How Dog Intelligence Is Measured

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How Dog Intelligence Is Measured

January 11, 2023 7 min read

There are many theories about what makes up an animal’s intelligence, but most agree that animals show some degree of understanding of their environment and how to behave in it. They also seem to have internalized lessons when they interact with other individuals or things.

Research has shown that canines are no exception to this rule. Since dogs were first domesticated over 10,000 years ago, there have been reports of them doing everything from helping people find lost items to saving lives by alerting others to potential danger.

When it comes down to it, though, what really defines dog intelligence is how well your dog understands you and your intentions. This article will take a closer look at several tests used to measure canine cognition, including:

The Premack Principle Test – Can Dogs Reason?

– Can Dogs Reason? The Working Hypothesis - Dogs use reasoning to understand what actions produce desirable outcomes for their owners and themselves

- Dogs use reasoning to understand what actions produce desirable outcomes for their owners and themselves Tests : Dogs do not appear to reason beyond simple changes in reward (food) or punishment (no food). Only two out of every three dogs fail this test, making it very common for most dogs to be able to think about cause and effect!

: Dogs do not appear to reason beyond simple changes in reward (food) or punishment (no food).

Intelligence tests that have been developed

how dog intelligence is measured

Most dog intelligence studies use a test or set of tests to evaluate specific behaviors or traits. These are then correlated with interviews conducted with owners, other professionals, and even direct observations to determine if there is a correlation between the behavior and intelligence.

Dog breed types vary quite a bit and not all breeds are created equal. For example, some dogs take longer than others to warm up when asked about signs of threat or danger. This difference in reaction time can affect how well they perform on a dog IQ test!

Another way many researchers assess dog intelligence is by studying whether or not certain animals are willing to work for food or play. For instance, puppies will often try to eat off the floor while their parents are awake, and older dogs may be rewarded with treats for completing a task such as rolling over or sitting.

These practices show self-control, which is an important part of canine smarts.

The reliability of intelligence tests

how dog intelligence is measured

Most dog trainers use behavioral assessments to evaluate dogs’ social, cognitive, and emotional skills. These assessments are designed to measure how well your dog functions in certain environments, or if he is capable of performing a specific behavior under stress.

Dog IQ testing was first developed over 50 years ago for people. Since then, it has been adapted to assess canine mental abilities.

The term “intelligence” can be confusing because there are many different types. For example, we typically consider smart individuals as having high levels of general knowledge, understanding relationships, and reasoning. This is referred to as fluid intelligence.

Fluid intelligence is not necessarily related to learning new things (or behaviors), but figuring out how to apply what you already know to new situations. We also have perceptual or logical intelligence, which involves identifying patterns, shapes, and colors. And finally, we call someone intelligent if they show self-control by avoiding harmful actions or giving up something they want.

This article will focus only on measuring the ability to learn through repeated exposure, which is considered a form of discrete or structured learning. Therefore, our definition of dog intelligence does not include traits like perception or impulse control.

Discrete learning is when information is organized into categories and taught using systematic procedures. It requires thinking about the material logically and clearly, and remembering where each piece of information belongs.

Here’s an analogy that might help.

The validity of intelligence tests

how dog intelligence is measured

All too often, people will claim that their dog is “intelligent” or that a certain behavior proves your dog has intelligent tendencies.

Thinking about what makes up intelligence can be difficult. There are many theories about how humans define this trait. Some say it is determined only by academic knowledge, while others believe it is influenced by things like social skills, self-control, and attention to detail.

When researchers measure the term ‘intelligence’ in animals, they usually refer to two different types. They call it fluid intelligence when individuals show systematic thinking and reasoning ability, and they call it crystallized intelligence when individuals learn specific rules and routines.

However, no matter which type of intelligence you look into, there is one major problem with using test results to determine animal intellect. Test makers never confirm whether or not the answers being given are actually relevant to the questions asked.

For example, let’s look at an easy way to prove that dogs do not have general comprehension. Take a paper and ask yourself if every word applies. Does the word horse apply? Yes! So why would we use the word horse to describe something else?

Dogs are very intuitive and know when someone wants help with something, so testing dogs on concepts like these may just put more stress on them. When you try to evaluate a dog’s intelligence by looking at the wrong kind of question, you get the wrong answer.

