Hi it’s Linda here behind the keyboard again, back with the third part of our mini Entlebucher Mountain Dog series. In the first post I told you about our blog reader who wrote us asking about the difference between Labradors and Entlebuchers, in the second post I answered his questions about how much exercise an Entle needs and this week we’ll be looking at their intelligence.
Intelligence & Training
Q3: What would you think the Entlebucher Mountain dog’s intelligence level is in comparison to a lab? Do they try to please their owner like a lab? How is their focus when being trained, are they easily distracted?
Historically the Entlebuchers saw the cattle into the hills of their native Switzerland, and brought them back home again. Then the farmer sent them off alone to the cheese maker with the milk – that sort of work required a lot of brains and strict work ethics and set the foundation for the Entlebucher’s famous energy, intelligence and work drive.
Sense of Self
I read in an interview with the Entle Queso’s owner that Entle’s have a very strong sense of self compared to other dogs, and I think that’s true, at least for the Entles I’ve met. They are devoted to their people but don’t seem to go to such extreme or silly lengths as some labradors to please their humans – its like they like to keep their pride, or dignity intact.
Also, if they are not pleased with what you’ve told them they will give you feedback – our Alfie has an entire vocal range with accompanying facial expressions to share emotions from disappointment to excitement. He is a very good communicator (there is a reason every blog post signed off by Alfie starts with a Rooo ooo!).
A thinking Dog
Entlebuchers are incredibly intelligent. As an example, we potty trained Alfie in about a week and by the age of twelve weeks he knew most of the basic doggie commands. Having a clever pooch comes with both pros and cons though, and you have to watch out so the dog doesn’t start training you!
Every time I think about the difference between an Entle and other dogs I’ve encountered I like to draw parallels with when I learned about photography. Just like anyone can get a decent shot with a compact camera or camera phone – most people can reach pretty good results when training the average dog.
The Entlebucher is more like an advanced and expensive D-SLR camera. If you know which buttons to push you can achieve extraordinary photographs, whereas if you don’t know what you’re doing then all your photos are going to get blurry. In a similar way Entlebuchers can turn into real Entlebucher Monster Dogs if you don’t know how to deal with all their intelligence and energy.
A bored, or under stimulated Entlebucher will be quite happy to invent his own entertainment and I bet it will be something you won’t like – don’t forget I run a weekly feature on this blog called Monday Mischief and there is a reason for that.
Train them or Be Trained
These dogs are incredibly intelligent and focused on their owner, and when training Alfie I look at it as team work. Training is something you do with your Entle, not to him – and our Alfie responds a million times better to flattery than being told off.
They really are like little Swiss army knives with the right tool for everything from agility, obedience, rescue work, to herding and some are even therapy dogs. You can teach them absolutely anything you can think of and they will do it with a big Entle smile on their face.
Having a clever dog means you need to really pay attention and think things through beforehand when you train them. I used to own a German Shepherd and if I’d tell him to jump his reply would be ‘Sir, yes Sir” and then he’d await his next order. Alfie on the other hand would reply ‘Yes buddy’, start running and whilst flying through the air demand to hear the rest of the plan’. (No my dogs don’t actually talk to me but you get the idea!). These dogs learn so quickly that if you make things too easy they will start questioning your commands, wondering what you ‘really’ want them to do so you have to stay one step ahead all the time.
When we’re training agility that’s one of my main problems – I need to focus much further ahead than where Alfie is and know the route 100%. If I hesitate or don’t give the next command quickly enough, he is right by my feet complaining about my confusing orders!
I distinctly remember the first time I realised that Alfie had started training me. One day he kept loosing his squeaky toy underneath the sofa – it was too far back and he couldn’t reach it. He looked so sad and miserable I simply had to help him dig it out. Having crawled around the floor three or four times more I caught him actually pushing the toy with his nose underneath the sofa before turning to me for help. The little monster had invented a new game and trained me to play it!
Attention & Focus
I mentioned in my previous post that Entlebucher Mountain Dogs are incredibly focused on their owners. Until you’ve seen ‘that look’ in real life you don’t know just how intently they focus on their human. When I’m training Alfie in doggie school his attention is 100% on me. He is very food and toy motivated but as soon as he’s learned a new ‘trick’, he is happy to work for praise and attention.
In my opinion, teaching an Entle new tricks and stuff like that is real easy – you usually only need to repeat the directions 1-3 times before they get it. Because they are so stubborn and persistent its much more difficult to teach them what not to do, (especially if they perceive there is some sort of a reward for their bad behaviour) – don’t pull the leash, don’t jump up in the sofa, don’t steal my food and so on.
The real challenge in training an Entle is to keep up with and channel their energy into positive outlets and not mischief. If you can do that – then you have your dream dog!
Here’s what our Facebook friends said about their Entle’s intelligence:
“Imho, labs live to please their humans and are very intelligent and can learn almost anything, entles live to please their humans can learn anything but they can teach it to their friends with modifications once they have learned:-D. They think more outside the box so to speak. I have been known to quote a friend’s who says” if my dog had opposable thumbs I would be the one in a crate” Suz
“I can see the “wheels turning” in my B dog Entley. I have never had such a naturally focused on human dog before. He is 24/7 trying to figure out what I want from him, and how to get what he wants. Scary intelligent…..” Analee
“I think Entlebuchers are smarter, but sneakier. They can be distracted, however when you turn that energy for fun and mischief into drive you’re rewarded tenfold with their loyalty and trainability.” Sarah
Q4: Are they chow hounds like labs that make their dinner disappear almost as soon as it hits the plate?
We feed our Alfie a raw diet and he loves it. He quite literally licks his bowl ten times after he’s finished his food just to check if he’s missed anything. He also ‘supervises’ any activities that involve food in the kitchen – sometimes he knows I’m about to open a packet of bacon even before its out of the fridge. Some Entles are less interested in food, but overall they seem pretty food loving.
Let me know in the comments section below just how clever your Entle is, if he ever landed himself in mischef by being too clever or if you’re channeling it all into pawsome training….
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