Are Small Dogs Smarter Than Big Dogs


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Dogs are lovely companions. They provide us fun, entertainment, and a sense of belonging.

Meanwhile, dogs come in different sizes. In this article, we will find out whether big dogs are smarter than small dogs. 

According to a study published in Animal Cognition, bigger dogs with bigger brains can perform better than smaller dogs in some intelligence measures.

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This is known as ‘executive functioning.’ This intelligence is associated with self-control in both canines and humans.

This executive function allows dogs to keep context-appropriate behavior. 

Researches also revealed that breeds with bigger brains come with better self-control and short-term memory than smaller dogs regardless of the kind of training.

However, smaller dogs are skilled in different tasks, which is an example of social intelligence.

This intelligence includes their skill of using reasoning to follow commands. 

Contents showHow does the size of the brain relate to the executive function of dogs?Dog IntelligenceAdaptive intelligenceInstinctive intelligenceWorking and Obedience IntelligenceBig dogs VS Small dogsHead ShapePet Parents’ InfluenceTemperamentHow to make your dog smarterContinuous intelligence training to make your dogs smarterToy games to make your dog more intelligentTaking care of your dog

How does the size of the brain relate to the executive function of dogs? 

Some studies revealed that the sizes of the brain might relate to cognition.

The number of neurons and differences in the connectivity between neurons may be considered a factor for dogs’ intelligence level. 

The bigger the brain, the more connections and neurons which allow it to store memories better and process information.

Meanwhile, dogs have different intelligence levels. 

Dog Intelligence

Just like humans, dogs may also have different aptitudes and intelligence. 

Adaptive intelligence 

This intelligence determines how dogs can solve problems without the intervention of humans.

For example, your pet needs adaptive intelligence for retrieving food that fell in place that is hard to reach. 

Instinctive intelligence

It is the aptitude of dogs to perform tasks they were reared to do. Take, for instance, the hounds.

These are breeds trained to hunt and track their prey. On the other hand, herd dogs are initially bred to specifically herd cattle and sheep and working breeds that are bred in doing specific activities.

Instinctive intelligence determines how dogs can perform their instinctive tasks.

It is also associated with how companion dogs stay attuned to their emotional cues and moods. Each dog has instinctive intelligence. 

Working and Obedience Intelligence

The intelligence shows how quickly and how well dogs are trained in performing tasks and behave on various dog commands.

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Any dog that excels in this type of intelligence can stand out in sports, agility, obedience, and other forms of training. 

Big dogs VS Small dogs 

Take note that small dogs can also score well in other levels of intelligence.

Keep in mind that IQ tests for dogs can concentrate on problem-solving and reasoning skills than trainability and obedience.

So, why do little dogs are likely to perform in this category poorly? Well, it can be caused by various factors, including the following:

Head Shape 

Some studies show that the shape of the head of a dog is associated with easing of training.

The theory states that brachycephalic dogs (flat-nosed dogs and short-faced dogs like pugs and bulldogs) and dolichocephalic dogs (dogs with elongated, narrow faces like greyhounds) are bred for specific tasks.

Brachycephalic dogs are bred for guarding and fighting, while dolichocephalic dogs are bred for chasing prey and running. 

Mesocephalic dogs (dogs with average shape heads such as Labrador retrievers) may lack specialization, providing them with better cognitive flexibility, allowing them to quickly learn new activities. 

Pet Parents’ Influence

There is also a theory that small dogs’ poor performance regarding training and obedience category is irrelevant to conditioning and treatment and innate ability. Instead, it can be an influence of their pet parents. 

In an Applied Animal Behavior Science study in 2010, small parents may intermingle with their dogs, reinforcing excitability, aggression, fearfulness, and undermine obedience training.

For example, small dogs’ parents are usually inconsistent when it comes to interacting and training with their dogs compared to big-dog parents. 

Small-dog parents likewise lean towards relying on punishment like leash-jerking and scolding for improving their dog’s behavior.

The study similarly suggests that small breed parents are less likely to engage in shared activities and play like taking walks or playing fetch. 


The temperament of the dog can also influence their submissiveness and trainability.

Among the intelligent breeds include Border Collies and Golden Retrievers, who are friendly and easy to please.

On the other side, small dogs are more stubborn and willful, excitable, and anxious. 

How to make your dog smarter

Now that we had an idea about the smarter dog between small and big dogs, let us know how to make your dog smarter. The following are some tips to make your dog more intelligent. 

