Just How Smart IS Your Dog?

We all know that person who insists that their dog is a genius. It’s the breed, darling, they assure you, while their dog gets tangled in its leash, tail wagging happily. They’re purpose bred to be smarter than other dogs. Everyone wants to believe their dog is Lassie, able to sniff out danger, and get help for a child stuck in a well with just a single bark: What’s that Lassie? Trouble at the old mineshaft? 

Whilst some breeds may well have greater cognition than others, the research is in, and it’s actually pretty surprising; Your dog is probably more intelligent than you think. According to canine researcher Stanley Cohen, they are on par with a 2-3 year old child. They can understand over 200 words, count to five and intentionally deceive other dogs and humans to secure treats for themselves. The similarity to a toddler sounds more and more accurate by the second.

Hopefully, this makes you take a good hard look at your dog. Much like a toddler feels the warmth and affection of a hug or a treat, your dog needs these same affirming acts; the wrestle, the pat, occasional healthy dog treats. Here are a few reasons why it is important.


1. It releases dopamine in your dog’s brain.

Often simplistically referred to as the ‘pleasure chemical’, dopamine is a neurotransmitter in our brains that links certain actions to positive mood. The mouthful of chocolate, the feeling of sunshine… Dopamine floods our brains and we feel on top of the world! Well, the same process takes place in the brain of a dog. When they receive a treat, their tail wags, and in that moment, they are the alpha of the dog park! Unlike an insect or a more simple mammal, a dog is well and truly smart enough to be given some dried beef liver, or kangaroo tendon, and to link that to feeling happy. Cause and effect. You can make your dog’s day with some healthy dog treats! They’ll love you for it.


2. Affirmation makes for a more obedient dog.

Dog’s learn through a reward based system. So if you’re generous with your pats, scratches, cuddles and healthy dog treats, they will begin to associate the desired action with feelings of pleasure. With all the research into canine psychology pointing to the fact that dogs understand more than we give them credit for (or perhaps less for those owners with rose-tinted glasses), it becomes incredibly important that we understand our dog’s need for affirmation and kindness. To quote Australia’s seminal bush poet Henry Lawson, “I have never seen anyone rehabilitated by punishment.” Man or dog. Kindness and affirmation is a different story altogether.

One of our favourite mantras is that we should all be the person your dog thinks you are. Think about that. It implies that your dog thinks that you are the greatest person in the world. And it calls you to live up to that image of yourself. One way both of those ideas can be achieved is through giving your dog affection and treats. 

November 15, 2021 — Janine Taplin