Maybe you’re thinking about getting a new dog and you’re thinking of getting a German Shepherd.
Or, maybe you’ve got a German Shepherd and you’re wondering why the breed has a reputation for being reasonably smart.
In the following guide we’ve aimed to tell you everything you want or need to know about the German Shepherd breed intelligence and intelligence rankings when compared to other dog breeds.
There’s even an intelligence test you can take for your dog to see how they fare individually compared to what the GSD breed is suppose to be like.
Let’s jump into it …
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
Are German Shepherds Smart? German Shepherd Intelligence Facts & Intelligence Ranking
German Shepherd Intelligence – Breed As A Whole, & Individual Dogs
So, this section is as a bit of a head’s up.
When it comes to dog and breed intelligence, there is two types of intelligence you need to be aware of:
The general intelligence of the breed as a whole – which comes down to the general breeding origins and history of the breed
The more important one – the intelligence of your own individual dog
You might have a dog from a breed known for their intelligence and ability to solve problems quickly or master obedience, but if they have been bred to parents with temperament problems or average intelligence for example (or even cross bred but promoted as a purebred), or even if they just happen to have different genetics to a smart parent, they might be a little bit slow and for lack of a better word ‘dopey’.
So, keep that in mind when assessing the intelligence of a dog and wondering why they might not be as smart as you thought they’d be.
The breeding lines of the individual dog should be taken into consideration, as well as the breed as a whole.
Obedience and intelligence related titles of the direct parents of a puppy are a good example of an indicator the dog will be highly trainable and intelligent if that’s a priority for you.
If you want to know what a German Shepherd is capable of
German Shepherd Intelligence Ranking Compared To Other Breeds – First Studies Into Dog Intelligence
Our understanding of Canine intelligence has come a long way in the last 30 to 40 years.
There are newer books and studies out now, and the book itself has received some criticism for it’s limited view of and questionable study data for dog intelligence, but originally published in 1994 (a second edition came out in 2006), the book ‘The Intelligence of Dogs‘ intended outline the differences in intelligence between different breeds of dogs.
The book identified that there were 3 types of dog intelligence – instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence, and working and obedience intelligence.
The book then focused in on working and obedience intelligence – a dog’s ability to learn from humans.
Dog obedience judges were sent requests to provide results of their work with the different dog breeds in understanding new commands.
There were 10 dog breeds listed as the brightest dogs, and these breeds:
Understood new commands in fewer than 5 repetitions.
And obeyed the first command 95% of the time or better
The top 10 dog breeds were:
1. Border Collie
2. Standard Poodle
3. German Shepherd
4. Golden Retriever
5. Doberman Pinscher
6. Shetland Sheepdog
7. Labrador Retriever
10. Australian Cattle Dog
Newer Studies Into Dog Intelligence
Understanding of dog intelligence has come a long way since 1976 where we only had focus and data on short-term memory, agility, and ability to solve problems.
There has been studies and data has become available for dogs’ abilities with:
Learning by inference
And, theory of mind
You can read more on the evolution of humans’ understanding of dog intelligence here.
How Smart Are German Shepherds Compared To Humans?
Contributing to that theory were the facts that:
“the top 20% of dogs are capable of understanding up to 250 words and gestures”
“can count up to five and can perform simple mathematical calculations”
“can also deliberately deceive, which is something that young children only start developing later in their life”
German Shepherd Intelligence Test
If you want to get a very rough idea of how intelligent your dog is when it comes to memory and problem solving, you can do this test with your dog, tally their points, and see where they sit on the intelligence scale.
Note though that this test doesn’t cover other intelligence areas like social cognition and theory of mind for example.
Further Books & Reading On German Shepherd & General Dog Intelligence & Thinking
If you’re up for some very interesting reading, below are a selection of both an older books and some newer books on the intelligence of domesticated dogs and how their minds work.
It’s fascinating to read about how dogs view us, their world and how/why they react to certain things.
You might get a new and better appreciation and line of communication with your dog…
- The Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide to the Thoughts, Emotions, and Inner Lives of Our Canine Companions (on Amazon)
Latest and Best Books On Our Understanding Of Dog Intelligence:
- The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think (on Amazon)
- Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words (on Amazon)
- Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition (on Amazon)
Example Of Smart German Shepherds
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