Archive for Monday, October 20, 2008


How smart is your pet?

October 20, 2008


McKenzie Water and her 1-year old chocolate labrador, Plato, play in Watson Park.

McKenzie Water and her 1-year old chocolate labrador, Plato, play in Watson Park.

Connie Pelham's Maine Coon cat Gypsy Rose Lee is a pretty smart cat in the world of felines. Considered one of the smartest cat breeds, the breed can fetch and is on the same level intellectually as a human 2-year-old.

Connie Pelham's Maine Coon cat Gypsy Rose Lee is a pretty smart cat in the world of felines. Considered one of the smartest cat breeds, the breed can fetch and is on the same level intellectually as a human 2-year-old.

McKenzie Water's 1-year old chocolate Labrador, Plato.

McKenzie Water's 1-year old chocolate Labrador, Plato.

On the street

Do you think you have a smart pet?

No. I have a very instinctive cat, but I don’t know about smart.

More responses

Top 10 smartest dogs

1. Border collie

2. Poodle

3. German shepherd

4. Golden retriever

5. Doberman pincher

6. Shetland sheepdog

7. Labrador retriever

8. Papillon

9. Rottweiler

10. Australian cattle dog


Don't question Plato's intelligence, and not just because he was a philosopher and mathematician. The furry, slobbering version of Plato isn't stupid, either.

That's the name Alex Reith and McKenzie Waters chose when they brought home their chocolate laborador puppy.

Reith is a philosophy student at Kansas University, so the couple grabbed one of his textbooks to find a name for their new dog.

"That was the only one under seven or eight letters, so we went with that," Reith says.

Turns out Plato may have more in common with his namesake then his philosophy-loving parents ever thought - laborador retrievers like Plato are one of the smartest dogs out there.

Top dogs

So what makes a pet smart?

Stanley Coren, author of "The Intelligence of Dogs," lists these types of intelligence:

¢ What a pet can learn, like humans in school.

¢ What a pet is bred to do.

¢ What a pet can do for itself and learn from its environment.

Border collies, poodles and German shepherds are the top three dogs in the intelligence rankings. The dumbest The Afghan hound.

"Remember, this is the equivalent of school learning," says Coren. "If you have a kid who is paying attention to the teacher, that kid is going to learn more than his brother who is looking out the window."

That's probably why hounds make up the lower section of Coren's list. Lawrence dog trainer Barb Clauson says that because they were bred to hunt, it makes them less tolerant to obedience. In other words, the deck is stacked against them.

"They weren't working closely with the person, following particular little commands, they were just to go out and chase that thing down," Clauson says. "And so that doesn't mean they're stupid, that just means they are just interested in playing little games with us."

Doggie IQ

But really, how smart is the smartest dog? Coren says the average dog functions on a level equal to a human 2-year-old. The smartest of the smart can function at a 2 1/2-year-old level.

What can one do to boost a doggie's IQ? Do exactly what Janet Dreiling of Perry did to get her 6-year-old golden retriever, Bounder, to the top of the American Kennel Club's champion scale in agility and obedience - repetition.

"I've had him since he was 7 weeks old, and I always start from the very beginning teaching very simple things like 'sit' and 'down' and 'stay,' and little tricks that a lot of people teach their dogs," she says.

Coren says the best way to use repetition to improve the smarts of any animal is simply to talk to them. The average dog can understand around 165 words, while the smartest can understand 250. Adding words through repetition to your animal's vocabulary can raise its IQ.

which is smarter: Dogs or cats?

Cat-lovers, stop reading this story now.

Though the dog and cat camps could fight all day about which popular pet has the most smarts, Coren says the research on this is clear: Dogs are smarter than cats because they're more social.

"Dogs are much more social than cats are and have a complex pack hierarchy and cooperatively hunt, so that's going to tell you first, yes, off the top, that dogs are going to be brighter than cats," he says. "There are a bunch of ways that we can test this, and this has been tested. This is not just 'I love dogs and hate cats.'"

