Can you make your Shiba smarter?

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.


  1. I don’t know if that has to do with the dog’s self-esteem or positive attitude so much as the human’s ability to train a dog. It took me two years to teach my dog to do “roll over”. Did she succeed because my faith in her made her smarter, or just because I’m stubborn enough to keep trying to teach the same dog the same trick for two years?

  2. Watching an “intelligent” dog motivates me to train mine more. I’ll say out loud “I wish my dog could do that” but once I get home, I look for something I can turn into a trick and slowly work at it. It’s one of those things where if I say it out loud, I can put it in action. I can wish all day long for my dog to be able to do something, but he won’t learn it until I teach it to him, so it’s time to get my butt moving.

    I remember watching a video of a shiba who could point at something, well, she would get a question like “where is your brother” and she would put her paw on her brother. When I saw that video, I said out loud “I wish Mika could do that” and the next day, I went on trying to teach him to give me his paw (this was when he still didn’t like his paw held on to). I don’t remember how long it took, but “paw” is now a trick in his vocabulary. He still isn’t at the point where I can ask him to point something out, but at least he will give his paw to anyone who asks for it (especially if you have something he wants… like a T-r-e-a-t. lol).

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