I love all of my dogs, but I will admit this: only one of them is really, REALLY smart.

And when I say smart, I’m thinking “she definitely understands what I’m saying” kind of smart. Lilly is a 7-year-old poodle, and she’s, by far, the least trainable of my dogs.

I bet you didn’t expect me to say that. I mean, smart dogs are the easiest to train, right?


The most important factor that makes a dog trainable is its desire to impress their human companions.

Intelligent dogs can be headstrong and get easily bored, so it’s essential to keep them stimulated and entertained to keep them out of mischief. And, of course, to actually help them learn some tricks, you have to make sure you’re interesting enough to them, or they’ll simply ignore all your training attempts.

To find out how smart your pooch actually is, and how to train them, read on.

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  1. How Dog Brains Work
  2. Can You Measure Your Dog’s IQ?
  3. Find Out How Smart Your Dog Is
  4. Smartest Dog Breeds
  5. Can You Improve Your Dog’s Intelligence?
  6. Tips On Training Intelligent Dogs

How Dog's Brain Work

What do dogs think about? Most people believe that what goes inside a canine brain looks something like this:

Doggo with a pizza gif
Youtube / MyRegalBeagle

But, in reality, dogs have complex minds. Canines can dream, experience many different emotions, and understand our body language and vocal tones. Veterinary studies have found that dogs are more intelligent than previously thought.

Even though there is still a lot about dogs’ brains that remain a mystery to us, we do know some interesting facts.

  • Dog and human brains are structurally similar, but dogs have smaller brains;
  • Dogs rely on smell much more than other pets, and 40% of their brain is used to analyze different scents;
  • Dogs are known for their loyalty, and science has proved it - they prioritize their owner’s scent over everything else;
  • Dogs can count, understand up to 150 words, and are thought to be as intelligent as 2-year-old children.

You see, it’s not all treats and belly rubs. All dogs have active minds and they are wired to pick up on our cues, whether they’re vocal or non-verbal.

That’s why, with the right technique, every dog can be successfully trained.

Can You Measure Your Dog’s IQ?

OK, OK, you get it, all dogs are smart. But, is your dog smarter than others? Are there a dog IQ tests they could take or something? What is the IQ of a dog?

Odin corgi typing
Youtube / Odin the Corgi

When it comes to dog intelligence ranking, scientists are convinced that dogs do have a measurable IQ. Same as with humans, some dogs perform better at certain types of tasks, like problem solving or spatial orientation, and each has their own strengths and weaknesses.

A team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh and the London School of Economics is currently working on the development of accurate, reliable IQ tests for dogs. This means that, sometime in the near future, we might be able to precisely measure how smart our dogs are!

But, until such a test is available to the public, here are some nifty tricks you can use to test your dog yourself!

Find Out How Smart Your Dog Is

There are various DIY dog intelligence tests you can use to measure how smart your dog is. They are not very accurate, but at least you’ll know if your pet is a four-legged brainiac or just an average Joe or Jane.

Derp dog weird face

These are some easy ways to check your dog’s IQ at home. Start with simple tasks and increase the difficulty as you progress.

Hide treats and measure how long it takes your pooch to find them

First, hide a treat right under a towel, then gradually “complicate” things, by introducing multiple choices and trickier spots. If your dog is not struggling too much with the tasks, it’s a good indicator of a high IQ of a dog.

Pay attention to your dog’s emotional reactions

A smart dog will know how to recognize mood shifts and cues from its owner. Dogs who snuggle with their owners when they sense they’re feeling down or that welcome their parents as soon as they come home from work is a good example of intelligent pooches.

Track how long it takes for your dog to respond to simple commands

When you call for your dog, do they come instantly or need to be told a few times before they get up from the couch? The faster their reaction, the smarter they are considered to be.

Monitor their behavior when you’re not around

Sometimes, you have to be sneaky to find out what your dog is up to. Pet treat cameras such as Petcube Bites are a great way to check up on what your pet does while you’re at work. You might be surprised how smart they are… when they are doing something they are not supposed to.

Read more: 13 Things Your Pet is Secretly Doing When You're Away

In case you’re looking for some average dog IQ quizzes, make sure to check out these fun tests you can do online:

Dog Intelligence Test
What’s Your Dog’s Type of Intelligence?
Pet IQ Quizz
Dog IQ Test

Even though it can be a lot of fun doing these tests with your pooch, you shouldn’t consider the results definitive. Your dog might be smart as a whip, but simply won’t be bothered to come when you call them or to dig for treats. After all, whatever their IQ score is, they’ll always be the smartest little furball to their parents!

