Dog behaviorist, Julie Hecht says the smartest dog breed does not exist! Dog intelligence rankings are typically based on trainability, but this is not what most dogs are bred for.
But what makes a dog smart? What is our basis for measuring a dog breed’s IQ?
Business Insider talked to Julie Hecht, a dog behaviorist and psychologist. They asked her about dog intelligence rankings and if they hold any merit? Her answer was pretty clear.
“The smartest dog breed doesn’t exist,” Hecht said.
For several hundred years, dogs have been bred by people to excel in different tasks. Some dog breeds learn specific tasks more quickly –for example, Labradors are naturally good at retrieving and swimming so they excel at water-based activities. Beagles and Dachshunds, on the other hand, are great at hunting– it’s in their blood. Other dog breeds excel at general training — sitting, rolling over, standing on two legs, etc.
But most people are far more concerned about a dog’s look.
“We aren’t necessarily breeding them for ‘intelligence.’ The [breed] standards are often based on physical characteristics and behavior,” says Hecht.
For example, the judges and kennel club screen for dogs with specific physical characteristics and temperaments to determine a winner, not a certain IQ.
Hect also says that trainability is the characteristic most dog intelligence rankings use but not all dogs are bred for that.
Dog breeds bred to perform specific tasks can’t be lumped into a general category.
Hect says, “If we look at all Retrievers, they might all be shifted one direction for wanting to retrieve, but there might be outliers,” who don’t want or know how to retrieve.
In other words, there is as wide range of abilities and behaviors between dogs within a breed as there is between breeds themselves.
Hecht says that the best way to understand, approach, and measure dog intelligence is on the level of the individual, not the breed.
“When I think about it, in any species, I never say to myself, ‘Is this species intelligent?’” she says. “We should just say, ‘Who is this individual? What are they equipped with? What are they supposed to do? Are they doing it?’”
Hecht also says that branding certain dog breeds as “intelligent” or not distracts us from fairly assessing individual dogs — and blinds us to the full range of their abilities!