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  #1  
Old 12-25-2005, 09:12 AM
Dead Battery Dead Battery is offline
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Dog breeds, brain size and intelligence

Why aren't the smallest breeds of dogs also the dumbest? Their brains must surely be smaller then larger size dogs, so...
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  #2  
Old 12-25-2005, 12:57 PM
alterego alterego is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dead Battery
Why aren't the smallest breeds of dogs also the dumbest? Their brains must surely be smaller then larger size dogs, so...
A large brain does not necessarily equal more intelligence. Sperm and Blue whales have brains ~six times larger than humans, but they aren't six times more intelligent. Einstein's brain was smaller than average. There are many factors that play into intelligence, while the size of your brain is one of them (e.g., you would not expect the humble sea squirt to come anywhere near human intelligence), it is only one of many.
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Old 12-25-2005, 03:19 PM
lissener lissener is offline
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What alterego said. The difference in relative size between the brains of humans, for example, and the brains of another species, are relevant in discussions of the differences in potential intelligence of the two species overall. But variation in brain size within one species is not necessarily relevant to the different specific intelligence of two individuals. (Barring things like deformity and too much television.)
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Old 12-26-2005, 09:40 AM
racer72 racer72 is offline
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I had an Airedale many years ago, he was a large breed and about as dumb as a dog could be.
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  #5  
Old 12-26-2005, 09:49 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Aren't the brains of all dogs roughly the same size, regardless of head size? Or do bigger heads mean bigger brains?
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Old 12-26-2005, 06:22 PM
Telemark Telemark is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A.
Aren't the brains of all dogs roughly the same size, regardless of head size? Or do bigger heads mean bigger brains?
Considering that the head of a Newfoundland is bigger than the entire body of the smaller breeds, brain size is quite variable. In general, breeds that were bred for working (border collies, shepards, poodles, labs) are smarter than those that were bred for show.
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  #7  
Old 12-27-2005, 01:52 AM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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In general, the dog breed types are ranked as follows (from most intellegent to least):
- herding dogs or livestock guarding dogs
- hunting dogs (pointers, setters, retrievers)
- terriers (small hunting/chasing dogs)
- working dogs (guard, rescue, & sled-pulling dogs)
- fighting dogs
- non-sporting or companion dogs

Note that this is only a very general ranking. (It isn't like we can reliably test dogs.) Most dog experts agree with it, at least in part. Though many have slight variations in it. (For example, many put the fighting breeds at the bottom.) And there is a lot of argument about the ranking of various breeds within the types. Plus individual dogs vary a lot in intellegence. But it's a workable generalization.
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Old 12-27-2005, 07:30 AM
BluePitbull BluePitbull is offline
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Shouldn't we seperate "intelligence" from "willingness to obey"?
Retrievers and border collies were bred to work with people so they can't have a
stubborn dog herding sheep or retrieving. These dogs do well in obediance.
Terriers and fighting dogs work seperately from people, so they have to have some indepence and think for themselves.
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Old 12-27-2005, 04:57 PM
Kevbo Kevbo is offline
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The breed rankings above pretty well match my experience. I'm a Lab guy, but readilly admit that the Border Collies I've known are scary smart.

One thing I've noticed is that ALL the dumbest dogs I've known have been curley-haired "no shedding" breeds: Poodles, Airdales, and a couple of Irish Water Spaniels. If anything the toy poodles seem to be a little brighter than the standard poodles, so I don't think cranial volume matters much at all.

I always wondered if, bred for thier coats, not enough attention was payed to passing on the smart genes.

One thing I think matters a lot, is the owners expectations. Someone who inends to train the dog extensivly will seek out a breed "known" to be smart. The "no shed" dogs tend to attract owners who don't want to fuss with the dog. Quality and quantity of training will make a lot more difference in how bright a dog seems than breeding.
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  #10  
Old 12-27-2005, 05:07 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevbo
One thing I've noticed is that ALL the dumbest dogs I've known have been curley-haired "no shedding" breeds: Poodles, Airdales, and a couple of Irish Water Spaniels. If anything the toy poodles seem to be a little brighter than the standard poodles, so I don't think cranial volume matters much at all.

