Can you make your Shiba smarter? A study on human intelligence makes me think that you might be able to increase the capacity of what’s between those pointy ears. The American Psychological Association published findings that indicate intelligence is as much a function of one’s belief in oneself as it is the capacity to learn, reason, understand and come to conclusions. If humans can change their capacity for learning by simply believing that they are capable, imagine what they can do by simply viewing their dogs as capable of learning more and more?
People often go up to the owners of dogs who do lots of tricks or are exceptionally obedient and say, “My dog would never do that/could never do that.” And they are right, but not for the reason they think. They think that their dog is stupid or deliberately obtuse and incapable of learning. And therefore, the dog IS stupid and incapable of learning, because the owner has created an environment where the dog will always fail.
Contrast this with an owner who believes that their dog is capable of learning, is smart and will pick things up easily. This owner is going to try harder to teach the dog, will get less frustrated with the dog and will expect more from the dog. I would venture to say that this owner will also be more positive with the dog, because the owner is expecting to praise the dog for something well done rather than preparing to punish the dog for something done badly.
I am not a big fan of Stanley Coren’s ideas on the intelligence of dogs. I don’t think that obedience alone indicates intelligence, nor does problem solving in the service of human ends. Intelligence is the capacity to learn and retain information and to make decisions based on that information.
Have you ever met or heard of an intelligent kid who was bored to tears with school, therefore did not learn anything? Intelligence does not make dogs easier to train; on the contrary, I think that it can make them harder. This is not to say that “naturally” obedient breeds are stupid or even less intelligent than Shibas – just that training a Shiba or any smart dog can be more challenging since the owner needs more ingenuity to actually keep the dog’s attention and make learning a rewarding activity for *that particular* dog.