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Are Siberian Huskies Smart? – Comparing the Husky’s Intelligence

The Siberian Husky is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world – for good reason! And if you’re planning to bring one home, you’ve made a wise decision. But are Huskies capable learners with high intelligence?

So, are Huskies smart? According to researcher Stanley Coren, Siberian Huskies are “average” intelligent dog. In fact, Huskies ranked as the 74th smartest dog breed out of 138 for obedience & working intelligence. But what actually makes the Husky smart is their ability to effectively communicate with humans. As a result, they’ve become one of the best working dogs alongside humans.

Despite their relatively low ranking in dog intelligence, Huskies are smart in other ways. To fully grasp the IQ of the Husky, we’ll dive into the intelligence tests conducted by Stanley Coren. Read on to learn what exactly makes these working dogs smart.

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How We Measure a Husky’s Intelligence

Stanley Coren is a canine psychology PhD and professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. In his experiment, Coren asked all the obedience trial judges in North America (Canadian and American Kennel Club) to help with his research on dog intelligence.

To his surprise, 199 obedience judges responded and offered to help with his research and studies – accounting for nearly half of all North American judges at the time.

Coren’s Dog Intelligence Criteria

Based on Coren’s criteria, the judges were asked to test and rank each individual dog breed in obedience trials. His dog intelligence criteria was based on two factors:

  1. The number of repetitions necessary for the dog to learn a new command. Those that needed fewer repetitions ranked higher of Coren’s intelligence list.
  2. The success rate that a dog will obey a known command on the very first try. A higher success rate meant a more intelligent and obedient dog.

Of the submissions, Coren only accepted dog breeds with at least 100 responses. Otherwise, they weren’t able to qualify to be included in his final list of smartest dog breeds. Without enough data, the result would not be accurate.

In addition, only dog breeds that were recognized by the AKC or CKC participated in the trials. In other words, no mixed dog breeds or rarer international breeds even participated in the trials.

This criteria was met with quite a bit of criticism, as well as praise. While we think this is a great starting point for calculating dog IQ, it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story.

How the Husky Performed

Siberian Huskies didn’t do too poorly, but they didn’t do well either. They were right around the middle as the 74th most intelligent dog – or an average intelligent dog breed. But what did this mean?

This meant that Huskies needed 25 to 40 repetitions to learn a new, unknown command. It could take an afternoon to teach a Husky a new command depending on the complexity of it.

As for the obedience side, Huskies are will obey a known command on the first try with a 50% (or better) success rate. They’re not as obedient as a Border Collie, but this isn’t bad either.

And for reference, plenty of other popular dog breeds are in the same intelligence class as the Husky. These dogs include: the Australian Shepherd, Boxer, Great Dane and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Still, not a bad class of dog breeds to be placed with.

Husky Intelligence vs. Other Dogs

Now that we understand how smart an average dog is, how does the Husky compare to other, more intelligent dog breeds? The intelligence classes above the Husky’s include: above average dogs, bright dogs and the top 10.

Above average dogs are able to learn a brand new command with just 15 to 25 repetitions. They’re also able to obey a known command on the first attempt with a 70% plus success rate. For reference, the Dalmatian, Miniature Pinscher and Giant Schnauzer make this list.

Bright dogs are able to learn a new command with only 5 to 15 repetitions. Likewise, these dogs will obey a known command on the first try with an 85% (or better) success rate.

Some popular dogs in this class include the Corgis, Cocker Spaniel, Pomeranian and the Bernese Mountain Dog.

Finally, the top ten dogs are in a league of their own. These dogs can learn a new command with 5 repetitions or less! Plus, they’ll obey a known command on the first try with a 95% or more success rate.

These are your Border Collies, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, Doberman Pinscher, Labradors and more. Coincidentally, the smartest are the most popular dogs in America.

Why Huskies Rank Low in Dog Intelligence

According to our survey, most owners believed their Huskies were smart dogs. So how did they perform “average” compared to other dog breeds? Let’s look into the reasons why these dogs aren’t ranked higher in dog intelligence.

Most owners agree that Huskies are extremely stubborn dogs. In fact, these dogs can be independent minded and will constantly test your alpha dominance over the pack (family).

Huskies are very intelligent, but very stubborn. Mine knows exactly what I ask her to do because she’ll follow commands impeccably if I have a treat in my hand. If I don’t have a treat and she doesn’t feel like following commands, she’ll play dumb.

