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How Smart Is Your Dog?

Find out where yours ranks among the10 brightest breeds -- and whether smarter dogs make better pets.
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Do Smart Dogs Make Better Pets? continued...

Veterinarian Sophia Yin, an animal behaviorist in Davis, Calif., tells people to seriously evaluate the amount of energy they have compared to the breed they want to get.

"Are they the type of person who can exercise it a few hours a day? How much time are they willing to invest in training the dog, because the more energetic the dog is, the more training he might need," she says. "When they think they want a smart dog, it's a huge misconception. They don't need smart; they need attentive." 

Can You Teach a Dumb Dog New Tricks?

If your canine seems clueless, it may be that it has been bred to be more independent or not so eager to please its owner, Yin says.

Training will require more patience and the right kind of motivation, whether it's praise, petting, or treats.

"For breeds, instincts make a difference, but for the basics - 'sit,' 'come,' 'down' - they'll all learn at the same rate. With good technique, the difference might be a month," she says.

Her Australian cattle dog, for example, stays at her side when they're out and loves a pat on the head. Her Jack Russell terrier, a high-energy breed that didn't make the smart list, has to be rewarded lickety-split with a treat or he'll lose interest in learning. A pat on the head just won't do it.

The beagle, a breed trained to work independently, probably needs more training time, Yin says. And the bulldog, which scored well below average on obedience tests, can learn quickly -- as long as he doesn't feel pushed around or punished.

The beagle and bulldog are among the dog breeds on the bottom of Coren's list. These dogs had to hear commands 80 to 100 times or more before they obeyed them 25% or less of the time. They include:


1. Shih Tzu
2. Bassett hound
3. Mastiff/Beagle (tied)
4. Pekingnese
5. Bloodhound
6. Borzoi
7. Chow Chow
8. Bulldog
9. Basenji
10. Afghan hound (least obedient)

Redenbach doesn't like categorizing dogs as smart or dumb; she says that's too simplistic. Like Yin, she says positive and consistent training will make a good dog.

"The number of intelligent dogs I have met has been on the increase over the years because the better trainer I become, the smarter I see they are," Redenbach says.

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Reviewed on April 29, 2012

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