I always wondered if, bred for thier coats, not enough attention was payed to passing on the smart genes.

That's really odd, because I have never seen a list of most intelligent breeds where the poodle doesn't fall into the top 10, and few where they don't rank in the top 5. Standard poodles are a breed reknowned for their intelligence, which is one of the reasons they are so often selected for performance animals.

I don't know much about Airdales, but I'll agree that cocker spaniels are dumb, or if not dumb so neurotic that it makes no practical difference.
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  #11  
Old 12-27-2005, 05:22 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
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The dumbest dogs include the sight hounds (Afghans, Whippets, etc), and Dalmations. Other breeds like some terriers aren't stupid, but they are stubborn and hard to train.

And as someone who has raised Border Collies for 15 years, I can attest that they are scary smart. That's why I love them. They interact with people in complex ways that can be downright spooky. We 'talk' to our border collie, and she picks up cues from our inflection, body language, and key words in sentences and generally follows what we want. We actually have to resort to spelling out some words if we don't want her to pick up on it. For example, if I say, "I should take the car and drive to the store", it's likely that she'll be at the back door waiting for me. So I have to say, "I think I'll take the C-A-R to the store" unless I want her along.
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  #12  
Old 12-27-2005, 07:57 PM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake
That's really odd, because I have never seen a list of most intelligent breeds where the poodle doesn't fall into the top 10,
Well, technically, the poodle (standard, not the toy ones) is classified in the hunting group, as a retriever dog. So it goes in the 2nd highest ranked group.

Hunting was the origin of the fancypoodle haircut; it was originally designed to allow the dog to work in messy fields without getting their coat so full of weeds, cockelburrs, etc. (Of course, it's become a bit more elaborate hairstyle since then.)
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  #13  
Old 12-27-2005, 08:20 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by t-bonham@scc.net
Well, technically, the poodle (standard, not the toy ones) is classified in the hunting group, as a retriever dog. So it goes in the 2nd highest ranked group.

Yes, I know. My statement was directed to the post made by Kevbo, the same post that I quoted directly above my statement. Nothing whatsoever to do with what group the dog belongs to.
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  #14  
Old 12-27-2005, 08:29 PM
Telemark Telemark is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BluePitbull
Shouldn't we seperate "intelligence" from "willingness to obey"?
Retrievers and border collies were bred to work with people so they can't have a
stubborn dog herding sheep or retrieving. These dogs do well in obediance.
Terriers and fighting dogs work seperately from people, so they have to have some indepence and think for themselves.
Border Collies are extremely scary smart. They understand complex and varied commands, can remember long series of instructions, and can think on their feet. They do interact with humans well, but it's more like co-workers. They can also operate on their own quite well.

IQ tests for dogs are available. They involve tasks that the dogs haven't been trained for (like getting a ball from under a series of cups) and clearly some breeds are consistantly better at these tasks than others. Whether this is a true measure of intelligence is another matter, but it seems to meet most criteria.

All the standard poodles I've met are pretty darn smart. Not always the most pleasant dogs, but pretty smart.
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  #15  
Old 12-28-2005, 05:00 AM
drbuzz0 drbuzz0 is offline
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I used to have a Shetland Sheepdog named Lilly. She was crazy smart. We never trained her and she just did what you said. For example if you were out with her and you walked away she'd follow, but if you said "I'll be right back. Wait here" she'd sit there and wait. She learned "time for bed" when she was just a little puppy and she would stay in the yard without an invisible fense. Occasionally she'd leave the yard to say hello to one of the neighbors (if they were out). They would pet her, but if they said "it's time for you to go home" she'd turn away and walk back to the house.

It was almost ridiculous how smart this dog was. You would tell her something ONCE and thereafter she would associate those words with whatever event they concored with.

She was very small and had a tiny head.

Then I had a dog named Alice, also a Shetland Sheepdog. I still have Alice, and I feel bad for her because she's a very nice and friendly dog, but damn....is she dumb. I don't mean to be blunt, but it took a very long time to housetrain her. She still doesn't even seem to understand ANYTHING you tell her and I am usually pretty sure she knows her name, but sometimes I have my doubts.

And Alice has a much bigger head.

So, obviously it varies from individual to individual.

-Steve
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