I’ve had a few different dogs throughout my life, and every time I spend time with my dog, I feel like my pup understands me and knows a whole lot more than we give canines credit for. I was wondering what the average IQ, or intelligence quotient, of a dog is and started doing some research.
In the article below, we’ll learn all about a dog’s intelligence and the average IQ of a pup. We’ve all heard that there are book smarts and street smarts among people, but are dogs different types of intelligence? I’ll answer this question below as well. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
The Average Intelligence or IQ of Dogs
Researchers have found that the average IQ of dogs is about 100. When compared to humans, this IQ is similar to the intelligence of two-year-old human toddlers. In general, studies have shown that canines have the smarts of children anywhere from 2 to 2.5 years of age.
The research showing how dogs have a similar intelligence to human toddlers compares how many words a dog can learn with the number of words toddlers learn. In general, dogs can learn an average of 165 words along with signals and gestures. This is similar to what a two-year-old can learn. Yet, dogs in the top 20 percent of the intelligence quotient can learn up to 250 words.
However, there are differences in intelligence between different dog breeds and family histories. In addition, dogs may have the emotional maturity and social intelligence of much older humans. The emotional connection dogs have to their owners is also very impressive.
Which Dogs Have the Highest IQs?
The dogs with the highest IQs come from the following breeds:
- Golden Retrievers (known for their quick wit, human companionship, and obedience)
- Doberman Pinschers
- Labrador Retrievers
- American Pit Bull Terriers
- The Rhodesian Ridgeback breed
- The Papillon breed
The Different Types of Canine Intelligence
There are multiple different ways that a dog can show their intelligence. This can include instinctive intelligence and working or obedience intelligence. Furthermore, some dogs can display their brightness based on how well they can understand humans, while others show an emotional connection with their owners, and others can display complex feelings like jealousy.
Brian Hare from Duke University conducted several studies showing that dogs do understand human gestures.
When researchers put food underneath one of two upside-down cups, and the researchers pointed at the cup with food, dogs were much more likely to search through the cup pointed at. The scientists compared this to the behaviors of chimpanzees and human infants under one year of age.
Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist from Emory, looked at dogs’ brains in an MRI after having them sniff a cloth in their owners’ scents. He found that the dogs’ caudate nucleus showed activity associated with emotional attachment.
Another study from the University of Vienna found that when training two sets of dogs to give their paw and rewarding only one of the dogs with a treat, the dog who doesn’t receive a treat stops participating. This shows how the dog exhibits jealousy.
How Dogs Show Their Intelligence
Dogs have multiple different ways to show their intelligence, such as:
- Showing empathy for their owners and family members
- Making eye contact with humans
- Forming connections and bonds with humans
- Understanding subtle cues and gestures
- Responding to the emotional sound in a human voice
- Learning language skills and hundreds of words
- Applying their knowledge to similar situations, which is common among guide dogs
A primary type of empathy that dogs show is expressed in one study that found dogs may yawn after their owners yawn in their presence. Dogs are often attuned to their owners’ emotions, and they are more likely to change their behavior based on that emotion.
I’ve seen my pups try to play with me and cuddle up next to me whenever I’ve had a bad day. Furthermore, dogs are some of the only primates to look humans in the eyes and not misinterpret it as a sign of hostility. Eye contact also facilitates dogs’ bonding and connecting better with their owners and other humans.
If you play catch with a dog and point at the ball, they’ll understand your hand gesture and look in that area for the object. Even subtle cues, like where you position your gaze, may get a dog to go looking in that direction.
The most intelligent dogs can also learn more than 200 words. Furthermore, MRI scans of dog brains show that their brains respond to human voices, especially emotional sounds like crying or laughter.
The Potential Limits of a Dog’s Intelligence
Despite the typical dog’s strong level of intelligence, there are certain limits to their smarts. Some researchers believe that, since dogs are so well-attuned to human emotion and behavior, this may lead us to overplay their level of intelligence.
Even though dogs can understand some of our actions, they don’t necessarily understand the entire meaning behind human behaviors. Dogs do not necessarily see the world in the same way that humans see everything around them.
For instance, dog owners often think they know when their dogs misbehave when left alone based on a guilty look they give. However, one study looking at dogs in which owners chastised them for bad behavior showed that there was no difference in the “guilty” look of dogs who behaved well and those that misbehaved.
Some dog breeds are also less intelligent than others, and a dog’s family history can also impact their IQ. The more time a dog owner spends training their dog will also show how far a dog’s intelligence can go. If you don’t have lots of time for training, this may also limit your dog’s intelligence.
How to Improve Your Dog’s IQ
There are several simple ways you can boost the IQ of a dog, including having your canine play several dog puzzles, giving your pup interactive toys to figure out, and training your dog to do specific tricks.
Dog puzzles can help teach your pup how to slide a disk into place. An interactive toy like ring stacking can also help your dog boost their brainpower. Make sure to give your pup a treat for every correct action.
You may also want to create an obstacle course for your dog outdoors in your backyard. You can add pillows and chairs as well as short tables outdoors for the obstacle course. All of these steps can help improve your dog’s IQ.
Now that I’ve detailed information about the average IQ of a dog and how clever a canine is as compared to human toddlers, you should have a better idea about the different types of intelligence dogs show. You also know the potential limits to a dog’s intelligence.
Certain dog breeds, such as labrador retrievers or poodles, are more intelligent than other types of breeds. Yet, you should also have a better idea about how to boost your dog’s savviness. You can always get your dog to figure out certain puzzles meant for canines, play with more interactive toys, and even complete an obstacle course.
Using these tips, your dog’s IQ is likely to blossom over time.
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.