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Pomeranian Intelligence


You know that your Pomeranian is super smart. But you may be wondering how intelligent the Pomeranian breed is, in comparison to both humans and to other breeds. Part of the AKC’s description of the Pom includes is that he is “alert in character, exhibits intelligence in expression” and is “inquisitive by nature”.

But what does this really mean? Though he should appear to be smart, is the breed actually intelligent? Is there a rating system that can be trusted, and if so, where does the Pomeranian fall among the other breeds? How is this even tested?

Finally, is intelligence of dogs similar to IQ with humans? Does it simply tell you a dog’s capacity to learn? And if so, are there things you can do to allow your Pomeranian to live to his or her potential? 

These are all elements and questions that we will discuss here in this topic. 
Pomeranian puppy at office
Agent Fox Mulder aka Fox, 7 and 1/2 months old
Photo courtesy of Kristin Elsley
The Intelligence of Dogs in General

There are several factors that are looked at when theorizing just how smart dogs are. 

Understanding of words - This plays a huge role in canine intelligence. In general, dogs that live in households with plenty of interaction can understand an average of 165 words. So, if you thought that your Pom only understood a few commands and some basic greetings, think again! Some understand less and some more; breeds in the top 20% of intelligent canines know up to 250! Yet even at the average of 165, this is the equivalence of a two year old human. (More ahead on just how smart Pomeranians are in regard to words.) 

Memory skills - This goes much further than memorizing words. This relates to how a dog can see an object and remember it weeks later. And of course, this applies to humans as well. Many stories about dogs that are separated from their owners for long periods of time but then are overjoyed to be reunited are true. It’s a myth that dogs only remember things for a few days.

Awareness - This includes the intelligence to understand his/her environment and all that surrounds the dog.
Your Pomeranian is showing intelligence when he understands he is at the dog park or realizes that you are taking him into a pet supply store. When you take out a brush and your Pom runs away or you walk toward where his leash is hanging and he gets excited… That he knows the approaching school bus means that kids are about to swarm out... These are signs of intelligence that your Pomeranian is fully aware. 

Perception - This is similar to awareness, yet it involves how a dog uses all of his senses to understand any particular event. He’ll use a combination of vision, hearing, smell, touch and sometimes taste to learn what something is. You may be interested to know that using the earth’s magnetic field is included in this as well.

Can a Pomeranian feel the magnetic field? Yes! In fact scientists know that many animals are able to sense this. It is called Magnetoreception. Studies of Magnetoreception in canines have proven that if a dog is off leash and without confining walls (able to make his own choices) and the Earth's magnetic field is calm (there are daily fluctuations as the earth rotates), they prefer to pee and poo with their bodies aligned on a north to south axis. It is unclear why they prefer this, but they do. 

Over the course of 2 years, 70 dogs of 37 different breeds were studied. In total there they pee’d 5582 times and poo’d 1893 times. Without any impediments, they positioned themselves north-south instead of east-west. There were no Pomeranians in this study, however there were toy breed dogs including the Yorkshire Terrier and Pug dog. 

While we always recommend keeping a Pomeranian on leash when he is going to the bathroom, if you have a fenced in yard, you may want to test this out for yourself.
Social cognition - This is an interesting test of intelligence and you may be surprised just how smart your Pomeranian is if you test this out. This involves a dog’s ability to interpret subtle social cues. One of the most well-known studies involved an examiner placing an object under 1 of 2 buckets and trying different things to let a dog know which one it was under. 

Now, if you patted at a bucket, of course your Pom would be curious about that one and ignore the other. But what if you just nodded at it? Or even just looked at it? Well, in this regard, canines were found to be more intelligent than chimpanzees and even human babies. It’s a good point to keep in mind; your Pomeranian is picking up cues from you all of the time. 

For example, how you move, the things you look at, tiny gestures that you’re not even aware of, everything you do before you get ready to leave your Pomeranian home alone is giving him clues about how you feel about it and what you expect from him. Knowing this can help in dealing with a dog’s separation anxiety

Problem Solving - This involves how a dog can work out a problem, such as a treat hidden and only released with a series of manipulation tasks. For example, a button is pressed by the paw, a lid needs to be lifted up, a lever is brought up. 
white Pomeranian facial expression
Olaf, 1 year old
Photo courtesy of Beth Tanner
There are some great games meant for both owners and dog to play together to help a dog hone his skills with this. We’ll have more ahead on this, so that you can practice with your Pomeranian, if you wish.

Emotional Intelligence

To know how smart a Pomeranian is, or any other breed, the range of emotions that the animal can feel is taken into account. And this is an interesting element as it also can help compare how smart a Pomeranian is compared to a human. 

