By: Rebecca Munsterer Sabky
A few months ago, my husband and I watched a segment on 60 Minutes about dog intelligence. The piece centered around a particular Dog IQ test which gives a sense of your pup’s natural intelligence.
While we watched the segment, I had two dogs in the house. While they were the same breed of dog, they couldn’t have been more different. My dog, Mabel, the six-year-old black Labrador, had used her charm to convince my husband to cuddle her on the leather couch. On the other hand, my parents’ dog, Duke, the ten-year-old yellow Labrador whom we were dog sitting, lay two inches from the wood stove, dangerously close to self-combusting.
After the segment concluded, we decided to give the dogs the test for our own entertainment. We popped open a bottle of wine, grabbed a stopwatch and some treats, and let the games begin. (Let’s just say it was a slow Sunday night.)
The test included many basic exercises. For example, it tested long-term memory. (Show the dog a treat, remove him from the room, and see if he can find the treat minutes later.) It tested basic problem-solving skills. (Hide a snack under a low table and see if he can get it out with their paw.) It tested language recognition. (Say a standard word like “BICYCLE” while calling for him, and see if he waits to come until his proper name is called.)
Mabel took the test first. I’m biased, but I believe that Mabel might be the world’s smartest dog. She knows how to hide her toys when other dogs visit. She can hike for miles without a leash and never leave my side. And she knows how to give kisses right when you need them.
As we gave Mabel the test, she easily completed all of the exercises. I was happy to be proven right. Mabel scored 31 out of 35 points, which the quiz key labeled a “genius.”
Next up was Duke. Duke is a special dog. He’s sweet. He loves people. But he runs in circles aimlessly with bugged-out eyes and straight legs. Let’s just say that we didn’t expect much.
At first, Duke didn’t fail miserably. He just failed. In tests where he could score five points, he would score one. But we were happy with one. When he was unsuccessful finding a treat under a soup can, we still celebrated the fact that he tried.
However, one particular exercise really perplexed Duke. The dog intelligence test requires you to throw a towel over your dog’s head and count how long it takes for the dog to shake it off. Mabel had shaken the towel off in a matter of seconds. Duke, on the other hand, seemed content under the towel. After two minutes of wearing the towel, Duke had no chance of getting any points. However, we let him sit with the towel, hoping that eventually he would shake it off like Taylor Swift. After four minutes, we couldn’t take it anymore. We removed the towel, and Duke just smiled at us, completely unaffected.
I’m not sure we learned anything from the test that we didn’t know already. Mabel is incredibly underutilized as our pet, and should be working as a guide dog or an avalanche dog rather than just living with us. And Duke. Well, Duke is special. He’s happy just being there. And that makes for a darn good animal.