How Smart is My Dog? Testing My Dog's IQ

November 28, 2012
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Many people wonder about how smart their dog is, and a few "IQ" tests exist to help us test the intelligence of our canine friends. I gave Apollo, my boxer, one of these “IQ” tests the other day (yes, I was procrastinating), and it confirmed what I have been saying ever since he moved in with us a couple of years ago — he is not very bright. There are other ways I could describe his mental capacities (one ends in the phrase “box of rocks”), but since I do love the guy, I won’t go there.

The “IQ” test I used involved six tasks, and he received a score based on his ability to complete them within a set amount of time.

Test 1 involved hiding a treat under an opaque cup while he was watching and timing how long it took him to retrieve it. He didn’t, and based on what his facial expression told me, “Wowww, the treat, like, disappeared… totally” he wasn’t ever going to figure it out. Test 4, hiding a treat under a tea towel had the same results.

For test 2, I threw a blanket over Apollo and timed how long it took him to extricate himself. Again, he didn’t. To be fair, he eventually rubbed his head against my leg long enough to dislodge the part that was covering his eyes, but for the most part he just walked around bumping into things with his tail (and back half of the blanket) wagging.

Test 3 didn’t go much better. I waited for a time when Apollo was lying down a few feet away from me, caught his eye, and then smiled broadly. Supposedly, “smart” dogs will immediately get up and walk over. Apollo looked at me quizzically for 10 seconds or so, and then started getting nervous (“Uhhh, why are you staring at me with that crazy look on your face, Mom?”) and then wouldn’t make eye contact with me for a while. Can’t say I blame him, I must have looked demented.

He actually did pretty well with test 5. While he watched, I placed a treat under a chair and he had to use his paws (and his freakishly long tongue) to get it. It only took him about 20 seconds. Of course, the first time we tried this test, he knocked the chair’s skirt down, meaning he couldn’t see the treat anymore, and we were back to Test 1’s “out of sight, out of mind” result, but I gave him a second chance.

Finally, test 6 had me call out “refrigerator” and “movie” in the same tone of voice I use for his name. If he ignored the random words but responded to his name, he got the full 5 points. He aced this one… but unfortunately it was too little too late. So how smart is my dog? I won’t embarrass him by giving you his final score, but the description he received was “Your dog is not too bright, but is most likely very cute.” Yes, he certainly is cute!

Apollo is also exceptionally sweet, which in his role as the family dog, is really more important than intellect anyway.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Eric Isselée / via Shutterstock