The debate over specific dog breeds and how they stack up on the intelligence meter has been talked about for years.
Among the list of top candidates is the German Shepherd Dog alongside fellow working breeds such as the Border Collie, Golden Retriever, and Australian Cattle Dog.
What exactly makes these dogs so smart? And how are we able to correctly determine which canine is smarter than the next?
In this article, we will explore the intricacies of testing intelligence and how the German Shepherd uses these smarts to be an excellent companion. There’s no debate that this breed of dog is highly intelligent.
How Smart is the German Shepherd Dog?
When searching for how smart a German Shepherd is, nearly all sources label these dogs on the higher end of cognition ability.
A website devoted to providing dog information and resources, Vet Street, describes these dogs as being “adaptable and intelligent”.
Under the breed’s characteristics, they are ranked as 5 out of 5 total points for the intelligence category. This criterion is based on a dog’s ability to problem-solve.
Has the intelligence of the German Shepherd as a breed helped it to become more popular in the public’s eyes?
The Popularity of the German Shepherd Dog
The likelihood of the average person at least knowing what a German Shepherd looks like is relatively high due to their fame and formidable acts of service.
The iconic German Shepherd appearance, as presented by the American Kennel Club, is a dense straight coat with a mixture of black, tan and brown coloration.
The ears are erect and the back generally slopes slightly downward. Overall, this breed takes on a noble and agile character.
But how popular is the German Shepherd to the public?
Intelligence is one of the ways in which dogs have been ranked. They have also been ordered by their overall popularity.
Reader’s Digest compiled data and found the German Shepherd to be the second most popular dog in North America. This is vastly due to their loyalty, intelligence and hard-working nature.
German Shepherds have always been a top choice. Dogtime reveals that three out of the five most famous war dogs were this breed.
According to The Bark, a dog culture magazine, the first guide dog was a German Shepherd named Buddy.
This breed further proved its popularity in various media roles such as Rin-Tin-Tin and Bullet on the Roy Rogers show.
Ranking the Intelligence of a German Shepherd Dog
There are many ways in which to determine how a dog might be smart. Scientists and dog trainers have debated this very basis for decades. Regardless of the type of intelligence, there has been a consensus.
Science Alert has taken data from numerous resources to create their list of the most intelligent dogs.
The top tier or the most intelligent breeds take little time in learning new tricks and obey commands about 95 percent of the time, or more. Among this category is the German Shepherd, who is ranked as the third smartest dog in the world.
With such a high ranking, the German Shepherd has always been well known. Even if you don’t see many out and about, you still understand what they look like. But where did these dogs come from? Does their history have anything to do with how smart they are?
The History of the Brainy German Shepherd
As one would expect, Captain Max von Stephanitz founded this breed in Germany in the year of 1889.
The German Shepherd Dog Club of America reveals that Von Stephanitz was originally attracted to a dog at a show that resembled a smaller yellow and grey wolflike animal.
Von Stephanitz purchased the dog, Hektor, for his intelligence, loyalty and working attributes. In fact, the dog needed little time being trained as Hektor was incredibly quick to pick up new commands.
Hektor, who was later changed to Horand, was the first German Shepherd Dog to be registered. He produced a line of dogs that had both utility and intelligence, which is what Von Stephanitz selected in his litters.
The breed itself was originally intended for herding and protecting sheep. They quickly became the staple for livestock dogs.
It wasn’t until 1907 that this breed was presented in American shows. The German Shepherd Dog wasn’t entirely well known until World War I, where its athleticism and devoted nature were highly desired.
The Link Between German Shepherd and Wolf
Although little evidence has been found showing that the German Shepherd and is more closely related to the wolf than other breeds, it does share physical similarities.
Apart from the Siberian Husky, the German Shepherd looks the most similar to its distant relative. But, did this breed hold onto the intelligence you would find in a Grey wolf?
The Original Smart Canine
There’s no debate that dogs were domesticated by wolves, but what about which species is smarter? Some argue that dogs no longer have to think for themselves.
BBC conducted an intelligence test between wolves and dogs to determine which animal is smarter.
In this video, the BBC shows that wolves seem to be more intelligent in terms of problem-solving capabilities.
When being presented with two pieces of string, one of which has cheese tied to the end, the wolf continues to problem solve. The dogs, on the other hand, pick the same side, even when switched.
Wolves need to be intelligent in order to survive in the wild. Even though dogs no longer share this instinctual prowess, they do demonstrate a number of ways in which they are smart.
How Is Intelligence Measured in Dogs?
The two most common measurements of intelligence in dogs is through a language development test, focusing on problem-solving abilities, and their trainability.
The German Shepherd is among the top three to be ranked in terms of mental prowess. Some individuals are even comparable to a 2-year-old when conducting the language development test.
German Shepherds are also extremely easy to train. This is due to a combination of intelligence and memory. They are quick to pick up and retain commands or behavioral cues given by the owner.
The intelligence of a German Shepherd was once needed when they were used as herding dogs.
These dogs needed to be quick and correct in their responses as the sheep could suddenly be in the face of danger. German Shepherds are still used as herding dogs, though much less than in the past.
If shepherding is seldom needed, how do German Shepherds use their intelligence to help their owners?
The Current Role of the German Shepherd Dog
This breed was originally intended to aid shepherds in protecting flocks. Livestock management is not as popular as it once was, meaning that the German Shepherd had to shift its career path.
One of the more well-known roles that German Shepherds play in today’s society are police dogs. They are also used in search and rescue, narcotics detection and guide dogs.
The German Shepherd’s devotion, agility, intelligence, and trainability all make these dogs top candidates for such careers.
My German Shepherd goes into depth about the number of these dogs, claiming that the global population of German Shepherds is about 3.5 million dogs across the United States.
Some buy these dogs simply for their looks, taking little time and effort into considering what mental stimulation the German Shepherd needs.
Meeting the Needs of the German Shepherd
As with any dog, there are needs that must be met. The intelligence of a German Shepherd means that these dogs should be properly stimulated.
When considering what a dog needs, exercise is generally first on the list. And granted, the German Shepherd does need a fair amount of energy let out.
These dogs are highly active with a tendency to get anxious without at least two hours of running around. They also can become bored if not stimulated.
Dogs that are ranked as being highly intelligent, like the German Shepherd are likely to develop behavioral problems. One of the ways that can help challenge their brain is to do trick training.
German Shepherds are also known to participate in agility, scent training, and herding as a way to give them mental stimulation. Owners must take the time to meet the physical and mental needs of their German Shepherd for a happier life.
An easy way to provide stimulation for a German Shepherd at home is through the use of puzzle toys.
The Outward Hound Ottosson Puzzle Dog Toy on Amazon provides mental stimulation while also feeding your dog. As a working dog, German Shepherds enjoy being given a task. Using dog toys are a great way of doing so.
The German Shepherd is a highly intelligent dog loved for their agility, loyalty, athleticism and overall hard-working attitude.
They are ranked as the third among the smartest breeds. Once used for herding and protecting sheep, these dogs are among the best police dogs.
There’s no doubt that the German Shepherd is one of the smartest and most devoted.