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What Is The Average IQ of a Dog And How To Increase It

What's the dogs' IQ?
Written by Mark Braeden

Have you ever wondered what the average IQ of a dog is?  Dogs are not just adorable companions; they possess a remarkable level of intelligence that varies from breed to breed. In this post, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of canine IQ, exploring what it is, how it’s measured, and, most importantly, how you can boost your dog’s intelligence. So, grab a treat, sit back, and let’s embark on this enlightening journey together!

What’s The Average Dog’s IQ?

There’s no such thing as “average dog IQ,” at least not in the way you’re thinking of it. Why? Because there really aren’t any 100% reliable dog IQ tests out there. It’s almost impossible to define a dog’s intelligence by a single number. Even in humans, IQ tests are seriously flawed to the point that most psychologists agree that they’re not an accurate measure of true intelligence.

That said, some experts believe it’s around 100. But even that is confusing because, as one commenter reminded us below, IQ tests are adjusted for age. It may be easier to think of it this way: the average dog has the intelligence of about a 2- or 3-year-old child. Honestly, that’s still a bit off. Especially when you consider that we’re the entire thing on what WE think of as intelligence based on criteria that we use to determine human IQ. Maybe our dogs can speak 7 languages and calculate the square root of pi while composing an orchestra in their minds, and we just don’t know it because we don’t speak “dog” properly. Maybe they sit around discussing our IQ and think “the average person has the IQ of a puppy.” Hmm, that may actually not be that far off…

To truly determine the “average IQ” of a dog, we have to look beyond human concepts and dig deeper into what constitutes canine intelligence. So, let’s do just that.

*This post was fully updated by Nicole in 2023 to reflect new information available and to clarify some vague points.

Understanding the Three Types of Canine Intelligence

Canines exhibit a unique form of intelligence that encompasses various aspects, including problem-solving skills, memory, social cognition, and even communication abilities. Dr. Stanley Coren, a renowned psychologist and dog intelligence researcher (and author of The Intelligence of Dogs) , identified three types of dog intelligence: instinctive, adaptive, and working and obedience intelligence.

Instinctive Intelligence: Unraveling the Canine Blueprint

Let’s dive deeper into the first dimension of dog intelligence: instinctive intelligence. This facet of cognitive prowess revolves around a dog’s innate ability to perform tasks that align with its breed’s historical purpose. It’s like tapping into the genetic memory bank that carries the blueprint of their ancestors’ skills and functions.

  1. Herding Breeds: Consider the border collie, an exemplar of instinctive intelligence. Bred for herding livestock, these dogs possess an uncanny ability to gather and control sheep with remarkable precision. Their instinctive intelligence allows them to read the subtlest cues, such as a sheep’s body language, and respond accordingly. It’s as if they have an inborn manual on effective herding techniques.
  2. Retrievers and Retrieving Instinct: Retrievers, like the Labrador and Golden Retriever, showcase another facet of instinctive intelligence. Originally bred for retrieving game during hunting, these dogs have an inbuilt understanding of the mechanics involved in fetching. The instinct to retrieve is so deeply ingrained that even without explicit training, they often exhibit an unparalleled enthusiasm for chasing after and returning objects.
  3. Guardian Breeds: Guardian breeds, such as the German Shepherd, Mastiff, or Doberman, excel in protecting their families and properties. Their instinctive intelligence equips them with an innate sense of vigilance and territoriality. They can discern between normal activities and potential threats, making them reliable guardians.
  4. Scent Hounds and Tracking: Scent hounds, like the bloodhound, showcase exceptional instinctive intelligence in tracking scents over vast distances. Their noses are finely tuned instruments, allowing them to follow a scent trail with remarkable accuracy. This instinctual skill was crucial in assisting hunters in locating game.
  5. Pointers and Pointing Instinct: Breeds like the English Pointer exhibit a unique pointing instinct. This trait, honed through generations of selective breeding, involves the dog freezing in a pointing stance when it detects the scent of game. This behavior aids hunters in identifying the location of potential prey.

Understanding a dog’s instinctive intelligence involves recognizing and appreciating these inherent traits that have been carefully honed over centuries. It’s like acknowledging the specialized tools each breed carries in its mental toolbox, tools that were once vital for their survival and utility.