Smartest Dog Breeds

Smart dog

People are always interested in finding out what the smartest dog breeds are, simply because they believe that the most intelligent dogs are the easiest dogs to train.

But is breed a reliable indicator of a dog’s intelligence, let alone their trainability? If there are the smartest dog breeds, does that mean that there are the dumbest dog breeds as well?

Expert opinions are divided on the matter. There are breeds that are specifically bred to rely on their intelligence, and those dogs’ instincts are to hunt, retrieve, or herd. These breeds include:

  • Border Collie;
  • Poodle;
  • Golden Retriever;
  • German Shepherd;
  • Shetland Sheepdog.

…as well as many more. Even though it’s easy to label dogs based on their breed alone, it’s in no way a reliable method of determining a dog’s intelligence.

Individual dogs of the same breed will have differences in their IQ, so don’t be surprised if your Lab is not as bright as you thought they would be. Another overlooked fact when talking about the smartest breeds is the diversity of mutts. There is no reliable way to determine how smart mutts are in general because they are all so different!

All of this means that breed doesn’t guarantee smarts. Your terrier mix might be much smarter than your neighbor’s collie. It’s all about their own personal qualities and encouraging them to engage their brains.

Can You Improve Your Dog’s Intelligence?

smart dog math

OK, so what should you do if your four-legged baby is not the sharpest tool in the shed? Is there a way to encourage your little derp to become a problem-solver?

First of all, you need to make sure if your dog actually has problems taking a hint, or if the problem lies elsewhere. Sometimes, even the smartest small dogs might purposely ignore your commands or just prefer taking a nap over solving dog puzzles.

In case your dog is not being stubborn (like mine is), and they could really work on their skills, there are ways to encourage them to rely on their brains more.

Introduce them to games for dogs that stimulate their mental activity, such as intelligence dog toys or puzzles.

Use treats to motivate them to learn tricks and commands. Nothing works better than offering a reward!

Playtime can be a mentally engaging activity. Try out obstacles that will be fun for them to play with and improve their problem-solving skills as well!

Just remember, in 99.9% of the cases, it’s all about how much you work with your pooch and how you socialize them. Dogs who learn tricks on their own and jump into burning buildings to save babies are not something you come across often. Same as with everything concerning our pets, improving a dog’s intelligence requires effort and patience.

Tips On Training Intelligent Dogs

smart dog training machine

No, you won’t have to build a ball-throwing robot to train an intelligent dog. Although that probably wouldn’t hurt, to be fair.

Owners of smart dogs know that they always need new challenges. They get bored easily, which sometimes leads to destructive behavior, and have curious, active minds.

In some cases, this also means that the smartest dogs are the easiest dogs to train. In my case, however, that means that my clever dog just judges me whenever I try to teach her anything and, unless there’s a copious amount of treats involved, simply pays no attention to my efforts.

However, if you’re one of the lucky ones who have a smart dog that’s also eager to learn, training them will be a breeze. Positive reinforcement training has, by far, the best results with intelligent dogs, especially when combined with the right training tools.

Use smart dog toys and puzzles, that are designed to stimulate your dog’s brain and entertain intelligent dogs. Challenging toys will occupy them for hours on end and keep them away from trouble!

Clicker games, or clicker training, is another pawesome activity for canine smarty pants. Combine this with agility training, and your dog will love it. If you are looking for tips on how to teach a dog tricks, a clicker in combination with yummy rewards can be a winning combination.

Final Thoughts

Pet parents love to think that their pooch is the smartest, prettiest, and most charming dog in the world. Well, all kinds of parents think that, if we’re being honest.

But, if your dog is really a furry genius, this means you’ll need to work with them and make sure they are always engaged and mentally stimulated. Intelligent dogs love having new conquests and get thrilled when they get the opportunity to put their canine brains to work.

On the other hand, if your dog is making you wonder if cats are smarter than dogs, it might be time to stock up on dog puzzles and get to work. Some pups are lazier and less motivated than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t teach them a few tricks!

In the end, how smart your dog is doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that you love them to bits no matter what.

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