The Intelligence of Dogs

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The Intelligence of Dogs
AuthorStanley Coren
CountryUnited States
GenreScience & Nature
Publication date
  • 10 May 1994
Media typePrint (hardback and paperback)

The Intelligence of Dogs is a 1994 book on dog intelligence by Stanley Coren, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.[1] The book explains Coren's theories about the differences in intelligence between various breeds of dogs.[2][3][4] Coren published a second edition in 2006.[5]

Coren defines three aspects of dog intelligence in the book: instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence, and working and obedience intelligence.[6] Instinctive intelligence refers to a dog's ability to perform the tasks it was bred for, such as herding, pointing, fetching, guarding, or supplying companionship.[6] Adaptive intelligence refers to a dog's ability to solve problems on its own.[6] Working and obedience intelligence refers to a dog's ability to learn from humans.[6]


The book's ranking focuses on working and obedience intelligence. Coren sent evaluation requests to American Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club obedience trial judges, asking them to rank breeds by performance, and received 199 responses, representing about 50 percent of obedience judges then working in North America.[6] Assessments were limited to breeds receiving at least 100 judge responses.[6] This methodology aimed to eliminate the excessive weight that might result from a simple tabulation of obedience degrees by breed. Its use of expert opinion followed precedent.[7][8]

Coren found substantial agreement in the judges' rankings of working and obedience intelligence, with Border collies consistently named in the top ten and Afghan Hounds consistently named in the lowest.[6] The highest ranked dogs in this category were Border collies, Poodles, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Doberman Pinschers.[9]

Dogs that are not breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club or Canadian Kennel Club (such as the Jack Russell Terrier) were not included in Coren's rankings.


When Coren's list of breed intelligence first came out there was much media attention and commentary both pro[10] and con.[11] However over the years the ranking of breeds and the methodology used have come to be accepted as a valid description of the differences among dog breeds in terms of the trainability aspect of dog intelligence.[12][13][14] In addition, measurements of canine intelligence using other methods have confirmed the general pattern of these rankings[15] including a new study using owner ratings to rank dog trainability and intelligence.[16] 79 ranks are given (plus 52 ties), a total of 138 breeds ranked:[17]

Brightest Dogs[edit]

A Border Collie
  • Understanding of New Commands: Fewer than 5 repetitions.
  • Obey First Command: 95% of the time or better.[18]
  1. Border Collie
  2. Poodle
  3. German Shepherd
  4. Golden Retriever
  5. Doberman Pinscher
  6. Shetland Sheepdog
  7. Labrador Retriever
  8. Papillon
  9. Rottweiler
  10. Australian Cattle Dog

Excellent Working Dogs[edit]

  • Understanding of New Commands: 5 to 15 repetitions.
  • Obey First Command: 85% of the time or better.[18]
  1. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  2. Miniature Schnauzer
  3. English Springer Spaniel
  4. Belgian Shepherd Dog (Tervuren)
  5. Schipperke
  6. Belgian Sheepdog
  7. Collie
  8. Keeshond
  9. German Shorthaired Pointer
  10. Flat-Coated Retriever
  11. English Cocker Spaniel
  12. Standard Schnauzer
  13. Brittany
  14. Cocker Spaniel
  15. Weimaraner
  16. Belgian Malinois
  17. Bernese Mountain Dog
  18. Pomeranian
  19. Irish Water Spaniel
  20. Vizsla
  21. Cardigan Welsh Corgi

Above Average Working Dogs[edit]

  • Understanding of New Commands: 15 to 25 repetitions.
  • Obey First Command: 70% of the time or better.[18]
  1. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  2. Puli
  3. Yorkshire Terrier
  4. Giant Schnauzer
  5. Portuguese Water Dog
  6. Airedale Terrier
  7. Bouvier des Flandres
  8. Border Terrier
  9. Briard
  10. Welsh Springer Spaniel
  11. Australian Shepherd
  12. Manchester Terrier
  13. Samoyed
  14. Field Spaniel
  15. Newfoundland
  16. Australian Terrier
  17. American Staffordshire Terrier
  18. Gordon Setter
  19. Bearded Collie
  20. Cairn Terrier
  21. Kerry Blue Terrier
  22. Irish Setter
  23. Norwegian Elkhound
  24. Affenpinscher
  25. Australian Silky Terrier
  26. Miniature Pinscher
  27. English Setter
  28. Pharaoh Hound
  29. Clumber Spaniel
  30. Norwich Terrier
  31. Dalmatian

Average Working/Obedience Intelligence[edit]