– Songbird81 (Reddit User)

Based on Coren’s obedience-focused criteria and the Husky’s stubbornness, is it really a surprise the Husky didn’t perform so well? It’s not a surprise that some of the most stubborn dog breeds also performed the worst on Coren’s dog intelligence test.

But just because your Husky doesn’t obey a command doesn’t mean that they don’t understand what you’re asking. Most likely, they do. Likely, they just have other priorities at the time.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to fully train a Husky. However, it can be pretty difficult to train a Husky. You just need to have a lot of patience and find the right motivators for your dog.

In some owners’ case, food is the main motivator. Others can be play time, or their favorite toy. Since all individual dogs are different in personality and temperament, you would need to experiment to see what works best with your Husky and apply the motivator to your obedience training.

Reasons Why Are Huskies Smart

Despite the relatively low intelligence ranking, Siberian Huskies are more intelligent than you think. At the least, they are smarter than the intelligence rankings make them out to be. There’s a lot more to Huskies than just obedience & working intelligence.

Though it makes a lot of sense that quick-learning is correlated with a higher dog IQ, it isn’t everything. According to Stanley Coren, there are two other dimensions of dog intelligence, including instinctive and adaptive intelligence. In my opinion, these may be more important.

The Husky’s Adaptive Intelligence

Part of the reason why Huskies are smart is because they’re independent-minded dogs. In other words, they’re intelligent enough to make decisions for themselves versus being led by a human.

We call this adaptive intelligence, which refers to the dog’s ability to learn and think on its own, while being able to solve problems. And in my opinion, it may be the most important aspect of dog intelligence. The unfortunate part is that this is the most difficult component to measure.

Huskies are smart and they know it, which is also why they’re also stubborn. They won’t necessarily do your bidding for the sake of it. If you tell a Husky to “come,” they’ll ask “why?”

For example, one Husky owner tells us just how smart her dog is:

It’s somewhat rare that our husky will gladly follow when I tell him to come. He usually just sits by the cabinets (holding the treats) because as soon as I go near him he’ll signal to me that he wants some treats.

– Amanda M. (Husky Owner)

It’s not like Amanda’s Husky doesn’t know what “come” means. He’s smart enough to learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to getting treats. And as a result, it may come off as stubbornness or “low intelligence.”

On the other hand, Huskies are excellent communicators. It’s why they’re such vocal dogs. The thing is, not all dog breeds are good at communicating. It requires a lot of intelligence from the dog side to understand what you are saying and respond in a way you’ll understand.

Communication is key when it comes to a human-and-dog relationship. It’s why Huskies are such great working dogs that work closely alongside humans. This brings me to my next point in Husky intelligence.

The Working Dog’s Intelligence in Huskies

The final component of dog intelligence is instinctive intelligence and refers to the skill or ability that the dog was originally bred for. In the past, all dog breeds were bred to help out in society. They could have been herding dogs, guardians, or retrievers.

For example, Australian Shepherds are some of the world’s top herding dogs. They have a special ability to drive or push livestock in different directions. They know exactly where to cut off the flock to make them move a certain way. This is the Aussie’s instinctive intelligence.

But how about the Siberian Husky? Huskies are some of the best working dogs the world has to offer. There’s no denying this. Nearly all working dog breeds that do independent work are highly intelligent dogs, including the Siberian Husky.

Huskies have a very specific skillset as well. They were originally bred to pull sleds in the cold for hundreds of miles. Tie them to a sled and they’re able to do this with little to no human training, which requires this very special type of instinctive intelligence.

Did you know Huskies can run 100 miles per day? Along with superb genetics, this is because they’re so good at maintaining their stamina and pacing themselves throughout the journey. In other words, intelligent pacing.

But because of their seemingly unlimited amount of energy, they’re useful in many jobs. For example, during WWII, the army used Huskies as search and rescue dogs. They were also trained for transportation, communication and freighting.

Is Your Husky Smart?

Perhaps there’s more to dog IQ than just obedience tests. To truly gauge how intelligent these dogs are, we decided to survey real Husky owners.

From the popular Husky sub Reddit and various other dog forums, we asked ten owners this question. Here’s what they had to say about their Husky’s intelligence.

Real Owner Answers

1. Jdott says Yes: “We got him at 10 weeks and he knew sit, shake, down, stay, and come by 14 weeks. Very intelligent dogs. However, for as intelligent they are, they are equally as stubborn.”

