Is Your Disobedient, “Untrainable” Dog Actually A Super-Smart Evil Genius?
When Dr. Sophia Yin, a pioneer in force-free positive-reward-based training, passed away in 2014, the world lost a tremendous advocate for the humane treatment of animals. Her legacy lives on, however, not only in training, behaviour, and veterinary communities, but through the many lives she touched by helping people better understand animal behaviour. A core group of her dedicated employees stayed on after her passing to manage the company and continue her work, and it remains an invaluable resource. Through her website, drsophiayin.com, where her free training advice and videos are still available. Here we share a spot-on answer from Dr. Yin addressing dog intelligence.
Are some dogs smarter and easier to train than others?
“The first part is difficult to answer because intelligence can be measured in many ways. But more importantly, smarter does not mean easier to train. The easiest dogs to train are those that are relatively calm and have a dependent personality so that they want to please you. Because they have a follower personality, they learn what you want despite the gaps in your training and are happy to oblige. Dogs that are more independent and consequently could care less about verbal kudos have to be trained more methodically and with things that are actually motivating to them. When trained in a stepwise fashion you may not notice much difference in speed of learning and they will appear happy and willing to learn too. When you skip steps or use rewards that the dog doesn't care about, these dogs come off as stubborn and willful. When you combine independence with high energy and arousal such as a Jack Russell Terrier, plus a strong ability to problem-solve or tenacity in getting to what they want, you can be in for a big struggle. If you're not a step ahead and several IQ points smarter, your cute puppy Einstein may develop into an evil genius.”