See Spot Solve

Just about every dog owner boasts that his or her pet is the cutest, smartest, most loving animal on the planet. Put your claims of intelligence to the test with the following exercises, grouped into two separate test sessions.

It’s best to use your own dog that is at least 12 months old and has been living with you at your home for at least three months. Have fun with these tests and don’t take them too seriously by getting angry or overly excited. Give your pet no more than two tries per test, otherwise results will be invalid. You can give the tests in any order or one at a time, and it may be best to do them over several sessions so that your dog doesn’t get too tired or full of food. [1]

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 Test Session 1

1. Towel Test

Softly place a large towel or blanket over your dog’s head. Time your dog to see how long it takes to free itself. If they do so in less than 15 seconds, award 3 points. If it takes 15-30 seconds, award 2 points. Longer than 30 seconds, award 1 point.

Take a look at this video, where two clever dogs try the Towel Test side by side.

2. Bucket Test

You should have three buckets or plastic cups for this test; put a treat or your dog’s favorite treat under one of the buckets. Show your dog where the treat or toy is, turn them away for a few seconds, then let him find the treat. If he goes directly to the right bucket, award 3 points. If he takes two attempts, award 2 points. If he looks under the other two buckets first, award 1 point.

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3. Favorite Spot Test

Rearrange the furniture in the room where your dog’s favorite spot is. Your dog should be in another room while you do this. When you bring your dog back in, if she immediately goes to her favorite spot, award 3 points. If it takes 30 seconds, award 2 points. If she decides on a new area, award 1 point.

4. Walk Test

At a time when you normally do not walk your dog, gently pick up your keys and its leash while your dog is watching you. If your dog gets excited right away, award 3 points. If you have to walk to the door before your dog knows it is time to go out, award 2 points. If it sits and looks confused, award 1 point.

Scoring and results for above tests

10 points or higher – Genius!
7 to 9 points – Well above average
4 to 6 points – Average
0 to 3 points – Below average [2]

Test Session 2

1. Smile Test

When your dog is sitting about 6 feet away from you (without being told to sit or stay), carefully stare at their face. When your dog looks at you, count silently for 3 seconds and give them a big smile. If your dog comes with his tail wagging, award 5 points. If he slowly comes toward you, or only part of the way, award 4 points. If he stands or rises to a sitting position, award 3 points. If he moves away from you, award 2 points. If he pays no attention to you, award 1 point.

2. Moving Object Test

Make your dog sit and stay (or have someone hold it in place) and wave a treat at it. Once you have the pet’s attention, put the treat on the ground about two meters away and place a small towel over it. Start a timer and tell the dog to get the treat. If it uncovers and finds the treat in less than 15 seconds, award 5 points; within 15 to 30 seconds, 4 points; in 30 to 60 seconds, 3 points. If it attempts to get the treat but eventually gives up, award 2 points. If the dog shows no signs of interest at all within 2 minutes, award 1 point.

Check out this video that puts a variation on the test using a clear plastic cup instead of a towel; the basic premise is the same, but this version is a bit easier since the dog can see the treat:

3. Language Comprehension Test

When your dog is sitting or lying down about two meters away from you, call to it in your normal tone of voice but use the word “refrigerator” instead of its name. If your dog responds or comes to you, award 3 points. If it doesn’t come, call it using the word “movies”; if it comes, award 2 points. If it still hasn’t moved, call its proper name. Now if the dog comes or moves toward you, award 5 points. If the dog stayed still, call it again by its name. If it comes this time, award 4 points. If it still doesn’t move, award 1 point.

4. Barrier Test

Create a table-like barrier, using bricks or large books and a board, that’s too low for your dog’s head to fit under but high enough for a paw to fit under. While the dog is watching, wave a treat in front of it and then place it under the barrier where it can only be reached by its paws. Start timing and tell the dog to get the treat. If the dog retrieves the food using its paws in 60 seconds or less, award 5 points; in 1 to 3 minutes, 4 points. If your dog tries to use its paws and fails, or if it tries to use its muzzle only, award 3 points. If the dog only attempts to use its muzzle once or twice or just smells the treat, award 2 points. If the dog doesn’t even try to get the treat after 3 minutes, award 1 point.

Watch this video to see what the barrier should look like.

Scoring and results for above tests
15 points or higher – Genius!
10 to 14 points – Above average
5 to 9 points – Average
1 to 4 points – Below average [1]

Brainiest Breeds

According to dog intelligence expert Dr. Stanley Coren, who developed many of the exercises above, these are the 12 smartest breeds in the canine kingdom. So, if you are want to buy a dog, but want to make sure it is a smart one, you may want to consider buying one of these. Don’t feel bad if your dog did not ace the tests above…simply put, not all breeds are created equal.


1. Border Collies
2. Poodle
3. German Shepherd
4. Golden Retriever
5. Doberman Pincher
6. Shetland Sheepdog
7. Labrador Retriever
8. Papillon
9. Rottwieler
10. Australian Cattle Dog
11. Pembrook Welsh Corgi
12. Miniature Schnauzer [3]

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