How To Identify And Rate Your Dog’s Intelligence? (Top 16 Ways)

Dog intelligence aka dog cognition is a process that all dogs use to acquire, store in their memories, retrieve, combine, compare, and then use in new situations.

According to a number of studies, dogs actually display a number of behavioral signs that are generally linked to their intelligence.

How To Identify And Rate Your Dog’s Intelligence

They also show certain amazing memory skills while also having the ability for reading and reacting in an appropriate manner to human body language like pointing and gesturing and pointing.

They’re also capable of understanding human voice commands. In addition, some dogs are even capable of demonstrating mental theories via deception.


If you are one of those pet owners who feel the need to understand more about dog intelligence and how to figure out just how smart your dog is, you’ve come to the right place.


We’re going to explore different types of intelligence in dogs, help you to identify your dog’s intelligence, and even show you some canine intelligence tests to try out for yourself.


Different Types of Dog Intelligence

In the wide world of animal intelligence research, even defining the subject of a canine intelligence study can be daunting.

There are a  number of unanswered basic questions and endless arguments over what the test results actually mean.


So, in the event that at first, your dog seems to be scoring low, don’t worry about it. He’s still the world’s smartest dog, even if only to you.

Basically, there are three dog intelligence types:

  1. Instinctive (This is what a dog was bred to do.)
  2. Adaptive (This is how well a dog is capable of learning from its environment for solving problems.)
  3. Working & Obedience (This is the equivalent of book-learning for kids.)


Read: What If My Dog Lick My Face?


What is Instinct Intelligence?

Instinct or instinctive intelligence is a type of automatic intelligence where it is free of volition similar to a computer algorithm.

It is the type of intelligence that can drive the human auto immune system.


Instinct intelligence in dogs, however, refers to their ability when it comes to performing the tasks that they were bred for, like fetching, guarding, herding, pointing, and companionship.

Instinctual behavior in dogs can depend upon their breeds.


Dogs are naturally pack animals, so they have a good understanding of their obligations as well as the structure of their family.

This makes them very social animals who enjoy human companionship.


In addition, they’re den animals, which is why they easily accept housebreaking rules and crate training.

Dogs also possess an instinctual behavior to go hunting and that’s why they all love the chase.



What is Adaptive Intelligence?

Adaptive Intelligence (i.e. problem-solving and learning ability) is specific to individual dogs and can be measured using canine IQ tests.

It’s basically a measure of what dogs can learn to do for themselves, including learning as well as benefiting from his/her experiences in their environment and solving new problems.


Adaptive intelligence can vary among individual dogs from the same breed.

Therefore, Golden Retrievers may all possess the same amount of instinctive intelligence.


However, in spite of the fact that almost all of them are quite smart, occasionally one will appear to be downright clueless.

The difference boils down to a difference in their adaptive intelligence.


Dogs can even learn to turn the lights on and off as in this video:



What is Obedience and Working Intelligence?

Obedience and working intelligence are referring to your dog’s ability to learn from you and it’s defined by what each breed is capable of learning.

The skills are not a natural thing in any dog’s environment and, although they are only a portion of the intelligence of the breed, this is the type of dog intelligence that comes to mind for most people think of when they’re thinking of an “intelligent breed”.


These skills could be obedience-related or even skills that are necessary for police dogs, guide dogs, or even search and rescue dogs.

And, then there are those amazing just-for-fun skills, like teaching your dog to dance as in this video:



Intelligence Tests

Intelligence is a subject with much complexity. The face is that a dog breed that doesn’t learn so quickly could possess some other talents.

It’s important to remember the fact that intelligence shouldn’t be judged just by how willing your dog is when it comes to following your obedience commands.


That basic willingness and/or ability to be easily obedience-trained could reflect your dog’s desire to please you as well as his dependence on you.

Some dogs, on the other hand, have been bred to show the world a more “pack” mentality and are much less reliant on the direct commands of their master.


You can learn a great deal more about dog IQ tests by watching this video:


Learn To Read: What Are The Ways To Challenge My Dog’s Mind?


#1 Use a Stopwatch

You’ll be needing one that measures in seconds for your dog intelligence tests.

These tests are aimed at measuring your dog’s ability to adapt to his environment and do some basic problem-solving.


Naturally, you shouldn’t be concerned if your dog doesn’t seem interested at first or downright resists being tested.

It’s new to him and he’d probably much rather be going for a long walk, playing ball, or even eating.


Wouldn’t you? Just be super-patient and have fun with it. He’ll soon get into it and start playing along.


Read: When Your Puppy Won’t Eat?


#2 The Towel Test


Putting a Towel Over Your Dog’s Head

This task provides some insight into your dog’s problem-solving ability. tart the tests by letting your dog smell either a small blanket or a large towel.

