Are Basset Hounds smart
The Basset Hound is ranked around 71st on the list of dog breed intelligence. This would suggest that Basset Hounds are not that smart when compared to other dog breeds.
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. To understand why Basset Hounds are in fact a smart dog despite ranking relatively in the middle for working and obedience intelligence. They have a very unique type of intelligence and excel at instinctive intelligence. That is doing what they were bred to do.
Working and obedience intelligence in itself is not a good indication of a dog’s intelligence as this is purely testing working intelligence and trainability. It doesn’t take into account instinctive intelligence, adaptability, empathy and problem-solving skills and the many other forms of intelligence. We will look closer at other types of dog intelligence and how well Basset Hounds do with these.
How is working and obedience intelligence measured
The list of dog breed intelligence was created by Stanley Coren who is a dog psychologist. Coren worked with 199 North American obedience trial judges to help with his study. Only pure breed dogs from the American Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club participated. This meant that mixed breed dogs and breeds not recognized by the kennel clubs were not tested.
The test used to measure dog intelligence was two-fold. They first tested how many repetitions it took for a certain breed to learn a new command. Secondly, they tested what percentage of the time the dog obeyed the command on the first attempt. Dogs with a high percentage of obeying the command were considered to be obedient.
Basset Hounds took on average 80 to 100 repetitions to learn and understand a new command and only obeyed the command 25% of the time or worse.
This would indicate that Basset Hounds are difficult to train, but this has more to do with their stubborn nature.
Are Basset Hounds easy to train
Given their lower rankings in working and obedience intelligence, does that suggest Basset Hounds are hard to train?
One of the biggest complaints people have with Basset Hounds is that they are hard to train. This is not because they lack intelligence, but rather that they are an independent and often stubborn dog. It does not mean that they can not be trained and be a well behaved obedient dog.
Basset Hounds were bred to hunt and follow a scent trail. Once the nose hits the ground they have a one-track mind This makes them more difficult to train so you need to work more closely with them. It just requires a little persistence, time, and patience.
The one area of training that can be a little more difficult with a Basset Hound is potty and house training. Basset Hounds can require a little more patience and persistence when potty training, yet they are not the worse breed at this.
The three types of dog intelligence
There is a lot more to dog intelligence that learning new commands and being obedient. Obedience intelligence is just one of the three types of dog intelligence. The three types of dog intelligence are;
Obedience intelligence is what we have discussed above. Basset Hounds rank at the lower end of the middle in this form of canine intelligence. But how do they rate in the other types?
Obedience is the most objective of the three types of canine intelligence making it easy to test and quantify. Adaptive and instinctive intelligence can be more subjective.
Instinctive intelligence relates to the skill and purpose the dog was bred for. It is an innate ability that doesn’t need to be taught. For example, a herding breed instinctively knows how to herd usually with little or no training required.
Basset Hounds were bred to follow a scent trail for long distances. They obviously amazing at this task. You certainly don’t need to teach a Basset Hound how to do this.
If the dog breed intelligence tests where ranked on instinctive intelligence, and not working/obedience intelligence, Basset Hounds would rank at or near the top.
Adaptive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to solve problems and to learn and figure out things for themselves. This can be hard to measure but there are some tests you can do with your Basset Hound to see how good they actually are at adaptive intelligence.
Puzzle toys are one good way to do this. Most puzzle toys involve your dog working out how to to get a treat. The exemption is the iFetch Frenzy. When selecting puzzle toys for your Basset Hound try to choose toys that are treat based or involve using their nose.
For the top puzzle toys for dogs see here.
This video below shows a couple of other tests you can do to see just how well your Basset Hound works things.
Other signs of intelligence in dogs
Apart from the three types of canine intelligence discussed there are other things that dogs do that are quite smart. Firstly is empathy. This is a kind of emotional intelligence of how well your dog is able to read you and your emotions.
Basset Hounds are very loving and affectionate with their owners. However, they do have a one track mind when their nose gets involved. At these times they usually couldn’t care less what a human is doing.
Another intelligent, if not a little sneaky, is strategic manipulation. This is when a dog will deceive us in order to get something they want. Researcher Marianne Heberlein did a study into this when she realized her dogs were doing it to her.
Marianne had a routine of taking her dogs out to the toilet each night before bed and gave them a treat when they came inside. One day she realized that one of her dogs would pretend to go toilet just to get the treat. This prompted her to investigate more.
With a research team at the University of Zurich, 27 dogs were tested. They paired each dog with two human partners. A co-operative one who allowed the dogs to eat treats, and a competitive one who withheld the treats.
The handler led each dog to one of three boxes. One had a tasty sausage, another had a less appetizing dog treat and the last one was empty.
The dogs quickly learned if the handler was co-operative or competitive and led the co-operative partners to the sausage box more often than the competitive partner.
By leading the competitive partner to the incorrect box the dog had a chance to keep the delicious sausage for itself later on when the experiment was repeated with a co-operative partner.
Basset Hounds can be quite skilled at this if there are treats involved. Let us know in the comments of examples of strategic manipulation your Boston Terrier has used on you.
How to improve your Basset Hounds intelligence
Your Basset Hound is already smarter than they get credit for. However, there are ways to improve your dog’s intelligence. These can include;
- Socialization – provide plenty of opportunities to your Basset Hound to socialize with other dogs, animals, and people.
- Teach tricks and commands – learning is a great way to provide mental stimulation and enrichment and increase brain power.
- Food Enrichment – instead of feeding your dog just from a bowl use puzzle toys and feeders to make them work for their food. For more on feeding enrichment for dogs see here.
- Keep them active – A healthy dog is less stressed and bored and smarter. For a guide to Basset Hound exercise see here.
- Quality diet – diet is crucial to keeping a dog healthy and functioning at their best.
- Reward intelligence – give your dog praise and rewards for showing signs of intelligence.
- Puzzle toys – Provide your Basset Hound with toys that test and improve their problem-solving skills. For the best puzzle toys for dogs see here.
- Environmental enrichment – make their living environment more interesting and engaging. For more on environmental enrichment see here.
The one enrichment item that every Basset Hound must have is a snuffle mat.
A Snuffe Mat is another great way to provide for your dog’s natural scenting instinct and to provide mental stimulation and relieve boredom. A Snuffe mat is a mat that is made of fleece and you can hide dry food or treats into it. If you are someone that is good at crafts you can try to make one yourself.
Alternatively, check out the range of Snuffle Mats at Amazon.
Summary – How smart are Basset Hounds
Basset Hounds are ranked 71st on the canine test for working and obedience intelligence. This middle to low ranking in no way reflects the true smarts and intelligence of Basset Hounds.
Working and obedience intelligence is often used to indicate how intelligent a breed of dog is as it is more measurable. The other types of canine intelligence such as adaptive, instinctive, and emotional intelligence are more subjective and difficult to quantify.
Basset hounds can be trainable but can be stubborn so sometimes patience and persistence may be required when training them. They can be excellent at problem-solving and adaptive intelligence. Basset Hounds are also true masters at scenting and tracking. This means they are blessed with high instinctive intelligence. That is doing what they were bred to do.
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