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Are German Shepherds Smart?

Are German Shepherds Smart?

Reading time: 7 minutes.

Are you wondering how smart your German Shepherd is? They may be well-known for being fiercely loyal, protective, and highly logical, but just how smart are they?

The German Shepherd is one of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world, ranking very highly in intelligence compared with other breeds. Not only are German Shepherds incredibly smart, but they are also extremely sharp and require constant stimulation to ensure their intelligence is put to good use.

In this article, we look at how German Shepherds compare with other breeds, what makes them so smart, and how you can keep your dog’s brain stimulated and sharp.

Are German Shepherds smart?

German Shepherds are exceptionally smart dogs. In fact, the breed is known and admired by many for its intelligence, which some have even compared to that of humans! German Shepherds are often the breed of choice for guide dogs, rescue dogs, and police and military dogs.

Their intelligence makes German Shepherds typically great dogs to have as pets; they are typically good for training and can make for very loyal, protective, and friendly pets. They also have a brilliant memory, meaning training can be quicker and simpler than other dog breeds.

Compared with other dogs, German Shepherds rank incredibly high in terms of intelligence, as we will see in the next section. They are generally thought to be one of the most intelligent breeds in the world in terms of obedience, which makes them the perfect working dog. Their loyal traits also mean they are more likely to enjoy working.

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Where do German Shepherds rank in intelligence?

The German Shepherd ranks third in terms of intelligence when compared with other breeds. The American Kennel Club notes that the breed is very confident and has a strong ability to learn new commands, causing it to rank as more highly intelligent than other breeds.

Only two dogs beat German Shepherds in intelligence: poodles came in second and border collies ranked first. In terms of IQ, these two breeds were found to score more highly. Whilst this is an interesting ranking, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the German Shepherd is a highly intelligent and popular breed.

The ranking was worked out using criteria created by a canine psychologist; criteria were checked to find out the obedience and working intelligence of each breed. The main measurement was interested in how quickly dogs learned and managed to retain information, such as new commands. It also looked at how often dogs obeyed commands they already knew.

What makes German Shepherds so smart?

A major part of why German Shepherds are so intelligent is their breeding, which focused on the dog’s ability as a shepherd. The breed was specifically created to be intelligent, strong, and able to work well with people and other animals. Dogs were required to be extremely alert and have high levels of logic, meaning they know how to act on their instincts.

German Shepherds have also been found to have a larger prefrontal cortex than other breeds, which is an area of the brain that is related to problem-solving. This means German Shepherds are likely to be more capable of thinking quickly and using logic to make decisions. This makes them ideal for work that involves logic and instinct.

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Another factor in their intelligence is their memory. German Shepherds have incredibly fast memories, which means they pick things up more quickly than other dogs. In fact, they are purported to have the mental capacity of a two-and-a-half-year-old human, part of which is down to the speed and retentive capabilities of their memories.

Are German Shepherds quick learners?

Compared with other breeds, German Shepherds typically score highly in terms of training. German Shepherds usually learn quickly, picking up tricks and commands more easily and faster than other breeds might. This makes them a great choice for police work and guide dog training.

Their intelligence also means their instincts are extremely sharp, and that they are able to act on them quickly. This comes from the historical associations with wolf-type dogs who were used to herd sheep with little teaching needed. Due to this, German Shepherds are very likely to need little time to pick things up.

Are they easy to train?

German Shepherds are very easy to train, mostly because of their intelligence and breeding as shepherd dogs. The herding behaviors the breed had to engage in meant they had to be easy to train and fast learners, and so they were bred to do just that. These traits have continued to endure today.

The best German Shepherd training will focus on helping dogs to listen to their instincts and heighten their alertness. They should also be encouraged to learn how to engage well with people and other animals from early on, to ensure any aggressive tendencies are discouraged as soon as possible.

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It is also important that training allows German Shepherds to learn how to control their instincts as well as listen to them. Often, the protective and guarding instincts of the breed can lead to aggressive behaviors that can be difficult to manage. It is important that dogs learn how to manage and control these instincts properly without resorting to aggression.

As with any dog breed, consistency is key when it comes to training. You will help your German Shepherd greatly by creating a strict routine; your dog needs to be able to maintain a routine that helps them to learn new commands and tricks while preventing them from growing bored and distracted.

Are they easy to handle?

The intelligence of the breed means that German Shepherds can be very stubborn and fiercely independent, despite their deeply protective instincts. This can sometimes make them rather difficult to handle at times. It is vital that training involves a level of management of stubbornness.

A lack of training can make German Shepherds more prone to ignoring commands and doing what they want to do instead. Their strong instincts and high alertness mean distractions are aplenty for German Shepherds and, without training, they are likely to give in to such distractions.

As we have seen, German Shepherds can also be prone to aggression, especially when they are not trained to handle situations correctly. This is something everybody should consider before welcoming a German Shepherd into the family, and ensure training involves some level of aggression management.

How can you keep them sharp?

Their intelligence makes German shepherds difficult to keep stimulated and they can become bored quite easily. Luckily, there are some things you can do to keep your dog’s mind sharp and entertained.

  • Keeping their training updated. Make sure you constantly teach them new tricks and keep their training as up to date as possible. This is a great way to ensure your dog’s mind stays sharp and their body remains healthy.
  • Playing games. Coming up with new games means your dog won’t get bored, especially if the games are mentally stimulating. Games such as hunting and tracking are good for keeping them on their toes.
  • Allow them to use their instincts. A German shepherd’s instincts are some of the strongest in the world and should be maintained as much as possible. Allow your dog to put their instincts to good use with games and training.
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What jobs can German Shepherds do?

Their intelligence makes German Shepherds a fantastic working dog breed. Due to their memory retention, logic skills, and versatility, they are able to take on many different roles. Let’s look at some of the jobs working German Shepherds might take on:

  • Police. German Shepherds are well-known for their association with the police, mostly because they are able to perform so many roles within the police force. Dogs might be used to track scents, apprehend suspects, or protect officers.
  • Search and Rescue. German Shepherds can be trained to search for specific scents, making them great for finding lost or injured people. This job could cover anything from a hike gone wrong to a natural disaster.
  • Guard dog. German Shepherds can be extremely protective, which makes for a great guard dog. They are often employed as companions to security guards or as watch dogs to ensure the safety of a person or place.
  • Service dog. They might not be the first dog that springs to mind when you think of service dogs, but German Shepherds actually make for brilliant guide dogs. They have all the traits needed to be a service dog, and the ease and speed of training them makes them a top choice for many.
  • Detection. As well as being able to detect people, German Shepherds are also commonly used to recover other things like bombs and drugs. Their accurate scent tracking and sharp instincts makes them ideal for this kind of work.

Final thoughts

In this article, we have focused on the question ‘are German Shepherds smart?’ and, as we have seen, the answer is that German Shepherds are one of the most intelligent dogs in the world. Their sharp instincts and high alertness make them incredibly smart, very easy to train, and occasionally difficult to handle!

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