Is my dog really that smart? Tests to try

There’s something about online tests that grab my attention. I’m always tempted to click — no matter how ridiculous the quiz.

What’s your super power?” “Which Hollywood hunk is your soul mate?” “What’s your 80s hairstyle?” “Are you stalking him?

Usually, I resist. But the other day, this popped up on my Facebook feed: “Right-brained? Left-brained? Take the test!” And I took the bait. (Turns out, I use both sides of my brain equally, according to the test.)

Somehow, that quiz led me to research dog intelligence tests. (It’s funny how sidetracked you can get on the internet.)

I’ve always claimed that my dog Oreo is “smart.” But is he really? I mean, compared to other dogs, does Oreo really excel in doggy knowhow?

So I found an online test … or six.

oreointel120513-3Dr. Stanley Coren, professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, is a widely recognized expert on dog-human interaction. In fact, his studies on dog intelligence has led him to appearances on top TV programs, including “Dateline,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Good Morning, America” and “20/20.”

In his book “The Intelligence of Dogs,” published in 1994, he says there are three types of dog intelligence: adaptive intelligence, instinctive intelligence and working intelligence.

Working intelligence is breed-dependent, Coren writes. Oreo is a pit bull, perhaps a mix. (Hard tellin’.) Pit bull isn’t a breed, it’s a combination of breeds, and none of them score too well on Coren’s working intelligence scale.

Fortunately, the other two types of intelligence — adaptive and instinctive — are not breed-dependent, according to Coren. And they can be measured by tests. And these tests can be found online.

oreointel120513-4After gathering a few household items — empty soup cans, a towel, a washcloth, two stacks of books and a piece of drywall (we’re doing renovations) — I called Oreo over for a little fun.

I referred to www.abc.net.au/animals/dog_test/, which describes six of Cohen’s dog intelligence tests, and did my best to administer the tests as they’re described.

Without getting into detail, the tests included Oreo knocking over a soup can to retrieve a treat; using his paw to fish a treat out from under a low table (drywall on book stacks); freeing himself from a towel draped over his head; finding a treat under a washcloth; and responding to words and facial expressions. I wasn’t too picky about getting every detail right. For me, the tests were more fun activities to do with my dog than an indicator of his intelligence.

Oreo’s tail wagged nonstop. In the end, we only completed five of the six tests because I couldn’t get him to calm down enough for one of them. So I gave him an “extra credit” test, during which he had to remember which of three cups I placed a treat under, then retrieve it.

oreointel120513-2For each test, Oreo was given a score ranging from 1-5, depending on how long it took him to complete a task or his specific reactions. And it turns out, Oreo scored above average — 19 out of 25 — which on www.abc.net.au means “Your dog is smart but won’t go to Harvard.”

To learn more about Coren’s research on dog intelligence, check out his book “The Intelligence of Dogs” or visit www.stanleycoren.com.

Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Professionally, Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the "Outdoor" and "Living" pages. She's a wilderness romper and fashion-forward bookworm.