Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train
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  1. #21
    Senior Member Pawzk9's Avatar
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Quote Originally Posted by Crantastic View Post
    Those "most intelligent breed" lists read more as "more easily trainable breed" lists to me. Those are the breeds you see most often in obedience and rally or doing police or service work. They've been bred to work closely with people, like GottaLuvMutts said, so they are more into pleasing their owners than other, perhaps equally as smart but not as easily trainable, breeds are. Here's the list I see referred to most frequently:

    Border Collie
    Poodle
    German Shepherd
    Golden Retriever
    Doberman Pinscher
    Shetland Sheepdog
    Labrador Retriever
    Papillon
    Rottweiler
    Australian Cattle Dog

    Out of those, I've only owned a Papillon, but mine is definitely intelligent and biddable. I can teach her a new command in less than five repetitions. My Alaskan Klee Kai is smart, but he is not as interested in pleasing me. He works for the food, not the love.

    Here are the bottom dogs:

    Shih Tzu
    Basset Hound
    Mastiff
    Beagle
    Pekingese
    Bloodhound
    Borzoi
    Chow Chow
    Bulldog
    Basenji
    Afghan Hound

    Lots of hounds, haha. I don't think any of those breeds are stupid. They're just more independent. Look at the Basenji, for example... I've heard from many people that they're smart, but cat-like and not easy to train.
    I always thought it was interesting that ACD ranked so high on Coren's "smart dog list" and Australian Shepherds ranked so low. Thought was that they were so little known by AKC types when the book came out. Not saying ACDs are dumb (they definitely aren't) but they are not as high in biddability, which frequently is what humans are really looking for when they are looking for intelligence in other species. A lot of smart dogs get called dumb because their agenda isn't the same as ours. At the last Obedience Regional I went to, (when Aussies were pretty new to AKC) the lady in front of me in line at the welcome dinner noticed my Aussie t-shirt and went into a tirade about how disappointed she was in what she'd seen as far as brains in Aussies. Then she asked what class I was in. I told her open and she said "oh! I'm your judge tomorrow!" but she did give Phoebe a very high score.

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  3. #22
    Senior Member wvasko's Avatar
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Quote Originally Posted by KBLover View Post
    In other words, it's a human-centric (i.e. the dog obeys me more quickly) list with no real regard or measurement for the dog's actual intelligences and the tasks/learning styles/training methods that best suit them?

    If so - what's the point?

    Especially considering any dog can be easily trained if you find (and use) his motivation and have a personality and teaching style that matches the dog's personality.
    90 breeds trained, some more than others and I have stated before it's not the breed it's the dog. There are just so many variables between dogs and trainers/owners and every breed will have an owner who claims his is the bestest/smartest ever. (I know "bestest" not a word) but it just sounded good in head. Probably the smartest dog that I was fortunate to train was a Polish Owczarek Nizinny named Hobart, He was an absolute dream. I know absolutely nothing about the breed just this particular dog in that breed.

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    Last edited by wvasko; 01-13-2011 at 05:10 AM.
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  4. #23
    Zoi
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Hey guys i'm just curious, how will you rank a Jack Russell?

  5. #24
    Senior Member LazyGRanch713's Avatar
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Quote Originally Posted by KBLover View Post



    Yeah - like I said to Crantastic, an animal that looks like a dog but doesn't have a mind of their own and doesn't make any noise (so they should at least communicate via supersonic hearing so they are seen, petted when I feel like it, and not heard)

    Never mind that the dog is probably barking because it's them trying to create their own stimulation because they aren't getting any. Mr/Mrs. Average probably never thought of that. They just think the dog is disobeying and therefore must be punished (or worse, given up/pts, and they continue look for this mythical dog-look-a-like animal).

    I think that list isn't so much easiest for the average owner, but easiest for the average dog trainer/owner-with-a-trainer-mindset. I could see an average trainer achieving success with the 'easier' dogs that put up more with inconsistent signals, weaker (not outright horrible) timing, poorer (not outright clueless) execution, or just not having a clear idea of what the behavior should look like, so accept weaker/wrong versions of the correct behavior, but the dog figures it out fast and gives the right response almost every time and this issue rarely shows up.

