Everybody thinks their dog is smart. But how does one truly define intelligence when it comes to a canine? There are websites all over the place that rank breed intelligence, and the soft coated wheaten terriers come in somewhere in the 40′s. 40th?! Yes, according to most sites there are 39 breeds smarter than the wheaten terrier. However, let’s look a little deeper into the ranking methodology used in determining which breed ranks where. The overwhelming majority of rankings use command response repetitions as a major determining factor. For instance, one site that ranks the Wheatens 40th exactly notes that they typically require 25-40 repetitions to learn a “new command.” This begs the question however, does the mastery of commands define intelligence?
In humans, we define intelligence based on one’s ability to solve problems. Whether they be math problems, or real world problems, this is how we define “smart.” Commands require a reactive and repetitive type of intelligence. Acquiring a bunch of commands that your dog can respond to is great, but those things are built into the dog’s subconscious when young. Ever hear the term “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” ? It didn’t stick because it was patently false. Puppy brains are sponges, and the commands learned while young are seared into the subconscious mind of the adult dog. Wheatens are no different. Andy learned very quickly, in a day or two, how to Sit and Give Paw. Lie down took a bit longer, maybe another couple of days to master. Ok, so he can react to a word and a treat. Great. He’s a genious! Not so fast. How does he reason? How does he solve problems?
I firmly believe that the wheaten terrier is a very intelligent breed. They aren’t great “reactors” when it comes to commands because the commands may interfere with whatever they have planned. Other breeds may show greater obedience, but I see this as a lack of unique thought, which allows the dog to simply wait for a command before he takes action. The wheaten takes action on his own first and reacts to commands second. This is an important distinction. When I ask Andy to “come here” it’s a 50/50 proposition. If he is on a mission to get into or over something, the command will go unanswered. If not and he thinks I may have food or something he wants, boom, he’s at my hip. There was thought involved. A conscious decision whether to obey or ignore. Interesting.
I am not one to laud someone for undeserved achievement. Andy is an amazing problem solver. He really is. Here is a small example of what I mean. Andy loves to be on our bed. Bad habit, I know. The other night he was not on his best behavior so we decided to let him sleep on his bed for the night. It is memory foam and super comfy, but we felt this was a good punishment. Our bed is about 30 inches off the ground, too high for a 13 week old wheaten puppy to reach without help. Andy nudged his bed over next to ours, then used it as a stepping stone to reach our bed in a single leap. He defined the problem, improvised a solution, and executed. That’s more than most people I know could handle. So are wheaten terriers smart? I’d say so. They may not obey every command, but they reason. And that is how I define intelligence. Have a story of wheaten terrier intelligence, share it below!