BY Diana Guerrero



Do you sometimes wonder why some animals seem smarter than others? Perhaps you have a multiple pet household and some are wiser and appear sharper than the others. They may learn faster, retain more, and seem to understand more than you would like them to! What is the difference? Can you help change things to make them even out?

The difference can be accounted for in numerous ways. Sometimes genetics or breeding have a lot to do with things. Purebred animals are bred for specific traits and skills. Unfortunately some of those traits in the hands of a less-than-wonderful breeder can cost the animal their intellectual edge.

Whenever instincts or natural selection for the survival of the fittest are pushed to the background, it results in an animal with less than the best characteristics. This can appear in many ways. Animals can be really laid back and might not appear motivated to do anything exceptional; they can act like a perpetual kid, have little or no attention span, act hyper-sensitive or hyper-responsive!

In my work of both domestic and exotic animal behavior consulting, the best animals are those that are of mixed heritage or directly bred from animals from the wild. The natural selection of survival traits gives them an edge that many other offspring, from animals that have been selected for breeding, do not always appear to have. You can make a difference in your animal's IQ despite the genetic background, however. It is most rewarding and fun to help them onto the path of education! How do you do it? To be the most effective, start right after you acquire an animal. Ideally this is at a young age, however it is possible to work with an older or a more established animal.

Working with an older animal is very rewarding. The main difference is that it might take a bit longer. This is because older animals are more like senior citizens and can become confused easily, can be slower in their reactions, responses, or in their grasping of new concepts.

Increasing intelligence could be compared to raising a baby. As they develop they are more responsive to different things. You have to expose them to the world bit by bit, introduce them to new toys, colors, tastes, and environments. This also includes socializing them to people of different ages, animals and many other things.

All animals are different. Some will adapt better than others, which is why you should start this work at a young age. Here are some things you will want to introduce your animal to so that you can increase their IQ:

TOYS For some reason, people think animals do not need new toys! Any animal or child will tire of certain toys, while others will be cherished and carried around, slept with, or be looked for if removed.

Colors for birds are very important and when working with psittacine juveniles it is a must! The toys also can make noise, be of different textures, and monitored for safety! Specific bird toys are important for older birds and come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and materials.

Cats need toys that will keep them active and interested. Most of my client favorites are the scratch posts with the spring and a new toy attached periodically. They especially like the fake mice, the mice on the suction cup, feathers on a string, the jingle ball rolling balls or anything like that, and of course all the different scratching items, milk top curlers, paper bags, aluminum foil balls, boxes, and more!

Dogs like a wide variety of toys. Chew items from animal parts, manufactured chew items, balls, rope toys, squeaky toys of various shapes, sizes and materials, Frisbees, Kong toys, dumbbells, and others are recommended!

DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS Many animals are never taken into new environments or into a house because they do not behave or act skittish. This is primarily due to lack of socialization or because the level of distraction is too high for them to handle.

Social classes or trips to see friends are great. Social trips to the pet professionals are a good idea too, if you have their consent first. Treats and a pat from the veterinary staff, groomers, and walkers or day care personnel before you leave an animal with them for professional work, will make the whole thing a pleasure and help your pet settle in and not be so traumatized when they go in for services. They can become great friends to your pet if you do this introduction right!

Regarding Dog Parks and other locations where animals are gathered: I personally do not like unmonitored animals or a setting where nobody with a professional background in behavior or training is not moderating the session. It just is not very safe and can be a very bad experience for an animal if they are frightened or attacked. Another thing to wonder about is the possible exposure to disease and other parasites in some of these environments.

Just remember, it is not good owner manners to allow your unmonitored animal to approach a monitored animal. Ask permission first or get your animal under control before your critter notices or approaches someone else's pet.

OTHER ANIMALS Everyone needs friends, even animals. My dog has more buddies than I do and likes to go visiting! Many of his friends only have one or two buddies and they also look forward to those social interludes!

We always ask if we can visit. Sometimes we arrive and will go for walks. They may play in the yard or in the house; or they may just hang out. They get to visit while we, the owners, also visit. If you want to try doing this, there are certain things you need to do in order to prepare for success.

Introductions should first be on neutral ground and monitored closely. A park in a different neighborhood is a good idea for dogs. Once the pets know each other and LIKE each other, you may want to go for a visit and visa-versa. Always first introduce them on the most neutral ground, i.e., the yard or least frequented room and be sure to monitor it closely.

Sometimes you will find animals entering your yard or sitting outside your door or window waiting to visit your animal. Animals do like to have friends (or acquaintances), and will often take the initiative to make friends on their own by scenting each other or just having visual contact with each other.

That is how I was claimed by a former feline buddy. He adopted me this way, amazing me and my house-mates when he walked in with the four dogs! Our household had birds, rats, dogs, and another cat. He certainly had a different life from many cats!

I must say here that I do not approve of animals left to roam since I think it is bad manners and dangerous to the pet in many, many ways but these things can be seen in many communities and perhaps even in your own backyard!

OTHER PEOPLE Introduction to a wide variety of people is important. This means men, women and children. They should be of different ages, skin color, dressing habits, and voices. Hats, sunglasses, and a variety of accessories is necessary to keep your animal more calm later in life.

VOCABULARY This is one of the most important roles you have with your pet, teaching them to understand. When you talk to your animals and explain things, it is much like you do with a child.

For example, I tell my dog what things are called when he first sees them, and I point things out to him when I see animals or things I think will be of interest to him. When he observes something intently it gets explained. You might laugh at this, but people see how uncanny he is with memory and in his understanding.

He is talked to in sentences and several directives or commands are linked together at one time. People really stare in amazement with how he listens to me. Sometimes he pretends to ignore me too! He is just like a kid in that respect.

My cat was trained and traveled with me extensively until I left for Europe. Most people were shocked that he was so adaptable and comfortable in most every respect and responded to my instructions but his life never let him be any other way!

Sorry but I never believed the rumor that animals can only understand a few words. I talk to every animal I meet. I explain, scold, praise, compliment, and engage in a whole discussion, which often gets me some weird looks! It also gets me some results where nobody else was able to succeed. Try it for a year or more and decide yourself!

FORMAL SCHOOLING Both owners and animals benefit from school. Learning to learn is exciting for an animal; it is also exciting for the owner! Enroll in a good program that does not use force techniques and offers a variety of programming. It should be fun for both of you!

Learning is fun for an animal and it opens up their understanding of what you expect from them. It can teach you proper communication with your animal and how to actually be effective. The basics are good to start with at home and then branch out to other areas SLOWLY. Any high distraction will be hard to shift into, so be patient and take baby steps to get to the success level you had in a secure environment.

Have fun with your pets. They love you and can teach you some wonderful things. Give them something in return by opening up their world with understanding of a variety of things discussed in this article.

Diana Guerrero has achieved international recognition for her work with both wild and domesticated animals. Working with some of the most endangered species in the world, she is known for her unique training methods using trust, respect and understanding as a foundation. Diana can be reached through Ark Animals Behavior Consulting and Training at (619) 599-3697 or (800) 818-7387, or you can e-mail her at

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