    Meanwhile, the 'harder' dogs are probably just more unorthodox in how you approach them (so basic out-of-the-book methods probably won't fly, at least not without modification) and the average trainer would struggle more.

    The average dog owner would struggle with them all, especially with what was said in Culture Clash.
    That, and it's always possible that the dog never gets much good attention and being told to shut up, be quiet, etc is still attention. Some dogs shut off when spoken to harshly, some consider it an invitation to be your bestest buddy, kwim?

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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Quote Originally Posted by Zoi View Post
    Hey guys i'm just curious, how will you rank a Jack Russell?
    The more pertinent question is how your JRT ranks you in the trainability department. Most that I've seen have had far more success training their humans than the other way around.

    JRTs--and most terriers--are above average smart and on the tough side to train. The latter is the reason their intelligence is routinely underestimated. Terriers tend to be highly trainable, but you need to develop the proper rapport if you hope to get anywhere with them. They are not Golden Retrievers, and won't necessarily work for a kindly smile from Master. Won't necessarily admit that any human holds the title of "Master".

    The same techniques that work for any dog will work on terriers, but terriers "go to eleven". You need to start off correctly, be more consistent, and head off problems before they occur. That requires strategy. Tough love is okay, but don't try to bully them. You shouldn't bully any dog, but a good terrier is born missing the part of his brain that would allow him to back down from a fight. Choose your battles wisely; win the battles you choose.
    If I have to give my dog treats for obeying commands, then the terrorists have won.

  7. #26
    Senior Member GypsyJazmine's Avatar
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    LGD breeds are independent thinkers & not easy to train because of this...With that said I keep 4 Great Pyrs & an AkbashxMaremma & haven't found them THAT difficult to train...Then again these are the only kinds of dogs that I've ever had so maybe I would find another breed easier.

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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Ya know, the thing about hounds...it really depends on a lot of things. Obviously, I have sighthounds. I do not need them well-trained because typically, these breeds are very well-mannered dogs. They are just very polite, lazy dogs (generally speaking), who need little training.

    Yes, they are often tough to train. But I know of plenty of Greyhounds and Borzoi with advanced obedience, agility, and rally titles. the thing to remember is a sense of humor. I have had plenty of nights in training classes where I have had to roll my eyes, chuckle, praise the dog for breathing, and sit on the sidelines and watch. They certainly DO NOT learn the same way as many other breeds. BUT, as already stated, they ARE NOT unintelligent breeds! There are, however, less intelligent individuals. Xeph and Keechak have each met Cooper! LOL
    Sarah, the human, Manero, Henley, and Armani, the Borzoi boys, and Brubeck the Deerhound..
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    Senior Member KBLover's Avatar
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Quote Originally Posted by LazyGRanch713 View Post
    That, and it's always possible that the dog never gets much good attention and being told to shut up, be quiet, etc is still attention. Some dogs shut off when spoken to harshly, some consider it an invitation to be your bestest buddy, kwim?

    Yep, it's like "OH YOU TALKED TO ME OH GOOD NOW MAYBE WE'LL DO SOMETHING!"

    Interesting how aversive becomes pos. reinforcement in the right situation, isn't it?

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  10. #29
    Senior Member LazyGRanch713's Avatar
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Quote Originally Posted by KBLover View Post
    Yep, it's like "OH YOU TALKED TO ME OH GOOD NOW MAYBE WE'LL DO SOMETHING!"

