Dog size and Intelligence?

Dogs come in a pretty impressive range of sizes and I was wondering if there is any observed connection between a size of a dog breed-wise and their intelligence?*

I used to have a border collie, a medium sized dog and one of the smartest of the pure-breed species, she was smarter than some people I’ve met (you could have a more sensible conversation with her as well)

*I’m aware that there isn’t a specific direct link between brain size and intelligence but if you take something like a Chihuahua and a Giant Alaskan Malamute then the latters head is larger than the entire body of the former.

We have a fairly large dog (he thinks he’s a 100 lb lap dog). He’s also one of the least intelligent dogs on the planet. He often gets lost getting out of the van. Seriously.

Anecdotes aside, the breed seems to matter more than the size. The smaller dogs usually aren’t near the top of the list, so there probably is something to the small dog, small brain, less intelligence theory. However, there’s quite a few large dogs down on the less intelligent side of the charts too.

From here:

There’s more info on the web page about where the rankings come from.

I doubt it. Dogs are bred for certain characteristics, one of which is intelligence. I had a border collie/cocker mix whose brain was pure border collie and who could do abstract reasoning and planning. But I suppose herding requires intelligence.
I’ve had dogs of similar sizes of vastly different intelligences. But that doesn’t say much about the average intelligence of a breed.

Also, intelligence and trainability are not the same thing. There are some extremely intelligent dogs out there that are very difficult to train simply because they are so smart. They get bored easily, they figure out ways to entertain themselves, and they may have other emotional issues which make standard training ineffective at best.

Give a slightly less intelligent but agreeable dog (or horse) over the extremely intelligent but willful beast any day!

Does brain mass / body mass ratios mean anything in mammals?

Killer Whales?
Domestic cats vs big cats?
Humans vs chimps vs gorillas?

I always have heard that a line from the eye to the ear showed the amount of skull case above that which roughly but closely indicated brain size. ?? Any truth there?

What about “:Skidboot?” The incredible dog?

Does the median or average intelligence of humans fall in the same ratios as some animals, or most, or few, or any?

In dogs in particular, ( what the thread is about ) what is the range of intelligence in BC’s and the ACD dogs in comparison? Does the range of low to high for those breads correlate?

Also wonder if there has been test to see if normal instruction to a working BC with voice & sign language is better than one trained for voice only, or sign language only?

I’m not so sure about that. Our big stupid dog has only one talent in life. He can herd cats. He can’t figure out how to get around the coffee table if someone’s legs are blocking his way, and if you throw a blanket over his head sometimes he can’t figure out how to get it off of his head. Like I said in my first post, he’s dumb. But he can herd cats.

I wonder where the Red Setter comes on a list of intelligence in dogs

How is obedience related to intelligence, or why should the two be put together other than for humans’ ease of living?

My two working terriers - half brothers - are like chalk and cheese. As a classically educated person, the older appeals to me with his ability to reason and think abstractly while the other is a bit of a David Beckham and unwittingly employs fuzzy logic, to devastingly effective ends. As they grow older doing what I would like them to do becomes more common - it can even appear as obedience to the untrained eye!

There isn’t much of any correlation, except coincidentally in that most of the breeds selected for working closely with human beings in complex tasks are in the 35 to 75 lb range because that’s large enough to do something useful but not too large to be clumsy. Some of the toy breeds are very bright though.

I don’t think Competitive Obedience judges are the end all be all of dog intelligence assessors. What they are seeing are dogs that are the most successful at competitive obedience exercises, and that’s all. These exercises are pretty completely divorced from activities that make a lot of sense to a dog, consisting of things like walking on the left side of your handler with your neck perfectly lined up with the seam line of their pants, looking up adoringly but never touching the handler, and retrieving a dumbbell over a jump.

What these competitions measure is the ability of the dog to enthusiastically repeat arbitrary movements with exactitude over and over and over. Breeds that are food or toy motivated, high-energy, not easily bored by repetition, and desire to work closely with their person, are the breeds that consistently do well.

People who use dogs for various kinds of real work have much different standards. Quite a bit of modern work for dogs requires problem solving that a person cannot do, which is why we breed dogs to do it. Herding is an obvious example – the herding talent is inborn, yes, but so is problem solving. A dog may have to go out of sight, locate and gather the stock, and figure out how to get them back to the handler, without any further instruction than “go find 'em”.

Because herding dogs work closely with handlers they seem smarter than the breeds that do less human-managed work – they are bred to take instruction. But I don’t know if that’s really the same as intelligence. Sight hounds, for example, learn to set up a successful kill by using the best talents of each dog in the pack, and problem-solve at a dead run. They are unbeatable at what they do – and it is definitely learned as well as inborn. But they are normally ranked as the dimmest of the dim in the Obedience world, because they really don’t give much of a hang about pleasing people, and are typically pretty inert when not chasing something.

