There are lists you can find which rank the intelligence of dogs by breed. German Shepherds and Rottweilers are always near the top, and Chows and Afghan hounds are always near the bottom. But you have to ask, what exactly is an intelligent dog? I have always maintained that what people mean by “intelligent”, usually just means “trainable”. In the case of the Afghan hound, if you let it loose, it will immediately take off for parts unknown. When you call its name, assuming it can remember its name, it’s already in the next county. So I can make a case for that being “unintelligent”. It would be in a dog’s best interest to stay close to the most reliable source of food, it seems. On the other hand, there’s a big trade-off there. You have to be confined and can’t run free. Maybe you’re willing to take your chances on catching your own food. Who are we to judge what is “smart” when it comes to another species? In our case, smart usually means “doing what we tell you”.
It will be very rare that you’ll find a dog owner who says, “My dog is really dumb”. Dog owners will fight to the death about the intelligence of Rocky and Fifi.
But it never ceases to amaze me that the owners of the most untrained dogs on the planet will insist that they are very smart. This happens when the dog has learned to do something on its own, such as open the kitchen cabinets with its paw. Personally, I kind of admire these dogs, but is this a smart dog? I really prefer well-behaved dogs, but have a secret admiration for dogs who say, I understand what you’re asking, I just don’t give a shit.
Thus we come to the intelligence of the Basenji breed, which is kind of an oxymoron, like “military intelligence”. Basenjis are hounds, originally from the Congo. They don’t bark, although they can make a variety of other sounds. Males weigh, at maximum, around 25 pounds, and females less. I have a dog encylopedia which rates dogs on various characteristics, giving them a score of 1-5 on such things as energy level, grooming requirements, friendliness toward strangers or other dogs or other pets, cold and heat tolerance, etc. And one of those characteristics is “ease of training” (see, they don’t use the word “intelligence”). Where a score of 5 is best, Basenjis are rated 1.
Here is a picture of a purebred Basenji:
Here’s a picture of my Basenji mix, whose tail is not quite as curled as the ideal, and who also barks. One of the first things you’ll notice about him is that he’s standing on the picnic table. Now this is something he “knows” he isn’t supposed to do, but…you guessed it, he doesn’t give a shit. I will say this for him–what he lacks in intelligence or trainability, he makes up for in aggression. I have a 70 pound Doberman and a 50 pound Pointer mix, but this guy is the one who has to be muzzled to get his annual vaccinations. However, if I ever need a rabbit for dinner, he’s my man. Assuming I can get him to let go of it.