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How Smart Is Your Dog?

How Smart Is Your Dog?

A new study has discovered that a dog’s size may hold the key to understanding more about how dogs learn.

Scientists at the University of Arizona have discovered that dogs with larger brains outperform smaller dogs in some cases, but not all. In particular, they discovered that larger dogs have better short-term memory and self-control than smaller dogs.

So, How Smart Is Your Dog?

The study analysed the data of 7,000 dogs from owner-based research on (where owners take game orientated tests and upload their own findings). The dogs were a mix of different ages and breeds.

Below are the two games dogs played, so you can have some fun and test how smart your dog is!

How Smart Is Your Dog?

A Game to Test Your Dog’s Self-Control

What you need:

  • Dog treats

Tell your dog to ‘sit’ and with your dog sitting in front of you, place a treat in front of them, letting them know they are not to take it.

Then, watch your dog and see how they react. Test for a second time by covering your eyes and a third time by turning away from your dog, noting each time how long it took for your dog to wait before eating the dog treat you placed in front of them.

How did your dog do?

Find out how your dog did in comparison to other dogs
Typically, the larger the dog breed (and, as such, the larger the dog’s brain) the longer the dog is more likely to wait before snaffling the forbidden dog treat.

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How Smart Is Your Dog?

A Game to Test Your Dog’s Short Term Memory

What you need:

  • Dog treats
  • Two cups

With your dog watching you, turn the cups upside down. Lift one of the cups up, and put a treat underneath before putting the cup back down over the top of the treat.

Then, wait 60 seconds and release your dog, giving them the signal to get the treat.

Repeat three more times, this time waiting for 90 seconds, 120 seconds and 150 seconds before giving your dog the signal to get the dog treat.

How did your dog do?

Find out how your dog did in comparison to other dogs
What scientists discovered when they analysed data is that that smaller dogs had more difficulty remembering where the treat was hidden, compared to larger breeds.

K9 Magazine's publisher Ryan O’Meara shared some insight into the canine mind based on his experiences as a professional dog trainer.

“As a dog trainer, one of the things you need to constantly avoid is giving unconscious clues to your dog. It’s so easy to do. You have hidden something and you want the dog to use their own skills and innate talents to find it, but because you know where it is some dogs can read you well enough to get clues from your behaviour. (see the case of Clever Hans for more information about this phenomenon).

“As a way to avoid this, you find ways to really test your dog’s ability to think and work for themselves. In this process, I have discovered that some dogs really do have remarkable memories.

“My own dog, Jackson, could remember if we were in a spot where I had previously thrown a retrieve that I hadn’t let him collect. He always wanted to check if it might still be where he saw me throw it. Equally, I’ve seen dogs who seem to have a totally different way of working, relying far less on memory and much more on evaluating each new situation as a unique event to be solved methodically rather through their own ability to recall things they have seen right in front of their eyes.”

How Smart Is Your Dog?

So, What Does This All Mean?

While it’s quite interesting to read and learn that a dog’s brain size may play a key role in how smart they are, how they learn and react in certain situations, it isn’t conclusive in all scenarios.

The study's findings reflect what scientists have previously learnt through studying primates - that brain size is associated with executive functioning, but not other types of intelligence.

How Smart Is Your Dog?

Dr Daniel Horschler, who led the study, now wants to further explore the subject to find out what other factors play a key role in canine cognition, such as social intelligence and reasoning, where a dog’s brain size doesn’t seem to influence how smart a dog is and their actions. He admitted the "jury is still out" but is keen to figure it out.

K9 Magazine’s Great Dog Training Experiment

We are committed to learning more about how dogs think and react as we strive to better understand our best friends.

Get involved in our great dog training experiment and share your dog’s skills by telling us how quickly they picked up the games shared in this article here.

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