The Labradoodle is a wildly-popular cross between the lively Labrador Retriever and the graceful Poodle. As you would expect, these hybrids are friendly, affectionate and playful. However, are they just as smart as their parent dog breeds?
Labradoodles are some of the smartest hybrid dogs thanks to their highly intelligent parents, the Labrador and Poodle. Both breeds are among the top-10 smartest dog breeds for “obedience & working intelligence.” And given both parent breed’s long history in retrieving, Labradoodles tend to have high instinctive dog intelligence.
Though research on the intelligence of hybrid dogs have not been officially conducted, we may be able to deduce a Labradoodle’s intelligence based on the strength and weaknesses of both parent breeds. In this article, we’ll examine why this mutt is one of the smartest ever!
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Measuring a Labradoodle’s Intelligence
The current study on dog intelligence was done by pHD and canine psychologist, Stanley Coren. It was done just a couple decades ago. During his intelligence trials, his team was able to evaluate and rank at least 138 dog breeds from all parts of North America.
Today, this study of dog IQ has been referenced thousands of times, while also receiving its fair share of criticism and support. However, the bad news is that the Labradoodle didn’t make the list, as they had never participated in Coren’s intelligence trials.
Though Labradoodles were never officially tested for their intelligence, both parent breeds (the Labrador Retriever and Poodle) did. But before we dive into the Labradoodle’s IQ, we must first understand how a dog’s intelligence is measured, at least for Coren.
Coren’s Dog intelligence Criteria
When Dr. Coren developed his criteria for measuring dog intelligence, he measured just one aspect of dog IQ. We call this “obedience and working intelligence (O&W),” which essentially measures how fast a dog can learn commands, and how well they retain their training.
Coren didn’t do it alone. In fact, he had the help of 199 obedience trial judges from North America for his intelligence trials. Based on Coren’s dog intelligence criteria, the judges helped him evaluate and rank all breeds they could get their hands on.
The collective effort of trial judges from all over the continent used the following criteria:
- The number of repetitions necessary for a dog breed to learn a new command. Fewer repetitions meant a more intelligent dog breed.
- The success rate in which a dog will obey a known command on the first attempt. A higher success rate meant a more obedient and intelligent dog.
As mentioned, not all breeds made Coren’s smartest dogs list. Only recognized purebred dogs were able to participate in the trials. This meant that a mixed dog breed, such as the Labradoodle, did not officially take part in the trials.
In addition, only dog breeds that received at least 100 evaluations qualified to be on the final smartest list. So even if Labradoodles were considered by AKC as a purebred, they needed to have at least 100 doodles tested to qualify.
Even though Labradoodles aren’t purebred dogs, and thus never participated, we can still make an educated guess based on the intelligence of the Labrador Retriever and Poodle.
How the Labrador & Poodle Performed
Both the Labrador and the Poodle are considered wicked smart, as they performed exceptionally well in the dog IQ trials. As a matter of fact, they’re both ranked as the top 10 smartest dog breeds! Both did so well that they are literally in an intelligence class of their own.
The Poodle ranked number 2 among 138 dog breeds. In fact, only the Border Collie performed better. But just as impressive is the Labrador Retriever, who came in as the 7th smartest dog breed. So what does this actually mean for the intelligence of these breeds?
This meant both a Lab and Poodle are capable of learning a new command with less than 5 repetitions! In other words, you may be able to teach these dogs a new command or trick in less than 10 minutes. Of course, this would depend on the complexity of the trick.
It also meant that these dogs are able to obey a known command on the first try with a 95% or better success rate. Not only are they the quickest learners, but also some of the most obedient dogs in the canine kingdom.
The ultra-exclusive top 10 category also happens to include the most popular family dogs. Just for reference, other dog breeds include the Rottweiler, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Doberman, Sheltie and Border Collie.
Labradoodle vs. “Average” Dogs
With the astounding results of both parent breeds, it may be safe to assume that Labradoodles aren’t far off. Now, if we consider the Labradoodle to be a top 10 caliber dog breed, you may be wondering how one would compare to your “average” intelligent dog?
Average intelligent dogs are able to learn a new command with 25 to 40 repetitions. This means that the Labrador Retrievers, Poodle (and most likely the Labradoodles) are at least 5 times faster than the average dog.
