Just How Smart Is Your Dog?
As humans we all know that everyone learns differently and there are many different types of intelligence. While most people would agree that dogs are not the same type of "smart" as humans, they are intelligent in their own way. A standardized test for dog intelligence really doesn't make much sense, since different breeds and types of dogs have been bred and trained to enhance specific characteristics, making them naturally better and faster learners in some types of activities. Most dog owners want to know if their dog is smart or perhaps just average in intelligence. Unfortunately this is the wrong idea, what owners need to be looking at is what my dog is naturally good at, then basing training around that strength.
For example, a Labrador Retriever is naturally good at fetching and swimming, so testing them or comparing their abilities at guarding and herding to a Border Collie or a Corgi makes no sense at all and doesn't truly identify the dog's individual strengths. Likewise comparing a breed that is known as an excellent companion dog like a Poodle to a dog that is known for their watchdog abilities such as a German Shepherd or a Rottweiler doesn’t make sense either. When owners stop trying to compare their dog to all other breeds and start focusing on how their training is either working or not working with the dog the true measure of the dog's intelligence will be clearly seen.
Another main concern is dog owners often don't find the proper training method to work with their dog. Once you find the right motivator, the dog is much more likely to respond given the right training and time to learn. Food, praise, clickers and toys are all great training rewards but they don't all work on every dog. Positive training that rewards the dog for doing the right thing is also much more likely to result in long term learning than any punishment based learning or training. Punishing your dog only slows learning as the trust is poorly developed between trainer and dog.
Sometimes owners may also engage in self-fulfilling prophecies with their pet. If they think the dog is not that smart, they may not put much effort into training or simply let the dog to whatever he or she wants, as long as it is close to the command. The dog in turn is not trained, ensuring that they cannot respond to the command, even if they were a dog genius! Owners that expect too much from their dog can become negative if the dog doesn't learn as fast as they want, leading to problems with working with the dog in the future. Being realistic with your expectations, having patience and finding the right training motivator are key in your dog's learning.
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