As per Stanley Coren, beagles rank at 131 among the smartest dogs in the world. Stanley Coren is a renowned psychology professor, very well acclaimed for his understanding of canine behavior and the human and dog bond. Even though he places the Beagle at the bottom 10 of all the 138 dog breeds, pet owners would disagree. Beagles are anything but dumb dogs.
So, are beagles smart? Let’s see why these dogs are smarter than you would think.
How Intelligent Are They?
It is not possible to measure the intelligence of a dog on a standard test. Different dog breeds have different character traits and hence different motivators.
The test that Coren used utilized two criteria to measure the intelligence of a dog:
- How many repetitions did it take a dog to learn a new command? The fewer repetitions it required meant that the dog was more intelligent.
- How often did a dog obey a command on the first try? The higher the rate of success, the more intelligent and obedient the dog breed was considered.
However, the above criteria for an intelligence test seem flawed. Coren’s test seemed to check how obedient a dog was instead of how intelligent.
Coren believed that apart from obedience, there were two other aspects of dog intelligence-
The instinctive intelligence of a dog breed is basically its skill for which it was originally bred. Border Collie and German Shepherd were bred to control livestock on farms. The Golden Retriever was bred to retrieve game birds during hunting parties. Likewise, Beagles have an acute sense of smell and hence were originally bred as hunting dogs.
In fact, the Beagle, the Basset Hound, and the Bloodhound are the best scent hounds among all dog breeds.
There are about five million scent receptors in a human nose. The Beagle has about 220 million. Their keen sense of smell is what fuels their curiosity. They can smell such unique odors that they are nearly always distracted during obedience training. Instead of focussing on the command, the Beagle is more interested in knowing the source of the smell.
The superior sense of smell of a Beagle is what makes it one of the best hunting dogs. No surprises then that the Beagle is used as a sniffer dog at airports and other high-security areas.
The adaptive intelligence of a dog is how well it learns for itself. Just like instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence also varies greatly among dogs.
Beagles are one of the few dog breeds that learn from their mistakes. It is also incredibly astute in problem-solving. They can also very effectively communicate with humans. All these are signs of having high adaptive intelligence.
As per studies, Beagles are as intelligent as a human 2-year old. They can learn up to 150 words, understand simple gestures, and believe it or not, even process simple mathematical calculations. They can also figure out simple gadgets, as many Beagle owners would tell you.
A dog’s intelligence results from 51% of its genetics and 49% of its environment. Genetics and environmental circumstances together determine a dog’s problem-solving abilities, social training, memory, obedience, and observation power. That is why guard dogs, hunting dogs, sporting dogs, and herding dogs all require different levels of training and intelligence.
Where Are They Positioned Against Other Dog Breeds?
When it comes to work intelligence and obedience, Beagles are ranked much lower than other dog breeds, much like other hound dogs and terriers. They are not very obedient and take about 80 to 100 repetitions to learn a new command.
However, when it comes to instinctive intelligence and adaptive intelligence, Beagles are far better than other dog breeds.
Dr. Stanley Coren published a book in 1994 called the Intelligence of Dogs, in which he ranked over 100 different dog breeds.
Here are some of the major groups, according to Dr. Coren:
These dog breeds are obedient nearly 95% of the time and master commands in five repetitions or less. Border Collie and German Shepherd were supposedly the brightest dog breed.
Excellent Working Dogs
These dogs obey about 80% of the time and can comprehend commands in about 5 to 15 repetitions. Cocker Spaniel and Pembroke Welsh Corgi are considered excellent working dogs.
Above-Average Working Dogs
These dogs are obedient nearly 70% of the time and can follow new orders in 15 to 25 repetitions. Dogs like Dalmatians and Gordon Setter fall into this category.
Average Working Intelligence
These dogs understand new commands in 25 to 40 repetitions and are obedient almost 50% of the time. Siberian Huskies and Jack Russell Terriers are considered dogs with average working intelligence.
Fair Working Intelligence
Dogs in this category respond about 30% of the time and master commands in 40 to 80 repetitions. The Great Pyrenees and Scottish Terrier fall into this category.
