Is the English Setter the smartest dog?

Did you know that the English Setter is one of the oldest breeds of gundogs with a history that traces back over 500 years? These attractive, intelligent canines have certainly proven themselves to be masters in the fields of hunting, agility, and obedience. But are they truly the smartest breed of dog?

First, let’s take a step back and really get to know who the English Setter is. Nicknamed the “gentleman of the dog world,” the English Setter is well-known for his amiable and calm demeanor, combined with a dash of playfulness. This dog is a mix of pointer and setter breeds, perfected over centuries by English sportsmen.

When it comes to their looks, who could ignore their gorgeous speckled coat that appears as if someone has splattered paint all over them? They are visually captivating with a lean but strong body structure, meant for agility and endurance – both key elements in fieldwork.

Now, intelligence in dogs like people, can be broken down into different categories. There’s instinctive intelligence which refers to the skills that a breed was developed for, such as herding or hunting. Then there’s adaptive intelligence – a dog’s ability to solve problems on their own. Lastly, working intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to learn from humans, particularly the ability to follow commands. So let’s see how our English Setter ranks across these elements.

The breed excels in instinctive intelligence. They were bred to hunt game birds, and even today are considered among the best bird dogs due to their ‘setting’ behavior. The breed got its name due to its instinct to ‘set’ or lie down upon finding game, indicating the bird’s location to the hunter. This unique trait exhibits their high degree of instinctive intelligence.

As for their adaptive intelligence, English Setters are quite good problem solvers. They can figure things out on their own, and quickly adapt to new environments or changes in their routine. They are known to quickly master new tricks, and even contrive ways to get themselves out of a locked crate or to reach that tempting cookie jar kept on the dining table.

When it comes to working intelligence, or trainability, the English Setter is often undervalued. Yes, they’re not always the quickest to pick up new commands, but this is more so because of their independent streak than due to a lack of cognitive ability.

Even more critical than measuring intelligence, it’s essential to consider the relationships between dogs and their humans. English Setters are known to develop a strong bond with their owners. They are exceptionally attentive, affectionate, and loyal. And while they might not always follow orders to the letter, their intelligence truly shines through their eagerness to please.

So, is the English Setter the smartest dog? It comes down to how you measure intelligence. In terms of trainability, breeds like the Border Collie might be quicker to pick up new commands. However, considering their adaptive and instinctive abilities, the English Setter presents a compelling case for being one of the smartest breeds out there.

Every dog breed has its unique strengths and weaknesses, and each individual dog can also exhibit varying degrees of intelligence within their breed norms. Remember, the best dog for you isn’t necessarily the one that’s ranked as the ‘smartest.’ It’s the one whose traits best match your lifestyle and personality.

The English Setter’s blend of independence, loyalty, problem-solving capabilities, and a unique natural instinct shows a high level of intelligence, making them a fantastic companion for the right person or family. They are not only smart dogs, but wonderful friends too. After all, in the end, the love and companionship of a dog matter more than any IQ score, right? But that’s a story for another day.