As a human grows, his or her capability to feel and express certain emotions expands. For example, excitement is there from birth. Yet contempt is not felt nor expressed until a child is about 5 years old.

So how smart is your Pomeranian in this regard? Studies of the emotional capabilities of canines show that he or she is as intelligent, at least, as a 2 and 1/2 year old human. 
The emotions that are proven to exist in dogs are: excitement, distress, contentment, disgust, fear, anger, joy, suspicion, shyness, affection and love. They develop in that order. And are fully intact by the time a toy breed like the Pomeranian is a 4 month old puppy (with larger breeds it can be up until 6 months old).
It is a bit surprising that studies show a dog’s develop stops just short of feeling shame, pride or guilt. Pomeranians can walk around very proudly (many AKC breed standards call out for a dog to walk with confidence!) and your Pom certainly looks guilty after having an accident or tearing apart your shoe. So how can this be? 
Pomeranian on back
Tinka, 9 years old
Photo courtesy of Nola Moore
Here’s the thing: Pride develops at the 3 year mark in humans. Studies show that canines stop emotional development at “about” the 2.5 year mark equivalent. The key here is the word ‘about’ and these figures are rough estimates.  
It is important to note that dogs are proven to feel shy (it is the 8th emotional intelligence to develop), which by some definitions is the opposite of confident. So, if a dog is not feeling shy, he is feeling confident. 

While many people use these words interchangeably, there is a very fine line of distinction between confidence and pride. A dog can feel the first but not the later. With pride, a person crosses the line of feeling good about himself and ego starts to play a role in the subtext of how the brain works. 

In regard to guilt, can it really be that your Pomeranian does not feel guilty when all signs tell you otherwise?
It’s a controversial subject since so many dogs fully appear to show this emotional intelligence. One study tested the response of dogs that had been left alone to shred up objects. Then later, an examiner did the shredding, but left the dog to face his owner (who acted un-pleased). The dogs displayed the same behaviors and facial expressions as they had when they themselves were the culprits. It is thought that our canine pets pick up on their owner’s cues as to how to feel, behave and react during an event such as tearing apart a person’s belongings. 

Some researchers say that when a dog lowers his ears, tucks his tail, positions himself a certain way and otherwise shows signs of feeling shame, this is actually the dog feeling submissive, fearful or a combination of both. 
How Dogs Learn

Dogs learn by rank. They most often ignore anyone (human or other dog) if the dog feels that he is superior to that person or dog. So, puppies take cues and learn by observing older dogs. Dogs of any age, learn via instruction from their owners. There are instances of course, of dogs doing things when observing others that are thought of as subordinates. For example, an older dog may investigate something that a puppy is pawing at. However, in regard to a dog truly soaking in knowledge and learning something new (what is expected, a command, etc.) this is most effective when it comes from someone ranking higher than the dog.

This is why it is important for Pomeranian owners to establish themselves as leaders (Alphas) before housebreaking or teaching a Pom commands. Little will be accomplished if your Pom doesn’t see you as the one in charge. 
Exactly How Intelligent are Pomeranians?

There are two ways to look at this:

1) The Intelligence of Dogs - A Book from 1994. This one is a bit controversial, yet due to a lack of other sources, it is a very popular method of comparing dog breeds. Way back in 1994, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver named Stanley Coren published a book. He revised it in 2006. In his book, The Intelligence of Dogs, he published a ranking of 80 breeds in regard to how smart they were.

A huge issue with this is how it was done. Here are some highlights:
  • Only working and obedience intelligence was taken into consideration.
  • He did not see or interact with any of the dogs.
  • The ranking of intelligence was done only by trial judges from the AKC and CKC (Canadian Kennel Club), who based their opinions on what they witnessed in the show rings.
  • It was a relativity small group of people. Only 199 of them responded to the written evaluation sheets. 
It should be noted that later, dog owners were asked to rank their dog’s intelligence and some of the breeds fell into the same ranking order. 
Out of breeds ranked this way (it goes from 1 to 80, as some tied), the Pomeranian is at # 23. It’s not a bad place to be. This places the Pom in the “Excellent Working Dogs” rank of intelligence, with only the group of “Brightest Dogs” above them.  

In the group of “Excellent”, there are 21 breeds along with the Pomeranian, including the Collie, Miniature Schnauzer and Cocker Spaniel.

You may be interested to know that the Border Collie came in #1 (many believe it was the Poodle, but that breed is #2) and the poor Afghan Hound came in last (though we are sure there are a lot of super smart Afghan Hounds and this book - though popular - is not the ‘do all, end all’).

