Quite recently, the dog researcher Stanley Coren estimated that the average dog’s intelligence is roughly as sophisticated as a 2.5-year-old baby’s. So far, the studies have shown that dogs can read cues, show emotional connection to their owners, and display signs of jealousy. And cats are no different.
But in order to really get a good view into the mind of our furry friends, it’s best to look at the real-life examples. So when the Redditor Gearski asked “Pet owners of Reddit, what is the most intelligent thing your pet has done?”, stories from pet moms and dads started rolling in, and below we selected some of the most interesting ones.
And if you’ve ever been surprised by your fur baby’s brain too, share your story in the comments below!
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Playing with my friends dog. Black lab, german shepherd mix. I started to “fake throw” the ball, which tricked her twice. On the third “throw” she just stared at me, so then I threw it for real.
After doing some acrobatic spazzy dog stuff (I tossed it into a tractor tire), she came back and I reached down to her mouth and realized that SHE FAKED BRINGING THE BALL BACK. Our group of friends went bonkers laughing in amazement that she had fooled us all so successfully, and to make it worse she snorted at me, got the real ball, and trotted happily past me after it all went down.
My dog, 3/4 lab 1/4 husky, figured out how to beat the electric fence…it was a radius style and he’d walk circles around the house letting the collar beep until it ran out of juice, then he’d make his escape. He also figured out how to unlock the doors and bolt locks, and turn the handles to escape. We eventually just let him roam the town all day. He’d travel about 15 miles/day visiting his different friends and families, and come back at around the time we came home from school. He used to wag his tail so hard that his whole body wiggled, and to this day, years after he passed at almost 20years old, I still run into people who were friends with “Mr. Wiggles”.
My beagle/pit bull mix can sense my seizures and alerts me to them before they happen. He also gets my family if I’m having one and they don’t realize it. One time I had a seizure in the bathroom and my parents didn’t know until Chili started howling and throwing himself against the bathroom door.
We adopted him almost 3 years ago, and he has no prior training to alert for medical issues: he just knows. Most dogs have to be trained from puppyhood to be service dogs and seizure alert dogs, but not him. He’s just a Very Good Boy.
Intelligence is relative and can vary greatly from individual to individual, even within the same species, Yulia Popyk, an animal behavior expert from Petcube, told CNN News in an interview. “That said, some experts believe that dogs are generally more intelligent than cats, although both species are capable of learning new things and forming complex relationships with humans and other animals.”
According to her, one way to measure intelligence in animals is through cognitive testing, which assesses an animal’s ability to remember and apply information. “However, these tests are not always accurate and should not be used as the sole gauge of an animal’s intelligence,” she added.
Dog was a puppy. My mother just found out her abusive uncle had died. She was flooded with emotions and broke down crying. I was downstairs with headphones on. Dog came downstairs and paced wildly around me until I got up, then led me upstairs. I opened the door and he ran in and laid down next to her and howled with her. Dogs and humans are coevolved. Empathy isnt a human concept
When he was a puppy, he taught himself to clean up. We still kept him in a nice and comfortable cage back then so he had a place to go to when he was tired or overwhelmed. Every night he would drag all his toys with him into his cage, and every morning he would bring them back out again.
My dogs are trained to ring the bell to go outside to go potty. I have two stories about them and their bell knowledge.
For the funnier one, we had gotten the red husky a birthday toy and she was playing with it. The younger one was clearly jealous. She went to ring the bell so we let them outside. The younger one basically zoomed outside and then immediately back in to steal the toy. This has become a regular move for her.
Sweet but depressing story. Before we got our youngest, I had an older black lab with the red husky. She had kind of started to go downhill and needed to go outside more often than the husky, but she had not been bell trained. My husky would walk over and ring the bell for us to take the lab outside to go potty. We liked to give her time out there, so we would leave her out for a bit and the husky would ring the bell to remind us to let her in. After we put the lab down, for weeks my husky would stand at the back door ringing the bell for us to let her back in. It absolutely broke my heart when she did this, and just writing it now is making me cry again. 🙁
There are many stories of pets sensing when their owner is ill and even helping them to get help, which we may certainly interpret as a sign of intelligence and empathy. Yulia recounted one story of a dog who alerted his owner to a fire in the middle of the night and saved his life. “When pets feel that their owner is not feeling their best, pets may show signs of stress, such as panting, pacing, or whining,” she said.
My cat learned how to open the fridge. A prior cat learned how to roll over on command from watching us try to teach the dog to do it. we would force the dog draw a little girl after giving the command, and then give her a treat and praise her. The cat wanted in on this and saw her getting a treat for rolling over so he started to do it too. He learned how to roll over faster than the dog did.