Furthermore, average intelligent dogs tend to obey a known command on the first attempt with a 50% or better success rate. That is, Labradors and Poodles are much more obedient too! And according to owner anecdotes, the Labradoodle is the same.
Despite this seemingly wide gap, some of the most popular dog breeds in the world are in this average intelligence category. For example: the Australian Shepherd, Husky, Dachshund, Great Dane, Shiba Inu and the Boston Terrier are all part of this intelligence class.
2 More Reasons Why Labradoodles Are Smart
According to Stanley Coren, there are actually three dimensions of dog intelligence. The first being the “O&W intelligence,” which was the component used to rank the smartest dog breeds list. This aspect is the most objective, thus easiest to rank dog breeds.
However, there’s much more to dog intelligence than just obedience and work. For example, there’s also adaptive and instinctive intelligence. Both of which, are crucial to measuring how smart a dog really is. In our opinion, they may be more important than O&W.
1. Labradoodles have superb retrieving intelligence
Instinctive intelligence refers to the innate ability or skill that a dog breed was bred for. So what exactly was the purpose of breeding this dog? Nearly every dog was once bred for a role in society. Some dogs were bred to be guard dogs, retrievers, herders, companions and much more.
For example, Labrador Retrievers were bred to retrieve game – hence, the name. It means that they’re naturally inclined to retrieve an object. Haven’t you ever wondered why they do so well playing catch or frisbee? It’s because they were literally born for it.
Likewise, Poodles were also bred to retrieve waterfowl. In fact, both parent breeds are some of the best retrievers in the game, at least according to Ducks Unlimited. This innate ability to retrieve with little to no human training requires high instinctive intelligence.
Now you may be wondering how retrieving is dog intelligence. Knowing how to maneuver through water and bring back a prey without damaging the animal’s body requires high intelligence. Not all dogs can do this, even with extensive training.
“Mild-mannered breeds like the Labradoodle make great therapy dogs, but that is not all they are good for – they can also be trained as guide dogs.”– PetGuide (Labradoodle Dogs.net)
So what were Labradoodles bred for? In 1989, the Labradoodle was developed in Australia to be a guide dog for a blind woman with a husband that had allergies. As such, these dogs had to be hypoallergenic dogs, but also some of the most companionable and trainable dogs.
Though being a guide dog does require additional human training, Labradoodles are born with the innate instincts to help and serve their owners. They always want to help! Pus, they’re incredible at reading emotions and could double as an excellent companion dog.
2. The Labradoodle is excellent at learning from the past
Another important dimension of dog intelligence is adaptive intelligence. It may be the most important aspect, as it refers to the ability of your Labradoodle to learn for him or herself. While some dogs rely a lot on the guidance of their owners, adaptively-intelligent dogs rely more on themselves.
When gauging this aspect of dog IQ, ask yourself these questions. Does the Labradoodle learn from his or her past mistakes and correct them? Are they good at solving problems on their own? All of these are good questions when assessing adaptive intelligence.
But unlike instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence can vary quite a bit among individual dogs – even from the same breed. Labradoodles, being hybrid dogs, are no exception. That being said, this mix tend to excel in adaptive intelligence.
As you can imagine, there is no easy way to measure adaptive intelligence in Labradoodles – or any dog breed. We have to rely on anecdotes and stories from owners to gauge a breeds’ adaptive IQ. The good news is that plenty of owners believe they are.
For instance, one owner tells us:
My Labradoodle is scary smart. He’s figured out a way to tell when were about to take him for a walk. By the time were ready, he’ll be waiting at the door next to his leash.”
If this is not a sign of high adaptive intelligence, I don’t know what is. His Labradoodle figured out the small actions of the owners leading up to taking the dog out for a walk. It could be simple actions, such as putting on sunscreen to rolling up socks.
Whatever the cue is, this Labradoodle was able to learn from past experiences and associate these actions with a consequent action. This is a prime example of adaptive intelligence in dogs.
Another doodle owner tells us,
My dog loves his Greenie and I give him one every night at 10 PM. If I ever forget, he’ll come into my office and let me know at around 10 PM. I didn’t know these dogs had such amazing biological clocks too.”