2) General Dog Intelligence - As we discussed earlier, there are lots of ways to test how smart a dog is: How well he understands words, his memory, perception, awareness, social cognition, problem solving and emotional capability. When you take all of this into consideration, canines are as smart as a 2 to 2 and 1/2 old child. Some Pomeranians will fall a bit below this (if they are not well socialized, not played with, not given the opportunity to learn, etc.) and some may succeed this (more ahead). 
Pomeranian in a pile of leaves
Mya & Missy, sisters, 1 year old
Photo courtesy of Shirley and Denis Frank of Welland Ontario Canada 
It is safe to say that your Pomeranian is as intelligent as a toddler. So if you feel as if your Pom is your child, you are spot on!

How to Bring Out Your Pom’s Intelligence

As you’ve read, a dog needs to be allowed to learn. For example, a neglected dog that lived in a crate would, sadly, have few skills. He would have the capability to learn, but without being allowed to, he would not be very smart. If he were rescued and given a chance, he could shine!

The key to succeeding in your Pomeranian being as smart as possible is to give him the opportunity to develop his intelligence. Here are some great tips:

1. Allow your Pomeranian to use his canine senses. Bring him to a new environment or stay out with him in the yard to let him smell, hear and explore. Hide a special treat in the house and encourage him to find it by smell alone. Now hide a treat and see if he can learn to find it by reading your cues of shakes or nods. Every chance to do these sorts of things allows the gears in a dog’s mind to work.  
Pomeranian with hat
Barron, 5 years old
Photo courtesy of Sharon Stewart
2. Teach your Pom words. This can go so far passed just commands! A dog can easily understand 165 words on average and that is a lot. It is as much as a two year old toddler. Children of that age understand most of what their parents say (and also speak sentences of three or four words). Your Pom is ready and able, you just need to teach him. 

How can you do this? Choose 3 objects. Hold up each one, saying the corresponding word out loud. Do this over and over, helping him learn what those 3 things are. Once you think he’s ready, line up all 3 and command him to grab one of them. Did he do it? Great! Give him a treat and tons of praise. Practice a lot, so that there’s plenty of repetition (dogs are great with long term memory, not short, so you need to keep going so that the information stays in his long term memory). The next week, teach 3 more.

Life is fun (and easier) when a dog is allowed to be as smart as he is capable of. You may want to keep a list of the words your Pomeranian understand, it’s a blast to actually see it and know how smart he is. 
3. Play learning games. Playing fetch is great since it helps grow the bond between human and dog and it can be a good exercise workout. However, games that engage the mind are just as important. You can hide a treat under 3 overturned cups, teaching your Pom to learn which one holds the reward. As he catches on to what you’re doing, slide the cups to make it more difficult.
There are some great interactive toys you can use as well:

*** Please do note that these are NOT for dogs to play with alone. These are intelligence building games that require the owner to be involved. 

Beginner Level:

Outward Hound Kyjen Paw Hide Treat Toy - This is a good game to choose as a beginner step for a Pom that is not used to these sorts of challenges. Shaped to look like a big paw, there are 6 small holes that you place kibble down into. After you demonstrate how the lids are lifted, your Pom will learn to do this as well. To make it challenging, do not use all of the holes. Only hide food in 1 or 2, allowing him to have to use his sense of smell. 

Medium Level:

Trixie Flip Board, Level 2 - For Pomeranians that are smart enough to know how to sniff something out and move a simple lid, this is a great game that helps a dog go up another level of learning. Treat lids need to be opened using various knobs and slides. It’s colorful, fun and can really help a dog use his brain to gain understanding and perception. 

Expert Level:

Dog Twister - This is a great game, designed to really stimulate a dog’s mind. It is very challenging and is meant for dogs that are smart enough to easily play the beginner and moderate games. It is a fun, intricate sliding puzzle toy that comes with complete instructions on what to do and different steps you can take as your Pom progresses.  
A Final Word

Your Pom is your child and this is true in more ways than one. To allow a dog to live a full life and truly be happy, we must understand just how intelligent our dogs are. They read our nonverbal cues with incredible accuracy. They understand a lot of what we are saying (even if they just overhear us). They have real emotions ranging from excitement to shyness. And it is proven they feel love. Isn’t it great to know that the love you feel for your Pom is returned in the same way? Show how much you care by doing everything you can to keep the emotions of fear and suspicion at bay to let contentment and joy shine through. 
Popular Pages:
What is the Best Shampoo for a Pomeranian - Taking a look at the qualities needed for bath products to properly clean, moisturize and protect a Pom's coat. 
What to do if Pomeranian is Stung by a Bee - Also covers wasps, hornets, yellow jackets and other flying, stinging insects. 
Best Harness for Pomeranians - An important article explaining why collar-to-leash can be tragic and which harnesses are easy to put on and super comfortable. 
Things to Do Now:

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