The Siberian Husky is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world – for good reason! They’re known to be fun-loving dogs with a mischievous side to them. However, with their silly and goofy personalities, you may wonder if they’re actually smart dogs.
Siberian Huskies are “average intelligent” dogs, according to canine psychologist Stanley Coren. In fact, Huskies are the 74th smartest dog breed out of 138 for “obedience and working intelligence.” But what actually makes the Husky highly intelligent is their ability to effectively communicate with humans. It’s why 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 true intelligence of the Husky, we’ll dive into the IQ trials 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 the canine psychologist, PhD, and professor at the University of British Columbia, who’s credited for developing a criteria for measuring dog intelligence. In fact, it was Coren that first coined the term “obedience and working intelligence.“
O&W intelligence is essentially a measurement of how quickly a dog learns a new command. This one aspect of dog intelligence also measures how well a dog retains their training. You can consider it an obedience test.
And although this may not be the best measurement of dog intelligence, it’s the easiest to objectively measure. In other words, it’s an excellent starting point.
Coren’s Dog Intelligence Criteria
In his intelligence trials, Coren asked all obedience trial judges of 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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 did not qualify to be included in the 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. With that said, no mixed dog breeds or “rare” international breeds even participated in the trials.
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 breed. They’re just an “average intelligent dog.” But what did this exactly mean for the Huskies?
In the trials, they found that Huskies needed 25 to 40 repetitions to learn a new, unknown command. It could take a whole afternoon (or a few hours) to teach a Husky a new command, though it depends on how basic or complex the command is.
As for the breed’s obedience intelligence, Huskies were found to obey a known command on the first try with a 50% (or better) success rate. They may not be 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 average 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.
Huskies vs. The Smartest 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 10 smartest dog breeds.
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% (or better) success rate. For reference, the Dalmatian, Miniature Pinscher and Giant Schnauzer highlight this list.
Bright dogs can learn a 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. Popular dogs in this class include the Corgi, Cocker Spaniel, Pomeranian and the Bernese Mountain Dog.
Finally, the top ten dogs are in a league of their own. These super-smart dogs can learn a new command with 5 repetitions or less! In addition, they’ll obey a known command on the first try with a 95% or more success rate.
Who are the ultra-intelligent dogs? These are your Border Collies, German Shepherds, Rotties, Golden Retrievers, Dobermans, Labradors and more. Coincidentally, the smartest are the most popular dogs in the United States.
Why Huskies Rank Low For Dog Intelligence
Most owners swear their Huskies are smart. So why is it that they performed just “average” compared to other dog breeds? Let’s look into the reasons why these dogs aren’t ranked higher in dog intelligence.
It’s not a surprise: Huskies are extremely stubborn dogs. And according to Canna Pet, Huskies are one of the 10 most stubborn dog breeds. These working dogs will be independent minded and 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)
So, based on Coren’s obedience-focused criteria and the Husky’s stubbornness, is it really a surprise the Husky didn’t perform well? It’s not a coincidence that some of the most stubborn dog breeds also performed the worst on Coren’s dog intelligence trials.
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 train a Husky. However, it can be difficult to train a Husky. You just need to have 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.
2 Reasons Why Huskies Are Really Smart
Despite the relatively low intelligence ranking, Siberian Huskies are more intelligent than you think. At the least, they’re smarter than the intelligence rankings make them out to be. There’s a lot more to Huskies than just obedience & working intelligence.
It makes a lot of sense that quick-learning is correlated with a higher dog intelligence. But this isn’t and shouldn’t be everything. Even Coren admits there are two other dimensions of dog intelligence, that is, instinctive and adaptive intelligence.
In my opinion, these two other aspects of dog intelligence may be more important. Here’s why Huskies have high adaptive and instinctive intelligence.
1. Huskies are great communicators and independent thinkers
Part of the reason why Huskies are so smart is because they’re independent-minded dogs. They don’t really depend on their owners. Here’s some perspective: Huskies are smart 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 their own, all while being able to solve problems. This may be the most important dimension of dog intelligence. The unfortunate part is that this is the most difficult dimension 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 (that hold 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 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 famously known as great working dogs that work closely alongside humans. This brings me to my next point in Husky intelligence.
2. 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 first bred for. In the past, all dogs were bred for a job in society. For example, there are herding dogs, guardians, retrievers, and many more.
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 snowy terrain for a hundred miles and longer. Tie them to a sled and they’re able to do this with little to no human training, which requires this 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, they understand how to allocate energy.
But because of their seemingly unlimited amount of energy, they’re useful in many jobs. For example, on the fields of WWII, the army used Huskies as search and rescue dogs. But thats not all, 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.”
Is the Husky For You?
When choosing which dog breed to bring home, it’s important that owners don’t focus so much on these silly obedience and working intelligence tests and rankings. It’s not important. In fact, all dogs are able to learn the basic commands.
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 and lifestyle?
Huskies are free-spirited dogs. Still, they retain the affection and loyalty seen in many dogs. They’re social by nature and love playing with humans. Being the center of attention is how they’ll thrive. 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? What does your Husky do that makes you think they’re smart? Let us know in the comments section below!
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