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How Smart Is Your Dog?

To many people, dogs are like surrogate children and, just as we can measure our kids' IQ, there are a number of tests to measure a dogs' brainpower.

The Early Show resident veterinarian Debbye Turner shows how you can tell if your dog is a canine Einstein.

Assessing your pet's IQ:
Turner says, the best way to measure intelligence in dogs is to assess their "problem-solving" skills; this method is also true of humans. Obedience is another way, the more tricks you can teach a dog, the smarter he is. This may not necessarily be true, but it will definitely impress people. And persistence is also a measure of smarts. A dog that keeps trying to solve a problem until he succeeds is considered sharp.

Smart breeds:
Owners and breeders of Border Collies have long proclaimed the superior intelligence of this energetic, loyal breed. They are natural "herders." Without any training, they will instinctively herd cattle, sheep, and children.

Poodles, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Shetland Sheepdogs, Labrador Retrievers, Papillon, Rottweiler, and Australian Cattle Dogs are also reputed to be quite smart.

The fact is, almost all dogs can be trained (even old dogs). And almost all dogs are territoria,l which makes them good "watch dogs". Unfortunately, Basinjis, Bulldogs, and Afghan Hounds have the dubious distinction as the "dumbest breed." But they can be great pets in the right home.

The tests:
Here are some "tests" that Turner will demonstrate:

  1. Take a large towel or blanket and gently throw it over your dog's head. If he frees himself from the towel in less than 15 seconds, give him 3 points. If it takes 15-30 seconds, 2 points. If it takes him longer than 30 seconds, give him 1 point. This test measures disposition and problem solving.
  2. Place a treat (or his favorite toy) under one of three buckets that are lined up in a row. Show your dog which bucket the treat is under. Turn the dog away for 10 seconds. Then let the dog go.

    If he goes straight to the right bucket (the one with the treat under it), give him 3 points. If it takes two tries to find the treat, 2 points. If he checks the wrong two first before finding the treat, give him 1 point. This test measures memory.

  3. Place a treat in a square of aluminum foil and fold it twice to close it. If the dog uses his paws to get the foil open, give him 3 points. If he uses his mouth and paws to open the foil, give him 2 points. If he can't get the foil open and just starts playing with it, give him 1 point. This test measures problem solving.

If your dogs scores 6 points or higher he is sharp as a tack. If he scores 4-5 points, he is average (and cute!). If he scores 3 points or less, well.... let's just remember that he is your best friend!

Here are other tests that are done:

  1. On a day you normally don't walk the dog, quietly pick up your keys, and his leash (and whatever else you usually take with you) while he's watching. If he gets excited, score 3. If you have to walk to the door before he knows it is time to go out, score 2. If he sits there with a confused look on his face, give him 1 point. Bonus points: If your dog typically lets YOU know when he has to go to the bathroom by bringing you his leash, for instance, score 2 extra points for a total of 5 points. If he's mastered the toilet, stop the test. Your dog is a canine version of a brain surgeon.
  2. With your dog out of the room, rearrange the furniture. If he goes directly to his favorite spot on the couch, the one with his impression in the cushion, give him 3 points. If he investigates the room and finds his favorite spot within 30 seconds, give him 2 points. If he settles for a less comfortable place because he's just too lazy to make the effort, score 1 point.
  3. Another problem-solving test: Construct a barrier from cardboard. The barrier should be higher than your dog when he's on two legs. Attach two boxes to either side as support structures. The entire barrier should be about 5 feet wide. Cut a 3-inch-wide rectangular aperture in the center of the barrier. The aperture should run from about 4-inches from the top to about 4-inches from the bottom. Give yourself 10 points - those were pretty complicated directions! As for the dog, show him a treat from the other side of the barrier. If he walks around the barrier within 30 seconds, give him 3 points. If he goes around the barrier between 30 seconds and a minute, give him 2 points. If he gets his head stuck in the aperture, give him 1 point for trying. Bonus points: If he goes to someone else in the house and gets a treat, give him 3 points - he knows how to get the goodies.

More about the intelligence of dogs:

There are two kinds of dog intelligence: instinctive intelligence and adoptive intelligence. While the instinctive intelligence of a dog reveals which behaviors and skills are programmed in the animal's genetic code, adaptive intelligence relates to the knowledge, skills and general competence a dog can acquire during its lifetime.

In a dog, adaptive intelligence has two main components: learning ability (which observes the rate at which a dog can learn new relationships) and observational learning (which is natural learning that allows certain associations between conditions and outcomes to form, but does not require direct involvement on the part of the observer).

There is also environmental learning, social learning, language comprehension and task learning. Within this, there's short-term memory and long-term memory and problem-solving ability.

Sometimes, intelligence tests tell a lot about the smarts of the tester as well as the tested. Fortunately for all of us, intelligence is not a prerequisite for love. It shouldn't be for a dog either - if he doesn't do well, just remember that anyone can be too smart for their own good.

Do you really want a dog that can open the refrigerator, operate machinery or run up the credit cards?

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