Dog Intelligence: Most Intelligent Dog Breed


Dog Intelligence – The Top 10 Most Intelligent Dog Breeds – Is Yours On the Most Intelligent Dogs List?



1. “Left for the wolves.”

In the early spring of 1902, Constable Richard Morris, of the North-West Mounted Police, reported an incident dealing with the native Cree Indians and their dogs.


Posted to a community north of Lake Winnipeg, he noticed that a number of husky dogs had been staked out in the forest. Each one was left alone and fastened to an iron stake by a chain. When he asked the reason for this, the Crees told him that the dogs were “left for the wolves.”

When Constable Morris objected to this treatment, the Crees explained that the dogs wouldn’t be harmed by the wolves. The dogs — Ungava huskies — were bitches in heat. Male wolves without mates of their own would be attracted to the bitches and mate with them, resulting in cross-bred puppies with “wolfblood” — a husky mix.

Constable Morris said, “Oh, I see. This is so your sled-dogs will be bigger and stronger.”

“No,” replied one Cree. “A wolf can outrace our dogs in a quick dash.  But our huskies, they have much more stamina than wolves and can easily outlast them in a long run. Wolves make poor work dogs.”

“Then,” concluded Morris, “it’s because wolves are healthier.”

“No. They are the same.”

“Then why?” asked the Mountie.

“Up here,” replied the Indian, tapping his own forehead.

Father LeBeaux, an Oblate Missionary, later explained, “The Cree people believe that when an animal becomes domesticated, each generation loses in intelligence. That’s why wolves are more intelligent than dogs. The Indians say, ‘The closer to the wolf, the smarter the dog.’ If it is true of domesticated animals, what does that say of civilized Man, eh?”


2. “How intelligent are they?”

Our ancestors might have asked this 33,000 years ago when they played with their wolf dogs. [1]

Even the ancient Egyptians asked that question, and studied their own dogs to answer it.

One of the first modern attempts was by Rene Descartes, who only went one step beyond the cloudy thinking of his time, saying all animals were just soulless biological machines. Descartes set up the narrow, human-centered theory of behaviorism that would dominate until well into the 20th Century.

For decades, behaviorists put animals — including dogs — through sterile tests in sterile labs, looking for mechanical results that proved worthless.

In the middle of this muddle came one sane voice: Donald Griffin, professor of biology at Rockefeller University, who said, “Behaviorism should be abandoned not so much because it belittles the value of living animals, but because it leads to a serious incomplete and hence misleading picture of reality.”

In 1953, Konrad Lorenz’s MAN MEETS DOG created an instant classic about canine intelligence. Written with humor, wisdom and great insight, the German Nobel Laureate almost single-handedly recreated our methods of exploring animal behavior.

In his ground-breaking 1994 book THE INTELLIGENCE OF DOGS — CANINE CONSCIOUSNESS AND CAPABILITIES, Canadian Stanley Coren, psychologist, dog trainer, and “avowed dog lover,” presented his controversial Ranking of Dogs for Obedience and Working Intelligence.

Coren ranked 133 breeds, from #1 on… The reaction was predictable: “The Poodle? He ranked a POODLE above my Belgian sheepdog?” “Come on! My Samoyed is smarter than any Australian Cattle Dog!” “No Papillon can out-think my Lassie.” “OK, maybe a Poodle is intelligent –but…”

“Controversial” doesn’t begin to describe the reaction to “Coren’s Ranking.”

But his observations have proven to be pretty accurate.

Coren was testing, of course, pure breeds. There are very few original Ungava huskies still around.  The “purebred” Siberian husky, for instance, isn’t as quick-witted as the native husky of northern Siberia. This is even more true of the Alaskan malamute.  Modern huskies have been so interbred with smaller racing breeds, that they hardly resemble the huge savage animals that white explorers saw a few centuries ago.   We deliberately breed out some of the “wolfishness” in our pets. [2]


3. “Never Cry Wolf!”

In 1963, Farley Mowat’s NEVER CRY WOLF appeared on the bookshelves. Described as “an intimate casebook in wolf sociology,” Mowat described how, as a biologist employed by the Canadian Wildlife Service, he had spent a summer on his own, studying a pack of Arctic wolves. The book sparked an avid interest in wolf research that has never dimmed.

