6 Proven Methods to Make Your Dog Smarter

Updated on March 23, 2018
DrMark1961 profile image

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

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 | Source

How to Make Your Dog More Intelligent

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.

Is it natural to learn new words and odd behaviors? It might not be easy, but it can definitely be done.

A dog is 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.

To make sure that your dog is even smarter, follow these rules:

  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, especially 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. Train your dog, starting 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 when displaying intelligent 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. | Source

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 her thinking, the more intelligent she’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 4 months old, and during that time he needs to be exposed to many new things to increase his adult intelligence.

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

The Intelligence of Dogs: Canine Consciousness and Capabilities
The Intelligence of Dogs: Canine Consciousness and Capabilities

If you have a very young dog, follow the superdog training schedule outlined in this book to make your dog even smarter. There are also tests you can give your dog to determine his level and type of intelligence.

One reason my dog is so smart is that I have been giving her intelligence tests outlined in this books since she was young. Dogs are amazing animals and will learn what we want and how to respond.


Continued Intelligence Training for Dogs

Exposure to tests and problems
Problem-solving food dishes, 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

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. Most intelligent means most trainable, in some eyes. Most trainable does not mean most intelligent.

Intelligence is the ability to learn and think, not just do what I command.

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 Dog 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 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? | Source

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.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        17 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        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 profile image

        Jackie Lynnley 

        17 months ago from The Beautiful South

        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.

      • profile image

        Kristina Harman 

        5 years ago

        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.

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        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.

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        7 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        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 and my dog profile image

        Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

        7 years ago from Mississauga, ON

        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.

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        7 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        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 profile image


        7 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

        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!

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        7 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        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 profile image

        angie ashbourne 

        7 years ago

        Hi! DrMark1961 Great story!!! Angie

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        7 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        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 profile image


        7 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

        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!

      • midget38 profile image

        Michelle Liew 

        7 years ago from Singapore

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

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        7 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

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

      • midget38 profile image

        Michelle Liew 

        7 years ago from Singapore

        You have one cool dog!

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        7 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

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

      • somethgblue profile image


        7 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

        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!


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, pethelpful.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://pethelpful.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)