I have always been fascinated by canine intelligence, seeing time and again that it is far superior to what most people think.  And because of this, I have always been very interested in smart dogs and have always tried, with any dog I have lived with, to do things to encourage my dog to think.  I love to see how dogs figure out problems and find solutions that work well for themselves and those with whom they live.  I also find it intriguing that different dogs have different kinds of smarts.  Obviously, the hunting dog can flush, point and retrieve game in a more enthusiastic and efficient way than a terrier, say.  On the other hand, if you had a mouse problem, you might prefer a Border terrier to a Labrador retriever.  The job a dog was bred to do will color everything, the way he works, the way he plays, the way he thinks, and while any dog might do anything well, if you are trying to choose a dog for a specific task, you are best off choosing one bred for that task.

But there are other ways our dogs show off their intelligence.  In our last apartment, we had a window in the wall between my office and the living room.  It is a given when your husband is an architect that he will not only make the earth move, he will also make walls move.  One day, when the window was open, I tossed a ball from the living room into my office for Dexter, a pit bull mix, to retrieve.  Dexter’s way was to climb over the sill, to use his powerful muscles to hell him go directly to where he knew the ball was.  Later, when Flash, my second service dog, was a puppy, I did the same thing.  As my arm rose up to toss the ball, Flash tore down the hall that led to my office and was there to catch the ball on one bounce.  Different strokes for different folks.

What about your dog?  Do you play games that let him use his sense of smell, gradually moving the object farther away, then off the ground, then behind an obstacle?  Do you give him choices so that he gets to make decisions?  Do you continue to teach new things, to challenge him, to make him think?  Do you name objects for your dog?  Do you ask him to get the ball, the duck, the Frisbee?  Do you require that he do his best once he knows what doing his best means?  Do you respond to his appropriate requests so that he continues to try to communicate with you?

Some dogs are born brilliant.  Other dogs become smarter and smarter as you work with them.  Every dog deserves the chance to use his mind and shine.  What have you taught your dog lately?  What has she taught you?

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