How Smart Is My Dog (Really)?


My dog is so smart that it can…….

We all like to think our dog is the smartest, we like to believe they can do and understand so many things, but in reality just how smart is the average dog?

I recently had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Stanley Coren speak at The All About Pets Show at the Mississauga International Centre this past March 29, 2013.


I am a “fan” of Dr. Coren.  I remember watching him on his T.V. show called “Good Dog”, this was before all the “Dog Expert Shows” we have today. I have read and re-read many of his books, in particular How Dogs Think: Understanding the Canine Mind. It gives us an insight as to why dogs do some of the things they do and teaches us how to read their body language.

During Dr. Coren’s talk, he explained that in reality, a dog’s comprehension is the equivalent of a 2 year old.  This is based on the dog understanding approximately 165 words.


If you have what would be considered “A Super Dog”, then they would be the equivalent of a 2 1/2 year old, understanding approximately 250 words, including signals.


When we are trying to “figure out” our dog, or wondering why they are doing certain things and how we as owners should handle it or view the situation, this is how Dr. Coren explains it:

“Could a 2 1/2 year old solve this problem?”

“How would a 2 1/2 year old react in this situation?”

“What would I do If I were trying to teach a 2 1/2 year old to do this?”


I must admit that this has stuck in my head.  Each time I now ask something of my dog, I relate it to that of a 2 1/2 year old, and by doing this it makes it that much more easier to accept my dog’s behaviour and actions to what I am asking or expecting of it.

Where do our dogs actually stand as far as being smart?

 Well, Dr. Coren displayed a chart of “The Smartest 20% of Dogs”.  I must say I was just a little disappointed to not see my dog’s breed up there, but here are the findings anyway:



So the next time our dog does something or even better, the next time our dog “Doesn’t” do something that is asked of them, maybe we should look at them as if they were a 2 1/2 year old child and not a dog. It made a difference for me and perhaps took a bit of the pressure off my dog to perform something they may have a hard time understanding.


Author: Kelly Harding

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