Then, place it over his head so that it completely covers it. Start your stopwatch and then wait to see how long it will take for your dog to free himself.


Write down his score:

  • 30 seconds/less= 3 points
  • 31–120 seconds= 2 points
  • Tries but no success within 120 seconds:=1 point (And be sure take the towel off for him)

Doesn’t even try getting free= 0 points.

A good idea is for you to practice your towel-tossing skills by throwing it over a chair or something else beforehand, so it lands in a single smooth motion.


Teaching Your Dog to Find the Hidden Treat

This next test was designed specifically for challenging your dog’s memory. That’s not his problem-solving skills but just his memory.

In order to do that, your dog will need to understand what’s happening here. So, simply start by placing one of his favorite treats under a plastic cup.


Make sure that she sees you do it. Then, continue with the rest by telling him to find it.

Lift up the cup, showing him where his treat is. Do that about approximately eight to ten times, until he has learned that his treats are underneath cups.  


#3 Pick A Special Treat

It’s important when training your dogs to do new tricks that you make sure you’re using special treats.

By “special”, we mean that they’re special to your dog. They could be a favorite or just one that they don’t get all that often.


This will encourage him to do his very best just so he can get one. Be sure that you know the ingredients in your dog’s treats, too.

Make sure they’re wholesome, healthy, and made in the USA.


Read: How Do I Get My Dog To Stop Begging For Food?


#4 Treat It Like A Game

Another significant factor in teaching your dog new tricks and skills is that it be fun. You don’t want him to feel like it’s work or something difficult.

So, make a game of it. Dogs love games almost as much as kids do.


All of these learning games can bring the two of you (or more if you have multiple dogs) much closer.

It’s easy to turn everything from going for a walk to taking a bath into a game for your pooch.


And, you can see how much fun this is by watching this video:


#5 Test Your Dog’s Memory

Hide one of his treats under the towel you used for the previous towel test. Show him a treat and while he’s watching, place the treat on the floor.

Laying the towel over it, start your stopwatch, and see how long it takes him to find his treat.


If it takes:

  • 30-seconds or less= 3 points
  • 31 to 60-seconds= 2 points
  • Trying but failing within 60-seconds=1 point
  • Doesn’t even try to find the treat= 0 points


#6 Train Your Dog With Treasure Hunts

Just like little kids, dogs love treasure hunts. The best part is that anything from a toy to a treat qualifies as a treasure to your dog.

Conquering treat-dispensing toys is another type of treasure hunt for your dog.


Most dogs love nothing better than a good doggy treat, so whet their appetite for treats while challenging their minds with these new and innovative toys.

How quickly your dog gets the treats out of these challenging toys can also serve as another sign of his intelligence.


Dogs who are natural problem-solvers won’t become frustrated with a handful of different steps and will instead figure out exactly how the toy works and how it will benefit them when they get to that elusive treat.

And, here’s an excellent video to show you how to play treasure hunt games that are mentally engaging and challenging for your dog:


Learn: What Is The Fastest Way To Crate Train A Puppy?


#7 Keeping Your Dog Safe & Out of Trouble

Your dog could be an escape artist or just be curious about everything. And, yes, dogs do get bored sometimes and start looking for things to get into.

It could be the trash, which besides being messy can be dangerous. Trash often contains things like chicken bones, sharp-edged cans, and even broken glass.


So, it’s up to you to be prepared and keep things that can get your dog into trouble out of his reach.

On the other hand, getting out of your allegedly dog-safe yard may be at the top of your dog’s to-do list for today, so make sure your yard is as secure as you think it is and that he can’t get out and run into the street.


Here’s a great video to help you with that: 


#8 Problem Solving

Figuring everything out quickly is a natural trait in some breeds just as some dogs seem to immediately understand exactly what their owner is saying.

Many other dogs are capable of quickly figuring out some pretty tricky toys.


Let’s face it, all dogs are fairly intelligent but some are capable of connecting the dots faster than others.

You probably wouldn’t think it was so great if your dog could open the refrigerator door (like in the movie “Turner & Hooch”) but it’s actually a significant sign that he possesses some pretty awesome problem-solving skills.


#9 Scoring His Problem-Solving

Placing a treat under a couch or a plank while your dog is watching, push it underneath just far enough that he won’t be able to reach it with his nose.

Encourage him to go after the treat while you’re timing him and scoring as follows:

  • If he succeeds within 2 minutes by using his paws= 4 points
  • If he succeeds within 3 minutes by using his paws= 3 points
  • If he fails within 3 minutes but does use his paws= 2 points
  • If he fails and only uses his muzzle= 1 point
  • If he doesn’t even try= 0 points
  • Manipulation = Intelligence


Your dog’s intelligence is based on a number of important factors, including:

  • Communication
  • Cunning
  • Empathy
  • Memory
  • Reasoning


Be able to understand each and every aspect of your dog’s intelligence can help you to fully understand him.


