21 October, 2011

The intelligence of creatures

Today I was reading an article about Dachsunds and came across a mention of the book The Intelligence of Dogs by Stanley Coren.
Dachshunds are around number 49 on the scale of intelligent dogs. That means it takes them between 25-40 repetitions to learn a new command, and they obey a command the first time it is given 50% of the time or better. 
Cocker Spaniels are a 20 on the list, meaning it takes them 5-15 repetitions to get a new command, and they obey a command on the first instance 85% of the time or better. My own personal Cocker Spaniels don’t listen or obey worth a damn, but that’s because they are blind, deaf, and stubborn, no reflection on the breed as a whole.
Anyway, all this got me thinking that the way we quantify intelligence in animals is how quickly they do what humans want them to do. Dogs like the Border Collie, Poodle, and German Shepherd, that are just dying for someone to give them a job to do are considered intelligent. A dog that doesn’t care what you want it to do is considered un-intelligent. I think that maybe we are looking at this all wrong.
Let’s look at it from the dog’s point of view, is any of that true? My dogs don’t do a thing I tell them and they still get food, treats, and a nice warm place to sleep. I spend my hard earned money on them, take them on nice walks every day, and clean up after them. Who’s the dummy?
Instead of calling all this intelligence, maybe we should call it Cooperativeness, or Desire to Please. Because, as I understand it, those intelligent dogs really like to have a job to do. They like working. It isn’t that the Poodle is smarter than the Dachshund, it is just more willing to go along with other people’s ideas. The Dachshund is independent and has firmer ideas about what it feels like doing at any given time. Just because you snap out a brisk “sit” is no reason that your dog is going to feel like sitting at that moment
My own experiences have shown me that while we are training our dogs, they are also training us. When Dru needs to go out, he comes and paws the chair where I am sitting, or my leg. If Ginger wants a treat, she sits in front of the treat jar and looks at it, then at me, then at the jar…until treats are forthcoming.  I wonder how I do on the dog’s scale, The Intelligence of Humans?


  1. I think it has more to do with the ability to learn new tasks than their willingness to please, although having had a poodle, I must give a shout out to the breed. They are so very, very pleasing!

  2. I don't know about intelligence, but they sure are nicer than human beings. I took Hoover and an ill friend's dog for a long walk today. It was a dog day today.