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February 22, 2020

Photo By Lee 

How smart is my dog actually? 

Most of us dog owners understand there is a certain intelligence behind the playful eyes of our dogs. Although they cannot speak to us, there is a language that they use to communicate. They seem to cuddle closer when we cry or often nuzzle our hands to signal that it’s time for a walk. 

Some dogs know how to sit, high-five, rollover, and balance a juicy treat on their noses until you give them the signal that they can eat it. Some pups know how to protect livestock, or detect unhealthy blood in human beings. Some pups, on the other hand, use their intelligence to trick us and manage to strategically climb over a dog fence that we purposefully weighted down or wiggle themselves like contortionists until they reach the side of freedom. Other dogs are less calculated and while they may not know how to play fetch, they sure as heck know exactly when dinner time is. 

So the question is: How intelligent is your dog really? How can you tell? 

According to canine intelligence pioneers including  Stanley Coren, there are different types of intelligence among dogs and different dog breeds. Similar to humans, dogs show their intelligence in different manners. Some dogs are better at problem-solving and others might have a better memory. Just as one human might be better at math and another might excel in writing non-fiction novels, dogs behave similarly although measuring their intelligence is highly subjective.  So how do we test this? 

According to Dr. Coren and the internet, there are multiple ways to test your dog's intelligence and most of these methods begin with a towel or blanket.

I have researched three of the most popular testing methodologies and compiled them so that you can give your dog an at-home IQ  test. 

Test 1: The towel test.

Toss a light towel or blanket (softly) on your pup's head (do not try to scare your dog with this). The towel or blanket must be fully covering their head for maximum efficiency. Get the stopwatch out! If your pup can wiggle out in under 30 seconds then congrats, you have a highly intelligent dog that is great at problem-solving. Slower learners will take longer than thirty seconds. 

Test 2: The good ol’ cup method.

Grab two-three different solid color plastic cups (or buckets) and allow your dog to watch you put a treat under one of the cups. Lead your dog out of the room for 30 seconds and then bring him back into the room. If he finds the correct cup with the treat under it on the first try, then my oh my your dog is brilliant!  If it takes a few tries, then consider him determined and let him take his time. This method will test your pup's brainpower. 

Test 3: The obstacle course.

Create a fun obstacle course in your living room using chairs, tables, blocks, or blankets with a yummy treat as the end prize. Allow your dog to watch you place a treat or toy underneath a towel at the end of the obstacle and put his skills to the test! See how well he burrows, jumps, or climbs to get his prize. If your dog gives up before even starting the game, then either your pup is too smart for your games, or just not interested. That's okay!

Although these are fun and popular methods, it is important to remember that testing your dog's intelligence is highly subjective and comes with many limitations. Even if your pup “fails” these tests, she may be the leader of the pack in the dog world. At the end of the day, all that matters is the bond of trust that you and your pup share. Even if she seems a little on the slow side, you should value her love more than her IQ!

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Author: Taylor Luckenbach is a senior at UC Santa Cruz. An animal lover and outdoor enthusiast, Taylor is currently interning for Taylor enjoys yoga, music, writing, and being in the company of dogs.