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6 Proven Methods to Make Your Dog Smarter

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Though the Internet might try to tell you otherwise, any dog can be trained to be smarter.

Though the Internet might try to tell you otherwise, any dog can be trained to be smarter.

How to Make Your Dog Smarter

Is it natural for dogs to learn new words and odd behaviors? It might not be easy, but it can definitely be done. All dogs have a basic level of intelligence based on their nature:

  • They are easy to house train because it is natural not to mess up their home.
  • They are easy to train for bite-inhibition because it is natural to respect the leader.
  • They are easy to obedience-train when we ask them to perform natural movements like "sit" and "lie down."

A dog is more attuned to his owner and easier to train when he is socialized. The more you talk or give hand signals to your dog and work on giving commands, the more likely your dog will learn new commands. A lot of people consider assistance dogs intelligent, but anyone who prepares them knows they have to be very well socialized. If not, they are never going to be selected as assistance dogs.

My dog practicing kinhin, Zen walking meditation, as she helps collect seaweed for my garden

My dog practicing kinhin, Zen walking meditation, as she helps collect seaweed for my garden

6 Tips for Raising an Intelligent Dog

  1. Practice physical manipulation every day. This is most important when your puppy is very young, but daily handling will make your dog more willing to accept changes and willing to learn new commands
  2. Socialize your dog. This is especially important during the sensitive period before 16 weeks. It will help your dog if you take him out more often and expose him to new situations. A young puppy learns quickly, but even older dogs need to be socialized.
  3. Start training your dog as early as possible. Start as soon as you bring your puppy home. Early training will make your dog more trainable later and increase this type of intelligence.
  4. Provide continued exposure to tests and problems. Buy food bowls that make him use his intelligence to eat, and continually test his intelligence.
  5. Introduce new tricks and other commands during training. All dogs can learn new tricks, so keep looking for new things to teach him as he gets older.
  6. Give your dog lots of praise. Giving your dog positive reinforcement when he displays intelligent behavior will help perpetuate that behavior.
Early touching may make a puppy more willing to learn and perhaps more intelligent.

Early touching may make a puppy more willing to learn and perhaps more intelligent.

Smart Puppies and Early Obedience Training

Almost every one of us wants a dog that is considered smart. The path to intelligence should start early. Puppies can be touched and manipulated even before they are able to hear or see, and that mild stress (like holding the puppy away from his littermates for 15 seconds) makes their brains work harder and will lead to a more intelligent dog.

As soon as a puppy is about five weeks old, he will be able to learn basic obedience commands if taught in very short sessions. If your puppy is already eight weeks old when you bring him home, training should begin from the first day. For example, always say his name when he walks towards you, thus improving recall.

There may be some genetic limits, but the more you teach your dog and stretch his thinking, the more intelligent he’ll become. Also, focus on teaching your puppy the four basic commands that every dog should learn at an early age.

Early Socialization Is Key

Part of making your puppy more intelligent is exposure to novel situations through adequate socialization. The sensitive socialization period lasts until a puppy is about four months old; during that time, he needs to be exposed to many new things to increase his adult intelligence.

Take your dog out (on a leash, of course) so that he sees things like bicycles, joggers, loud trucks and busy streets, other dogs, and any other novel situations that you may have in your area.

Continued Intelligence Training for Dogs


Expose your dog to tests and problems.

Try a problem-solving food dish, calling your dog while he is blindfolded, etc.

Introduce new tricks and commands.

Teach your dog to back up, climb stairs, etc.

Praise intelligent behavior.

Let your dog know that you are pleased with him when he does display intelligent behavior.

Intelligence Scores: Will This Really Make My Dog Smart?

Recently, I discussed this subject with a misguided young man who wanted to select his dog based on the breed's intelligence score. Intelligence scores, of course, are determined by humans and are a human method of deciding which breed is the most intelligent. For some, most intelligent means most trainable. But in my eyes, most trainable does not mean most intelligent.

