How Smart is My Dog? Try This Test!

How Smart is My Dog? Try This Test!

Dogs are pretty smart. So smart in fact that, on average dogs can memorise and understand up to 250 different commands! They are able to read and react appropriately to human body language such as gesturing and pointing, and they can understand human voice commands and tone.  But there are some moments when you wonder if your pup isn’t the brightest…

So how does your pooch fair against the rest?

When discussing intelligence with dogs, we need to understand that dogs show two basic kinds of intelligence, namely: instinctive and adoptive intelligence.

Instinctive intelligence is a dog’s ability to perform the tasks it was bred for, such as herding, fetching, guarding, or supplying companionship. Essentially the very things your dog was born to do. Then you have the learning ability (adoptive intelligence), and this can include environmental learning, social learning, language comprehension, and task learning.

Now that we understand the two basic intelligence groups of dogs, you can test to see which kind of intelligence your dog presents. Don’t try to do all these tests in one day as this may lead to overwhelming your dog with strange and bizarre signals and actions. Below is a list of a few standard tests to try with your pup. Each task is assigned points, so grab a pen and paper and take notes as you go along!


Towel test

Take a large towel or blanket and gently place 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.  Longer than 30 seconds earns 1 point.

Bucket test

Place a treat or a favourite toy under one of three buckets placed next to each other. Let the dog know which bucket the treat is under, then turn the dog away for a few seconds.  Then, let her find the treat.  If she immediately goes to the correct bucket give her 3 points.  If she takes two attempts, score 2 points.  If your dog looks under the other two buckets first, score 1 point.

Favourite spot

With your dog out of the room, rearrange the furniture. When he re-enters the room, if he goes directly to his favourite spot, give him 3 points.  If it takes him 30 seconds to investigate before he finds his spot, give him 2 points.  If he decides on a new area completely, score 1 point.

Chair puzzle

Place a treat under a table or chair low enough so your dog can only fit her paw and not her head. If your dog figures out how to reach the treat within one minute, score 3 points. If she uses her paws and nose, score 2 points.  If your dog gives up, score 1 point.

Go for a walk

On a day or time that you normally don’t walk your dog, quietly pick up your keys, and his leash while he’s watching you. If he gets excited immediately, score 3 points. If you have to walk to the door before he knows it’s time to go out, score 2 points.  If he sits and just looks confused give him 1 point.

Barrier test

Create a barrier from cardboard that is 1.5m wide and taller than your dog when she’s on two legs, so she can’t see over it.  Attach two boxes to either side as support structures.  In the centre of the cardboard, cut an 8 cm rectangular opening, it should run from about 10 cm from the top to about 10 cm from the bottom (this way, the dog can see through the barrier but cannot physically get through),  Toss a toy or treat to the other side of the barrier, or have someone stand on the other side.  If your dog walks around the barrier within 30 seconds, give her 3 points.  If she goes around the barrier between 30 seconds and one minute, give 2 points.  If she gets her head stuck in the opening trying to get through, give her 1 point for effort!

How’d they do?

If your dog scores: 
16 points or higher – Brilliant!
13 to 16 points – Well above average
9 to twelve points – Average
5 to 8 points – Below average
1 to 4 points – Not the brightest kibble in the bag, but we still love ’em!

These little tests are a great way for you to understand a bit more about your dog, while also keeping them and you engaged. The results of this test may surprise and entertain you.

Give it a try and let us know how your pooch did!

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