Is Your Dog a Genius? Take the Dognition Test to Find Out. I Did!

Hare sets up for a game with an attentive pup.

When Dogster asked if I wanted to review Dognition, an online assessment of pup personality, I thought, “Sure!” Then I went to the website and saw “Is your dog a genius?” in big red letters. I hesitated a bit because I already knew the answer to that question: Riggins isn’t a genius, but he’s smart enough for me.

As a dog sitter, I take Riggins and our guests hiking every day. Recently, we arrived at a trailhead we frequent and he came to a complete stop. Riggins wasn’t feeling it, and he wasn’t continuing on. After a few false starts, he managed to get another dog, one of his buddies, to join the protest. I gave up, put everyone back in the car, and headed to the dog park. Imagine if he were even smarter!

My dog, Riggins, such a smart boy.
My dog, Riggins, such a smart boy.

It’s not like I’ve ignored Riggins schooling, though. When he was a puppy, we went to puppy school. I was always eager to show off what he had learned: sit, lie down, stay, “no street,” etc. His most challenging trick has him lying down on the floor with treats on each paw he may not eat until I give him permission. Of course, he’s great at all of these tricks, except when he isn’t. Sometimes he just won’t do them in front of others. Early on, one of my friends announced that Riggins was a “solid C student.” He gives it a good shot but isn’t always successful. Riggins is almost 10 years old now. Did I really want to know how far from the genius level he actually is?

Putting my hesitation aside, Riggins and I jumped in. Dognition has you create a basic profile and then gets right to the point – the games! Despite the fact that I cringed whenever Riggins did something wrong – the site tells you there is no wrong answers, but that’s what you alway say to a C student – the two of us had a blast. I love hanging out with Riggins and doing things he likes, and he loves doing anything that involves treats. It was a win-win!

Riggins Dognition home page.
Riggins Dognition home page.

The site takes you through a series of games in five different areas: Empathy, Communication, Cunning, Memory, and Reasoning. After each section, you are given an analysis on how your pup performed and what it may mean, plus the ability to share your dog’s results on your Facebook page.

A screenshot during one of our Empathy games.
A screenshot during one of our Empathy games.

Riggins did amazingly well in Empathy. No surprise now that I think about it. A few years ago, Riggins was having trouble breathing and I was FREAKING OUT! Full-fledged meltdown status. I got him into the car and drove him to the emergency room, telling him the entire time that we were close and he just had to breathe. I ran him into triage and didn’t like the nurse’s assessment that he could wait.

I pleaded, “Please! He can’t breathe. This isn’t normal for him. Just take him back there now to look at him. Please.” I must have been convincing because she did. I sat in the waiting room, with the hood to my sweatshirt up, head in my hands, sobbing. When they finally called me in to tell me what was wrong, I was informed that Riggins started breathing just fine as soon as they took him away from me – apparently I was freaking him out. Oops.

Riggins did not do as well in Communication. Although, that set of games included a ton of treats, so he enjoyed it quite a bit. My sweet little C student!

The Dognition profile types. (Photo courtesy of the Dognition Facebook page)
The Dognition profile types. (Photo courtesy of the Dognition Facebook page)

After all games are played and results are recorded, the site puts each pup into one of nine profiles: Ace, Charmer, Socialite, Expert, Renaissance Dog, Protodog, Einstein, Maverick, or Stargazer. This final analysis is meant to help you better understand how your pup communicates and thinks. I’m not sure where Riggins is going to fall after we go through all the games, but I’m pretty confident it won’t be Einstein.

There are four things about Dognition that really stood out to me, besides being a fun time for us:

1. The data

I liked the easy-to-read data charts.
I liked the easy to read data charts. (Photo courtesy of the Dognition Facebook page)

Before becoming a dog sitter, I was in media research and media intelligence. I sold, analyzed, and made sense of data. I LOVE data. Dognition does a great job of collecting and sharing its data in a very easy to understand way. You can see how your dog compares to all of the dogs who have logged results, or your can filter who you can compare against (your baseline for all of you technical data geeks).

2. The great minds

Here are just a few of the Dognition experts.
Here are just a few of the Dognition experts. (Photo courtesy of the Dognition Facebook page)

There is an impressive list of Dognition experts who have contributed, or continue to contribute, to the site and the science behind it. Dr. Brian Hare, the co-founder, is seen throughout your time on the site, helping you through each section and explaining what you will be learning. Victoria Stilwell is another expert – gasp, love her! Personal note: Her picture for the “Ms. Manners” column in Dogster magazine was right next to my picture for the “Dog Cents” column recently. Swoon. Don’t believe me? You should probably pick up a copy from your local newsstand and check it out. Heck, just subscribe since you are a dog person.

3. Easy and fun games

Hare sets up for a game with an attentive pup.
Hare sets up for a game with an attentive pup. (Photo courtesy of the Dognition Facebook page)
Bigby, Riggins' cheerleader. (Photo by Wendy Newell)
Bigby, Riggins’ cheerleader. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

I’m most likely going to be doing fun things with Riggins at the end of a long workday. I don’t need complicated at that time. I need easy. Dognition does a wonderful job of visually walking you through each game. It’s nearly impossible to screw up. I did alter certain games to suit my personal conditions, though.

For example, one of our guests decided that if he was put in a different room, he would cry nonstop and scratch at the door. I allowed him to come in while Riggins and I were playing so he could cheer Riggins on. I also did all the games with just me, and the ones we went through would work better with two humans, which is suggested. Actually, there may be a way to tweak it so you only need one human. I tend to click through quickly, so there’s a chance I skipped right by that how-to. I made a few more minor tweaks, but they involve me being a poor housekeeper and too lazy to measure precisely, so I’m not going to admit to any of them.

4. No judgment

Riggins questions the fact that I think it’s okay to stop in the middle of a Communications game to take a picture. (Photo by Wendy Newell)
Riggins questions the fact that I think it’s okay to stop in the middle of a Communications game to take a picture. (Photo by Wendy Newell)

I judge, but the site does not! Even though Riggins didn’t do well in the Communication area, the analysis of his results were very nice and were spun to be sweet and positive. I appreciated that. I don’t need a site to tell me that my dog is lower than average. I can read a data chart. I get the point.

It’s okay, Riggins, I’m sure we can get you into a great community college.

All in all I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Dognition. I would highly recommend it for anyone who likes to spend quality time with their pup. You can check it out yourself at

Read more by Wendy Newell:

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

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