    Interesting how aversive becomes pos. reinforcement in the right situation, isn't it?
    It is, and IMO it all goes back to the discussion that asks "what is an aversive"? Food isn't aversive to most people unless they have the flu...the same way smacking Auz across the butt with a toy is reinforcing to him (it starts a great game), but it's aversive to Tag ("my mom STRUCK me....WTF??!") A Buster Cube is highly rewarding to Tag, but (IMO) somewhat aversive to Dude because he never figured out how to make it work. (He knows the food is there, and it frustrates him.) My job is usually very reinforcing, but some days its highly aversive

    Quote Originally Posted by GypsyJazmine View Post
    LGD breeds are independent thinkers & not easy to train because of this...With that said I keep 4 Great Pyrs & an AkbashxMaremma & haven't found them THAT difficult to train...Then again these are the only kinds of dogs that I've ever had so maybe I would find another breed easier.
    I've found my paps to be much more biddable than my GSD, and GSD's are "#3" in intelligence while paps are "#8".
    If I use Premack on the Premack King (aka the GSD), he "becomes" much more biddable.
    If there's even a slight chance of a hint that I might decide to break out some food, Tag becomes Biddability Boy.
    Last edited by LazyGRanch713; 01-14-2011 at 08:29 AM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost

  11. #30
    Senior Member Pawzk9's Avatar
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Quote Originally Posted by LazyGRanch713 View Post
    It is, and IMO it all goes back to the discussion that asks "what is an aversive"? Food isn't aversive to most people unless they have the flu...the same way smacking Auz across the butt with a toy is reinforcing to him (it starts a great game), but it's aversive to Tag ("my mom STRUCK me....WTF??!") A Buster Cube is highly rewarding to Tag, but (IMO) somewhat aversive to Dude because he never figured out how to make it work. (He knows the food is there, and it frustrates him.) My job is usually very reinforcing, but some days its highly aversive


    I've found my paps to be much more biddable than my GSD, and GSD's are "#3" in intelligence while paps are "#8".
    If I use Premack on the Premack King (aka the GSD), he "becomes" much more biddable.
    If there's even a slight chance of a hint that I might decide to break out some food, Tag becomes Biddability Boy.
    Canned spinach is aversive to me! (have never quite gotten over being forced to eat it at summer camp) It gets pretty easy when you realize that the dog choses what is reinforcing and what is aversive. What we think should be fun or not fun only matters if we ask the dog.

  12. #31
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    The easiest to train breeds to me have to be,
    Border Collies,
    Labrador Retrievers,
    Doberman Pischers,
    Belgian Sheepdogs,
    Australian Cattle dogs,
    etc...
    The hardest to train dogs on my list are,
    shih Tzus
    Dalmatians
    Siberian huskies (since they're so stubborn, but are still very intelligent)
    basset hounds
    chow chows
    Now what commands you’re trying to teach a type of dog can also determine the difficulty level you will have with that breed on that particular task. Some breeds are better than others at learning certain tricks at faster rates while learning other slower.
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    Senior Member Laurelin's Avatar
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Train in what is my question.

    It depends on breed some, but also the individual. For example, all the dogs I've ever had are on the 'top 10' list. I just like that style of dogs- very in tune with their owner and keyed in all the time. I've had a BC/collie mix, a labrador, a GSD/Golden, Shelties, and papillons for what it's worth.

    The easiest dog I find to train is by far Summer, my oldest papillon. She is very into people, very food motivated (toy drive is nonexistent). She is not overly intelligent though. She's not dumb, but not a big independent thinker. Summer is just constantly asking 'okay what are we going to do? Is this what you want? Is this?" And she has a lot of focus too. She can learn a behavior in just a repetition or two and links behaviors together very easily. Summer will work for anything, you don't need a reward for her. She'll just do it because she really lives to please. Mia is a much harder dog to train in so many ways, easier in others. Mia is also by far the smartest dog I've owned. She is higher drive so motivating her is easier. She does everything faster and with more gusto than Summer. On the flip side, she gets over the top a LOT and I have to calm her down. She is easily frustrated if I'm not moving fast enough and easily distracted if something else shiny catches her eye. But when she's on, she is ON. She connects dots faster together and is a lot more able to independently come up with things on her own. She's a good combination of in tune but yet independent and is just a fun dog for me to handle. Then Bernard is half husky, I swear. He just doesn't give a flip what you're telling him to do. Could care less. You tell him something and he sits there, works through it, decides he doesn't want to, and then flips you off and does what he wants. But in general out of the 7 papillons I've had, 6 have been very people oriented and easy to work with.