Coren says the average cat functions at the level of a human 18-month-old, with the smartest meeting the average dog at the level of a 2-year-old. Among the smartest cats is the Maine coon, the breed Lawrence's Connie and James Pelham show and own.

"They, emotionally as much as anything else, seem really smart," Connie Pelham says. "I mean, (they are) really, incredibly social. Extremely social. And I think that's a measure of intelligence, as far as I'm concerned."

Midge Grinstead, executive director of the Lawrence Humane Society, 1805 E. 19th St., says she doesn't plan to take sides in the cat vs. dog debate.

"I know there are cats that have done the same thing as dogs and vice versa as far as dialing 911 and waking people up when there's a fire, and when a person has a seizure, the cat knows or the dog knows," Grinstead says. "It's amazing what they know."

Why are some animals smarter than others?

According to Stanley Coren, author of "The Intelligence of Dogs" it's all about an animal's social ability. Dogs are more social than cats as a species, which puts them ahead in the smarts department. Same goes for chimpanzees and orangutans.

"The reason for this is if you are working in a social unit, especially a cooperative social unit, then you have to do a certain level of reasoning, which is sort of, 'If I do this, then he'll think that and he'll do that and then I'll do this' and so forth. So, you need that sort of level of thinking, which is fairly high-level thinking," Coren says. "So, if you look at just primates for example, chimpanzees, which live in social groups, are smarter than orangutans, who live relatively solitary (existence) or perhaps with their mate."


jaywalker 9 years, 7 months ago

Found my puppy (or she found me) deep in the bayou's of Louisiana, miles away from any home. I can talk to her like a human and she invariably knows exactly what I am saying. Smartest dog I've ever known, and my father trained world class field trial labs.

mom_of_three 9 years, 7 months ago

i adopted a cat from the shelter several years ago that loved to play fetch. And she did it better than the dog does.

denak 9 years, 7 months ago

It is too bad this article only concentrated on dogs and cats. I had rats for years and they are incrediably smart animals. I have heard that they are considered geniuses in the animal kingdom because of their puzzle solving abilities. Not to mention, they are increadiably social creatures. Very friendly sweet animals.We have a rabbit now. I'm not sure how smart he is but he is fun!Dena

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 years, 7 months ago

I used to be a dog person, we had a Beagle and then after he died, a small poodle/something else mix. I used to loudly proclaim that "no cat was going to come in my house" I was overrulled . After the last dog died, we got a cat. I was pretty opposed to this idea, but gradually got attached to the new cat, and two more cats that sons brought home. After we were divorced, and I let my ex take the three cats. I missed them. I got me another kitty, who has lived with me for 10 years now. There are two other cats here now, for another total of three, a male Maine Coon, a female calico, and a female tiger. But this ;post was about intelligence. Several days ago, the calico female went to the cat box and "did her business" and left it without covering it. The other female, went in and inspected the deposit in the cat box, and then proceeded to cover it up, something the other cat had neglected to do. I don't know what that says about intelligence, but it sure does tell me that my little grey tiger, Gretel, is clean, fastidious, and a bit irritated at the neglect of her housemate!

jonas_opines 9 years, 7 months ago

jaywalker: I'm afraid your claim to legitimacy for reproving others on a lack of originality might be lacking, at least in this thread. When you're the second link in the chain, calling the third link out for being part of a chain might be a tad unwise.. . . especially when even the first link had no claim to originality.

TheOriginalCA 9 years, 7 months ago

Plato is violating the leash ordinance. Write Ms. Water a big fat ticket.

Ken Miller 9 years, 7 months ago

I feed my cat.I give my cat shelter.When my cat pukes, I clean it up.My cat poops in a box for a week, then I clean it up.My cat is a freaking genius.

kmat 9 years, 7 months ago

I think many cats are smarter than many dogs. I have a cat who fetches, can open the lid on her food dish (have to keep it covered so her fat brother doesn't eat her food), she has a large vocabulary of words she knows and isn't freaked out by a leash. I think with cats it really depends on how social they are - interactions with people and other animals.My dog on the other hand is too dumb to cover himself up (but will toss his blanket off the chair and sit there and shiver) and would walk in front of a moving car without giving it a second thought.

