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No matter the breed or type, dogs come into this world like little sponges, ready to soak up all the experiences and learning opportunities they can. However, their ability to develop 'intelligence' is dependent on lots of factors – their genes, environment, motivation and even diet.
In reality, it's up to us to capitalise on our dogs' inherent cognitive skills and to make sure that their intelligence is used for good, not mischief. In fact, nearly always when someone tells me their dog is naughty, I want to say, "No, not naughty, just bright!"
After all, if your dog learns how to upturn the kitchen bin while you are out, or suddenly has selective deafness in the park when it's time to go, they are showing the ability to turn the situation to their advantage, a flexibility in behaviour and great problem-solving skills.
Using rewards can be a great way to foster your dog's creativity and intelligence.
Of course, watching a dog that has learned multiple commands is always impressive, and we equate the speed and accuracy of a dog's response to cues with being intelligent. One of my own dogs knows over 100 individual words and will fetch specific toys by name – but few people realise that this kind of capacity is actually created by training.
In essence, teaching a dog how to learn can make all the difference to how smart they are. Reward-based training is the way forward if you want to foster your dog's creativity and intelligence, as well as their responsiveness. Using fun and positive methods also means you can avoid stress, which can suppress behaviour and shut down a dog's innate desire to explore and try new behaviours.
Combine your training with some imaginative problem-solving, and you can enjoy the equivalent of canine Sudoku together. In fact, challenging your dog's problem-solving abilities is not only a great way to enhance your relationship, but can also keep idle paws out of mischief!
Sarah Whitehead has over 25 years' experience as a behaviour specialist, an MSc in Companion Animal Behaviour and is also one of the UK's few Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourists. She is passionate about canine body language and behavioural problems in cats. She is the author of numerous books and is a renowned international lecturer.
Healthspan pet supplements are not intended to replace a well-balanced diet for your pet.