    I DO think breed plays a part but it's not the end all be all. Not all BCs are whizzes, not all hounds are untrainable. My last sheltie was dumber than a box of rocks. Sweet, but missing something in his head. My other two shelties were the total opposites and were very bright and clever dogs. But I have a really hard time working with hounds. (I found this out after being paired with beagle after beagle when I worked in rescue and after living with my friends' beagle a long while). Certain human personality types mesh with certain types of dogs I find. I could never own a husky or a hound. Just not my type of dog and I just don't 'get' them. I will most likely only ever own papillons and herding type dogs.

    A lot will be figuring out what you like. Mia would drive most people up the wall trying to do anything with her. I love it though and it's a nice balance of challenging (she's not a dog to robotically obey like Summer does) and still driven to work with you.

    Quote Originally Posted by LazyGRanch713 View Post
    I've found my paps to be much more biddable than my GSD, and GSD's are "#3" in intelligence while paps are "#8".
    If I use Premack on the Premack King (aka the GSD), he "becomes" much more biddable.
    If there's even a slight chance of a hint that I might decide to break out some food, Tag becomes Biddability Boy.
    The paps overall (sans Nard) are the most biddable dogs I've owned and all I've owned are sporters and herders. Much much much more biddable than the shelties especially. I don't know exactly why that is. Most spaniels have a reputation for being a bit doofy and unintelligent. Every time someone's heard of papillons though before I get asked "Aren't those dogs really smart?" I'm not sure how that gets around either. But yes, I find them to be just a joy to work with. They're almost too easy in some ways. I feel like I'm cheating LOL.
    Last edited by Laurelin; 01-14-2011 at 11:25 AM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
    Mia CGC - (5 year old papillon)
    Summer TG3 TIAD - (10 year old papillon)
    Hank- (10 month old Spotty Dog)

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    Senior Member LazyGRanch713's Avatar
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Quote Originally Posted by Laurelin View Post
    The paps overall (sans Nard) are the most biddable dogs I've owned and all I've owned are sporters and herders. Much much much more biddable than the shelties especially. I don't know exactly why that is. Most spaniels have a reputation for being a bit doofy and unintelligent. Every time someone's heard of papillons though before I get asked "Aren't those dogs really smart?" I'm not sure how that gets around either. But yes, I find them to be just a joy to work with. They're almost too easy in some ways. I feel like I'm cheating LOL.
    If I were to compare my papillons to the GSD, the GSD would be voted dumber than a box of rocks. Like you're sheltie, there's something "missing" there that doesn't lend him to retaining things he learned 2 minutes ago. It's weird.
    However, if I were to put all 3 of my dogs on sheep, I can probably guess who would be the "smart" one.
    Likewise, if I were to put my 3 up against a sighthound in the coursing department, I can probably guess who would be the "smart" one.
    When it comes to Tag, he's the reason I'm leaning toward competition. If I didn't, it would feel like I was completely wasting his talent.

  15. #34
    Senior Member Pawzk9's Avatar
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Quote Originally Posted by LazyGRanch713 View Post
    If I were to compare my papillons to the GSD, the GSD would be voted dumber than a box of rocks. Like you're sheltie, there's something "missing" there that doesn't lend him to retaining things he learned 2 minutes ago. It's weird.
    However, if I were to put all 3 of my dogs on sheep, I can probably guess who would be the "smart" one.
    Likewise, if I were to put my 3 up against a sighthound in the coursing department, I can probably guess who would be the "smart" one.
    When it comes to Tag, he's the reason I'm leaning toward competition. If I didn't, it would feel like I was completely wasting his talent.
    I think the thing is, we humans tend to classify animal intelligence based on what is most useful to us, not what is most useful for them. For instance, is there a greater miracle in the animal kingdom than the honey bee? I think if we really want to compare intelligence we have to look at what animals do what is most useful for them.