Lowest Working Intelligence
These dog breeds are not very obedient. They respond in only about 25% of the cases. They also learn new commands in 80 to 100 repetitions. Beagles and Bloodhounds fall into this category.
How Can You Test Your Beagle’s Intelligence?
It is safe to say that most of your Beagle’s behavior is because it is using its reasoning and logic in deciding what to ignore and what to pay attention to. Your Beagle’s behavior is not because of its low intelligence but rather the opposite.
Beagles can understand nearly 200 words. So, have you ever wondered if your Beagle understands what you are saying?
There are a few tests that you can do to see how smart your Beagle is. Of course, you cannot compare home testing to clinical testing, but it will give you a fair idea about how smart your dog is.
Here are a few tests you can try:
You would need a towel for this test. Take a towel and give it to your Beagle to get familiar with. Now, pick up the towel and toss it over your dog’s head so that the towel completely covers your dog. The average dog takes about 15 to 30 seconds to get out of the towel. How long did your Beagle take? The faster your dog comes out, the higher the intelligence.
For this test, you would need three paper cups and a dog treat. Place the three cups upside down on the floor at about a distance of two feet from each other. Place a dog treat inside one of the cups. Make sure that your Beagle is watching you while you are placing the treat.
Take the Beagle to another room in the house and then return to the room with the three paper cups. Encourage your dog to get the dog treat. Does your Beagle get the right cup at the first go? If it does, then your dog has high intelligence, according to this test.
You can perform this test if you have a fenced-in backyard with a gate. Take your Beagle outside. Make sure that your Beagle is watching you while you toss a dog treat over the fence. Encourage your Beagle to get the treat. Is your Beagle able to figure out that it needs to use the gate to get to the other side of the fence? If yes, your Beagle is using logic.
For this test, you would need to use your Beagle's favorite chair or dog bed. Ensure that your Beagle has no way of seeing you while you do this. Rearrange the furniture when your dog is out of the room. Bring your dog back in and see if your dog can find its favorite spot. If it finds its spot in less than a minute, your dog is much more intelligent than the average dog.
Reveal The Treat
For this test, you will need a towel and a dog treat. Show your dog the dog treat and make sure that you have its undivided attention. Now place the treat on the floor and cover it with the towel. How long does your Beagle take to get the treat from under the towel? If it does so in less than 30 seconds, your dog is quite intelligent.
Reach The Treat Test
For this test, you would need to use your couch and a dog treat. As we said earlier, Beagles can be easily distracted. So, perform this test only when you are sure that your dog is paying attention to you. Show your dog its favorite dog treat and then place it under the couch. Make sure that you place it at such a distance that your dog can reach the treat with its paws but not with its muzzle.
Once you have placed the treat under the couch, sit back, and see how long your dog takes to reach the treat. If your Beagle can retrieve the treat using its paws in less than a minute, your dog scores quite highly on this intelligence test.
The Go For A Walk Test
You will need to perform this test at nearly the same time that you take your Beagle for a walk every day. Without saying a word to your dog, pick up the dog leash and your house keys. See how your dog reacts.
If your dog gets excited, then you know that it scores high on this intelligence test. What if you need to walk out the door before your dog reacts? Or what if it looks utterly confused and does not move at all? Well, sadly then, your dog does not score high on this test, but it is still adorable nonetheless.
The American Kennel Club accepted the Beagle as a breed of dog in 1885. Since then, Beagles have been much more popular in the United States and Canada than the UK, the country that they are originally from. Among all its registered breeds, the American Kennel Club ranked the Beagle No. 1 from 1953 to 1959.
Out of the 155 breeds registered, the Beagle ranked 5th in 2005 and 2006. It was ranked as the 4th most popular dog breed in 2012 and 2013.
No matter what intelligence tests say, Beagles are loving dogs and love human companionship. If you own a Beagle, remember they are food motivated, and you can easily train them by rewarding them with treats.
If you are thinking about getting a Beagle, it is a great choice. They are not just brave, intelligent, and friendly, but they also tend to have fewer health problems than other dogs. Yes, they can be distracted and single-minded at times. But one look at those adorable puppy eyes and floppy ears, and it is all worth it.