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Are Whippets Smarter Than Most Dogs? Breed Intelligence Explored

Lorre Luther

By Lorre Luther

woman walking with her whippet dog

Whippets are stunning sighthounds that resemble small Greyhounds. Most weigh 20 to 40 pounds and seldom reach above 21 inches or so at the shoulders. They have long faces and short coats in many shades and colors.

They’re sweet, devoted, and generally love to be around people, but how smart are these lovely dogs? Do they have more brain power than the average pup? Whippets are just about average when it comes to canine intelligence. But keep in mind that even dogs who don’t have Einstein-level thinking caps are about as smart as 2-year-old humans.


The Whippet’s Intelligence

Out of 138 breeds, the Whippet is the 51st smartest dog, which is considered the fourth tier of canine intelligence. Although they don’t make the top 50, Whippets have several desirable traits that make them remarkable pets. They’re loyal guard dogs but don’t bark often, and they’re incredibly gentle around small children. They require a lot of exercise to keep them mentally and physically fit, but they’re ideal for active owners that prefer athletic, loyal, and affectionate canines.

whippet dog training
Image Credit: encierro, Shutterstock

How Is Canine Intelligence Measured?

Dogs have three types of smarts: instinctive, working, and adaptive intelligence. Instinctive intelligence relates to how well a dog does what they were bred for. Dogs with high levels of working intelligence are often easy to train and usually do well in obedience tasks. Adaptive intelligence involves how dogs adjust to the world around them.

Most canines can learn more than 150 words, but 165 appears to be about average. They can count to 5 and read and respond to human emotions, as anyone who’s ever been given a cheer-up nuzzle from a dog can attest!

Dogs learn through observation. They often watch people and other dogs and then adopt behaviors they see. By evaluating human behavior, they can learn to open latches and even figure out what words mean.

How Do Canine Brains Compare to Human Ones?

Dogs and humans rely largely on different senses to understand the world. Humans are visual creatures, while dogs rely largely on smell. However, dogs have far fewer neurons than humans. The number of cerebral cortex neurons an animal has may be linked to their ability to accurately determine what may happen in the future using information learned from past experiences.

Dogs have anywhere from 160 to 530 million neurons, but people typically have around 16 billion. While dogs and human babies learn by observing people, babies generalize information learned from grown-ups, while dogs seem less inclined to do so.

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What Are Some Signs of Super Canine Intelligence?

Whippet jump
Image Credit: Skumer, Shutterstock

Smart dogs often have several things in common, including the ability to learn quickly and solve problems in a snap. They catch on to new things in minutes, often learning tricks and commands in just a few repetitions.

Whip-smart dogs like Border Collies can master commands in five repetitions or less and generally do what they’re asked most of the time. Dogs with closer to average smarts, like Whippets, need to review commands about 25 to 40 times to learn and only pay attention about half the time!

The smartest dogs can master more than 250 words and signals, and playful breeds appear to have an advantage when learning new words. Several indicators of canine intelligence are based on dogs’ incredible abilities to interact socially, bond, and work with humans.

Wolves are generally considered more intelligent than dogs, but when presented with a challenging situation, even those accustomed to humans aren’t inclined to seek them when serious problems must be solved. On the other hand, dogs may have such strong problem-solving skills because of their instinctive inclination to ask people for help when they can’t easily find solutions.

What Are Some of the Smartest Dog Breeds?

Border Collies are considered the smartest dogs in the world. Other incredibly smart breeds include German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Shetland Sheepdogs, Poodles, and Labrador Retrievers. However, intelligence doesn’t always mean that dogs are easy to train.

German Shepherds and Poodles are relatively easy to train, but Border Collies can be a bit more challenging due to their high energy levels and tendency to become bored and distracted. However, evidence suggests a fair amount of variation regarding intelligence, even within breeds.

Are There Ways to Give Canine Brains a Workout?

whippet wearing a mouth guard running
Image Credit: alektas, Pixabay

Dogs primarily navigate the world using their noses, and giving them opportunities to sniff and smell provides mental stimulation. Giving dogs opportunities to use their noses regularly is supportive of their well-being. Scent walks are a great way to spend time with your buddy while allowing them to engage their sense of smell. Training and participating in organized sporting or obedience competitions also give dogs fun ways to keep their brains sharp.

Do Dogs Develop Dementia?

Yes. It’s called canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Affected dogs often have difficulty learning new things, exhibit behavioral changes, and have difficulty engaging in activities they’ve enjoyed for years. Other signs include staying up at night and going to the bathroom inside. Some dogs with the condition have trouble recognizing people and navigating familiar rooms.

It’s relatively common for pets to experience some degree of cognitive decline as they age; most dogs over 16 have at least one sign related to the condition. Dogs that don’t get much exercise appear to be at higher risk for developing dementia. Ensuring dogs get enough physical activity is one of the most important things you can do to support their overall health and welfare.

whippet dog sleeping peacefully
Image Credit: sergio souza, Pexels

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Whippets are sweet, devoted dogs that enjoy participating in family activities. They’re about average in intelligence but make excellent pets. Whippets are moderately sized dogs that seldom weigh more than 40 pounds and are athletic, agile, and incredibly fast. Most make fantastic running buddies! Training Whippets requires more repetitions to master commands than intelligent dogs like Border Collies, but most Whippet owners consider their dogs to be very smart.

Featured Image Credit: Julia Curly, Shutterstock

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