My girlfriends cat likes black metal. A lot apparently. She’s a pretty rambuncious gal, but if you put on Immortal or Behemoth, she sits in front of the speakers, lies down, then takes a nap.
I tried playing the Get Up Kids once. The cat slapped me, then hissed. She kept yelling at me until I put black metal back on. She then jumped back into my lap like nothing happened.
One of my dogs can recognize items. Like the treat jar, the heated blanket. He will stand at attention in front of the item he wants. The treat jar is often in plain site and it’s not a constant thing so it’s clearly a “I would like one of those now” thing. Same thing with the heated blanket. He will stand in front of where it is on the sofa and stare at it until i turn it on. Then he’s toasty and happy.
He also can tell time. Yes they pick up patterns but he knows time. In typically feed them 630 am/pm. No matter what I get up, or what time I arrive home, at 6:29, he goes to where I feed him and stares at me intently. If I take too long, he will go to where I’m at, look at me, and then run back to where he eats. He also likes to go to bed at 900 pm. He will go to his crate, get settled and go to sleep. If we are being too loud or it’s past 10, he “huffs” at us. It’s not a bark, kind of like an exaggerated sigh.
He does not like unsafe walking areas? Mud? He must go around. Snow? He walks verrrrry slowly. Rain? Walk slow. Ice? Hell no. When it’s snowy or icy he won’t go out until he has seen me shovel the deck or put down dog safe ice melt. I joke that he was an OSHA inspector in his past life.
On the other hand, there is no definitive answer as to whether pets can understand their owners in a way that, let’s say, would save them or comfort them if they’re going through rough times. “Pets are individuals with their own unique personalities and behaviors. Some pets may be more attuned to their owners’ emotions and may be more likely to sense when something is wrong, while other pets may not be as aware,” she said.
Yulia added that if you think your pet may be sensitive to your emotions, it is always best to consult with your veterinarian or a certified animal behaviorist to get their professional opinion. She also noted that all pet owners should consider the emergency pet insurance, “Emergency Fund.”
Before letting my dog out into the garden I usually put the kettle on so I can make a coffee on my way back, well now he has figured out how to turn the kettle on and does this whenever he wants to go out.
Reminds me of a golden retriever I used to own when I had a waterbed. She wasn’t allowed on the waterbed. Every time I came home, the waterbed would be covered in golden retriever hair, and undulating wildly, while she lay in her bed on the floor.
I taught my parrot to say thank you when he gets a treat, but the little s*it now passive aggressively says it to me when he is mad. I didnt know birds could be so emotionally manipulative
Although Yulia believes that intelligence not only is subjective, but varies greatly from one individual to the next, even within the same breed, it mostly depends on people’s personal preferences. “Some people might say that breeds like the border collie or the poodle are more intelligent, while others might say that smaller breeds like the Chihuahua or the Yorkshire terrier are more intelligent. Same with cats, some believe that breeds such as Siamese and Birman cats are more intelligent than others, but there is no scientific evidence to support this claim,” she explained. Yulia concluded that ultimately, it is up to the owner to determine which breed is more intelligent based on their own personal experiences.
My older dog got a stomach bug one time, and he never goes to the bathroom in the house. Well, I guess this time was the exception. He had diarrhea in the house, but instead of going all over, he climbed in the bathtub and went in there for easy cleanup! I wasn’t happy, but it was sure as heck better than the alternative!
A long time ago I gave my cat this stuffed toy that looked like my local university’s mascot. She rarely ever played with it and it was collecting dust in the back of my closet. One evening I’m watching a college basketball game with my parents and the next thing I know she brings out the toy, drops it right in front of the TV, and starts meowing nonstop. Impressive that she was able to associate the two.
I wouldn’t give one of my dogs a treat since the other dog was elsewhere; I didn’t want to play favorites.
So the sneaky little bastard leaves the room. Few seconds later, he walks back in, other dog trailing behind.
I got outplayed.
Training, however, is one way to get your pet the skills and knowledge that we could attribute to intelligence. “Different trainers may have different methods and goals when it comes to training pets. Some trainers may focus on teaching tricks or obedience commands, while others may work on behavioral modification or socialization,” Yulia said.
My cat has a heating pad, she’s seen my plug it in about 5 times before,so she tried to pick up the cord and run into the wall.
I had a dog (toy poodle) pretty clearly try to trade toys with me when I was little. I was playing with an action figure and he brought me one of his toys, put it in my lap, and nudged it forward with his nose all while staring at my toy.
My mom had a horrible and untreatable type of cancer, but she didn’t want to go to hospice so we did in-home care instead. She had been bed-ridden and all but completely unconscious for several days, and we knew that she was going to go soon.
