The Dog IQ Test: The title alone stopped me in my tracks. Back in 1996, when people still browsed bookstores for the latest titles, I paid about $15 for the book by Melissa Miller and had a project for the next week or so with Brandy Noel, the dog before my current dog, Dexter.
I thought about the book and the test recently, and it raised some issues for me, including how we value animals (and why we feel the need to rank animal intelligence), and how my own view has changed toward dogs and myself as a dog mom.
Soon after I bought the book, I tackled the pages and put my pooch to the test, wondering whether I had either a canine Einstein or maybe just a smarter-than-average dog sharing my life. Miller designed the IQ test as a yardstick for measuring the intelligence of the domestic dog population in general.
In the process, I learned a bit about myself and my attitude as a dog mom. It was during this period I stopped calling myself a “dog owner” and progressed into “dog mom.”
Miller writes, “The test is meant to be accurate, but above all, entertaining and amusing to take.” Your dog is given a series of things to do. You, as the dog mom or dad, assess and score based on the provided system.
In one exercise, I had to wave a flashlight all around the room and make the light shine brightly on the wall. A smart dog, she writes, investigates the source of the light. I remember Brandy sniffing the front of the flashlight and then looking at me as if I were nuts.
The markers to asses dog intelligence are pretty much in line with human IQ tests. The areas include memory (such as what your dog does when you reach for the leash), vocabulary (I always wondered how many words my dog knew — it turns out more than 100), verbal apprehension (such as coming when called), perception (detecting the mood of the human parent), and spatial ability (judging distance and speed when tossed a ball or toy).
Some of the test questions made me laugh out loud. One was, “How do you think your dog would spend its free time if it [were] human?” We’re given an assortment of choices — organizing events, eating out, and watching television are among them. Portions of the test are highly subjective, to be sure.
The test provides different points for each answer. At the end of the test, you add up the points — you’ve got a number, and your dog has an intelligence quotient.
In researching this story, I found Brandy’s old veterinary records. I have no idea why I kept them, but perhaps a piece of her still remains. To be honest, I couldn’t find my old copy of The Dog IQ Test, but I did find her score filed with the vet records. When we took the test in 1996, she was 3 years old; it seems like a lifetime ago. She scored in the upper quotient of intelligence.
The book also tests the IQ of the dog owner. Categories for owners include “doting,” “congenial,” “sensible,” and “demanding.” The author then recommends breeds depending on owner temperament. I was “sensible” and “doting,” so no surprise there.
So, why am I talking about a book I read 17 years ago? When I found Brandy’s score, I thought about purchasing it again so I could test my dog, Dexter. Then I realized I already know all I need to know about him, and I would prefer not to assign a number or a label to my pooch.
This brings me to the idea of “dumb dogs.” It irks me to no end when I hear someone say, “That’s a dumb dog.” Today, I feel more adept at how to respond to such a statement. After all, I’ve evolved since I read the book, too. I know better, so I do better, as Oprah says.
Here are a few snappy comebacks I highly recommend when “That’s a dumb dog” gets tossed within earshot:
“Did your dog take the IQ test, and have you proven that?”
“They said the same thing about Lassie, and look how far she got.”
And my personal favorite: “No such thing as dumb dogs, only dumb people!”
Of course, some people simply do not deserve a response.
As I said, I eventually decided The Dog IQ Test is not for me — I embrace my Dexter for who he is and the brain power he exhibits daily. Of course, there is no measure on the size of a dog’s heart. In that case, all of them are Einstein, right?
Would you ever test your dog’s IQ? Where do you think your dog would rank? Does it even matter? Does the idea of a dog IQ test make you mad? Let me know in the comments!