Nurturing Instinctive Intelligence:

While instinctive intelligence is largely hardwired, there are ways to nurture and channel these instincts positively:

  1. Engage in Breed-Specific Activities: Provide opportunities for your dog to engage in activities aligned with its breed’s purpose. For herding breeds, consider activities like agility courses. Retrievers might enjoy games of fetch or activities that involve retrieving items.
  2. Interactive Toys: Choose toys that cater to your dog’s instinctive tendencies. Puzzle toys that mimic hunting or foraging can be particularly enriching for their minds.
  3. Training that Respects Natural Instincts: When training, leverage your dog’s natural instincts. For example, if you have a retriever, incorporate fetching games into training sessions.
  4. Exposure to Stimulating Environments: Allow your dog to explore environments that stimulate their instinctive intelligence. For scent hounds, this could be wooded areas where they can follow interesting scents.

By recognizing and embracing the instinctive intelligence embedded in your dog’s DNA, you not only gain a deeper understanding of their behaviors but also provide avenues for them to express and enjoy these inherent skills. It’s like giving them a stage to showcase the talents passed down through generations, connecting them to the rich tapestry of their breed’s history. So, let your furry friend’s instincts shine, and watch as they unveil the captivating chapters written in their genetic code.

Adaptive Intelligence: Unleashing the Canine Problem-Solver

Now, let’s shift our focus to the second dimension of dog intelligence: adaptive intelligence. Unlike instinctive intelligence, which is more hardwired and breed-specific, adaptive intelligence showcases a dog’s ability to learn from its environment, solve problems, and apply knowledge gained from experiences.

  1. Problem-Solving Skills: Adaptive intelligence involves a dog’s aptitude for problem-solving. This could range from figuring out how to open a latch to finding the best approach to reach a favorite toy. Dogs with high adaptive intelligence showcase an ability to analyze situations, explore different options, and determine the most effective solution.
  2. Learning from Experiences: Dogs are incredible learners, and adaptive intelligence is closely tied to their capacity to absorb information from their surroundings. Whether it’s learning a new trick, understanding the consequences of certain actions, or navigating through various environments, adaptive intelligence allows dogs to apply knowledge gained from experiences.
  3. Generalizing Information: Adaptive intelligence enables dogs to generalize information, meaning they can take lessons learned in one context and apply them to similar situations. For example, a dog that has learned to sit on command at home may quickly grasp the same command in a different setting.
  4. Observational Learning: Dogs with high adaptive intelligence excel in observational learning. They can pick up new behaviors and actions by watching other dogs, animals, or even humans. This ability to learn by observation expands their repertoire of skills and behaviors.
  5. Cognitive Flexibility: Adaptive intelligence also involves cognitive flexibility, allowing dogs to adapt to changing circumstances. This could include adjusting their behavior based on the reactions of other animals or modifying their approach to a task when faced with new challenges.

Nurturing Adaptive Intelligence:

Enhancing your dog’s adaptive intelligence involves providing a stimulating environment that encourages learning and problem-solving. Here are some strategies:

  1. Interactive Toys and Puzzles: Offer interactive toys and puzzles that require your dog to figure out how to access treats or toys. This engages their problem-solving skills and keeps them mentally active.
  2. Varied Training Sessions: Keep training sessions diverse and challenging. Introduce new commands, tricks, or tasks to prevent monotony and encourage your dog to think through different scenarios.
  3. Rotate Toys and Activities: Regularly rotate your dog’s toys and activities to prevent boredom. Introducing novel objects and experiences keeps their minds engaged and promotes adaptive learning.
  4. Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement plays a crucial role in nurturing adaptive intelligence. Reward your dog for successfully solving problems or learning new behaviors, reinforcing their positive experiences.
  5. Outdoor Exploration: Take your dog on walks in different environments. Exposing them to varied stimuli, smells, and challenges encourages adaptive learning and helps generalize their experiences.

Recognizing and encouraging your dog’s adaptive intelligence not only strengthens their cognitive abilities but also fosters a deeper bond between you and your furry companion. As you embark on this journey of exploration and learning together, you’ll witness the incredible problem-solving abilities that make your dog a true cognitive marvel. So, challenge their minds, celebrate their successes, and revel in the joy of discovering the adaptive brilliance within each wagging tail.

Working and Obedience Intelligence: The Canine Virtuoso in Action

Now, let’s unravel the third dimension of dog intelligence: working and obedience intelligence. This facet focuses on a dog’s ability to follow commands, perform tasks, and demonstrate reliability in various situations. It’s like watching a skilled performer executing a well-rehearsed routine, showcasing a deep connection between a dog and its human.

