What is The Intelligence of Dogs About?

“The Intelligence of Dogs” unleashes the concept of dog intelligence and ranks breeds from most to least intelligent. Let’s find out more.

Jan 12, 2024By Natasha Elder
what is the intelligence of dogs about

Have you ever wondered just how much dogs understand about the world around them or pondered on which dog breeds are the most intelligent? Are you looking for a good book to sink your teeth into? Stanley Coren’s aptly named book, “The Intelligence of Dogs,” may be the answer to both of those questions. But what’s it all about?

“The Intelligence of Dogs” Explained

stanley coren the intelligence of dogs book review cover
Image credit: Amazon

“The Intelligence of Dogs” is a book about, you guessed it, dog intelligence. It was written by a professor of canine psychology named Stanley Coren in 1994 and was updated and republished in 2006. The immensely popular book is one of the best books for dog owners and people who are interested in animal intelligence.

The book explores the mind and psychology of canines, the human-canine bond, how our understanding of dogs’ intelligence has changed over time, and whether dogs have thoughts, feelings, and a level of consciousness similar to humans. It also breaks down the different types of dog intelligence and ranks 131 dog breeds from most to least intelligent.

dog reading a book
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In this book, several interesting topics are broached, and though it’s highly educational, it’s also humorous and entertaining. It makes for great reading all around. The book is made up of 13 chapters, with each chapter addressing a specific topic. The chapters included in the book are as follows:

  • Do Dogs Think?
  • The Natural History of Dogs
  • Early Views of the Dog’s Mind
  • Modern Views of the Dog’s Mind
  • The Nature of Dog Intelligence
  • Linguistic Intelligence in Dogs
  • Varieties of Dog Intelligence
  • Instinctive Intelligence
  • Adaptive Intelligence
  • Working or Obedience Intelligence
  • The Personality Factor
  • Increasing a Dog’s Intelligence
  • The Dog’s Mind and the Owner’s Happiness

What Are the Different Types of Dog Intelligence?

border collie jumping hoop training
Image credit: Andrea Lightfoot on Unsplash

The theory that shaped “The Intelligence of Dogs” is that more than half (51%) of a dog’s intelligence is determined by its breed and genes, while the remainder (49%) is a result of its environmental circumstances.

The three types of dog intelligence are outlined as: instinctive, adaptive, and working & obedience. Between the three categories, a dog’s memory, obedience, social training, observation capabilities, and problem-solving abilities are observed and tested.

Instinctive intelligence refers to a dog’s natural ability to do tasks and fulfill the roles that it was bred for, such as herding, hunting, or guarding. Adaptive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to solve problems and analyze their environment. Working and obedience intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to learn, retain, and perform commands.

In a nutshell: the faster a dog can learn a command, the more intelligent it is deemed. The more commands a dog can learn, the more it rises in the ranks of intelligence.

Which Dog Breed is the Most Intelligent?

border collie lying down green grass
Image credit: 4924546 from Pixabay

After learning about what makes a dog intelligent and discovering the three different categories of dog intelligence, you’re probably chomping at the bit to find out which dog breeds are the most intelligent. Is your dog on the list? Let’s find out.

The following dog breeds are considered to be the most intelligent of all dog breeds. These dogs are able to understand new commands in five repetitions or less, and they get it right on their first try 95% of the time or more:

  1. Border Collies
  2. Poodles
  3. German Shepherds
  4. Golden Retrievers
  5. Doberman Pinschers
  6. Shetland Sheepdogs
  7. Labrador Retrievers
  8. Papillons
  9. Rottweilers
  10. Australian Cattle Dogs

It is worth pointing out that the 10 smartest dog breeds listed above are the cream of the crop, but there are many other intelligent dog breeds out there. Notably, English Springer Spaniels, Irish Water Spaniels, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Pomeranians, Cardigan Welsh Corgis, and Pembroke Welsh Corgis are all categorized as “Excellent Working Dogs” who understand commands well.

Which Dog Breed is the Least Intelligent?

afghan hound long hair grass
Image credit: Wikimedia

Now that you know which dog breed is the most intelligent, it’s only natural to wonder what the other side of the scale looks like. So, which dog breed is the least intelligent?

If Stanley Coren is to be believed, popular breeds like Pekingese, Basset Hounds, and Chow Chows are all of low intelligence, with Afghan Hounds being the least intelligent breed of them all. According to “The Intelligence of Dogs,” the dog breeds with the lowest degree of working or obedience intelligence are:

  • 70: Shih Tzus
  • 71: Basset Hounds
  • 72: Mastiffs and Beagles
  • 73: Pekingese
  • 74: Bloodhounds
  • 75: Borzois
  • 76: Chow Chows
  • 77: Bulldogs
  • 78: Basenjis
  • 79: Afghan Hounds

Remember, just because a certain dog breed has a lower level of intelligence compared to other breeds doesn’t mean they’re stupid or complete goofballs. The breeds listed above are still capable of understanding new commands; it just takes them a few – okay, many – more repetitions.

*Note: Though 131 breeds were studied, the list only ranks up to the 79th level of intelligence due to several instances of breeds tying at different positions.

Who is Stanley Coren, and What Books Has He Written?

stanley coren canine behavior expert portrait
Image credit: Wikimedia

Today, Stanley Coren is known all around the world for being the author of “The Intelligence of Dogs” and an expert in all things dog. But even before this global claim to fame, Stanley was established as a well-respected psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher who graduated from the prestigious Stanford University.

After many years of studying human behavior, Stanley turned his attention to dogs, and it’s in this field that he truly made a name for himself. Over the years, he has published several papers, served as a Professor in Canine Studies, been an instructor for Obedience training clubs, and authored the following books:

  • “The Intelligence of Dogs”
  • “The Wisdom of Dogs”
  • Do Dogs Dream? Nearly Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know”
  • “Why We Love the Dogs We Do”
  • “Why Does My Dog Act That Way? A Complete Guide to Your Dog’s Personality”
  • And even more dog-related titles
Natasha Elder
By Natasha Elder

Natasha is a mother, a wife, a writer, and a serial cat owner. Though she is currently in mourning, her heart not ready for another feline family member just yet, she has always lived life with four paws beside her. She loves – you guessed it – cats, as well as creatures of the fluffy, scaly, and finned variety. Natasha longs to meet Sir David Attenborough one day and is passionate about responsible pet ownership