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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Quote Originally Posted by GypsyJazmine View Post
    LGD breeds are independent thinkers & not easy to train because of this...With that said I keep 4 Great Pyrs & an AkbashxMaremma & haven't found them THAT difficult to train...Then again these are the only kinds of dogs that I've ever had so maybe I would find another breed easier.
    Ahhh I love LGD's, gotta have at least one. I have an ASD/Rott and an ASD/BC. The BC mix is much more responsive, I can call her off chasing rabbits, and has a higher work drive but if she thinks there is a threat to mom, well then the ASD side really comes out and the only thing to do is eliminate/remove the threat. There is not really any reasoning with her when she is in guardian display mode. The Rottie mix is highly food motivated but when I call her I have a 50/50 chance that she will come. She will always acknowledge that I am calling her but its almost as if she says "Wait a minute I have to finish checking the perimeter then I will be right there."

    I think the hardest dogs I have ever had to train were pugs. I used to wonder what Spanky (a pug) was thinking or if he was thinking. He never had any sort of recall till the day he died.

    When my SO got his first mtn cur the breeder gave him the dog and offered to sell him a club. and no he never beat the dog although sometimes he was tempted.

    There has been alot of good points in this thread. Just remember you have to be smarter than the dog to train them and a smart dog knows when to obey but a smarter dog knows when to disobey.

  17. #36
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Quote Originally Posted by Zoi View Post
    Hey guys i'm just curious, how will you rank a Jack Russell?
    Personally, I've found JRTs to be extremely trainable. But not everyone shares that opinion. I agree with what others have posted, in that ease of training correlates to the handler's understanding of a particular dog/breed's main motivation.

    When I adopted my JRT, I took him to a group class. He is extremely intelligent, and picked up free-shaping very, very quickly. He took very few repetitions to understand what I wanted from him. But in the group class, I constantly had people saying things like, "good luck" "I heard they are hard to train" etc. I think one thing that people find tough with JRTs is that they are very independent. When learning, my boy enjoys that, and he will work like mad. But once he understands the behavior I want, if I repeat it too much, he will take off, like "I know this, why should I do it again?" So my challenge is to constantly keep him on his toes. And this holds true for lots of dogs. When refreshing/proofing known behaviors, I change things up constantly, otherwise I'll lose him for that session.

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    Senior Member K8IE's Avatar
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Gosh, this is a really hard question. I have dealt with a lot of dogs besides my own in my pet sitting jobs, as well as friends wanting me to come over to help them out with their dogs. I honestly don't think I could generalize much, because I have seen several dogs that are stereotyped as being harder to train be so well behaved and trained that it blows me away. I really think it all comes down to a dog being with the right owner, and said owner truly developing a relationship with their dog and finding what motivates them and how to "speak" to them, in a way. I am presently raising my first Bulldog pup and it is true what they say about them being stubborn and having "a mind of their own", lol. My Boxers have always been really easy to train, but I have met some that are not. LIke I said though, SO hard to generalize, because there are so many factors to take into account.

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  19. #38
    Senior Member Jacksons Mom's Avatar
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    I do believe that for the MOST part, it's the human behind the dog and not the dog to be blamed. But not in ALL cases of course. There's always exceptions to every "rule".

    Jackson is a 2 year old terrier who has been so easy to train from the beginning. He knows probably close to 50 tricks right now, plus other commands and words, and also listens to other people (as long as they have food). He's willing, he's food motivated, he loves me (but, I admit, he's usually doing the tricks for the food, LOL). But we do have a tight bond and he trusts me and is willing to "listen" to me and hear what I have to "say"... if that makes sense. I just love watching him trying to figure something out. If I put a shoe down in front of him, for example, he will try everything to see what it is that I want him to do. However, if I put a shoe out in front of my dads Dachshund mix, Buddy, he will typically stare at me and give me a "wtf, I'm not touching that, just give me the treat" look. Buddy is the hardest dog I've found to motivate, but it's in him. You've just gotta be SUPER excited and get him pumped up, and use a REALLY good treat.

    My dads JRT mix is often called 'stupid' because she barks constantly, she is always going potty in the house, and is typically an all around PITA. I see a ton of potential in her, however, and I think had she been trained, she could have been an amazing dog, and still could be. I did a few agility stuff with her in the backyard by using things around us like logs and sticks, and picnic tables, and she was very willing and able. So in her case, it's just a matter of nobody ever TEACHING her.

