How smart are Boston Terriers

Are Boston Terriers smart

The Boston Terrier is ranked 83rd on the list of dog breed intelligence depending on what list you are using. This would suggest that Boston Terriers are not that smart when compared to other dog breeds.

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. To understand why Boston Terriers are in fact a smart dog despite ranking relatively in the middle for working and obedience intelligence.

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 Boston Terriers 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.

Are Boston Terriers easy to train

Given their lower rankings in working and obedience intelligence, does that suggest Boston Terriers are hard to train?

In fact, Boston Terriers are very trainable. This is due to their enthusiasm and that they love human contact and interaction. They also enjoy the mental challenge that comes from learning new commands.

The one area of training that can be a little more difficult with a Boston Terrier is potty and house training. Boston Terriers 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/Working intelligence

Obedience intelligence is what we have discussed above. Boston Terriers 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

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.

Boston Terriers originally where a mix of bulldog and terrier type breeds. They were bred as fighting dogs and to hunt rodents and vermin. The modern-day Boston Terrier isn’t a fighting dog at all. They have a very affectionate and gentle nature. This means that when it comes to instinctive intelligence as a fighting dog they are nowadays the opposite. Loving and gentle companion dogs.

When it comes to having a natural instinct for chasing vermin they are naturally good at this. They still do have the agility and drive to chase small furry animals. However, this is more likely for a bit of fun rather than to kill.

Adaptive intelligence

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 Boston Terrier 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 Boston Terrier try to choose toys that are a little more difficult or have different levels of difficulty.

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 Boston Terrier 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. Boston Terriers are very people orientated and love your company. They are very empathetic and very in touch with how you are feeling. They make an ideal companion and family dog. Learn more about Boston Terriers as a family dog here.

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.

Boston Terriers can be quite skilled at this due to their ability to read human emotions so well. Let us know in the comments of examples of strategic manipulation your Boston Terrier has used on you.

How to improve your Boston Terrier’s intelligence

Your Boston Terrier is already pretty intelligent. However, there are ways to improve your dog’s intelligence. These can include;

  • Socialization – provide plenty of opportunities to your Boston Terrier 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 – Boston Terriers are highly active and need plenty of exercise. A healthy dog is less stressed and bored and smarter. For a guide to Boston Terrier 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 Boston Terrier 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.

Summary – How smart are Boston Terriers

Boston Terriers are ranked around 83rd on the canine test for working and obedience intelligence. This middle to low ranking in no way reflects the true smarts and intelligence of Boston Terriers.

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.

Boston Terriers are very 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. Boston Terriers are also in tune with human emotions and have high emotional intelligence.

Suggested Boston Terrier Articles.

How to exercise a Boston Terrier

Best type of toys for Boston Terriers

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