Making Your Pup Smarter: Is It Even Possible?

September 16, 2015
by Michelle Pellizzon for Thrive Market
Making Your Pup Smarter: Is It Even Possible?

All parents have an opinion on their kids' intelligence—especially dog parents. But for those who scoop up and take home a not-so-bright puppy, is there any hope that their canine can grow up to be a doggy genius?

It’s possible, if pet owners are diligent, to increase a dog’s IQ score. Animal intelligence is measured on three different spectrums: instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence, and working and obedience intelligence. Ever wondered why corgis are constantly trying to "herd" their families? That's instinctive intelligence. Desirable instincts are the reasons certain dogs were bred, and is inherently unchangeable.

But wait, there are still two other dimensions of doggie intelligence, and these two are far more elastic. Adaptive intelligence is essentially what a dog can teach itself and learn from its environment: the way to navigate through the woods, which animals to avoid, and that Mom will drop some food from her plate as long as Dad isn’t home.

Finally, working and obedience intelligence is what people can teach a dog. This is what we imagine when we think of obedience school and doggie tricks. Working intelligence is the most pliable form of intelligence in our furry friends. If it wasn’t for their ability to learn, dogs would have never been domesticated by humans because there would basically be no use for them. Working and obedience intelligence is the main difference between the minds of cats and dogs.

An animal’s propensity to learn has a lot to do with the environment that they’re raised in. Puppies that grow up in a mentally stimulating environment full of toys, play, and challenges learn much faster than bored dogs who receive little interaction from their owners. In fact, a typical dog can learn an average of about 165 words. A super dog—or a canine that’s in the top 20 percent of intelligence—can learn up to 250 words. That’s more than most two-year-olds.

But a puppy and a two year old are different, and so is the way they learn. Science shows that when a dog learns a new trick, their brains actually change slightly, leaving them better equipped to learn more quickly and acquire new tricks.

So how can you help your four-legged friend increase their IQ and become a super dog? Play with your puppy! Give them toys that require a little work and problem solving, and take the time to teach your furry friend how to sit, stay, and heel. Their first few tricks may take a little longer to stick, but once they do, your pup will be able to learn more quickly in the future.

Photo credit: Andrew Pons

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This article is related to: Pets, Dogs, Pet Health, Dog treats, Dog toys

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  • kkh

    This article mentions that dogs can learn many words, but doesn't say how. Our Weimaraner knows about 70 words...LEGITIMATELY knows that many. We talked to him extensively as a puppy and made sure there was a "word" for every "thing". We keep a list of the words he knows. Everything from the standard "sit" and "lay down" to bed, ball, water, Mama, Daddy, car, leash, etc. He knows sentences too...you can tell him "Go get your bone and lay down on Daddy's bed" and he will pick up his bone and get on our bed, NOT his bed. There aren't many more words he even needs to know at this point, but he occasionally will pick u a new word.