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Some breeds are considered more intelligent because they are easier to train than others. Border Collies, Poodles, and German Shepherds are easy to train and rank high on many intelligence lists. When I was young, the German Shepherd was considered the most intelligent breed since they had won most of the obedience awards at dog shows. Later, a Border Collie was made famous since he could remember over 200 words and knew how to string some of the words together. Labrador Retrievers are also popular in this area because they have made the list of “The 10 Most Intelligent Dog Breeds.”

What happens when you take an “intelligent” dog breed and ask it to do something contrary to its breed intelligence? Can you teach a Border Collie to kill chickens like a Siberian Husky? (Okay, maybe that’s not the best example, but anyone who has owned a Siberian will realize why that is one of the first things I thought of.) Can you teach a French Bulldog to point out birds in the field and retrieve them without damaging the flesh? Can you teach your German Shepherd to run rabbits like a Beagle?

My dog, a Pitbull cross, is intelligent enough to shepherd the rabbits and collect coconuts on the beach. I have also trained her as a seizure alert dog, and she also acts as a full-time therapist. Her main job is to guard my house.

Is my dog more intelligent?

Is my dog more intelligent?

Is Your Dog Already Intelligent?

Who is the ultimate judge of intelligence? The list spread out over the internet may say that my Siberian Husky was stupid compared to a Border Collie, but he would work all day to solve the puzzle on how to open the door of the rabbit hutches so he could enjoy a snack. (We had built the rabbit hutches in a dog-proof style. For a dog of normal intelligence, I am sure they were dog-proof. They were not Husky-proof.)

Is my pit bull cross stupid because she practices kinhin (walking meditation) instead of doing my neighbor's algebra homework? I guess I could be accused of the same level of stupidity. I am pleased with the results that these exercises have provided. My dog cannot recognize 200 words but seems to be intelligent enough already.

For Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Dr Mark


JohnL on July 22, 2020:

Want to improve your dog's ability to pay attention to you despite distractions?

This little brain game will teach your dog that looking into your eyes can magically grant him a treat. Whether you own a puppy, an adult dog, or a rescue dog, this game is a great way to bond and help him view you as a source of rewards and pleasure!


Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 16, 2018:

Hi Jackie thanks for stopping by and reading this. It is featured again but does not get significant traffic. In the meantime, I am just going to leave it on here and concentrate on other things. Thanks again.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on January 16, 2018:

I think this i a wonderful article and have no idea why it would not stay feature. You do have a smaller picture you will have to replace (I think). I think they would also recommend a little summary above your first photo with a quick description of what the article is about.

Those would be the only things I would know to try and other than that it is as relative as any article here. I mean everyone nearly is interested in animals and anything to do with them. I wouldn't delete it.

Kristina Harman on December 12, 2013:

I could teach my border collie to do anything. He doesn't herd sheep. He opens and closes all of the doors in our house, he brings me each of my shoes- by name, he retrieves each of my dogs- by name (granted, he does herd them), he can open the fridge and bring you a soda, he turns the lights on and off, he watches tv for hours, and after he learned the word for bath and then learned the spelling b-a-t-h, he figured out the sign for it too. He watched me hit the garage door opener one time and after that, he figured out how to do it himself. I'm not saying other dogs aren't smart or don't do some pretty incredible things... But I have four other dogs, and while they are awesome, the border collie really does continue to bewilder me each and every day. He can count. If I ask him to give me "ocho besitos", he will give me 8 little kisses. If I ask him for "tres besos" he will give me three big kisses. That's because he not only understands commands in English but also in Spanish. I don't even speak Spanish. My ex did, and the dog just kind of figured out what she was asking. He understands more than 200 words, I can promise you that, and I think what makes this breed so different from other smart breeds is that they are the only dogs I've ever met who have some basic ability to reason- or at least to come to conclusions on his own cognition. I am not a dog trainer. He is just so perceptive. Again, I'm not saying other dogs aren't incredibly smart too... But I am saying that I definitely could teach my border collie to go fetch a bird and bring him back gently. He knows the word "gentle" and when I ask him to pick up a pack of cigarettes "gently" he does just that. I jus thought I would put my two sense in... Because owning a border collie has completely changed my opinion of dogs altogether. They are bred for intelligence, and quite frankly, they are the only dog that the AKC certifies based on intelligence alone. Their intelligence and ability to work are the only breed standards for this kind of dog.

