I Gave My Dog An IQ Test And Here’s What Happened

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

March 5, 2016

Like most dog parents (or any parent, for that matter), my husband and I think our two-year-old Australian Shepherd is incredibly bright. I swear she understands long strings of English and she rings a bell to tell us when she has to go potty.

Winnie Close Up

But she also has her derpy moments, like the monthlong stretch when she would poop and then immediately step in it every single time, or the time she ran snout-first into a sliding glass door.

I wondered where Winnie fell on the bell curve of canine intelligence, so I found a doggie IQ test you can administer at home. Read on to see how Winnie fared and how you can test your own dog’s puptitude.

1. The Blanket Test

Toss a blanket over your dog’s head in one swift motion. Start your stopwatch and time how long it takes her to break free from her blanket prison like a canine version of Shawshank Redemption. At first, Winnie froze. Then she started to wiggle her head and she shimmied the blanket off in 19 seconds, which earned her 3 points.

Towel Test

We were off to a great start. I began to envision the newspaper headline: First Dog Ever Accepted to Harvard Undergrad.

  • Succeeds in 30 seconds or less = 3 points
  • Succeeds in 31 seconds-2 minutes = 2 points
  • Tries but doesn’t shake the blanket off in 2 minutes = 1 point
  • Doesn’t attempt to free himself from blanket = 0 points

2. Treat Beneath a Towel

Take a high-value treat (I alternated between her favorite milkbone and cut-up string cheese) and place it on the floor. The test advises to make sure your dog is watching you place the treat on the ground, which is a superfluous instruction in my household; if I’m holding string cheese, my husband could be bleeding out and I would still have Winnie’s undivided attention.

Cover the treat with a towel and start the stopwatch to see how long it takes your dog to get at the treat. This was Winnie’s first setback; she couldn’t get the towel off the treat. At one point, she placed her tongue on the covered string cheese and attempted to suck in the flavor through the towel. I’ve been known to do similar things to get to cheese.

Towel Treat Test

She earned just 1 point on this task. I canceled the 529 college tuition savings plan I had started.

  • Succeeds in 30 seconds or less = 3 points
  • Succeeds in 31-60 seconds = 2 points
  • Tries but doesn’t uncover treat in 1 minute = 1 point
  • Doesn’t try = 0 points

3. Treat Beneath a Plank

Now we’re cooking with gas. Take two small stacks of books and lay a wooden plank across the top. Weigh down the plank so your dog can’t knock it over. Place a treat beneath a towel beneath the plank. It should be designed so that your dog can reach the towel with his paws but not his muzzle. Start your stopwatch and encourage your pup to get the treat.

Plank Test 1

Winnie quickly batted at the towel to pull it from beneath the plank. Huzzah! Her success, however, was short-lived. Again, she couldn’t get the towel off the milkbone. Instead, she readily accepted this new fate—that all her treats now come inexplicably wrapped in a dish towel—and began happily chewing the milkbone through the towel.

Plank Test

After two distressing minutes of watching Winnie flounder, I leaned over and mussed up the towel emphatically, hoping my actions would spark a lightbulb moment for her. My husband (who was taking these photos) told me that was cheating.


“Am I a stage mom?” I wondered aloud. “Move, you’re blocking her best light,” replied my husband. This is why we got married. Winnie ultimately failed to uncover the treat but still earned two points, the equivalent of a flimsy blue ribbon emblazoned with the words “Good Effort.”

  • Succeeds within 2 minutes (using his paws) = 4 points
  • Succeeds within 3 minutes (using his paws) = 3 points
  • Fails within 3 minutes but uses his paws = 2 points
  • Fails and only uses his muzzle = 1 point
  • Doesn’t try = 0 points

4. Treat Beneath a Cup

This task is designed to measure your dog’s memory. Place a treat beneath a plastic cup, then instruct your pooch to find it. Lift the cup to show the dog where it is and repeat up to 10 times until your dog understands that treats go beneath the plastic cup.

Next, place three cups upside down, spaced about a foot part. Place a treat beneath one of the cups with your dog watching. Lead the pup out of the room for 30 seconds, then bring him back and encourage him to find the treat. Start the stopwatch and see how long it takes.

Cup Test

Winnie went to the wrong cup first but eventually found the treat beneath the correct cup before two minutes were up. She earned 1 point. At this point, I was happy for anything above a zero.

Cup Test 2

  • Checks beneath the right cup on the first try = 2 points
  • Finds the treat within two minutes = 1 point
  • Doesn’t find it = 0 points

5. Add Up Your Results

Winnie scored 7 points, which places her in the average range according to this IQ test. To my husband and me, she’ll always be a little Einstein. Just one who sometimes steps in her own poop.

  • 11–12 points = Guaranteed Appearance on “The Ellen Show”
  • 8–10 points = Honor Roll Student
  • 4–7 points = Your Average Pooch
  • 1–3 points = Mensa Is Not Interested, Stop Calling This Number, Thanks
  • 0 points = A Cat

Featured image via Jorie Larsen

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Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

March 5, 2016

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