How Smart Is Your Dog?

Do you ever wonder how smart your dog is? It may seem like they can read our minds one day, but the next day they don’t have a clue what you’re asking. What could a dog IQ test tell us about dog intelligence?

In the hunt for this answer, we learned that renowned researcher and sociologist Stanley Coren, Ph.D., FRSC (writer of “The Intelligence of Dogs”) has a developed a series of challenges that make up the standard dog IQ test. In this post, we’ll give you a background on the different ways your dog is smart, tips for testing, and how to evaluate the results.

Smart Dog IQ Test
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Like humans, dogs can have various forms of intelligence such as visual, auditory, or tactile. According to Dr. Coren, Dog Intelligence can be broken down into three groups:

Instinct intelligence can be derived from their type of breed. Guard dogs watch over things, retrievers fetch, hounds track or pursue, pointers sniff out birds and indicate their location by pointing, while companion dogs are attuned to human social signals and respond to our moods to provide comfort.

Dog playing fetch with machine

Adaptive intelligence is basically a measure of what a dog can learn to do for himself. It includes learning and benefiting from experience with his environment, solving new problems, and so forth. Adaptive intelligence can differ among individuals of the same breed.

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Working and obedience intelligence is the closest to what we might call school-learning ability and is based upon what the dog can learn to do when instructed by humans. It is important because if dogs did not respond to human instruction, they would not be capable of performing the utilitarian tasks that we originally valued them for, which means that they would never have been domesticated and wouldn’t be with us now.

Dogs huging
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With all these types of skills, it’s safe to say not one strength makes one dog smarter than another. It is simply a matter of different intelligences. It would be unfair to say that a dog IQ test is accurate in terms of showing your dog’s intelligence, but they are helpful in determining problem solving and memory skills that ultimately are important assessments.



While there are many ways to examine a dog’s IQ, the below are variations of the standard tests from Dr. Coren, which are commonly used. These are tests that you can execute with your dog and the scoring system will keep track of intelligence. We don’t recommend that these are all done in the same day, as your dog may not understand your unusual actions and requests & may end up feeling overwhelmed. Last, but not least – don’t be negative! The idea is to treat these tests as games and make them a fun time for both of you. And always – no matter how high or low they score – give them lots of love and positive attention afterwards.


Test 1

Allow your dog to smell and get familiar with a large towel or blanket. Once comfortable, place it over your dog’s head. This task will provide insight into your dog’s ability to solve problems.

Dog with towel covering head
pc: animal wellness magazine

Scoring: Give your dog three points if he figures out how to free himself in under fifteen seconds, two points if it takes fifteen to thirty seconds, and one point if it takes more than thirty seconds.


Test 2

Place a treat on the floor and place a towel over it. Grab your stopwatch and see how long it takes for the dog to get the treat.

Scoring: Give your dog three points if he figures in under fifteen seconds, two points if it takes fifteen to sixty seconds, and one point if it takes more than sixty seconds.


Test 3

Place two or three empty buckets or cups upside down in a row. While your pup watches, place a treat under one of the containers. Distract him for a few seconds before allowing him to look for the treat. This test will help determine how well your dog can learn and retain information.

Dog puzzled by three treat cups
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Scoring: Give him three points if he goes straight to the container hiding the treat, two if he checks one empty container before finding the right one, and one point if he checks both wrong containers before locating the treat.


Test 4

Underneath a piece of furniture (low enough to the ground that only your dog’s paw will fit), place a treat within paw’s reach. This task will test your dog’s reasoning and problem-solving skills.

Dog looking at couch
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Scoring: Give your dog three points if it takes him under a minute to reach for the treat using only his paw. If he tries to fit his head into the space first, or uses both his nose and paws, give him two points, and one point if he gives up entirely.


Test 5

This one will require a bit of creativity on your behalf but nevertheless it is a good test to give your dog. Show your dog a treat through a slit in a large cardboard barricade which is too high to be jumped by the dog, and the slit itself being too narrow for the dog to fit through. You, as the handler will have to keep encouraging the dog to get the treat for exactly 60 seconds and then stop. Use your stopwatch to keep track of the dog’s time and score accordingly:

Scoring: Give your dog three points if he takes 30 seconds (or less) to figure out he needs to walk around the barrier to get the treat. If he takes longer than 30 seconds to figure it out, give him two points, and one point if he tries to climb through the window or bulldoze his way through the barrier instead of going around.


  • 13–15 points: PAWsome! Your dog is a genius.
  • 9–12 points: Your dog’s not quite Einstein but he’s still a smart cookie.
  • 5–8 points: Your dog won’t make it to Harvard but he has paw-tential.
  • 1–4 points: Your dog might need some help figuring things out and getting things done. Fur-tunately, it doesn’t take brains to give cuddles and kisses—which is all that matters, right?
Dog confused
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  • Try finding the most desirable treat for your pup. If they are not excited about the reward, they won’t work as hard. This can be real pieces of meat, cheese, or any other yummy indulgences.
  • Try Puzzle Games! Interactive dog toys challenge your dog’s problem-solving skills and enhance mental stimulation through play.
  • Give them time! Hard work does not pay off overnight, so be patient with your pup and keep on practicing!
Other PAW-some Quizzes To Consider:
Mariana Faleiros

Mariana is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Outward Hound. She has a Golden Retriever named Buddy, who is obsessed with squeaky balls and walks at the park.

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