DoItForHer on June 23, 2012:

I really liked the comment how the dog needs to be socialized or it will never be considered intelligent. Have been thinking a lot how to respond to people who tell me that the Border Collie part of my pit bull mix is what makes her so intelligent. Of course that's not true, but how to communicate that?

You may have given me a gem. Will let you know how that works.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 13, 2012:

Thanks for your thoughtful comment Suhail. I was talking to a girl yesterday and she wants to get a Beagle, rated as one of the 10 least intelligent breeds. Does it matter? Not to her, as the dogs fits her lifestlye just like the Kuvasz fits your family and locale. I guess not all of us, nor our dogs, are too stupid!

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on June 13, 2012:

Great hub that came as a big confidence builder for I always thought that its one's lifestyle that is more important than a dog's intelligence to decide what dog one should have. I captured this in practical terms in my hub on Kuvasz dog breed as follows:

"As a family, we decided on Kuvasz breed after lot of research work. We wanted to have a medium to large size guard dog that had low prey drive, was hypoallergenic, was a couch potato inside and able to accompany us on long-distance hiking adventures outside, was able to cope with the extreme winters of southern Ontario, and wasn’t overly affectionate and demonstrative. We did not only talk to the dog experts, we also took dog breed quizzes on the reputed websites.

The key learning from dog experts and quizzes was that it pays to have a dog matching with one’s lifestyle. Surely, if one is into water based activities in the freezing big lakes, getting a Borzoi will not be a good option even though it is also a cold weather breed."

Again, a very informative hub.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 09, 2012:

I would feel bogus writing an article like "How to Trade Stocks on Wall Street" but would be fine with alternate subjects like "How to Split Your Skull Open During a Seizure" or "Ten Easy Ways to Lose 300,000". I´ve already thought about the slacker and Zen though and one article is published, more on the way.

I hate to be dense but I did not understand the Holiday Inn joke! Guess I need to spend more time thinking about it as I pick off my fleas!!!!!!!!!

somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on June 09, 2012:

No I think that one can still be consider a SLACKER and write an article about their slacking abilities or lack of any abilities besides writing articles on a SLACKERS best friend.

Yes reading articles by people whom pretend to be an expert sucks!

Now I'm not an expert but I play one on Hub Pages and I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night . . . I won't tell you with whom but she told me to tell you hello!

However because the subject of SLACKERDOM is so wide spread in the human species it would require more than just a couple of hours to produce, thus producing a possible scenario in which one might have to give up their SLACKERTUDE ways . . . so it could turn into a learning experience.

My suggestion stick subjects you know . . . sand fleas and dog breath!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 09, 2012:

Thanks Angie. I can see from that great picture you have that you have your own most intelligent dog! Great, isn't it?

angie ashbourne on June 09, 2012:

Hi! DrMark1961 Great story!!! Angie

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 05, 2012:

WOW that would be a great subject for a hub, somethingblue, but there lies the conundrum: if I were to sit at the computer several hours and write an article about slackers, would I not be removing myself from the category and thus deny myself from having the right to write about the subject. (when I first joined hubpages I read a hub about dogs written by a guy who does not even have dogs. I turned it off immediately)

What do you think?

somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on June 05, 2012:

Every time I get on the computer I make money, enough to support me, pay my bills and eat. When you and if you get to that point in life you may change your tune of course being a beach bum wouldn't be a bad life either if you enjoy being a SLACKER!

Michelle Liew from Singapore on June 05, 2012:

Could send Cloudy via air mail! ;-) If she doesn't scramble out of the bag by then!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 05, 2012:

Thanks! Still searching for that perfect Westie to keep us company though.

Michelle Liew from Singapore on June 05, 2012:

You have one cool dog!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 03, 2012:

At least she is smart enough to lay out in the grass instead of wasting time on the computer!

somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on June 03, 2012:

The real question is whether your dog is smarter than you?

1. You feed him not the other way around.

2. You take care of him, making sure he doesn't have fleas.

3. And so far he creates the subjects you write about.

I vote he is smarter than you but doesn't write as well!

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