Of course, these are just some stories of high adaptive intelligence in Labradoodles. I’m certain if you ask a doodle owner yourself, you’ll hear lots of similar stories! Likewise, it’s not unusual to hear similar stories regarding both of the parent breeds too!
Is Your Labradoodle Smart?
Based on Coren’s canine intelligence rankings, we don’t have conclusive evidence that these hybrids are smart. However, to really gauge how intelligent these hybrids are, we decided to ask real Labradoodle owners.
We surveyed the popular Labradoodle Subreddit (and other popular dog forums) to asked real owners this question. Here’s what they had to say about their dogs:
Real Owner Answers:
1. Sefm2429 says Yes: “I have an Australian Labradoodle. They’re hypoallergenic, have great temperaments, very smart, was easy to train, loves people and children and does very with with other dogs.“
2. Maindogdadd says Yes: “Our Labradoodle loves people and other dogs. Not only is he great with kids, but he’s a little goofy but very smart.“
3. Justanotherdoodle says Yes: “I have both a Labradoodle and a Poodle. Both super smart dogs with a great temperament around children. I think my lab poodle mix is a bit more obedient though.“
4. Kimby_cbfh says Yes: “Our pup is friendly, eager to please, very smart, and high energy.“
5. Eatthebankers says Yes: “He’s 8 now, but he is so smart, and always surprises us. We learned last week that he looks at the clock and knows the time. Have fun, and never underestimate their intelligence.“
6. Anonymousdoodle says Yes: “I can’t believe how smart our labradoodle is. She surpasses our expectations every day and we learn a lot from HER.”
7. Eerx3 says Yes: “My Labradoodle is honestly one of the best things to ever come in to my life. Puppies of any breed can be hard but from my experience labradoodles can be trained pretty easily. They’re very smart and eager to please!“
8. Dcdogmom says Yes: “Labradoodles are very curious dogs though, and very smart too. If not trained properly, they can become a problem.”
9. Kahlualualua says Yes: “Max, our Labradoodle, is smart and absolutely trainable. But he’s got some behavioral issues which I blame on the previous owner.“
10. Ezeki3lzak says Yes: “Out of the 7 dogs that i’ve owned in my life, the labradoodle is hands down the smartest AND most obedient. I’ve had Goldens, a German Shepherd, Rottweiler and a Great Dane.”
Smart Toys for Smart Doodles
One of the downsides to owning a smart dog, such as a Labradoodle, is that they often require a lot of mental work stimulation. They tend to have higher mental capacity, thus requiring more “activity” when it comes to the brain.
This usually comes in the form of obedience training. However, not every dog owner is able to provide enough obedience training and mental stimulation for their Labradoodles.
The solution? Provide smart dog toys and puzzles to keep their minds busy. Here are just a couple that my dogs absolutely loved, especially when they were younger.
I think the Nina Ottosson Dog Puzzle is fantastic for any dog. It comes in three variations but I went with this one (the Hide N’ Slide):
Put your doodle’s favorite treats in the hidden slots and let them go to work! They’ll have to move the knobs and sliders to get to their treats. Trust me, it’ll keep them occupied for quite a bit. I highly recommend taking a look here at Amazon.
Another dog toy that my Corgi loves is the StarMark Bob-A-Lot. It’s essentially a bobbing toy that dispenses treats as your dog tilts it a certain way. It’s especially useful if your doodle likes to eat. You’ll want to make them work their brains for the goodies!
There are two chambers with this dispenser. Not only can you fit treats in there but also meals (kibbles). And if your doodle eats a little too fast, then this can also help with slowing them down a bit.
Just make sure you get a size Large for your Labradoodle. If you’re interested in this, check it out at Amazon. But don’t just take our word for it. There’s a reason why it’s so highly reviewed!
There are simply a ton of great smart dog toys and puzzles for your Labradoodle. You don’t need to settle for these two. There are so many great ones you can find with a few minutes on Amazon. Have a look around and pick for yourself.
What’s more important is that you provide some toys that can mentally stimulate your dog’s mind. Without mental stimulation, it could lead to some destructive behavior such as chewing up the couch or your favorite pair of shoes.
Do you own a Labradoodle? What are some things they do that make you think they’re intelligent (or not)? Let us know in the comments section below!
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