I’ve been fascinated with what dog intelligence is for a long time. It’s a lot more complicated than Psychology Today is capable of describing, that I know.

I can confirm that Bulldogs belong on the list of least intelligent breeds. My American Bulldog is one of the dumbest dogs on the planet. On multiple occasions she has put holes in the wall simply by jumping off the bed or otherwise running headfirst into the wall while playing.

Note that these are measures of working intelligence, i.e. how quickly they learn a task. Our dog is pretty smart but stubborn as hell, as are most in his breed, so he falls right in the middle.

Ways that intelligence can be measured:

Absolute brain size - not a good measure. It would mean that men are smarter than women on average, or a normal sized human is much smarter than a dwarf. There is no evidence that either is true, even on a larger scale.

Skull size - google “koala brain”. There brain is much smaller than their cranium, which is mostly filled with fluid.

Brain to body mass ratio - better, but still not great for comparing cross species

Executive brain ratio (other names may be used) - ratio of the “higher” brain areas, such as the frontal lobe. This is better, humans and dolphins have a higher ratio than lizards. I doubt this varies enough to make a difference in dogs. From Coren’s list, 9 of them are medium to large, 1 is small. The entire list is on Wikipedia.

…so I feel compelled to offer a few. The least obediant dog I ever owned was a Siberian husky. I don’t think she was stupid, but she sure wasn’t too invested in pleasing master. The dog who knew the most # of tricks was the neighbor’s doxie, who knew over 100 (he was retired and widowed, so he had a lot of time). My favorite of her tricks was when he would command “Ingie, shake!”, and the dog would tremble violently all over.
The most obediant dog I’ve ever owned was the current resident, a Golden, who picks up my desires almost subliminally and boundary trained almost accidentally.
I’d say the more complicated the work the dog was bred for, probably the higher general intelligence.
Thanks for letting me share :slight_smile:

Like Truman, I’ve had at least one perfectly intelligent dog who wasn’t the least bit interested in kowtowing to my notions of what he ought to be doing. Sebastian was a great Pyrenees - a livestock guardian dog, historically bred to work independently of humans. But truly, he was absolutely brilliantly smart - just not obedient. Perfectly normal for his breed. (Of course, his successor, Pandora, is the dumbest, clingiest dog I’ve ever owned, despite Pyr’s reputations for intelligence and independence. Seriously. D-u-m-b dumb. So you can’t just count on a breed’s reputation - dogs are as individual as people.)

And the absolute smartest dog I’ve ever had the honor of sharing a home with - Jake - wasn’t terribly interested in obedience. He was smart enough to sometimes know that he had a better grasp of a situation than I did. Ditto some of the police K9s that my husband has worked with: the late, great Mojo was the absolute king of knowing when to ignore a command, because he sensed a threat to his daddy.

I really think that obedience might be one of the worst possible measures of a dog’s intelligence, frankly. Of course, I don’t know of a good way to measure it!

My goodness. He has a job in academic or software engineering management just waiting for him.

Definitely, Nell, the dog I mentioned earlier was the sweetest thing and always eager to please, if you spoke to her in a sharp voice she would look cowed and grovel to the extent that you would think that we mistreated her (we didn’t, she was just very nervous). Although perfectly capable of jumping them she liked to be lifted over fences, she’d stop and look at you, if you shook your head or said ‘No’ she’d almost sigh and then jump over herself.

Her grandad, Max, however was the most vicious, meanest, nastiest and smartest dog ever to herd sheep. Evil cunning I think is an apt phrase, he’s the only dog ever to bite me (twice, the bastard). His idea of recreation was to hunt down and kill rats around the farm, granted a useful activity but I don’t think it was healthy to take quite so much pleasure in it.

Both are now gone to the great farm in the sky, Nell hopefully to be lifted over fences to her hearts content and Max to be the terror of small fluffy animals everywhere.

Thanks for the answers everyone!

Hmm No not at all. Somehow it depends on how you train them and how good owner you are.

My family had a brilliant Saint Bernard–not a breed known for its smarts. But she could problem-solve, predict behavior, etc. You do not want a 200 pound dog with that much intelligence and drive, but that’s what we had.

I still miss that dog.

A completely unscientific anecdote: my neighbor has a German Shepard who is the most intelligent dog I’ve ever met by far. He knows left from right and appears to understand basic statements (“I’m walking away now, don’t follow me, I’ll be back soon”). It really is pretty amazing how smart some dogs are.

No, WAGs are a measure of how happy a dog is, not of how smart it is.

Certainly lots of variations within a breed. I have one Shiba Inu that’s observant, crafty and generally pretty smart. Her littermate, who we also have, isn’t nearly as clever. My mother-in-law has two editions of the same breed that range in intelligence from “lobotomized rabbit” to “burlap sack of sawdust.” The breed overall has a reputation for being stubborn and hard to train.