How Smart is Your Puppy?

Dog Care > Puppy Care >
  • Flat collar on your dog
  • Training lead
  • Treats
  • Small can or bowl (like an empty coffee can or some other Container)
  • Towel, sheet or some fabric that can completely cover your puppy
  • Two light cardboard boxes, a sheet of cardboard, and two appropriately sized, light weights
  • Scissors to cut hole in cardboard 
  • Test 1 – Observation Learning

    Choose an activity that your puppy has seen you do before many times and that it enjoys e.g. going out for a short walk in the yard or ride in the car, getting dinner ready, or preparing for a clicker training session. Engage in the behavior in five stages, scoring 5 points for your puppy’s immediate understanding of your intentions (you take one step toward the door and it approaches you and looks enthusiastic or runs to an appropriate place, signaling its understanding). Score 0 for paying no attention at all while you complete the entire maneuver. Intermediate scores 1-4 are awarded for intermediate responses.

    Test 2 – Problem Solving

    Take an empty can and your puppy’s favorite food treat. Show your puppy the treat and then put the treat under the inverted can. Score the puppy’s attempts to obtain the food on a similar 0 to 5 scale. A score of 5 is awarded if the puppy obtains the food treat by knocking the can over and getting the treat within 15 seconds; score the pup 4 for obtaining the food treat within 15-30 seconds; score 3 for completing the task in 30-45 seconds, score 2 for a time of 45-60 seconds, score 1 for eventually getting the treat; score 0 for the pup giving up, losing interest, and walking off defeated.

    Test 3 – Problem Solving

    Throw a tea towel or the corner of a sheet over the pup so it is completely covered and observe its attempts to think its way out of the situation. Use the same scoring method as in Test 2 above.

    Test 4 – Social Learning

    Wait until your puppy is near you but is not engaged in any particular activity. Look directly into its eyes and smile. Hold this pose. If the pup comes towards you, this is an excellent result indicating good social learning: score 5. If the pup ignores you, score 0. Intermediate scores are assessed, as before, on a timed basis.

    Test 5 – Short Term Memory

    Show the pup a delicious food treat and allow him to watch you hide it under a tea towel. Then lift him up in your arms and walk around the room in a large circle before depositing him at least 6 feet from where the food is hidden. If he immediately goes to the food treat and finds it, score 5. If he shows no interest in the treat and doesn’t look for it, score him 0. Intermediate scores are awarded for his finding the treat within 30 seconds, 1 minute, 1-1/2 minutes, and 2 minutes.


    Test 6 – Long Term Memory

    This is the same as Test 5 except that the pup should be taken out of the room for 5 minutes before returning it to the vicinity where the food treat is hidden. By the way, with both these tests it is important to use a food treat that is not too easily located by sense of smell, otherwise the test is biased in favor of olfactory acuity as opposed to visual memory.

    Test 7 – Problem Solving in Manipulation Ability

    For this test you will need a couple of light cardboard boxes, a sheet of cardboard, and two appropriately sized, light weights. Make a low bridge by placing the cardboard between the two boxes and weight the cardboard down with a weight on either end. Make sure that the height of the bridge is sufficiently low so the dog cannot reach underneath (for a small dog – the bridge should be only a couple inches off the ground). Show the dog a food treat and then hide it under the bridge, out of sight but not out of mind (or olfactory range). The pup must figure how to get the food treat out. If it quickly demolishes your bridge and obtains the food treat, score 5. If it takes a while to get the treat out, but less than 1 minute, by pushing or nuzzling, score 4. If the pup tries to get the treat out but fails, score him 3 points. If the pup simply sniffs the structure, score 2. If the pup simply looks vacantly and does nothing, score 1. If he shows no interest and walks away, score him 0.


    Pg 2 of 3