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Are Dogs Smarter Than Wolves? Vet Reviewed Facts

Written by: Rachel Giordano

Last Updated on July 24, 2024 by Dogster Team

male Czechoslovakian wolf dog and saluki

Are Dogs Smarter Than Wolves? Vet Reviewed Facts


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dog owners love their canine kiddos to the moon and back. The domesticated dogs we know and love today make excellent family companions, but it wasn’t always that way. Humans feared dogs’ ancestors who were wolves1, and much debate surrounds the topic of how wolves transformed into man’s best friend.

One thing’s for sure, most domesticated dogs are intelligent, and since they derived from wolves, how intelligent are wolves? Are dogs smarter than wolves? If you have a bet on dogs being smarter, be prepared to lose that bet. As it turns out, wolves are smarter than dogs. Read on to learn more about this fascinating topic.

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How Intelligent Are Wolves?

We know that wolves are dogs’ ancestors, and domesticated dogs are intelligent (maybe some more than others, but you get the idea). This knowledge begs the question: how intelligent are wolves? Through logic testing2, wolves surpass dogs, and scientists believe wolves are 10 times smarter than the smartest dogs3.

Scientists believe wolves are more intelligent than dogs because wolves are not domesticated like dogs today. They have incredible survival instincts and live in large packs. They take care of each other if injured, every member of the pack helps raise the young, and they understand the necessity and importance of teamwork and responsibility. Wolves depend on their pack for survival. Better yet, they know how to survive in the wild without the help of humans.

wolves sitting in the forest
Image Credit: Rain Carnation, Pixabay

How Intelligent Are Dogs?

Studies have proven wolves are smarter than dogs, but that doesn’t mean dogs are not intelligent (dogs and wild wolves share over 99% of their DNA). Wolves may not be smarter regarding intelligence tests simply because they do not need to learn tricks from humans. Wolves do not need humans at all and survive just fine without them.

Wolves do not need to interact with humans. On the other hand, domesticated dogs aim to please us and are incredibly skilled at learning tricks and obeying our commands.

So, how intelligent are dogs? According to Dr. Stanley Coren, a leading canine researcher and psychologist, a dog’s mental ability is equal to that of a 2 to 2.5-year-old child, depending on the breed. Based on 208 dog obedience judges from Canada and the U.S., Border Collies are ranked the #1 most intelligent, followed by Poodles, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Dobermans, Shetland Sheepdogs, and lastly, Labrador Retrievers.

australian shephered dogs walking in the park
Image Credit: Ksenia Raykova, Shutterstock

What Are the Three Types of Dog Intelligence?

Dr. Stanley Coren places canine intelligence into three categories: instinctive, adaptive, and working and obedience. Let’s break each one down for a better understanding.

Instinctive: This refers to inherited traits, such as herding, retrieving instincts, and a strong prey drive. Border Collies are a prime example of having a herding instinct.

Adaptive: This refers to social awareness and problem-solving skills, such as remembering visitors to your home or understanding a human’s body language.

Working and Obedience: This refers to a dog’s trainability to perform specific tasks. Military or police dogs fall into this category.

How Smart Is Your Dog?

As we’ve learned, wolves are smarter than dogs, but that fact does not take away from a dog’s intelligence. Determining dog intelligence comes down to speed and quantity, meaning the faster they learn a new trick and the more commands they learn, the smarter the dog.

On average, a dog can learn up to 165 words and commands, while an extremely intelligent dog can learn up to 250 words. In short, if your dog learns new tricks and commands quickly, you’ve got one intelligent pup.

dog training outdoor
Image Credit: Paya Mona, Shutterstock

What Dog Breed Resembles the Wolf?

Some dog breeds resemble their ancestors remarkably, and one such breed is the Siberian Husky. However, this breed isn’t the only one that resembles their ancestor. The Alaskan Malamute, German Shepherd, and Akita are a few dog breeds that have an uncanny resemblance to wolves.


Final Thoughts

There you have it! Through studies and research, we’ve learned that wolves are smarter than dogs and are considered the most intelligent predators on the planet. Wolves give dogs stiff competition in the intelligence area, but that doesn’t mean dogs are not bright. Some dog breeds possess more intelligence than others, but as a whole, dogs are intelligent and fun companions.

Featured Image Credit: Ana Dracaena, Shutterstock

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