Needless to say the list itself (a silly, rehashed non-story) deserves no comment; and equally needless to say, we all jumped in eagerly to comment on it.
Steve wrote in first:
I don't even have to LOOK. Oriental sighthounds, like other primitive breeds, always come out "dumb" on these lists because they aren't"biddable". But try seeing them solve their own problems-- or live with one and watch it train itself. (Remember I have also trained "smart" lurchersand sheepdogs as well as bird dogs-- NONE learns as naturally as a real i.e., "Country Of Origin" AKA unspoiled, hunting stock) saluki.
Show Afghans and some modern salukes-- what Libby calls "supermodels"-- are a whole 'nother story, which is why I have Kazakh and John Bedouin dogs.) John will doubtless have more to say when he gets back from Europe.
I am curious about all of you others' opinions-- I'm forwarding this toVladimir too, as his Laikas are also "primitives" with minds not unlike tazi-salukis (which he also has.) Patrick (as an owner of very different dogs) and Rebecca (as a pro trainer)--?
Vladimir responds: "I have both now, Laika and three Tazy (Saluki). They all are smart dogs, but not necessarily obedient; being smart is not the same as being obedient, of course."
After taking a minute to flip through the breeds pictured, Steve says of the so-called dumbest:
At least it was an Afghan!
But Aboriginal Affies, taigans etc are just like COO salukis, only even fierier (and more aloof and less biddable.) I still hope to get a taigan-blooded dog from K'Stan for my strain (from Shakula-Vladimir knows.)
The rest is as I expected. Shepherds which are fairly smart but biddable do well. Retrievers most which are dumb and biddable also do well (goldens areas dumb as rocks, Labs almost, Chessies... pretty smart but not there BECAUSE INDEPENDENT. Primitives (chows, basenjis) do poorly in these tests. Don't really
know the modern show chow but the ones around here are smart but independent.
Ditto the Africanis breeds like basenjis.
Pekingese and beagles are genuinely dumb (most scenthounds have smart noses, but...) Pekes and the poor show bulldog can barely exist or be born without aid-- who can tell about their brains, really? Mastiffs are a sort of degenerate descendant of flock protection dogs, which tend to have rather one-track minds.
Rebecca spoke up next, almost starting another kind of rowe: "The smartest dogs I've worked with have been mutts. Take away specialization and you've got a better problem solver. I could make an accipiter big falcon comparison here, but I won't. ;-)"
Brian Plummer defined canine intelligence as "trainability" which has its merits but I think is too narrow. But any list based on show breeds and without consideration of field work is bound to be off. This list seemed to be about "which dogs looked smartest in this one picture."
Certainly the most apparently intelligent dogs I've spent time with (subjective observation of course) are border collies and australian shepherds; these were dogs you could basically speak to in English and expect full compliance and evident understanding. They were attentive and would regularly (and correctly) intuit your next move.
Quick story to illustrate: We were hawking rabbits in Amarillo, TX, with a mixed pack of dogs in tow including a border collie, a whippet, a black lab and a pointer (all working dogs) and we came to a gated fence. The lab and pointer and my whippet all crowded to the latch area of the gate, bumping into each other but at least knowing which side of the gate to crowd around (pretty smart, huh?). The collie was smarter: He simply sat down about 3 feet from the gate and watched the other dogs vie for position. When I opened the gate, the first three dogs banged their heads together in a mad rush to get by, and the collie just walked through like a person.
Some of the least compliant and attentive dogs I've worked with were pointers and springer spaniels, FWIW.
The sighthounds are always placed near the bottom of these lists, but never (we should note) by people who work with them. My past and current whippets have been smart in the sense of compliant and observant and quick to learn new tasks. But they are also game-oriented and "uncontrollable" at the times you might expect them to be.
Having just spent 4 days with my parents' show-bred borzoi, I expected to meet a truly dumb dog. But not so. Their Barrie is a sensitive and observant animal who changes his behavior to suit his differing relationships with each family member (he is clearly the alpha animal in the house but gives Dad polite respect in public), and he figured me out pretty fast as the one of our group who was not buying his BS. He adjusted his behavior in my case too. He is a dog I could work with I'm sure.
Here was Prairie Mary's take, agreeing part-ways with Rebecca:
"I'm gonna go with the Seven Sister colleges here and say 'all comparisons are odious.' 'Smart' is as variable in dogs as in humans, mostly because humans define the term. A dog that's smart in one context is stupid in another and that's the point of breeds: to fit the context.
"All-purpose mutts, looked at as individuals, are the Swiss Army Knives of dogdom. Sometimes a mongrel gets the best of the mix and sometimes they get the worst. Stupidest dog I ever knew was half English Sheepdog and half show afghan. Both halves were the worst of the breed.
"Sadie was her name. She warn't no lady."
Finally Patrick, grouchily:
"And the NUMBER ONE DUMBEST BREED IN THE WORLD is .... the human being.Who else wants to comment? How can you resist? Was your favorite breed lumped in with the slow starters? Did the editors miss anything important here? (Of course they did!)
"Television producers and press editors keep coming up with these kinds of lists, and humans, unimpeded by any real experience and possessing incredibly short attention spans and shallow memories, keep "click and treating" when this kind of stink is delivered right to their feet. The result: every day is 'groundog day' for humans, and stink follows them from one end of the earth to the other."