Instinct vs trainability vs intelligence
Posted 28 June 2012 - 09:47 AM
Trainability (or biddability) is the combination of the dog's desire and ability to work with a person, learning from what the person does in terms of guiding the dog in varying degreees of instinctive or non-instinctive actions.
Intelligence is the dog's ability to think for him/herself, to work out a "problem", whether or not it involves instinctive or non-instinctive situations/actions (and a situation may involve differing proportions of instinctive and non-instinctive actions).
Instinct is that part of the dog's mentality that drives him/her to act in a certain way or respond to certain stimuli or situations.
To have a combination of all three, where a dog has instinct (for instance, to naturally be inclined to balance, read, and respond to livestock and his/her handler), is trainable (will respond, adjust, and learn from the handler guiding or shaping the instinct), and is intelligent (can think for him/herself when faced with a situation that is out of the ordinary or contrary to what the handler is telling the dog to do), would result in the sheepdog that is extraordinary and gifted.
Here is an example I read today - a bitch is sent away to fetch a group of sheep. Instead of going out and around on her outrun, she stops short, but the handler remains quiet to see what happens. The bitch lifts the sheep and begins a cross-drive and somewhat away from the handler. And then the handler sees two more sheep, up and to the left. The bitch takes the group up to the pair where, as soon as they all bunch together, she flanks around to the balance point, and fetches all the sheep in a straight line to the handler. All this without any command except the one that sent her on an away outrun to begin with.
Instinct? Definitely. Trainability/biddability? Not really given the opportunity to show that here. Intelligence (as defined as problem-solving)? Definitely. At least I think so.
This has been a fun and interesting discussion!
Celt, Megan, and Dan
"When the chips are down, watch where you step."
"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown
Posted 28 June 2012 - 11:06 AM
All that business of tiny adjustments in position and speed would get on the nerves of a highly intelligent dog, (unless the trainer was clever enough to challenge the dog and vary the work) and as was pointed out by the Saluki owner, an independent-natured and intelligent dog just wouldn't see the point and would refuse the repetitions (or get very sour.)
My two best obedience dogs were a Doberman Pinscher and a Collie/GSD cross. The Doberman was of average intelligence, but enjoyed the praise. The much more intelligent mixed breed did too, but was inclined to ad-lib. (She had a sense of humor...) Not what you want when you are going for high-in-trial - there you need a steady, methodical worker.
Posted 28 June 2012 - 11:48 AM
Back to the instinct vs trainablity vs intelligence though, Of all the dogs I've owned I would have to say my most intelligent have not been the most biddable. In working Border Collies on sheep I think the instinct is necessary for the job, but if there is no trainability the dog will be useless to you. Again intelligence is also necessary for working out of sight of the handler and being able to figure out the best means to get the job done. Given the variety of situations that can occur it would be impossible to train for what might happen, so the intelligent dog would hopefully be able to figure out the best course of action.
Not to ramble, but my Seth is my most intelligent dog. He can be hard to work with sometimes though. He wants to do things his way, does not always want to listen to me but when the chips are down he has always bailed me out. I was having the dogs hold the flock off me so I could open the field gate and let them out. My older female and young dog were holding them back while Seth stayed off to the side. My very stubborn hardheaded female decided to flank around the bring them before I was ready. The young dog followed her so I had two dogs running the flock towards me and a very narrow gate. I called Seth's name only and he saw what was happening and ran over to me and held the sheep off me until I could get out of the way. That was intelligence on his part, plus 12 years experience working sheep and working with his stupid owner.
My anecdotes can be taken for what they are worth...
Seth, Meg, Mike, Reign & Crue
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