Donald Vickery, M.D.

August 17, 2008

Post #2436 – 20080817

Dear Mr. Pinkwater,

Many, many moons ago you did a fascinating piece on NPR about the smartest dogs in the world. I think you had acquired two of these geniuses and it may well have been before Maxines I and II, even before Lulu. (It might have been Lulu, but it seems they were a tad more cooperative.) I am interested in finding such a dog for my son who has autism spectrum disorder.

Thank you for any help you can give,


Daniel replies:

It was once explained to me that nature breeds to a norm--there are smart dogs, and less-than-smart dogs, but the range between them is not usually great, and most dogs are somewhere in the middle. While Lulu is sort of incredibly intelligent, what she became really has to do with what we made of her, what our expectations were, and how we were able to let her understand what those expectations were. (We like to pretend she is a genius, but it's really us). In the hands of someone less experienced, and having not observed dogs as long and closely as we have, she might be a holy terror, instead of the easiest puppy we ever raised, and a complete delight to live with. Part of what makes Lulu so clever is her primitiveness--a real, honest-to-goodness arctic sled dog, from the arctic, the wolf instincts are strong in her. But I promise, that is not what you want. Everything has to be negotiated with her, and the fact that we appreciate her sense of humor is important. What you want is a dog who is fixated on trying to find out what it can do to please you. Golden retrievers and poodles might be breeds you could start looking at. And there is a currently popular crossbreed, the ""golden doodle,"" people rave about. People tend to love Labradors--and I don't know why, (notwithstanding we have one), maybe it is because they would lay down their lives for you, when not being clumsy oafs. Maybe you can try to arrange for your son to interact with various types and breeds of dogs, and let him see what seems to suit him. Any dog you wind up with will need to be trained, and as we reiterated frequently in our book, SUPERPUPPY, what happens, (that is, what you cause to happen), to a dog is way more important than what kind of dog it is.