Dog Training Smartest Dogs

Are Siberian Huskies Smart? – Here’s How They Compare to Other Breeds

Siberian Huskies are smart in ways other than just obedience and training.
Written by Richard Jeng

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? How smart are Huskies? Huskies are “average” intelligent dogs according to canine psychologist Stanley Coren. In Coren’s dog intelligence trials, Siberian Huskies ranked 74th out of 138 dog breeds for obedience & working intelligence. 

Despite their relatively low ranking, Huskies are rather smart in other ways. To fully grasp the intelligence of Huskies, let’s dive into the intelligence tests conducted by Stanley Coren. Well continue by examining what exactly makes these dogs smart.

RECOMMENDED: Top 100 Smartest Dog Breeds

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 qualified to be included in his final list of smartest dog breeds.

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

This criteria was met with 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 an average intelligent dog breed.

This meant that Huskies needed 25 to 40 repetitions to learn a new, unknown command. As for obedience, Huskies are will obey a known command on the first try with a 50% (or better) success rate.

For reference, other popular dog breeds in the same intelligence class as the Husky include: the Australian Shepherd, Boxer, Great Dane and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

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.

Is Your Husky Smart?

We surveyed real Husky owners and asked them whether they thought their Husky was 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.”

Survey Recap

Though we only collected 10 responses from Husky owners, it was difficult finding owners that actually thought their dog wasn’t highly intelligent.

Only 2 out of 10 owners believed their Husky was dumb. On the other hand, 8 owners believed their dog was very smart. These dogs are far from average intelligence according to real Husky owners.

Why Huskies Rank Low in Intelligence

Here's why Siberian Huskies ranked so low on Stanley Coren's intelligence rankings.

According to our survey, most owners believed their Huskies were smart. 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 test.

But just because your Husky doesn’t obey a command doesn’t mean they don’t understand what you’re asking. Most likely, they do.

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 Songbird81’s case, food is the main motivator. Because all individual dogs are different in personality and temperament, you would need to experiment to see what works best with your Husky.

Why Are Huskies Smart?

There are many reasons other than obedience that makes the Siberian Husky smart.

Siberian Huskies are smarter than you think. And smarter than the intelligence rankings make them out to be. They’re very smart in many ways other than obedience.

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.

Stubborn Independent Dogs

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.

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.”

You can ask almost any Husky owner and they will tell you that Huskies are both stubborn and independent dogs. But I’d argue it’s really the dog breeds with these qualities that are intelligent!

Intelligent Working Dogs

Huskies are some of the best working dogs the world has to offer. Nearly all working dog breeds that do independent work are highly intelligent dogs, including the Siberian Husky.

The final component of dog intelligence is instinctive intelligence and refers to the skill or ability that the dog was bred for.

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

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.

However, they aren’t wired to have a close work-relationship with humans, such as herding, hunting and gun dogs. So it makes sense that they’re somewhat independent at times.

Why Get a Husky?

The Siberian Husky is the first component of the Pitsky breed.

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! 

Posts you may like: 

About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd. Read More.

6 Comments

  • I owned a Siberian Husky for 15 years. She was 51/2 weeks old when I got her. She was the smartest dog I’d ever Seen!! You literally could not fool her twice. Oddly enough for a husky, she hated water. Once I picked her up and gently tossed her into a pond because I wanted to test her swimming ability. As suspected she was a great swimmer however she refused to come near me again until I got her safely home and away from all forms of water. Lol
    I think part of the reason Huskies may have scored low on your tests might be due to their independence and stubbornness. It has been said huskies are very hard to train for this reason and that is likely the reason for the low scoring on the obedience side. Try another type of test and I bet you will change your mind about this breed. They are truly amazing!