  1. Command Recognition and Execution: At the core of working and obedience intelligence is a dog’s aptitude for recognizing and executing commands. Breeds with high scores in this category, like the Border Collie and German Shepherd, can swiftly comprehend and respond to a wide array of commands, making them adept at tasks ranging from herding to protection.
  2. Task Performance: Dogs with exceptional working intelligence excel in performing specific tasks. This could include anything from retrieving items, guiding individuals with visual impairments, or even participating in search and rescue missions. Breeds like the Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever often shine in these roles.
  3. Problem-Solving in Training: Working and obedience intelligence involves not just following commands but also problem-solving within the training context. Dogs with high scores in this category can quickly grasp the requirements of a task, understand the desired outcome, and adjust their behavior to meet the trainer’s expectations.
  4. Focus and Concentration: The ability to maintain focus and concentration is crucial in working and obedience tasks. Dogs with high intelligence in this dimension can stay attentive to commands even in distracting environments, showcasing remarkable self-control and discipline.
  5. Versatility in Training: Breeds with strong working and obedience intelligence are often versatile in training. They can adapt to various tasks and demonstrate a willingness to learn new commands, making them valuable companions in roles such as service dogs, therapy dogs, or even as participants in dog sports.

Nurturing Working and Obedience Intelligence:

Fostering your dog’s working and obedience intelligence involves a combination of structured training, positive reinforcement, and building a strong bond. Here are some strategies:

  1. Consistent Training Sessions: Regular, consistent training sessions are key to developing working and obedience intelligence. Keep sessions short, focused, and enjoyable to maintain your dog’s enthusiasm.
  2. Clear Communication: Use clear and consistent communication during training. Dogs with high working intelligence respond well to precise commands and cues, enhancing their understanding of tasks.
  3. Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement, such as treats, praise, or play, is a powerful tool in developing working and obedience intelligence. Reward your dog for correct responses, reinforcing their connection between the command and the desired action.
  4. Varied Training Environments: Introduce your dog to different training environments. This helps them generalize commands and behaviors, ensuring they can respond reliably in various situations.
  5. Task-Specific Training: Tailor training sessions to focus on specific tasks relevant to your dog’s abilities and purpose. This could include retrieving objects, navigating obstacles, or responding to specific cues.

By recognizing and nurturing your dog’s working and obedience intelligence, you not only enhance their individual skills but also strengthen the collaborative bond between you and your canine companion. It’s a testament to the incredible capabilities that dogs bring to our lives, showcasing their willingness to learn, perform, and contribute in ways that make them not just pets but true partners in our daily endeavors. So, embrace the journey of training and teamwork, and witness the extraordinary intelligence that unfolds with every well-executed command.

In conclusion, your dog’s intelligence is a multifaceted and intriguing aspect of their personality. Understanding the different types of intelligence and employing strategies to enhance them can lead to a more fulfilling and enriched life for your canine companion. So, whether you have a brainy border collie or a laid-back basset hound, investing time in stimulating their minds will undoubtedly strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend. Here’s to unlocking the genius within every wagging tail!


  • Mark Braeden

    Mark is a Boston University graduate and former electrical engineer. In 2017, he decided to combine his tech knowledge with his love for dogs. He spent a year familiarizing himself with the latest GPS tracking collars, invisible fences, and other hot pet gadgets before he wrote his first product review. After selling Technobark, Mark remained a writer and consultant but spends more time on his other passion now: raising and training his growing family of dogs.

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  • It’s a lie that dog IQs are 100. Do you expect anyone to believe that or are you a grifter?

    • You need get a glasses, this research saying that the dogs iQ is 100 as 2-3 years old human

  • If dog’s IQ is 100 that means they can learn and speak to humans. They are more like 50 at best. Fake research

    • U are more dumber than dogs cause this research saying that the dogs iQ is 100 as 2-3 years old human.

  • My oh my ? Anger displayed by humans ! Because dogs are smart ? We are so fortunate to be aided by the skill patients love and loyalty they give .List of a dogs capability’s unimaginable – giving humans independence security safety life and companionship ..

  • I have a BPS acredited BSc in Psychology and im confidently telling you, the average IQ for humans is 100-110. The test was standardised for humans which is why the average value was set at 100.Its been more than 50years since IQ test standardisation, hence adding a range of 100-110. If you said the IQ of a dog was more like 10 i would believe you. I have no idea why youve published such wrong information .

    • I don´t know how you passed the classes, then.
      IQ tests are normed so that the average is 100 but they are also _age-adjusted_. If you perform an IQ test in children, their average is also 100. So, simply put, the average of an IQ test is _always_ 100, also for dogs, because it is normed that way, as the idea is to be able to compare subjects on a relative scale. As the article clearly states, their absolute intelligence is similar to 2 year old humans.

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