The puppies are four weeks old, and at this point in time, they start to really develop unique personalities. You can start to measure their temperament and if you know how to play the right games you can figure out if your puppy is a little more intelligent of a pup. Not saying he’s going to go to Harvard, but if you have a more intelligent dog they do pick up on things quicker and it can make them easier to train. I understand that this may not be top priority for everyone who’s searching for a puppy, but there are times, such as special needs service animals, when customers are in a greater need of a dog which learns faster.
I want to stress however, ALL puppies are great and trainable. In fact, most of your dogs behavior comes by way of the owners/trainers ability to be patient and work on the right behaviors through positive reinforcement, but elevating intelligence is a valuable trait. Also keep in mind, the puppies are still developing, and just like our children, some take a little longer to mentally develop and mature.
Intelligence testing is basically broke down into four tests. Each are on a three point system. A higher score indicates a higher intelligence at this point in their development. We run through all four tasks with each puppies, once in the morning, once in the evening. The next day, we perform the tests again, but this time score them. That way we can see if they are picking up and remembering from the times before.
Not to side bar to much, but we have had a trainer working with us and our adult dogs, and much of it is repetition of commands, then positive reinforcement of behaviors so that the behaviors become healthy habits. Positive reinforcement, such as in giving them a treat when done right, will reinforce the correct behaviors, then later when the command is associated with a treat, they will perform without the treats. This can be done in five minute a day increments. Don’t make it a heavy task because then it’s harder for you to stay with it as well. During the morning, before breakfast, is the best time for training a puppy and to use their regular kibble as their high quality treats. This works well with this breed because they are usually pretty food motivated. Now back to the topic at hand.
For the first intelligence test, we start by putting a towel over the puppy. If the puppy starts to work and wiggle their way out from under the towel and gets out pretty quickly he gets three points. Now, if the towel gets put over the puppy and they wiggle for just a little bit and then give up, then they earn two points. Finally, if you throw the towel over their head and they literally just sit there completely still unknowing of what to do then they get a one.
The next test is just a simple hiding of a treat underneath a towel. You just watch to see whether or not your dog can figure out how to route that treat out from under the towel by following the scent. They get scored on if they track the treat and then start searching for the treat, and also if they keep up the persistence to find it. Some puppies loose interest to quickly, which results in a lower score.
The third test we perform is, while holding the puppy up right we slowly move the dog towards the wall. If they put their feet out to stop them then they get a three. If they don’t do it on the first try, but they get it on the second, then they receive a two, then a one if they do not get it on the second try. Now keep in mind, we have done run through attempts during the prior day, so I am not magically asking them to be born with the knowledge, just whether or not they can remember and apply it from past experience
Lastly, I take two cups and put a treat under one of the cups as the puppy is watching. Then I take the puppy and face him in the opposite direction of the cups and play with him for just a little bit about 10 or 15 seconds. I then turn the puppy back around to face the cups again to see if they remember where the treat was placed. If they remember to go to the cup immediately, and knocks it over to get the treat, they receive three points. If the puppy remembers that it’s under the cup, but then struggles with figuring out how to knock the cup over, then they get two points. Only one point is given if the puppy doesn’t even realize that the treat is in a cup.
I understand that these are very simple tests, but these are very young dogs. This doesn’t give all the info on our pups, yet it does help us figure out which pups would be better qualified to fulfill the unique and special needs of certain customers. One thing is for certain, their is no substitute for taking the time with your puppy. Providing them love, kindness, and positive reinforcement will, not only lead to a better behaved pouch, but one that is happy, healthy, and well adjusted to life.