How Smart Is Your Jack Russell?

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The Jack Russell Terrier has a reputation as a clever and cheerful companion. They may not be brainiacs like those overachieving border collies, but by most measures, but when it comes to smarts, the JRT is definitely above average.

Within the breed, though, there’s a lot of individual variation. Have you ever wondered where your dog falls on the scale?

It’s not too hard to find out.

First, A Bit About Canine Intelligence

We all know that when it comes to measuring human inteligence, the IQ measurement falls short. There are actually eight different kinds of human intelligence, including interpersonal intelligence, musical intelligence, kinesthetic (physical coordination) intelligence, and more. And the same can be said for dogs.

Some dogs may have amazing problem-solving skills, for example, while others may be more adept at reading us and communicating with us. Even if your dog doesn’t score highly on a Doggy IQ test, they may still have a lot of skills and abilities that set them apart.

Two Different Kinds of Intelligence

When it comes to dogs, researchers have identified two different kinds of intelligence: instinctive and adoptive.

Instinctive intelligence is a dog’s natural ability to perform certain tasks. Terriers’ instinctive abilities, for example, make them excellent at ferreting out small prey. Another example is the famous nose of the bloodhound.

Adaptive intelligence, on the other hand, refers to a dog’s ability to learn. So if your dog is quick at learning tricks or a new layout at the agility course, then your dog may have exceptional adaptive intelligence.

Instinctive intelligence is set, and it often corresponds to breed. So when it comes to measuring your dog’s smarts, what you want to look at is adoptive intelligence.

How to Measure Adaptive Intelligence

There are a few quick, easy, and fun tests you can run to see how your dog’s smarts compare.

Test #1: Where’s Jack?

The first test you can do looks at your dog’s problem-solving abilities.

What you’ll need:

  • Your dog
  • A towel

First, have your dog sit or lie down. Then gently drape the towel over his or her head. How long does it take your dog to figure out how to free themselves? If it takes less than 15 seconds, give your dog one point. If it takes between 15 and 30 seconds, give them two. If it takes more than half a minute, give your dog three points.

Test #2: The Shell Game

This is a test of your dog’s memory.

What you’ll need:

  • Your dog
  • Three buckets, boxes, or cups
  • One high-value treat

First, have your dog sit. Then, while your dog watches, line up the buckets, boxes, or cups, open side down, in a line in front of your dog. Finally, while your dog watches, place the treat under one of the buckets, boxes, or cups.

Now, distract your dog for a few seconds. Call them over to you, or show them a toy. Now let them go look for the treat.

If they find it in less than 15 seconds, give them one point. If it takes 15 to 30 seconds, give them two points. If they take longer than half a minute, that’s three points for your dog.

Test #3: Get The Treat

This also tests your dog’s ability to problem solve, though in a slightly different way.

What You’ll need:

  • Your dog
  • A high-value treat or favorite toy
  • A low table, couch, or suspended plank

First, if you’re using a suspended plank, set it up. Place it on top of two stacks of books, two construction bricks, etc. It should be several inches off the ground. Weight it down, so your dog can’t knock the plank off of the supports. The plank should be about five inches off of the floor.

Now, place the treat underneath the plank, table, or couch. It should be far enough underneath that your dog can’t reach it with their nose, and will have to use a paw. Have your dog watch you place the treat.

Now, let your dog go for it.

If your dog gets the treat with their paw in less than two minutes, give them one point. If they do it in between two and three minutes, that’s two points. If it takes longer than three minutes to get it with their paw, that’s three points. Four points if they get it with their mouth or give up.

Test #4: Spot’s Spot

You won’t need any special equipment for this one, which will test your dog’s reasoning abilities. You will need to know, however, where his or her favorite spot is.

Send your dog out of the room where his or her favorite spot is. Then rearrange the furniture. Now, call your dog bak in. How long does it take your dog to find their favorite spot again? If your dog goes right to it, that’s one point. If it takes them a minute or two of investigation to find it, give them two points. If he or she gives up and finds a different spot, give them three points.

Test #5: A Few of Their Favorite Things

This test looks at your dog’s ability to make and retain associations.

What You’ll Need:

  • Your dog’s leash, ball, or other object associated with a favorite activity
  • Your dog

If your dog loves walkies, grab the leash and show it to them. Or the ball, if fetch is their thing. How long does it take for them to get psyched about it? One point if your dog flips out immediately. Two points if you have to walk to the door or place of activity. Three points if he or she doesn’t seem to get the point.

Now, add up all of the points.

How Did Your Jack Do?

You’ve probably already guessed — a lower score is better. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • 6 points or less: Congratulations to your Canine Einstein!
  • 7 to 10 points: That’s a pretty clever Jack, and they could probably help you with your taxes.
  • 11 to 13 points: Not too shabby. Probably still smarter than a beagle.
  • 14 points or more: Good thing they’re so cute!

Seriously, though, don’t worry if your dog scored high. They may have been having an off day. And they may have other skills that aren’t measured by this quiz.

So, how smart is your Jack?

Featured Image: CC0 by Snapwire, via Pexels

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