For years people have been trying to discover a means to determine the relative intelligence in different breeds of dogs. There have been numerous tests conceived for this purpose and yet, I don't believe there has been any conclusive evidence proving one breed's intellectual superiority over another.
A dog's obedience score is often not a good measure to use when determining his native intelligence. An obedience score simply indicates the dog's propensity for accepting and following commands and the handler's abilities as a trainer. Breeds that were developed to work closely with their human partners, such as Golden Retrievers and Border Collies, are apt to score well in structured obedience tests. Retrievers are required to remain quietly at the hunter's side, often for hours each day, until sent to retrieve a downed waterfowl. Generations of selective breeding have resulted in a dog with a biddable temperament and desire to please. Herding breeds such as the Border Collie, were developed to help the sheepherder control and direct sheep. These dogs must instantly obey a command or signal in order to maintain order within the flock.
There was also a need for dogs that could work independently from a human handler, such as the Great Pyrenees that guarded flocks of sheep in the high reaches of the Pyrenees Mountains or the Komondor, king of the working dogs of Hungary. These dogs were used to protect flocks of sheep (the Komondor was also used on cattle), often alone in high, remote areas. Centuries of selective breeding have resulted in dogs that are not as predisposed to the whims of human masters.
Suffice it to say, however, that this is a very broad generalization. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and levels of intelligence, the definition of which is very subjective. Large or small, hairy or bald, dogs have one thing in common, the ability to form a lasting bond with a human being.
A dog's verbal abilities are pretty much limited to barking, growling and whining. His body language and facial expressions, however, speak eloquently of his feelings. These are his best means of communicating. Your job is to learn his language. Although dogs are capable of understanding a wide variety of human words, much of what they are responding to is your own body language and facial expressions. Yes, your dog does know the difference between a smile and a frown. If you scowl at your puppy while voicing, "Good dog", do you really think he'll believe your words? Learn to "read" your puppy. Watch him, observe his mannerisms, his reactions to his environment and different situations. The more you understand your puppy, the easier it will be to teach him.
Your puppy's acceptance of your leadership role depends not only on his inborn temperament, but how he has been raised up to this moment. Some of you were lucky enough to get your puppy from a responsible breeder who raised your puppy in a home environment and socialized him from birth. A majority of dog owners, unfortunately, get puppies that were raised in someone's back yard or kennel, with little or no interaction with humans, during the most critical learning period of a puppy's life. What your puppy has experienced, to date in his short life, cannot be undone. You cannot give him back his developmental period. What he has learned in his first few weeks of life will remain with him for a very long time. However, you have the rest of your puppy's life to mould him into the kind of dog you want. Now it is up to you. Although you cannot erase the past, you can influence the future of your pup.
In human schools, students who don't pay attention to their teacher don't learn and retain as much as those who do. The same holds true for dogs. You must have your puppy's undivided attention if you want to be successful in teaching him.
When you first teach your puppy a new command, follow this sequence: guide him into the position you want. As he begins to get into the desired position or you get the desired response, give the command simutaneously, praise lots then give him the food or toy reward. It does not matter what word you choose for a command. What does matter is the consistency with which you apply that word.
When you give a command, give it only once, showing your puppy what it is you want him to do. If you tell him, "sit", make him do it. Do not say, "Sit, sit, now sit, sit I say, sit!" Your puppy will not recognize the word, "Sit" as the command. To him the command is, "Sit, sit, sit, sit, sit!" He'll think you're a nag and may simply just tune you out.
The exercises on the following pages are meant to help you get started on the right foot with your puppy. They are only a beginning. There is no better substitute than enrolling in a Puppy Socialization class. You may be able to find classes through your local humane society, dog club or veterinarian in your area. Many dog oriented clubs offer such classes or you may find private instructors. You should first observe some classes without your puppy along. Watch the instructor's interaction with both handlers and their dogs. If you can't find a class near you, there are a number of good books and videos you can either borrow from the library or purchase. In any case, you should stay clear of an instructor who advocates the use of punishment, intimidation, jerking the puppy or yelling.