  • My husky is my best friend, I spend more time with him than anyone. As far as his intelligence goes the smartest dog I know. Persistent as all get out and stubborn unless he gets his way about things. He doesn’t really obey normal commands, he reacts with human talk. For example when you say “what is your name” would replace speak. Or “nice to meet you” is to shake he puts his paw up. Also questioning his intelligence he loves to play hide and go seek with his stuffed animals. At the moment he has a pig, a duck, and a raccoon.i will shut him in a room and go hide his toy, once I open the door he stays until I tell him to go find it. One day while playing hide and seek I decided to hide all three and tell him to find the duck he would bring back the duck tell him to find the pig he brings back the pig and so forth. Even finding one of the other first he still only brought back what was commanded. This dog is only 11 months old and never has had an accident in the house, but leave him alone for too long you’ll pay the price for something other than his chew toys will belong to the garbage when he gets done with it. He knows he done wrong he notices my emotions before I even make a face, even when he’s done something good he knows it’s like he reads my mind sometimes truly one of a kind mans best friend.

  • I have had huskies for a while, but I lost my first one because of the lack of ability to listen. He ended up slipping his collar and getting hit by a car. After that, I got another husky so my boxer wasn’t lonely. When I got him this puppy was the sweetest baby. After he turned two we had to split him and my boxer up because he was just playing way to rough with my boxer as he didn’t have fur like a husky to help with the playing. But after that my husky was definitely questioning my position as the alpha which has never happen as I normally make it very clear to all my dogs and all of them understand. But one day I was whatching my boxer and husky and saw my husky licking at his bowl I bent down and was talking to him I nornally say “help” if I’m going to do anything with the food bowls but anyway I said help bent down to pick it up and he tried to give me a correction for trying to take his bowl well my boxer is the alpha dog and he noticed it and gave my husky a pretty harsh correction but after that I gave him a correction myself and never again hass that dog question my position as alpha and I made sure after that that I was very clear with my corrections and ALWAYS followed through with him and after my boxer had passed away I got another husky who just meessed up my whole packs energy he was just so hyper even after a VERY long day at the dog park or lakes he would run around and my other dogs were finally tired of it and my husky who got corrected by my boxer stood up because the puppy got in his face but he stood up after warning him to back off and he didin’t listen and got a very harsh correction which I still think he hasn’t forgotten. But huskies will question everything you ask them to do but I finally got tired of it so I came up with new rules for my pack, I ask you once and if you don’t listen you get a correction. (And what I mean by correction is put them into a submissive posture which is the same thing the dogs do to each other)

  • Husky’s are extremely intelligent dogs, they just don’t like being told what to do. My dog won’t eat if I put the food out and tell her it’s there, she will literally wait until I go, have a few stretches and wonder off to have a try, as if to say, “I’m eating it because I choose to” and I love that, I love my dog has her own personality and that she has her own mind. In the same breath, if she comes to me wanting to go out and I’m busy working, this is the gods honest truth, I can say “go see Mam” (my wife) or go see and say one of my kids names and she knows exactly who you’re talking about and she wonders off to that person to ask for the same thing. She’s far from stupid, she just shows intelligence when it suits her and that’s alright.

    If you want to see how intelligent these dogs are, I say put two dogs in equal situations, for example, lock them both in a back yard, if there’s a problem to be solved to get out of that situation, I guarantee which dog will be first, or most likely the only one of the two to get out. These dogs are problem solvers, they would never starve in the wild, as most husky owners know, they have to be stopped from attacking smaller animals whilst out, because they are incredibly intelligent at hunting smaller pray. As an owner, I would obviously never allow this as I love all animals and she gets fed so there’s no need, but there’s been times when she’s literally been walking along, started sniffing and dug into a rabbits tunnel and man can they dig. She’s came out with rats in her mouth and other things, that’s she reluctant to give up, but she does in the end and that’s mostly down to their pray drive and their relatively short time as domestic pets.

    Yes she gets up to mischief, yes she used to be destructive, that’s literally down to how intelligent these animals are and how you have to keep their brains stimulated, unfortunately most husky owners learn the hard way. Either way, I would not change her for the world. If you want an obedient lap dog, then look else where, if you want a dog where every day they put a smile on your face and make you bewildered and think, how on Earth have you managed that whilst grinning, then look no further, you will not meet a dog breed with a bigger personality.

    • Hey Lauren, thanks for sharing! Clearly high adaptive intelligence in your dog. You’ve described your Husky perfectly with two words: problem solver. That’s what they are and what makes them such intelligent dogs.

Leave a Comment

You cannot copy content of this page