Multidimensional models of intelligence

how dog intelligence is measured

There are many different theories about what makes someone intelligent or not, but most agree that being smart is more than just having a lot of knowledge and skills. It is also knowing how to use your knowledge and skills efficiently and effectively.

A small amount of research has suggested that people who are good at taking tests tend to be more educated, however this does not necessarily make them smarter individuals. In fact, some studies have shown that test-taking can actually reduce overall cognitive ability!

Researchers now believe that there are several dimensions to intellectual abilities beyond just fluid intelligence (or “ability to think logically”) and crystallized intelligence (or “knowledge in specific domains”).

This shift away from thinking of IQ as one number reflects the growing consensus among psychologists that individual differences in intellect cannot easily be reduced to discrete traits such as numeracy or literacy.

Animal cognition

how dog intelligence is measured

Recent developments in dog psychology have focused more on what dogs are doing rather than whether they seem to be thinking like humans do. This is an important shift, as it moves the field away from defining intelligence only according to human standards.

Many psychologists now refer to this area of study as “animal cognition” or simply “cognition.” It includes studies of perception, learning, motivation, communication, and reasoning that animals perform similarly to how people do.

There are many different ways we know dogs are intelligent. We can observe their behavior and compare it with that of other species. We can teach them new skills and see if they retain the knowledge. We can test their memory by having them repeat something and then check their recall.

We can also measure the levels of activity in various parts of the brain while the animal performs a task or learns a new thing. Given these clues, we can make assumptions about why the animal acted the way it did.

Animal intelligence


Recent developments in dog psychology have focused more on what dogs are doing, not just whether they seem to be intelligent or not. This is referred to as studying animal cognition- how animals process information and use that knowledge to solve problems.

Many different aspects of canine behavior can be studied using this theory. These include things like:





In fact, there is now even an organization dedicated solely to promoting the study of canine socialization and communication! [3]

This topic has grown in popularity due to the growing number of people who love dogs and want to better understand them. Many professionals also find it helpful since it teaches them about basic dog behaviors and theories.

While some may consider studying dog cognition boring, most experts believe it is one of the hottest fields out there right now.

Do animals feel emotions?

how dog intelligence is measured

Many people believe that dogs are only motivated by instinct, but this is not true. Even though some behaviors are hard to explain without referring to instincts, many experts now agree that certain behaviors in intelligent creatures can be influenced by emotion.

Dog trainers refer to these as emotional learning triggers or cues. For example, when you put your dog in a new situation, she will learn how to behave around other humans depending on whether you’re interacting or not.

If you hug each other, she will associate being close to one person with being close to others. If you don’t interact, then she won’t know what to make of that behavior.

She may get scared or angry, for instance, if someone else hugs her while you’re both waiting for a car to start. Or maybe she’ll try to push them away so she doesn’t have to share space with them anymore!

That was a pretty strong reaction, even if it wasn’t really about anyone else at the time. But she picked up on your absence and inferred something about how things were supposed to be.

When you return, she’s going to be a little bit nervous until she knows what to make of the situation. That could take hours, days, or even weeks, but she’s already got a couple of lessons underway.

Emotional intelligence

how dog intelligence is measured

A lot of people think that dogs are just physically strong, but they’re not. That is definitely a part of dog's personality, but what really makes a dog special is its emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is another term for how well you understand and manage your emotions. It’s similar to what psychologists call “intra-personal effectiveness” or IGE.

Studies have shown that adults who are high in EI tend to be happier and more productive than those who are low in it. This is because they recognize and work around potential problems before they occur and use effective ways to deal with difficult situations.

Research also shows that higher levels of EI are related to better relationships and social success. People who are more intelligent about their own feelings tend to relate to other people more effectively and feel happier when they do.

When it comes to animals, there aren’t any standardized tests like there are for humans, so we can’t say for sure if dogs are smart or not. What we know is that some breeds seem to be stereotypically friendly while others are not!

However, there are some factors that predict whether or not a puppy will grow up to be a happy dog. Puppy raisers who spend time interacting with their puppies and teaching them appropriate behavior may increase the chances of an emotionally stable life.

Cindy PetsForLife
Cindy PetsForLife

Hello, I'm Cindy, the founder of PetsForLife. I am a true animal lover with 3 cats and 1 dog of my own. My passion for all things pets has led me to create a unique collection of personalized pet gifts. Check out our personalized pet gifts on our website.

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