Basic Pet Care

How Smart is Your Dog?

Dog with Vet Staff

Ever wonder how smart your dog really is? She seems to know in advance when it's time for feeding and how to alert you when she senses peril. Yet it's not easy to grade her IQ in comparison to a human's.

Psychologist, author and canine researcher Stanley Coren, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia, posits that dogs' mental abilities are close to those of a child between 2 to 2.5 years of age. According to him, the average dog can learn 165 words (including signals) and figure out how to deceive other dogs and people to score treats1.

Which Dogs are Smartest?

Although experts don't completely agree on how to evaluate canine intelligence, a dog's ability to learn and obey commands is a strong indicator of intelligence. Other measures of intelligence are the ability to assess and solve challenges quickly, skill in communicating with humans, figuring out how to master toys that dispense treats and even getting into trouble (because they're bored).

Out of 80 breeds studied, these are at the top of the class in order of intelligence, according to psychologist and canine researcher Stanley Coren, Ph.D.1:

  • 1. Border Collie
  • 2. Standard Poodle
  • 3. German Shepherd
  • 4. Golden Retriever
  • 5. Doberman Pinscher
  • 6. Shetland Sheepdog
  • 7. Labrador Retriever
  • 8. Papillon
  • 9. Rottweiler
  • 10. Australian Cattle Dog
  • 11. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • 12. Miniature Schnauzer
  • 13. English Springer Spaniel
  • 14. Tervuren
  • 15. Schipperke
  • 16. Belgian Sheepdog
  • 17. Collie
  • 18. Keeshond
  • 19. German Shorthaired Pointer
  • 20. Flat-Coated Retriever
  • 21. English Cocker Spaniel
  • 22. Standard Schnauzer
  • 23. Brittany
  • 24. Cocker Spaniel
  • 25. Weimaraner

Since only full-breed dogs were tested, it's possible that mixed breeds that combine the intelligence of the smartest dogs may be even more adept.

How to Test Your Dog's IQ At Home 2,3

Although multiple sites offer ways to test your dog's intelligence, the easiest way is also the simplest. Get a large towel and show it to your pet. Let him smell it. Then toss it over his head and start your stopwatch (many smartphones have this function).

See how long it takes your adult dog to come out from under the towel. If he:

  • Removes it in 15 to 30 seconds = A student
  • Removes it in 31 seconds to 2 minutes = B student
  • Attempts to but doesn't remove it in 2 minutes = C student
  • Doesn't attempt to remove the towel = Lovable doofus

Even if your dog's not ready for Harvard, he can still learn from training and already does what dogs do best: Showing love and loyalty every day.