- Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 


Are some breeds being reduced in intelligence?

November 26th, 2006, 06:23 PM
I was talking to a friend today who said he'd read that Collies (after the Lassie movies) had been so over-bred to a certain phenotype (narrow head and long muzzle) that their craniums had been reduced in size. While size of brain doesn't necessarily relate to intelligence I wonder if because this is happening over so few generations, intelligence is being affected. And is it true that Dalmations, after the movie, were so over-bred that they became unstable and unpredictable? Does anyone know if other breeds have been affected? ?Old Englsh Sheepdogs after 'Please Don't Eat the Daisies'??

pug lover
November 26th, 2006, 06:30 PM
:shrug: maybe

November 26th, 2006, 06:40 PM
Head shape wouldn't affect it but poor genetics resulting from inbreeding would.

November 26th, 2006, 06:41 PM
The dogs were all over bred by bybs and millers.. Anyone who looks for a good breeder would be likely to avoid the common issues, like over bred dals having a screwed up disposition.. The same way the stereotype for cockers is to be nasty child hating anger filled dogs.. Lady and the Tramp... Everyone wanted one. A decent breeder's dogs won't have issues like that.
But if you choose people breeding with skeazy over bred stock, sure the issues are still rampant.

November 26th, 2006, 07:10 PM
While I know intelligence is a difficult term to define (it certainly is in people I.Q.l vs E.Q) I wonder if it's like breeding for anything. Years ago German Shepherds didn't have that sloping back they do now. Is it true that when breeders starting trying to get that, they increased the incidence of hip dysplasia. :confused:

November 26th, 2006, 08:50 PM
Not all german sheps have the sloping back. It depends on the purpose of the line.

November 26th, 2006, 11:50 PM
Some breeds are being dumbed down, more because of indiscriminate breeding than because the size of their heads. In some cases, dogs who would normally need intelligence for their original job are lacking in the brain department. (When I was researching shelties many people warned me to be sure the breeder participated in a dog sport like agility to be sure I got "a sheltie with a brain.") In some cases they are intelligent in the conventional way but lack instincts that their breed should have . . . for example, many rough collies (Lassie collies) don't have herding instincts at all.

That said, in some cases the physical structure of an animal IS the cause of problems. For example, Siamese show cats are often bred to have very angular faces, more angular than most cats'. I read about a litter of siamese kittens with faces so angular that their eyes were facing opposite directions (on the sides of their heads, basically) instead of forward. They all died.

November 27th, 2006, 09:31 AM
I asked my vet friend this question and here's what she said: "I don't believe that Collies are very smart, and it likely has something to do with inbreeding, or bad breeding. Similarly, the same kind of ignorant breeding practices produced the head size and shape. However, I don't think there is a cause and effect relationship here. The real problem is the size and shape of the brain belonging to the people who are breeding the dogs." I guess that answers that question!

November 27th, 2006, 09:47 AM
The real problem is the size and shape of the brain belonging to the people who are breeding the dogs

Now this is a good answer:thumbs up

November 27th, 2006, 01:33 PM
While I can not speak for all Collies...we had a lovely sable Collie named Merrick for 12 wonderful years. While he was the sweetest and most loving dog...he was not the most intelligent boy! If he would have been a person, I believe he would have been one of those incredibly handsome men...who should never talk...just pose!!! :D

Merrick did have a highly tuned herding instinct…taking him for a walk was sometimes challenging as he was always in front of you trying to get you all in a group!

I remember watching Lassie as a child…Lassie running back to the farmhouse…finding the Mom, and barking…and everyone just knew…”Timmy’s in the well…Timmy’s in the well!”
Lassie would then lead them all to Timmy and would save the day, all in the 30 minute show…alas, my Merrick would have not been able to save Timmy…as he would have totally forgotten what he wanted to say by the time he got back to the farmhouse!
I still miss him so…it has been many, many years and he is still in my heart. :rip:

November 27th, 2006, 02:22 PM
I definately believe this is happening to all breeds that are being bred indiscriminately. Having said that, I think a great deal also depends on the individual breed and the socialization and training the dog receives.

Firstly breed - a dog's intelligence, depends on what it was bred for...Dogs that were bred for work are IMO smarter or at least have the potential to learn specific taks faster and more efficiently than breeds who's sole purpose is companionship.
Secondly, socialization - a dog's intelligence will be shaped but how he/she is raised and in what environment. If the dog isn't given the opportunity to interact with its environment, how can they possibly use their intelligence?
Thirdly, training - as instinctive as some breeds are at their "job", if they are not trained to recognize the value of certain objects, behaviours and commands, they're not using their brains 100% IMO. When we train a dog, we are teaching them and they are learning from us and I believe it increases their intelligence.

So yes, I believe that irresponsible breeding is reducing a dog's intelligence. BUT even a dog sired from the best working dogs by a reputable breeder
can seem "dumb" or be conditioned to be "dumb" with inadequate owners, socialization or training. (notice I said "or" and not "and" - I believe all it takes is one area to be lacking to have a negative effect on a dog's ability to learn)

November 27th, 2006, 03:00 PM
I dont think dogs are being "dumbed down" as much as breeders, ( even some ethical) breeding more for the conformation as apposed to natural instinct... Kinda hard to explain my train of thought here, but for example ( my usual one) Border Collies, Alot of borders who are bred to meet conformation are losing their natural ability to herd. By breeding for a certain look, there is being less time spent on natural ability ( show dogs dont need to herd. so to speak)
Breeding conformation champs to conformation champs there is no real concern on what the breed was intended to do.
Breeding herding champ to herding champ, you will get a wide variety of different looking pups. Taller, slimmer, "lankier" so to speak. Then again there is very few people in the potential BC owners who actually purchase these dogs for their herding ability. ( not many farmers anymore)

While yes it is upsetting that the breed is being "changed" so to speak, or perhaps modified away from herding, this has happened to many breeds.
German Shepherds, Collies, Cocker spaniels ect.
How many working Cockers do you ever hear about????
And take the standard poodle... have you ever seen a hunter use a standard poodle for bird retrieval??? I am yet to see or hear of one. Apparently in the time which they were used for this ,they were wonderful at their job!

