 15 Repetitions
- Above Average Working Dogs: Tend To Learn New Commands After 15 To 25 Repetitions
- Average Working/Obedience Intelligence Dogs: Tend To Learn New Commands After 25 To 40 Repetitions
- Fair Working/Obedience Intelligence Dogs: Tend To Learn New Commands After 40 To 80 Repetitions!
- Lowest Degree of Working/Obedience Intelligence Dogs: Tend To Learn New Commands After 80 To 100 Repetitions Or More!
Note that obedience intelligence is one of the many things that make a good dog. The fact that a dog breed has a low obedience intelligence because it does not learn commands quickly DOES NOT MEAN the dog breed with not excel at other things.
Obedience intelligence is one of the many aspects of what makes dogs excellent human companions that they are.
See the intelligence ranking of dog breeds in the table below: (note, although 133 dog breeds were studied, there are 79 positions because some breeds tied for the same position).
Are Dogs Smarter Than Cats?
Dogs have more neurons in their brains than cats. In fact, a dog has twice the number of brain neurons of a cat (500 million versus 250 million neurons).
This is according to a research study in which the scientist counted the number of brain neurons in dogs and in cats.
Brain neurons are used for processing information. Hence, it is likely that a dog will have a better information processing power than a cat
Thus, if we are to use the number of neurons in an animal`s brain as a measure of intelligence, then a dog is definitely way smarter than a cat because a dog has twice the brain neurons as a cat.
However, intelligence is a very complex concept that may not be explained simply by how many neurons an animal`s brain has. Learn more here.
What is the IQ of a Dog?
Before discussing the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of a dog, let us first define what Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is. IQ is simply a measure of how mentally advanced a person is relative to that person`s chronological age (the normal age is calculated from birthday).
For example, a 2-year-old child with the mental capacity of a 4-year-old child has an IQ of 200 (that is 4 divided by 2, multiplied by 100).
This is an old but very simple definition of IQ.
According to Prof. Stanley Coren, a dog has the mental capacity of a 2-year-old human child.
Let us assume that dogs become full-grown and reach mental maturity at the age of one year.
Also, let us make the bold assumption that, as dogs get older, they do not get significantly smarter than a 2-year-old human child.
Thus, a one-year-old dog will have the mental capacity of a 2-year-old human child, and a 2-year-old dog will still have the mental capacity of a 2-year-old human child, and so on (You Can`t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks).
Then, from the way IQ is defined, a one-year-old dog, which will have the mental capacity of a 2-year-old child, has an IQ of 200! This is not too surprising because dogs mature and age faster than humans.
A one-year-old dog is twice as smart as a one-year-old human child.
Also, since a 2-year-old dog will have the intelligence of a two-year-old human, then the corresponding IQ of a 2-year-old dog is 100. Similarly, a three-year dog will still have the mental capacity of a two-year-old human, making its IQ 66, and so on.
These may sound odd. But this is because the concept of IQ was designed to test human intelligence and not dog intelligence. That is what you get when you use human intelligence as a reference when trying to measure dog intelligence.