Sunday, February 3, 2008

Dog Breed Trainability Rankings

According to a recent survey of over 100 AKC obedience judges, these are the top 10 breeds who exhibit a natural ability for working/obedience intelligence:

1. Border Collie
2. Poodle
3. Golden Retriever
4. German Shepherd
5. Doberman
6. Shetland Sheepdog
7. Labrador Retriever
8. Papillon
9. Rottweiler
10. Australian Cattle Dog

Lists like this make me a little nervous. I can picture families rushing out to get one of the breeds in the top ten without taking anything else into consideration. The most obvious being this: These bright, clever dogs are more easily trainable, however, bright, clever dogs will also require more time, exercise, and attention (because if they become bored, tricky mischief ensues!) Dogs that learn quickly aren't just picking up a solid sit-stay during your training sessions... they're also problem-solving on their own... figuring out how to get into the treat cupboard... divising a way to open the backdoor... hiding your keys because it's such great fun to watch you look for them... (I'm not making this stuff up!) Dogs like this require a lot of interaction. When they get it, they absolutely thrive. They're active, stable, happy, and well-mannered. But for a very busy "hardly ever home" family, or for an easy-going, laid-back (translated: lazy-prone) family, having a top trainability breed could actually wind up being a great, great challenge.

The same survey concluded that these breeds rank at the bottom 10:
69. Bullmastiff
70. Shih Tzu
71. Basset Hound
72. Mastiff and Beagle (tie)
73. Pekingese
74. Bloodhound
75. Borzoi
76. Chow Chow
77. Bulldog
78. Basenji
79. Afghan Hound

What jumped out to me most is that a lot of the dogs in the bottom rankings are hounds. It's so hard to learn the come-when-called command when 54,000 scents are distracting you with their intoxicating smells of mystery! This might seem like a huge obstacle. Many people glancing at a list like this might think "Good to know... never get a hound!" However, once they are trained, hound dogs can use that geneticly engrained obsession with scent or sight to help track down criminals, find lost children, and lives!

Another case in point: Huskies. They're sled dogs. They pull. Hundreds of years ago, some creative human thought: "Hey, this dog likes to pull... so... let's give her something to pull!" A less creative human might have put her on a leash and said: "Hey, this dog likes to pull... She's untrainable, poorly mannered, and altogether useless!"

Whether human or canine, it's a curious thing, how our greatest weaknesses and strengths are often the exact same trait. When training (no matter what the breed ranking is on the list) the key is to identify that trait, and then use your creativity to bring out the best in your dog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was really suprised to see the Aussie Shepherd didnt make the top ten list. IMO they are one of the most trainable dogs alive. In fact the tri color aussies are often mistaken to be border collies. I just have to say it's been my experience they are the easiest trainable and most loyal dog I have ever owned. I'm definately a fan of the breed and can't see my home ever with out an aussie pal. lol. Right now I have 2 One blue merle whose name is streak, and a second by the name of comet. The speed and agility of these dogs in amazing. They are great with kids. Very very loyal and have a mischievious yet lovable nature about them that is a big part of what makes them such great pets to own. As you stated above they most assuredly need time and attention. No lazy owners for these go go go dogs, but all in all they are easy to train and even easier to love.