November 27th, 2006, 04:39 PM
Corrie, I too have a Collie and lets just say he's not real bright. No he's not from a good breeder, but I've known other people with collies too and none of them were too smart. VERY sweet dogs, smart no.

It largely depends on the breeder whether or not a dog is intelligent. I agree that breeders whose goal is to produce working dogs usually look for intelligence because they want dogs that can learn quickly and complete the task at hand.

Those who look to produce beautiful show dogs usually are breeding for comformation and a sweet temperment. A dog that can win in the show ring yet get along with people - intelligence and working ability isn't that important in this case.

There are a FEW breeders that produce wonderful show dogs who still have great working abilities and intelligence, but those kind of breeders are rare no matter the breed.

I will also say that the AKC looks at comformation more than anything, so if a breeder is looking to meet the AKC standard and produce show dogs they're probably breeding for looks more than anything.

If you want to find a dog for a specific task (agility, herding, hunting, etc.) you have to ask the breeder what their goals are (are they looking to produce fabulous show prospects, or are they breeding working line dogs for a specific purpose?). A breeder whose goal is to produce show prospects probably isn't the best person to buy a working dog from, and a breeder whose goal is to produce dogs that excel at specific tasks probably isn't the best to buy show dogs from.

If you're looking for a good pet that you just want to play fetch with, and go for a walk every day, a pet quality dog from a show breeder is probably a good idea.
If you go to a breeder of working dogs the dogs may be more intelligent but most working line dogs tend to be high drive and may not be happy in a normal home. They also sometimes concentrate heavily or get obsessed with certain tasks (certain terriers may bark at a squirrel in a tree until it's gone).On the other hand if you want a dog that will excel physically or mentally and finish what they start, then this type of dog may be a good choice.

I'm of course talking about reputable breeders. A BYB of any breed usually breeds severe flaws into their dogs and most of this dogs are terribly out of standard and have health issues. Sometimes when people say "So and so breed is this way" it's because BYB's have overbred these dogs and caused severe behavioral issues.
If you want to find out the real deal about a breed talk to several (reputable) breeders, ask them what their goals are, and ask them questions about the breed. Breed clubs usually have tons of information too.

November 27th, 2006, 05:41 PM
I had a wonderful Huntaway who died last year November. The breeder brought his dogs over from New Zealand where they were used for work. We have a lot of cut blocks here in BC and many sheep farmers take their flocks out to them over the summer months. The dogs are not recognized by the CKC and that is exactly the way these breeders want it - they want working dogs and don't care that much for what they look like. If they don't work well, they don't get to breed. Huntaways herd by their bark not by their bite and they are very gentle and smart dogs. They can look like anything (from hound to Lab to Shepherd and come in all colours). I heard the same thing about Australian Shepherds - those that don't work well are (eech) 'disposed' of. I'm not sure if Akbash's are recognized by the CKC but they too, are working dogs. Their job is to guard the sheep not to herd them. I have a young Huntaway/AkbashX, Smudgie, who is about 150 pounds. I have a disabled Belgian Shepherd Trevuren (he only has three legs) and it is marvelous to watch Smudgie stay with him where ever Shadow may go. It's as if (and I don't know if I'm anthropormorphising here) he feels it's his duty to take care of poor Shadow. If Shadow is outside, Smudgie is somewhere beside him and if Shadow comes in and is laying in front of the fire (even if Smudgie appears hot) he will stay near Shadow. He really is a 'gentle giant' - so sweet and smart!! :king:

November 27th, 2006, 07:23 PM
I just wanted to say one more thing in favour of the Huntaway. Fangie had a natural ability to herd. He wasn't trained for that but because I have horses, llamas, donkeys, cows, goats, etc., etc. he had the opportunity to use what he had inherited. Many a morning I used to look out my bedroom window and see Fangie playing with the donkeys. Donkeys love to play! Fangie would crouch down into that sneaky position (I've seen Border Collies do that) and very quiety and gentle crawl towards them. The two donkeys would perk up and the game would be on! First, Fangie would chase them around the chicken coop and then the rules would reverse and the donkeys would chase Fangie. It was hilarious to watch! Never, ever did Fangie do anything aggressive and both donkeys appeared to love the game. When the two of them would play 'tug-of-war' with sticks, Fangie would get behind them and try to move them on...

When I would go into my pig's log home (my 900 pound Durac was a pet and she shared a pen with three miniature goats) Fangie would jump the fence and come with me. He was so agile and athletic, no fence could contain him. Thank God, he was gentle and just wanted to be whereever I was! I would cuddle up with Claire (my pig), the goats would come in and snuggle in and Fangie would lay with all of us. Iowaii, the goat, would sleep on top of Claire and Fangie would sleep curled into her belly. None of animals ever had any fear of Fangie.

I don't know if those donkeys miss Fangie. They still play together but it's not the same. Claire died just two weeks after Fangie. I took a few hairs from her tail and had them cremated with Fangie and the box is on my bookshelf in my livingroom.

Well, I digress. This wasn't about sad stories, was it?:sorry: I wonder if the moderator will shut me down now??????