  • Understanding of New Commands: 25 to 40 repetitions.
  • Obey First Command: 50% of the time or better.[18]
  1. Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier
  2. Bedlington Terrier
  3. Smooth Fox Terrier
  4. Curly Coated Retriever
  5. Irish Wolfhound
  6. Kuvasz
  7. Australian Shepherd
  8. Saluki
  9. Finnish Spitz
  10. Pointer
  11. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  12. German Wirehaired Pointer
  13. Black and Tan Coonhound
  14. American Water Spaniel
  15. Siberian Husky
  16. Bichon Frise
  17. Havanese
  18. King Charles Spaniel
  19. Tibetan Spaniel
  20. English Foxhound
  21. Otterhound
  22. Jack Russell Terrier
  23. American Foxhound
  24. Greyhound
  25. Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
  26. West Highland White Terrier
  27. Scottish Deerhound
  28. Boxer
  29. Great Dane
  30. Dachshund
  31. Shiba Inu
  32. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  33. Alaskan Malamute
  34. Whippet
  35. Chinese Shar Pei
  36. Wire Fox Terrier
  37. Rhodesian Ridgeback
  38. Ibizan Hound
  39. Welsh Terrier
  40. Irish Terrier
  41. Boston Terrier
  42. Akita

Fair Working/Obedience Intelligence[edit]

  • Understanding of New Commands: 40 to 80 repetitions.
  • Obey First Command: 30% of the time or better.[18]
  1. Skye Terrier
  2. Norfolk Terrier
  3. Sealyham Terrier
  4. Pug
  5. French Bulldog
  6. Griffon Bruxellois
  7. Maltese
  8. Italian Greyhound
  9. Coton de Tulear
  10. Chinese Crested Dog
  11. Dandie Dinmont Terrier
  12. Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen
  13. Tibetan Terrier
  14. Japanese Chin
  15. Lakeland Terrier
  16. Old English Sheepdog
  17. Great Pyrenees
  18. Scottish Terrier
  19. Saint Bernard
  20. Bull Terrier
  21. Chihuahua
  22. Lhasa Apso
  23. Bullmastiff

Lowest Degree of Working/Obedience Intelligence[edit]

  • Understanding of New Commands: 80 to 100 repetitions or more.
  • Obey First Command: 25% of the time or worse.[18]
  1. Shih Tzu
  2. Basset Hound
  3. Mastiff
  4. Beagle
  5. Pekingese
  6. Bloodhound
  7. Borzoi
  8. Chow Chow
  9. Bulldog
  10. Basenji
  11. Afghan Hound

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Coren, Stanley (1995). The Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide To The Thoughts, Emotions, And Inner Lives Of Our Canine Companions. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-37452-4.
  2. ^ Boxer, Sarah (1994-06-05). "My Dog's Smarter Than Your Dog". New York Times.
  3. ^ Wade, Nicholas (1994-07-03). "METHOD AND MADNESS; What Dogs Think". New York Times.
  4. ^ Croke, Vicki (1994-04-21). "Growling at the dog list". Tribune New Service (published in the Boston Globe).
  5. ^ Showing all editions for 'The intelligence of dogs : a guide to the thoughts, emotions, and inner lives or our canine companions'. WorldCat. OCLC 30700778.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Stanley Coren (July 15, 2009). "Canine Intelligence—Breed Does Matter". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2011-08-16.
  7. ^ Hart, BL; Hart (1985). "LA". JAVMA. 186: 1181–1185.
  8. ^ Hart, BL; Hart, LA (1988). The Perfect Puppy. New York: Freeman.
  9. ^ Stanley Coren. "Excerpted from "The Intelligence of Dogs"". Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  10. ^ Example: Perrin, Noel (April 10, 1994). "How Do Dogs Think?". Chicago Sun-Times.
  11. ^ Example: "Coren's Canine List Has Owners Growling". April 30, 1994. Apr 30, 1994.
  12. ^ Example:Csányi, Vilmos (2000). If dogs could talk: Exploring the canine mind. New York: North Point Press.
  13. ^ Example:Miklósi, Ádám (2009). Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  14. ^ Davis, SL; Cheeke PR (August 1998). "Do domestic animals have minds and the ability to think? A provisional sample of opinions on the question". Journal of Animal Science. 76 (8): 2072–2079. doi:10.2527/1998.7682072x. PMID 9734856.
  15. ^ Example: Helton, WS (November 2009). "Cephalic index and perceived dog trainability". Behavioural Processes. 83 (3): 355–358. doi:10.1016/j.beproc.2009.08.004. PMID 19683035.
  16. ^ Coren, Stanley (2006). Why does my dog act that way? A complete guide to your dog's personality. New York: Free Press.
  17. ^ "Ranking of Dogs for Obedience/Working Intelligence by Breed". Archived from the original on January 2, 2013.
  18. ^ a b c d e f Coren1995