For example, some dogs may possess excellent memories but score extremely low in the empathy department or vice versa.

Your dog may seem to be manipulating you, like by blocking the door when you’re trying to leave.


This just means that he’s a bit smarter than you think and is using his intelligence to be manipulative.


#10 Snuggling When You’re Upset

Many dogs have a massive capacity to empathize with their owners. Your dog could be one of them.

Snuggling up to you when you’re upset, especially if you’re sad or crying, can lift your spirits instantly.


How can you be sad or upset when you have your best friend giving you a cuddle? Be sure to respond and snuggle him back.

He loves you unconditionally, so be grateful and as loving as you can possibly be.


And, most importantly, know the ways that your dog tells you that he loves you with this video:

And, be sure to tell him you love him right back as in this video:

Read To Know: Why Does Your Boston Terrier Cry?


#11 Communicating With Your Dog

Dogs can’t talk to us per se, but they communicate in their own special way. These tips on communicating with your dog will help you both to get on the same page.

Learn about the ways that training gets much easier via better communication with this video:


It’ll show you ways of using your dog’s own language for communicating with him as well as how to interpret it. It’s all about the secret dog language.

Dogs who put forth the effort to communicating with their humans could quite possibly be even smarter than you think.


On the other hand, if you think that your dog isn’t trying to communicate, then you might not be paying proper attention to his cues.


#12 Letting Your Dog Know You’re Leaving

Dogs worry when you leave home just like little children with separation anxiety. But, you have to work and that means leaving him alone at home.

Age can be a factor as well since a size-month-old puppy will be more likely to be a lot more anxious than a three-year-old.


So, at any age, start with a short absence and then work up to a full workday or hire someone to walk him and keep him company.

And, to make leaving him and then coming back home a lot more fun for both of you, check out this video to teach him how to say “hello” and “good-bye” –

Read To Know: Why Does Your Dachshund Run In Circles?



#13 Some Dogs are Stubborn

Dogs who do extremely well on certain types of tasks tend to be of the highly trainable variety and the result is that they’re excellent service dog candidates.

However, dog intelligence tests aren’t really infallible.


Many dogs are just stubborn, therefore it’s important to know that what your dog may be lacking in the area of cooperation most likely doesn’t have anything to do with his intelligence.

Many experts also say that the smartest dogs are those who spend their time waiting patiently for you to hand them a treat that they didn’t really have to work for.


Remember that the most important thing is that even though your dog might not the sharpest tool in the shed, that doesn’t in any way diminish his love and loyalty toward you.


#14 Testing Your Puppy Again When More Mature

If you test your puppy’s IQ, be sure to “dumb-down’ any tests you try to allow for his immaturity.

And, be sure to take the results in stride, knowing that there’s another important step that you should take.


That is to wait until he matures a bit and try the tests again.

He’s sure to give you different results once he gets some more time and maturity under his belt.


To be sure, all puppies need lots of extra time, patience, and care when training and IQ testing, so here’s a great video to help you teach your adorable little pup some basics.


#15 Playing Hide-And-Seek

You know your dog would love getting to play a game of hide-and-seek with you. All there is to it is showing him how.

  1. Make him sit and stay,
  2. Then sneak away and hide,
  3. When he finds you, give him a treat.
  4. If he has trouble finding you at first, give him some hints, like making a slight noise.
  5. Then, start all over again, playing it several times and always giving him a treat.


This game will test his memory and is really quite easy to play. All dogs love it since because there are treats involved.

Using a nice-smelling treat that he usually loves will increase his motivation.


#16 Recognizing His Surroundings

When you first get your dog, he may be frightened by his new surroundings but he’ll soon get over that.

Making sure that he recognizes his surroundings as the place to come back to if he gets lost and as a safe haven at all times is of major importance.


Make his surroundings as comfortable as possible and as safe as possible as well.

Let him know that all is right in his doggy world because he’s always safe in his familiar surroundings.


How These Facts Helped You

So, we’re hoping that these facts about dog intelligence helped you (and your best friend) in some way.

If they did, what helped you the most? Were there certain things that we covered that you didn’t know before? Have you tried any of them out on your dog?


Let us know your thoughts in our comment section below. We’d love to hear from you!


Further Readings:

Related Topics
1. Why Do Anatolian Shepherds Bark So Much?
2. Can Pit Bulls Jump Over Fences?
3. 20 Super Tips: How To Calm Your Hyperactive Dog?
4. Why Do Dogs Poop Against A Tree Or A Wall?

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