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

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 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! 

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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

Alfred Fors

Thursday 28th of May 2020

I live in the countryside/Forest with a Husky and she as a puppy didn't want to be left at home when I went away so she learnt how to unlock doors and windows to go out and search for me. She made friends with a young fox and they where playing in the forest seasonally, other times she said hello to neighbours. I child proofed the windows and locks but she learnt in 2 hours how to open them to and where always so proud and happy every time "she found me"..

She sure is a stubborn little princess but with a big hearth and kind nature. She actually understands very much when people talk about her or to her and if someones saying mean things about her she will go into hiding and becomes sad. She no longer escapes when Im gone and I think its only because she have seen me get into trouble when she does that (she could escape if she wanted to)..

In conclusion as far as it goes with my Husky and the research I made over the years is that they will only listen to you if you if there's a mutual respect and understanding of one another (LOVE is not enough and I cant stress how important that is to know if you are thinking about getting one). Once you get to the point where you can trust the Husky OFF leash. That's the point when the Husky can trust you back. The loyalty might be strong but they are far to smart to listen if you are not patient and calm when calling them back to you. Calling them with happiness when they have escaped is the way to go since they cant help their mischievous nature.

So are they smarter then other dogs according to me? :No but they are like many specialised working dogs, intelligent in their own way/profession Is it a good dog for a family? :Ohyess very much so since they are of the low aggressive kind like its stated here on thesmartcanine.com they are not best for training as a guard dog BUT the fact remains that its a pack dog and if it feels at home with your "pack"/family you can sure see the protection fall in place.

So the intelligens part I believe is a very broad spectrum with this breed and I have meet allot of sled dog breeders here in Lappland. Seems to me like some unique dogs they have are above normal dog intelligens and beyond over-intelligent. But the fact of the matter remains that the average Husky individual needs allot of attention, love, training and talking to by humans or dogs to develop their social skills from where they gain allot of their unique intelligens.

Richard Jeng

Thursday 28th of May 2020

Thanks for sharing that. Well said.