TheOriginalCA 9 years, 7 months ago

beobachter (Anonymous) says: actually my cat is also smarter than current prez, and a lot nicer.=====================Your cat also has more experience than Obama.

BrianR 9 years, 7 months ago

I have a German shepherd and he's very smart. He does my taxes.

Matt Schwartz 9 years, 7 months ago

jaywalker, sounds like your puppy is smarter than you and your dads world class field trial dogs

kmat 9 years, 7 months ago

thanks for pointing out the leash law violation. I hate animal control in this city. I got a ticket for my dog sitting in his yard while I raked leaves a couple years ago. I have a little dog and he was just sitting there. An elderly neighbor with a tiny little lap dog also got a ticket for letting his tiny dog out to pee (this dog is scared of its own shadow). An 85+ year old man got a ticket for letting his dog out to pee in its own yard.But yet a neighbor that is a real jerk and had his large dog out yesterday, running up at people just trying to walk by on the sidewalk, gets no tickets. I guess it's all about who you know. You should be able to have your dog in your yard, as long as they stay in their yard (it's the only smart thing my dog does - knows its yard).

jaywalker 9 years, 7 months ago

That's really sad, beo, since the current Prez is a hell of a lot smarter than you.

abqpatt 9 years, 7 months ago

As someone who has lived with German Shorthaired Pointers, a Sheltie, and many Oriental cats, I do agree dogs are smarter but have noticed a difference between cats and dogs when it comes to training them. If I neglect reinforcing instructions on a monthly basis, with the dogs, they sometimes forget part 2. I've found (over a 30 year period) that, although it takes longer to train my cats, they remember what follows part 1. Example: I have a 'street cat' from Bangkok who is trained to hand signals and when I give her the signal to go away, she remembers that part 2 means get into your bed. The Sheltie would, probably, remember 5-part instructions so must be that GSHP's intelligence is on a different wavelength(?). We once had 2 Burmese cats - the male wasn't as trainable as the female but did learn to fetch, come and stay for this!). The female learned these commands plus sit, roll over and beg (she learned, also, a 4-step process of unmaking and re-making her bed - should have charged an admission fee for this!). I believe dogs have more of a desire to please and do learn more quickly but, perhaps, the cats we've had (and do have) responded as well as they did to training is because some Orientals may have a higher degree of intelligence coupled with the desire to please rather than the aloof personality which is, too often, associated with the noun "cat"(?). Do have a dimwit Snowshoe - took him 3 weeks to learn his name! No matter which we prefer as a pet, or pets, the one thing both have in common is a forgiving nature and unconditional love both of which I could apply more often in my relationships!Thanks for reading my wordy comment.

juscin3 9 years, 7 months ago

Momof, I wonder if your cat is the same one we had to take there. Me and my daughter cried all the way there and when we left. There were two....One was like a tiger striped cat, black her pupils were always huge, her name was Toby, but they changed it to Peepers. Then we had a somewhat calico cat, she was HUGE...guess too much good Her name was Mindy. They both loved playin fetch. It was funny to watch as well as fun to do. Thought our cats were weird by doin that.

mom_of_three 9 years, 7 months ago

I adopted my cat 7 or 8 years ago, but her name was maxi. She was about 10 years ago when I found her at the shelter. She was a great cat. Loved her to death. My other two cats don't do much of anything. Heck, my dogs don't even play fetch. But my yellow lab is too smart for his own good. If you leave a chair by the cabinet, he will get in it, and open the upper cabinet doors, and grab whatever suits his fancy to eat - bread, box mixes, etc. He will also grab anything sticking out of a drawer to open it and then eat everything out of it.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.