2. Rawbee3d says Yes:They are such intelligent dogs, I genuinely think he understands the majority of what I want just based on voice tone and body language.”

3. Undflight says Yes: “I have a beautiful Siberian Husky pup (5 months old, Aurora) and she is incredibly intelligent; caught on to potty training and simple commands very quickly.”

4. Floridahuskies says Yes: “They are amazingly loving, but incredibly intelligent dogs. They are high energy and love to play.”

5. Bicycle_mice says No: “My husky isn’t the brightest either but I love her so much. Mostly because she isn’t smart enough to get into any trouble.”

6. Sarabear says Yes: “We taught him out to sit, shake, and “up” in the first week we had him. He is highly intelligent!”

7. Prettyfelon says Yes: “We recently adopted a male, three year old husky. He’s extremely intelligent, friendly, and obedient. He’s pretty much the perfect dog.”

8. Anonymous says No: “My husky named stinky has got to be the dumbest dog in the whole world. But she also has the biggest heart and we love her.”

9. Eatsleepjeep says Yes:I wish my husky were dumb. Then she’d probably cause half the problems she does now. Little girl is too clever by half.”

10. Njibbz says Yes: “Huskies are high energy and high intelligence. But, this can cause problems when they are left alone. Most husky owners will crate their dogs while they are away because even ones who are well behaved while you are around can cause mayhem when they know they aren’t being watched.”

Why Get a Husky?

When choosing which dog breed to bring home, it’s important that owners don’t focus so much on these silly obedience/work intelligence tests and rankings.

Rather than asking how smart Huskies are, you should be asking whether the Husky’s temperament and personality matches yours. Do they fit your needs?

Huskies are free-spirited dogs. Still, they retain the affection and loyalty seen in many dog breeds. They’re social by nature and love playing with humans. For that reason, they don’t make great guard dogs.

They can be a little mischievous at times, but that’s all part of the Husky’s charm. If after all this, you feel the Husky is right for you – go for it. After all, there’s a reason why they’re always in the top 15 for most popular breeds.


So, do you own a Siberian Husky? And, is your Husky smart? Let us know in the comments section below! 

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D. Parrish

Tuesday 13th of July 2021

I have two huskies. My female is 5 mos and very mischievous. So sweet and smart. She was letting herself out pushing the screen door at 12 weeks. My male is a lover and cuddle muffin. Although I think he is smarter than he lets on. Huskies are smart.

David

Sunday 8th of November 2020

If complex thought process is a sign of intelligence then My Husky (Chaos) is very intelligent, he will come when called most times, will always give you a paw and yes he will argue with you but always realize when he has crossed the line. Back to complex thought process, I have seen him lying in the garden decide to come in the house he will open the back door then the kitchen door followed by the living room door, sit at my feet give me his paw or lick my hand often both, as soon as I get up he will head to the kitchen and sit under the cupboard where his treats are kept. give him his treat he will quickly run round the house showing everyone what he has. finally he will settle down eat his treat then usually head back out side looking rather pleased with himself. For me that's true intelligence he is thinking for himself and knows how to achieve his goal and not just responding to a command that been drilled into him from birth.

Nan Williams

Monday 28th of September 2020

I have a malamute/husky mix. She is the brightest dog I have ever had. She catches on after a couple of repetitions. Ah, but will she always do as commanded? Of course not. She is a husky. She pretends like she doesn't get it, then after several weeks of not giving this command that we have only tried a couple of time before, I only have to say the command if I have a treat or she has that special sparkle in her eye and she will immediately do it. Don't let them fool you. I recommend this type of dog highly. I love her dearly. Sounds like a flawed test to me. Wouldn't have any other breed now I know what they are like.

Larry

Wednesday 23rd of September 2020

I have had 2 Siberians and now a wolf/Siberian mix. All have proven to be great companions. Once you learn that what a husky owns is his and what you own is his you'll have the formula for success. They can be easy to train on one day and the next day be a rebellious teenager, yes they argue too. Ghost, my hybrid I have will growl and carry on if I have treats to train with. Its all about those treats are mine why should I have to do something when you aren't.. Next day she'll sit and give you a paw on first command. Life is never boring with a husky or hybrid.

Joseph A

Saturday 12th of September 2020

I have a 4yr old husky who is extremely smart and very stubborn. You can call it what you will, but I define it as personality. In that regard huskys are truly blessed with brains and the sense to use them when needed and relax when desired. That's what I'd call smart. Joe, Philly, Pa