    I would definitely say that breeds that were bred to work closer to people are "smarter" in general. I really like that Jackson is also willing to think for himself. And while Jackson is probably the smartest dog I've ever met (including dogs I dogsit and grew up with), he's still not ever going to be at "Border Collie level". I've also put the time and energy into Jackson that alot of people don't put into their dogs. He never ever liked tennis balls or frisbees, or anything. But because I taught him that they were good and positive things -- he now dives into swimming pools fetching his favorite toys, he will be motivated and focused on a frisbee, and he loves to chase tennis balls. Had I not ever TAUGHT him that these things are fun, he's not the kind of dog who naturally would have enjoyed those things, had I not been behind him teaching him.

    Quote Originally Posted by K8IE View Post
    Gosh, this is a really hard question. I have dealt with a lot of dogs besides my own in my pet sitting jobs, as well as friends wanting me to come over to help them out with their dogs. I honestly don't think I could generalize much, because I have seen several dogs that are stereotyped as being harder to train be so well behaved and trained that it blows me away. I really think it all comes down to a dog being with the right owner, and said owner truly developing a relationship with their dog and finding what motivates them and how to "speak" to them, in a way. I am presently raising my first Bulldog pup and it is true what they say about them being stubborn and having "a mind of their own", lol. My Boxers have always been really easy to train, but I have met some that are not. LIke I said though, SO hard to generalize, because there are so many factors to take into account.
    ^^ Yes, exactly this. I think that a true bond and relationship has to be formed with your dog in order to get a dog to do amazing things, or whatever. It's not something that you can just expect to happen (in most cases).
    Last edited by Jacksons Mom; 01-16-2011 at 04:42 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost

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  20. #39
    Senior Member LazyGRanch713's Avatar
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    Quote Originally Posted by Pawzk9 View Post
    I think the thing is, we humans tend to classify animal intelligence based on what is most useful to us, not what is most useful for them. For instance, is there a greater miracle in the animal kingdom than the honey bee? I think if we really want to compare intelligence we have to look at what animals do what is most useful for them.
    Right. Also, it would be interesting to know exactly what methods were used when describing what breeds are the "most trainable". A field bred lab with an extremely high pain tolerance and good bounce back would probably respond better to "sit...::op::: no, SIT" training than a thin-skinned sighthound. Likewise, I've found my cats to be easily taught and a lot of people will say you can't teach cats anything.
    A dog doing whatever it's owner or handler says is one thing, but a dog with hard-wired genetics (LGD's, for instance) that instinctively know what to do is pretty amazing, if you ask me.

  21. #40
    Senior Member Tankstar's Avatar
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    Re: Hardest and easiest dog breeds to train

    I personally think it has alot to do with the trainer as opposed to the breed (breed as a whole. offcourse there is always a exception)

    I grew up with collies and toy poodles. Easy to train dogs, pretty much trained their selves. As my family was what i would call you average owner. We were happy with potty trained dogs, dogs who came when called, and could do the very basics (sit, stay, lay down, come)

    I still have a collie. but now I have one of those "stubborn breeds" as well, a beagle. Now he is only going on 5 months old. but so far he is very smart, and willing to learn. I have high hopes for him and I in rally and agility, and hope it all works out. but So far so good. Food motivates him like no other. But toys can make him just as happy. he exceled through puppy school. Even beating the golden retrievers in class (3 of them). Our instructor (who does rally, agility, CGN ect with her dogs) was/is very impressed with how he is turning out.

    Take golden retrievers and labs for example. "very easy to train" breeds. Yet the average owners lab or golden i normally find to be very "rude", as in pushy in your face dogs normally. Very happy and sweet but over the top happy and sweet, knowing no boundries in your face. Most I meet will not think about jumping right on you, or running off ignoring their owner to meet another dog or human. My point is it would be easy to train them to not jump directly on people, and easy to train them to come when called. Yet the average owner doesnt do either, as they think this is a train itself sorta breed. since these breeds have been drilled in to peoples heads as the perfect dog breeds to choose.
    Last edited by Tankstar; 01-17-2011 at 08:39 AM.

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