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How Intelligent Is Your Dog? Here’s How to Find Out

I am totally guilty of thinking my German shepherd is smarter than most other dogs — and people, if I am being honest with myself, that maybe says more about me than her, but what if there were a way for us to measure our dog’s intelligence once and for all?

Well, thanks to the internet, it turns out there is.

I tried this test adapted from psychologist Stanley Coren’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs, and while I am not saying that it is the definitive measure of canine IQ, I put a little more faith in it than I put in some of those other online quizzes. You know, the ones that tell you what Hogwarts house you should be in, what your sleeping position means about your love life, what kind of doughnut you are…

1. The first test is simple. At a time when you would not normally take your dog for a walk, grab your keys, leash or whatever you normally snatch on your way out for a stroll. Make sure your dog is watching, and take note of her reaction. If she gets excited, give her three points. If it takes her until you get to the door, give her two points. If she ignores you, looks confused or goes back to sleep, give her one point — or tell yourself that she is too independent to care. Your dog gets two bonus points if she tells you when to go for a walk.

More: German Shepherds Have Unique Needs — Consider These 10 Facts Before You Adopt One

Wondering how my dog scored? Of course you’re not. You’re too busy trying it with yours. I’ll tell you anyway. She sniffed me suspiciously when I put on my sneakers, cocked her head when she saw me grab a poop bag and went to sit by her leash and harness.

dog and leash
Image: Anna Burke

2. The second test gets trickier. Put your dog in a different room and rearrange the furniture. If she goes right to her favorite spot, she scores three points. If she investigates and finds her spot in under 20 seconds, two points. If she settles for a new spot with a huff, one measly point.

I was not able to try this test, as moving furniture is against my doctor’s orders.

3. This test is fun, and you might want to have your camera ready. Grab a large towel or blanket and gently throw it over your dog’s head. If she gets out of this predicament in one to 15 seconds, give her three points. If it takes 15 to 30 seconds, two points. If she is still sitting there hours later wandering around with a cape, you either have a dog with the patience of a saint or she gets one lousy point.

More: 6 self-defense tips I learned from my German shepherd

My wee beastie tossed it off in three seconds, so I gave her a three.

dog shaking off towel
Image: Anna Burke

4. Ready to test your dog’s problem-solving abilities? Harden your heart against those puppy dog eyes and get ready to be the cruelest dog owner ever. Grab a treat, call your dog, and put the treat under a chair or piece of furniture low enough so that your dog can only fit a paw but not her head. If she snatches it with her paw in under a minute, give her three points. If she resorts to using her muzzle and paw, give her two points (although I would personally give her a three for ingenuity). If she only uses her muzzle and gives up, it’s one point. On the other hand, if your dog makes no effort to get the treat and stares at you, then at the treat, then back at you with an expression of disdain, give her five points and get that treat out for her.

More: German shepherd works out with owner, puts us all to shame [VIDEO]

I had to give my dog a zero for this one because I put the treat too close to the edge. Her nose went in and her freakishly long tongue snagged it within seconds. When I put it farther back, she tried with her nose again, then sat and stared at me, scoring one point. I am going to take some blame for that.

dog staring at owner
Image: Anna Burke

5. This last test requires some cardboard (or mad MacGyver skills). You are essentially going to build a barrier with a hole in it, channeling your inner child and harkening back to the days of refrigerator box time machines and castles. Using cardboard, make a barrier that is higher than your dog when she is standing on two legs (if you have a big dog, this could be a challenge, so feel free to lower your standards). The barrier should be about 5 feet wide, and in the middle, cut a hole. The original instructions said to make an aperture 3 inches wide that runs 4 inches from the top to the bottom, but I somehow managed to skip that part and got ahead of myself with the scissors. I didn’t have cardboard, either, as you can see.

My dog was a little confused about the construction process, but she scored a three when it came time to get around the barrier for a cookie.

dog testdog test
Image: Anna Burke

So what do all of these numbers mean?

More: Here are 10 of the smartest dogs in the world – does your pup make the list?

16-plus points: Put a freeze on your credit cards and change the locks, because your dog is probably way smarter than you are. Who knows? Maybe this whole test was her idea.

13 to 16: I’m not saying your dog is a genius, but she is way above average.

9 to 12: Brains aren’t everything. After all, smart dogs require a lot more mental stimulation and tend to get into more trouble without regular training and exercise, so consider yourself lucky. Average is good.

5 to 8: Love can’t be measured by numbers or intelligence. Being below average is just fine, and besides, the test was probably rigged anyway, right?

1 to 4: Your pup isn’t the sharpest crayon in the box, but who cares? You love her and she loves you.

dog in collapsed barrier
Image: Anna Burke

As for my pooch? Let’s just say she’s smart enough to be fed up with these tests.

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