None of us will argue that dogs have different intelligence levels just as people do. Some are focused and tuned into their owners and some are just “out there” with a mind of their own doing what they please. In my half century of living, I’ve had dogs in both categories and have settled on a breed and bloodlines that are of the “tuned in” variety. No dumb dogs in my house!
I’m getting lots of feedback from Izzy’s last litter of puppies and there is no doubt that her intelligence has passed to her prodgeny. Plus, Swagger was a keeper to stay with me so I have some first hand experience. I have to admit that I’m being shamed by some of the puppies’ new owners with their dedication to training and there have been video and pictorial evidence that these very young dogs can learn lots of tricks with repetition and positive reinforcement. The more a puppy learns, the more she wants to learn and the more she becomes capable of learning because of those connections being made early in the brain development.
Do I have any preschool teachers out there in the audience? Isn’t it proven that early childhood experiences lead to the development of what we consider intelligence and the lack of stimulation can thwart later learning, even though the capability was inherent in the child. This concept is the same with our fur children as with our skin babies. Learning is fun and leads to the inquisitiveness to learn more.
I stand by the notion that early puppy training, particularly in an intelligent breed like Miniature Australian Shepherds ie Miniature American Shepherds leads to increased ability to learn. The key is starting with small behaviors that please us and marking them with a clicker or a verbal marker and using a treat to reward. Then, we must watch closely and continue to reward the actions we like, and ignore or redirect the actions that we are discouraging.
The question, “is it necessary for a dog to have intelligence to be trained”? Yes. But, it is just as important for the owner to take the lead and teach the puppy “to learn”. Smart dog? or Smart owner?