  • Train your dog 

One of the best ways to enhance the intelligence level of your dog is through training.

You must train your pet even at an early age. It will make them more trainable in the later years of their lives. 

  • Socialization 

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Socialization is essential, especially on the sensitive stage before 16 weeks. You must expose your dog to new situations.

Early socialization can help your dog to be a well-mannered pet. Meanwhile, you must also socialize with your older dogs. 

  • Physical manipulation 

Physical manipulation also helps to make your dog smart. You can do this, especially if your pet is young.

With daily handling, your dog can easily accept change and learn commands.

  • Expose your dog to problems and tests 

It is also helpful to expose your dog to problems and tests. For example, you can give your dogs a food bowl that allows them to use intelligence to eat.

  • Praise your dog 

You can offer your pet lots of praise if he or she shows intelligent behavior.

Continuous intelligence training to make your dogs smarter

You can offer your dog continuous intelligence training. You can call your pet while he or she is blindfolded, problem-solving food dishes, and teach him or her to climb stairs, back up, and other new commands and tricks. 

You can also make your dog feel special when he or she displays smart behavior.

Give your dog lots of praise, treats, and other rewards. With this, your pet can be more motivated to improve his or her training performance. 

Toy games to make your dog more intelligent 

The following are some toy games to make your dog smarter. 

  • Puzzler 

You can provide your pet a puzzle to interact with a toy that can enhance their intelligence.

This strategy game can help your dog to learn cause and effect by sliding disks and flipping knobs. With this toy, your dog can develop techniques to get a reward from you.

  • Sniff it out 

It is also a good idea to provide your pet with nose work. You can give your pet a sniff Diggy mat that allows your dog to exercise its cognitive and sensory skills. You can hide a treat in the mat and let him or her find it.

  • Agility test 

The agility test is another technique to make your dog more intelligent.

You can use items in your houses like cushions, pillows, low tables, or chairs to make an agility course for your little best friend.

Aside from physical benefits, it can also give your pet intellectual benefits. With an obstacle course, your dog can focus on the activity at hand.

Your pet needs to be obedient to finish the course and get a reward. If your pet masters the test, you can change the course to enhance his or her intellectual development. 

  • Hide and seek  

Hide and seek is also a helpful game that can stimulate the mind of your dog.

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Meanwhile, before playing this game, your pet must know the ‘stay’ command. Then, you can tell your pet to sit and stay.

Seek a hiding place and call your dog. Once your dog finds you, give your pet with good ear scratch and praise. 

  • Boost IQ through treats

You can offer your pet with IQ Treat Ball. It is beneficial for the brain development of your dog. It can provide physical and mental stimulation for your pet. 

  • Stack the rings 

Ring stacking can also be a fun game that can improve the intelligence of your beloved pet.

Encourage your pet by placing a ring on the stack by offering her or him treats and other rewards. 

With these toy games, you can enhance your pet’s intelligence level while helping them to exercise. 

Taking care of your dog 

Regardless of your dog’s size and intelligence level, you must know how to take care of your pet.

Make sure to provide your pet with exercise for mental and physical stimulation. It can help to avoid separation anxiety, boredom, and loneliness with your dog. 

You also need to be responsible for your pet’s medical needs, nutrition, and proper grooming.

Provide your dog with quality dog food that can make them healthier. You can also take your dog to a professional vet to monitor his or her health status.

With regular checkups, you can discover if your pet is suffering from any health issue.

Treat your pet with love and care to help them enjoy a healthier and happier lifestyle. 

Even though most intelligent dogs can be biased on bigger dogs, it is also important to consider that intelligence can be biased on dogs that are easy to train and please regardless of the size.

Most intelligent dog breeds are military and police dogs and do excellent service.


To sum it up, some consider that larger dogs are smarter than smaller dogs.

However, you’re the one who knows your pet best. So, if you think that your small dog is intelligent, you’re right. 

His or her owner’s behavior also influences the performance and intelligence of your dog.

So, it is advisable to offer your pets consistent training. Take note that small dogs have a low score in performing their cognitive tasks.

With this, you must be patient and dedicated when training your dog. 

Whatever your dog’s level of intelligence, he or she is worthy of your love, care, and attention.

Make sure to be a responsible parent to your pet regardless of their intelligence, breed, and size. 


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