IN PRAISE OF WOLVES and SECRET GO THE WOLVES described R D Lawrence’s close experiences with wolves in Canada. DANCE OF THE WOLVES by Roger Peters describes his three winters in the forests of northern Michigan. These and others have shown us the remarkable lives and intelligence of the wolf.

R D Lawrence wrote: “Reality, particularly in the case of wolves, means that these animals have keen intelligence, excellent memory, and demonstrable capacity of conscious thought. When Shawano fed his pack before keeping a piece of chicken for himself, he demonstrated not only that he could profit from experience in a profitable way, but that other wolves could do so as well.

“This demonstration is alone sufficient to discredit the mechanistic theory which contends that evolution, by means of hereditary imprinting, has led to the thoughtless or automatic responses of animals to any one of an enormously wide variety of natural stimuli…

“Memory, by allowing an animal to benefit from experience, plays an important role in the formulation of conscious decisions; the better its memory, the better able will the animal be to adapt to a changing environment.”

It’s the wolf’s intelligence, as well as its loyalty and great heart that caused our ancient ancestors to bring the wolf into their families.

Today, some of us still mingle with wolves, in sanctuary and in the wild.



What, then, are the smartest breeds?

Taking in the conclusions of dog trainers, psychologists and researchers, as well as those who work with dogs in life and death situations, such as police, search & rescuers, and wilderness inhabitants — and balancing the Cree wisdom: “the closer to the wolf, the smarter the dog!” [3] with ongoing research into the long evolution of dogs, here are the TEN MOST INTELLIGENT DOGS:

1. Ungava Husky, or Wolf Dog

2. German Shepherd

3. Golden Retriever

4. Labrador Retriever

5. Border Collie

6. Poodle

7. Doberman Pinscher

8. Papillon

9. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

10. Alaskan Malamute

If your dog is not on this list, you can be sure it’s #11!


Brian Alan Burhoe


lone-wolf-storyDo you love wild animal tales?




WOLFBLOOD, a Northwestern yarn in the Jack London Tradition, FREE to Read ==> CLICK HERE  WOLFBLOOD: A Wild Wolf, A Half-Wild Husky & A Wily Old Trapper




[1] The oldest known dog remains were discovered in the Razboinichya Cave in the Altai Mountains of modern Siberia.  The animal was dated to have lived around 31,000 BC.  And DNA testing revealed that even those remains were of an animal “more closely related to modern dogs than to wolves” — meaning that the development of human-raised wolf dogs goes back long before that.

Now here’s where the numbers get really interesting: if our dogs of 33,000 years ago were still genetically closer to modern dogs than their original wolf puppy ancestors, it could well mean that we first invited pure-blooded wolves into our families about 80,000 years ago.  Which is when Humankind underwent what anthropologists call Behavioral Modernity, that magical moment when we had our “Great Leap Forward” — we discovered Religion (or Religion discovered us), Language, Singing, Games, Cooking, the Creative Arts and radically changed our basic Primate social structure.

Perhaps Humans and Wolves began our evolutionary journey together.

[2] With the discovery that dogs were Humankind’s companions thousands upon thousands of years earlier than we had believed, I like the idea that Wolves adopted Humans, teaching our primate ancestors such un-primate values as pack loyalty, the role of involved fatherhood and mating for life.  Look at it this way: I’d rather think of myself as a Wolf, not a Monkey.  How about you, mon ami?

[3] I’ve spoken to a number of First Nations members who believe this.  Some refer to wild animals having more “Power” than domestic animals.  All say that wolves are more intelligent than dogs.  They’ve witnessed the difference.  I agree.

Dog Intelligence: Most Intelligent Dog Breed — Keywords: cat dog intelligence, husky mix, husky puppies, intelligence of dog, intelligent dog list, siberian husky, smartest dog, test, top dog breeds

Keyword Meanings — SEE: Ungava huskies, wolf dogs



About Brian Alan Burhoe

A Graduate of the Holland College Culinary Course, Brian Alan Burhoe has cooked in Atlantic Coast restaurants and institutional kitchens for over 30 years. He is a member of the Canadian Culinary Federation. Brian's articles reflect his interests in food service, Canadian history, imaginative literature, wildlife writing, animal rights, wilderness preservation and our best friends -- our dogs. See his CIVILIZED BEARS!
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