1) The official ranking of “most intelligent dogs” doesn’t actually measure intelligence.
On the American Kennel Club’s website, they have a list of “most intelligent” dogs. I quickly look through the list to find my dog’s breed – Shih Tzu. I find them at the bottom of the list. Huh. But what makes a dog “intelligent”? This ranking is actually based more on obedience and how well the breed can follow commands or orders with repetition. So when I tell my dog to sit or fetch he might not be dumb… maybe he doesn’t feel like it. Which leads us to the next reason…
2) Your dog gets how the reward system works. A little too well.
“Sit, Columbus!” He stares. “Fetch, Columbus!” He barks. I pull out a treat in view and Columbus starts getting antsy. “Sit, Columbus!” He sits. “Fetch, Columbus!” He fetches. “Stay!” He stays. I feed him the treat and then try and make him follow commands again – but he notices I don’t have any more treats, so he ignores me. Or when I call Columbus to come and say I have “a snack” he’ll come running but when he sees I don’t have anything he’ll immediately turn around and go back to bed. Columbus’ logic is: If I do what you say and don’t get a treat, it isn’t worth it.
3) Less time moving means more time observing.
One word to describe my dog would be manipulative. When my family eats at the dinner table, he used to beg and paw at each family member equally. But eventually, he notices patterns – he’s more likely to get food from my mom than from my brother, for example. So he’ll stick by mom’s side during dinner because he knows the probability of getting food is higher. My mom tends to pamper Columbus more than my dad – so when my dad picks up the towel to give Columbus a bath and my whole family is sitting on the couch, he makes a beeline to my mom for protection.
Sleeping shih tzu
4) Is your dog more like a cat?
There is a saying that “cats are smarter than dogs” – they do what they want, and are known to “own their human owners”. It isn’t entirely false – a cat’s brain has almost double the amount of neurons than in a dog’s brain. They focus on perceiving and observing… and sleeping. Columbus knows which human to go to depending on what he needs – if he needs to go out, he’ll go to my dad. If he wants food, he’ll go to my mom. If he wants to play with his toy, he’ll go to me or my brother. Sometimes he’ll come when called but it really depends on how he feels – if he’s too comfortable in bed, he won’t move – and he knows he won’t get punished for it. So… maybe your dog isn’t lazy, just too smart for your own good.