From German Shepherd temperament you know that being rather intelligent was a desirable dog personality trait for the "breed founder" Max v. Stephanitz, and so intelligence was one of the many dog personality traits that he and his successors selected breeding stock for.
But let's first make sure you understand the meaning of dog temperament:
And so let's be clear right away:
How intelligent a particular dog is at say age 2 years or whatever, has more to do with upbringing than with inherited traits: playing brain games with dogs and with puppies improves their respective intelligence.
That dog brain game there is a great crossover to think about what actually is dog intelligence?
Dog intelligence compared to humans
For people, this view of human intelligence is one of the most sensible IMHO:
But you realize immediately:
- the split of intelligence into 9 types of intelligence doesn't explain what is intelligence, only: "in what areas of life is intelligence useful and might show up?"
- the split of intelligence is a human concept, not biological fact
- and: the there proposed 9 types of human intelligence clearly don't apply to dogs!
And that's because it's a human concept, not biological fact of what is intelligence.
So putting our biologist hat on let's look deeper:
What actually is "Intelligence"?
As always at MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG this is a great definition because it is disjunct: clear, precise, and consistent.
You notice there is no artificial differentiation between "types of intelligence", nor between "areas in the brain that are active when solving different kinds of problems".
Why does it not discuss HOW the greater ability to form new neuronal connections works in the offspring?
Because this is not yet understood: Today we still don't know why in the intelligent dogs or people new neuronal connections form with ease, while in the ... they don't.
Either way you see here: You may be born intelligent like hell, or your German Shepherd temperament: intelligent may be very pronounced, and yet if one or both of you don't make use of the greater ability to form new neuronal connections then all of this inherited personality trait went to waste.
Temperament: intelligent -vs- Personality: intelligent
This again shows why I and other thinking academics always say:
In terms of your German Shepherd: Nurture this greater ability to form new neuronal connections, challenge already your puppy's mental capabilities during puppy socialization and adult dog socialization, during training, and play the right way with your dog and puppy.
How to improve dog intelligence
So what can we do to awaken the German Shepherd temperament: intelligent?
To have a smarter dog? Not necessarily smarter than ourselves but smart enough to be our personal i-robot?
Well, allowing the dog's brain to actually form many new neuronal connections as the individual dog's temperament trait: intelligent provided for!
- Provide the dog with ample socialization of huge variety
- Behavior training inherently nurtures intelligence while obedience nurtures mere compliance
- Play the right games with your dog and puppy
- Take new paths on dog walks, go hiking and seek out adventures for both of you or all the family.
Likewise, we wouldn't be taking our favorite way today nor be doing our favorite pastime today, had we not sometime earlier decided: "JUST TRY IT OUT".
Playing the right brain games
Point 3 above was: "play the right games". So what are the right games to play with our dog or puppy?
It is tempting to think: "I have Kyra Sundance' 101 Dog Tricks book, that will also do the trick in my dog's brain!"
Yes, it will absolutely form new neuronal connections (in both of you), no doubt it will improve intelligence. Nonetheless that's just coincidental.
To truly nurture your German Shepherd temperament: intelligent, getting the fundament right is more effective, and even more fun.
IMHO, great books to getting the fundament right, playing the right games with the dog and puppy alike, are these:
- Claire Arrowsmith's Brain Games for Dogs
- Claire Arrowsmith's Brain Games for Puppies
- Pat Miller's Play with your dog
- Anne Kvam's The Canine Kingdom of Scent
The last one particularly helps to form new neuronal connections in the German Shepherd because our dog breed is no scent dog!
Note though that everything will work so much better and easier, if you train your own observation skill first. Because if we cannot read canine body language we misinterprete the subtler nuances what the dog is communicating: do we play right?
An addictive new way to train your own observation skill I have found is doing these dog picture puzzles. It's for adult dog owners, oh yes.
Now let's get back to my earlier question.
What is dog intelligence?
Traditionally, canine intelligence was thought to be the "ability to learn and obey commands" because for anyone working with dogs the Obedience Training mindset was the only existing mindset.
Then came Stanley Coren who questioned this old human perception of dog intelligence. Coren suggested a different human concept that splits dog intelligence into three "major dimensions" as he called it in his easily readable book The Intelligence of Dogs: Consciousness:
- instinctive intelligence: do well what the dog was bred for
- adaptive intelligence: do well what benefits the dog in his current living situation
- working and obedience intelligence: responding well to commands
Wondering about My German Shepherd Miguel?
Today at age 4 years, the occasional refresher is all that he needs.
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