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How old is your dog?

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What’s better than puppies? That’s right: your own puppy. So, what do you need to know before you take the plunge into pet parenthood?

0-2 months
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0-2 months

Welcome to the world little one. It’s all grow-grow-grow for your puppy right now, so there’s many things to prepare.

2-3 months
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2-3 months

Your puppy is ready to come home and turn your world upside down. It’s time to put your preparation into practice – and remember to take it all in!

3-6 months
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3-6 months

You’re entering a period of immense growth, lots of learning and new adventures. Bring on the play date with the big wide world!

6-12 months
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6-12 months

Your fur-baby is nearing adulthood. Can you see their grown self coming through? Sigh…they grow up so fast, don’t they?

12-18 months
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12-18 months

Your puppy has turned one and they might not be so little anymore. Make sure to book their first annual check-up.

18 months - 3 years
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18 months - 3 years

Your dog is one an established family member now. Enjoy who they have become and the bond you now share at this special stage.

3 - 8 years
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3 - 8 years

Your dog is a full-grown adult now. They understand where their place is in your home and the wider world.

8+ years
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8+ years

Just like many senior citizens, senior dogs have some extra needs. Learn to look after your best friend and support their health as they grow older.

How smart is my puppy?

Dr Kate Mornement - Pet Behaviourist profile picture

Dr Kate Mornement - Pet Behaviourist

PhD in Companion Animal Behaviour, BSc(Hons) in Zoology

Dr Kate Mornement is an Applied Animal Behaviourist, Consultant and Educator to pet parents, industry, government and media. She has a PhD which focused on companion animal behaviour from Monash University and a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Zoology (Animal Behaviour) from La Trobe University.

How smart is my puppy?

Dogs are well known for their intelligence and that’s why they’ve been so successful as a species. Humans have used dogs to perform useful roles such as herding, guarding and retrieving for hundreds of years. That said, some breeds have proven that they’re smarter than others when it comes to some measures of intelligence.

Just as intelligence varies in people it also varies amongst dogs, even dogs of the same breed.

How is intelligence measured in dogs?

According to Professor Stanley Coren PhD, a neuropsychologist and canine researcher, dog intelligence should be evaluated in terms of three different aspects. These include:

  1. Instinctive intelligence – the purpose for which a dog was bred
  2. Adaptive intelligence – what a dog can learn by itself
  3. Working and obedience intelligence - what people can teach a dog to do

Professor Coren wrote a book called The Intelligence of Dogs, which ranks over 100 different dog breeds according to their working and obedience intelligence. His research, described in the book, found that the working and obedience intelligence in dogs – their ability to be trained – can vary quite considerably.

It's important to remember that when measuring intelligence in dogs, just like all children, every dog is unique, and intelligence will vary from dog to dog.

Indeed, Professor Coren believes that about half a dog’s intelligence is determined by genes and the remaining half by environmental circumstances, such as how the dog was raised, trained and socialised.

Which dogs are considered the smartest?

As discussed, intelligence can be measured in different ways. But when it comes to a dog’s ability to be trained (obedience intelligence), some breeds are more intelligent than others.

According to Professor Coren, the top 5 smartest dog breeds are:

  1. Border Collie – Prized for their ability to work all day, herd and problem solve. Border Collies are very loyal and develop a strong bond with their owner.
  2. Poodle – Originally bred as water retrievers, poodles are known to be clever.
  3. German Shepherd – Valued as working dogs for police and military, German Shepherds are smart and fiercely loyal companions.
  4. Golden Retriever – One of the most popular pet dogs in the world, Golden Retrievers are smart, affectionate, goofy and have wonderful temperaments, making them ideal pets for families with children.
  5. Doberman Pinscher – Originally bred to guard, Dobermans are known for their assertive, brave and loyal temperaments.

You can read more about the top scoring dog breeds for intelligence and the lowest scoring breeds here.

How to identify how smart your dog or puppy is

Besides seeing where your dog’s breed sits on the dog intelligence ranking, there are a couple of ways that you can test your pup’s intelligence.

The Towel Test

For this test you’ll need a towel that’s large enough to cover your dog. Allow your pup to smell the towel and gently throw it over them. Now, time how long it takes your dog to get out from under the towel.

The quicker your dog frees themselves from the towel the more intelligent they are said to be.

If your pup escapes the towel easily in less than 10 seconds they’re likely very clever!

If it takes them over a minute or they give up and stop trying, this may suggest your pup is not at the top of the intelligence scale – which of course is absolutely fine!

The Treat Test

For this assessment of intelligence, you’ll need three opaque glasses and a yummy treat. Let you pup see you place the treat under one of the cups which should be spaced apart. Next, take your dog away for a few seconds. Bring your dog back to the cups and see if they remember which cup is hiding the treat.

If you dog quickly guesses the correct cup the first time, pawing or nuzzling or knocking it, praise your dog and let them eat the treat.

This means they remembered where it was – clever! If they guess incorrectly, that is ok too, but it’s likely your pup isn't at the top of the intelligence scale.

All dogs are smart in their own unique ways and whether or not your pup scores highly on intelligence tests has no effect on their ability to make a wonderful companion.

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