Questions about dogs.

  1. Has it ever been documented the maximum amount of words (roughly) a dog can learn? For example, Chimps and gorillas can easily learn up to 120 different arbitrary symbols.

  2. Are there certain dogs that are smarter than others? My black lab seems highly intelligent and responds to about twenty different words, but my friend who has a pug has been trying to train it since birth (2 years now) and it still won’t even sit.

there was another I wanted to ask, but I forgot. Thanks

Some dogs can learn up to 200 words.

Yup. Just like some people are smarter than others, and some apes are smarter than others, etc.

Certain breeds are more intelligent than others as well. This is usually a function of the breed design.

You will generally find that the working breeds are intelligent because they need to be. Border collies really need to understand livestock to do their traditional job.

Smartest breeds:

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

The least intelligent breeds were usually bred for some type of novelty appearance and they just ended up with whatever intelligence they happened to have left after that process. There are exceptions of course. Bloodhounds are a working breed but all they really need is a good nose and a following instinct.

Dumbest Breeds:

70 Shih Tzu
71 Basset Hound
72 Mastiff
73 Pekingese
74 Bloodhound
75 Borzoi
76 Chow Chow
77 Bulldog
78 Basenji
79 Afghan Hound

http://www.petrix.com/dogint/intelligence.html

Some dogs are better at following hand signals than in learning verbal commands. Actually, you can train your dog without ever using verbal commands if you don’t want to.

Body language is a dog’s first language. The first part of training a dog is to teach them that the words mean something. Many dogs understand that concept, but others can find it hard to grasp. That doesn’t mean they’re stupid-- think of them like a human who’s good at math, but sucks at verbal skills.

Dogs that learn verbal commands are often responding more to tone. If you have a dog, run him through his commands and listen to yourself as you’re giving them. You’ll likely notice that you say each command in a different way. People usually give the command “sit” drawing the word out a bit. “Down” is delivered in more of a abrupt tone. “Come” is usually given in a sort of breathless, high-pitched voice.

Here’s another experiment. Give the dogs the commands in another language. Chances are, they’ll obey it. I used to impress my friends with my “multi-lingual dog”, giving her commands in German and French, or whatever language I had briefly perused for the correct words. The dog would obey them because I was delivering the commands in the same tone of voice that I would use if I was speaking English.

When I train a dog, I use both a verbal command and a hand signal. For example, the command for “down” is to lower my hand, palm-down toward the floor. When I give the command “sit,” I fold my ring and pinky finger into my palm and lift upwards.

At first, you “trick” the dog into doing the behavior. Give the verbal or hand signal command for “sit” and then put a treat in your hand and move it back behind the dog’s head. The dog will try to follow the treat with his eyes, lose his balance when his head goes too far back and automatically sit. Praise lavishly, saying, "Good sit! Good sit." “Trick” him a couple more times and then give the command. Look expectantly at the dog. Most of the time, when a dog doesn’t know what to do, but he wants to please you, he’ll sit. When he does it, praise the bejesus out of him. Lather, rinse and repeat.

I’d disagree with this. Basenjis are an ancient natural breed that resemble the original stock of domesticated dog, and they’re extremely intelligent. They’re just not very trainable – they don’t obey their humans, they work with them as equals.

Wow thanks, guys and guyettes !

I remember what I wanted to ask now, is it normal for black labs to point like bird dogs? I’ve seen mine do this on occasion and was curious about it. She doesn’t looked mixed or anything, which is why I found it weird that she did the pointing. This is a pic of her:

The various retrievers are “bred breeds” if you’ll permit the solecism – ones developed intentionally by crosses. Goldens, for example, were based on the Russian retriever, with some bloodhound ancestry. If I remember right, the Lab has pointer ancestry, which might explain that behavior – it’s learned but near instinctive in pointers, I believe.

I hope it was her birthday. :slight_smile:

Otherwise, she’s putting our “Princess Poo-Poo Head” to shame. (Dubbed thus when my husband began indulging her, even tucking her into our bed under the covers and everything. And this was after he bought her four dog beds, so she’d have one in each vehicle, one for home and one for his workplace. Princess Poo-Poo Head rules the roost.)

However, I am relieved to see Paps are in the top ten smart dogs. That means, as I suspects, she understands all, but *chooses *whether or not to comply.

I would go with yBeayf on this - and in fact, the web-site linked to doesn’t purport to ranks dogs in terms of their absolute intelligence, but in terms of their trainability - it uses the term “obedience intelligence.” That’s not a ranking of how smart a dog is, but how easily trained it is.

That said, I would agree that the basenji is a very difficult dog to train, as caught by one of the descriptors for the bottom 70 breeds on that web-site:

It can take a lot to get a basenji to obey an order - not because they don’t understand the order, but in my experience because they’re very independent and won’t obey an order if it conflicts with their own desires.

For example, we’ve got a dachshund (ranked 49th on the list) as well as a basenji. If we’ve got food on the table, or a snack while watching t.v., both dogs are very interested - but if we tell them to sit or go lie down, the dachsie normally does it on the first order, the basenji rarely on the first order. But I don’t think that means our dachsie understands the order better than the basenji - it’s that the dachshund is more obedient than the basenji when we give an order warning them away from our food.

By contrast, when we’re going for a walk, and we give the same order to “sit” while we put their leads on them, the basenji normally sits on the first repetition - because she knows that the lead is a sure sign that she’s going for a walk which she wants. Our order matches her desire, so she co-operates. The dachsie, on the other hand, just goes crazy and ignores that order, jumping at the door - as near as we can tell, he’s never made the connexion between having to have a lead on and going for a walk, so he never obeys the “sit” order - he’s just too excited.

So, basenjis hard to train? no dissents here. Does that mean they’re dumb? I don’t think so - just independent.

I don’t remember if it was or not, but she gets the royal treatment as well all the time. She knows who her daddy is and isn’t afraid to make it known to me that she’s the real master of the house. :wink: I love dogs.

Prior thread on dong intellegence: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=351167

A guy told me about an amazingly intelligent dog that he had in Australia as a kid

It was half Alsation and … half Dingo