I was watching television and just being with her, when suddenly her dog (now mine) got up, started whining and looking directly at her. I immediately knew what was happening, called my aunt in from the other room, and we held my mom’s hand as she died just a minute or two later.
“The best way to train a pet for intelligence will vary depending on the animal’s species, age, and individual personality. However, some basic tips that may be helpful include providing the pet with stimulating toys and activities that encourage problem-solving and mental agility and offering rewards for correct responses to commands or tricks. Training sessions should be kept short and consistent and should focus on positive reinforcement rather than punishment,” the pet behavior specialist explained.
“Ultimately, the goal of training is to help the pet better understand and respond to the cues and commands of their human guardians. This can help the pet to lead a happier and more enriched life, as they are better able to communicate and interact with the people and animals around them.”
Every night between 7:30-8 one of my dogs stands at the bottom of the stairs and barks until you go upstairs with him and put him on the bed so he can go to sleep
Turn up at my doorstep two years ago and refuse to leave until I let him inside and let him join the family. He was a persistent kitten, meowing at my door in the rain and sleeping on the doorstep for a week before I gave in.
If my brother’s dog is visiting my dog will pretend to need to go outside. This will excite my brothers dog into going outside. My dog will then stay inside and hide his toys/bones before brother’s dog comes back in.
my dog constantly makes me believe she understands English. I can say something i’ve never said or trained her to respond too and she’ll do it. i’ll point and tell her to get her blue ball and she’ll do exactly that. now whether or not she wants to keep playing with the blue ball instead of the rope is completely up to her. most intelligent thing she’s done was the time i was locked out of my house and yelled “JUNO LET ME IN” and she busts through the screen on the window. coolest thing ever.
edit: dad wasn’t happy
I had some pets rats and one of them figured out how to open the cage. He’d look me straight in the eyes, grab the door with his teeth and use his tiny paws to push against the frame of the cage and force the door open. Locks were needed after that.
I do miss having pet rats though, such smart animals.
We had a dog capable of memorizing the name of about fifteen of his toys. We just had to say the name of a toy and he was able to pick it up without hesitation. He was a 8 lbs all black miniature poodle .. he lived for 16 years.
My cat strategically broke the spray bottle we use when he’s being naughty.
He picked it up by the nozzle in his mouth, took it up to a high-ish shelf, and pushed it off to the hard wood floor below. Did this several times until the nozzle snapped off, ripping out a big chunk of the top of the bottle in the process and rendering it completely unusable.
I didn’t realize what he was doing until it was too late. Smart little demon.
I used to have a horse who lived to be 32. She was the sweetest horse ever, and her name was even Sugar. Anyway, when she was in her late 20s, she figured out how to open the stall doors. They had a latch that you had to lift up then pull to the side. She figured out to use her lips to lift the latch up then slide it out to get into the barn and eat the hay. We had to put clasps onto the latches to keep her from doing it. No other horse has ever done this that’s we’ve had, and we’ve had a good number of horses over the years.
My kitten desperately wants to get under the sink, but she’s too little to open the door. So instead, she figured out that she can open a drawer next to the sink, crawl in, and turn left to get under the sink.
My dog opens the door like a bloody velociraptor.
He actually turns the thumb turn lock and lets himself out.
Sometimes convenient but not when it’s cold and wet.
I used to have a dog who was scary smart. I would keep him in a big back yard with a chain link fence. As I learned from my neighbors, he would wait until I left for work and hop the fence. He’d roam the neighborhood causing trouble and even would stop at all the houses he knew someone might give him treats. He’d bug each house until he got what he wanted and then would jump back in the yard before I returned home. I never knew he was gone during the day. Finally one of the neighbors told me he watched the dog jump the fence as soon as I left and he’d jump back in sometimes just seconds before I returned.
Now that is pretty smart, but not as smart as this.
I bought a cable that attached to a big screw that I had to screw into the ground to secure the cable. This would keep him from the fence but he still had full mobility in the yard. This dog, he’d pick up his water bucket, Drag it to the big screw in the yard and dump it onto the big screw. He’d wait a bit and the water would soften the ground so he could rip the screw out. He’d hop the fence dragging the cable and screw. When he got out, he got the cable and screw stuck on the fence from the outside and was still in the yard when I got home. I had to secure it to the stout doghouse and shorten the cable so he could enjoy outside during the day without having free run of the neighborhood. He was quite the problem solver.
We have 2 dogs… one is 14 and the other is 5. The older one will start playing with a random toy she doesn’t care about to trick the 5 year old into wanting it… so she can get the one he had.
Also, they’re not allowed on the couch… but at night, she’ll ninja her way down the hall and stand there listening to see if we’re asleep so she can sneak up on it.
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