Dog Training Smartest Dogs

Are Poodles Smart? – Reasons Why They’re Some of the Most Intelligent Dogs

Poodles are the second smartest dog breed in the world.
Written by Richard Jeng

Poodles are elegant dogs with a charming and dignified personality. It’s why they’re one of the most popular dogs in the America. But if you’re planning to bring one home, it’s worth looking into the intelligence of these dogs.

So, are Poodles smart? How smart are they? Poodles are highly intelligent dog breeds. In fact, they’re the second smartest dogs (out of 138 breeds) when it comes to obedience & working intelligence. Additionally, Poodles excel in instinctive intelligence with compelling evidence of high adaptive intelligence. 

Though Poodles are famously known for their intelligence, there’s much more to their high IQ than just learning commands and tricks. Let’s examine just how smart these dogs can actually be.

RECOMMENDED: Top 100 Smartest Dog Breeds

Measuring a Poodle’s Intelligence

We measure a Poodle's intelligence based on their obedience and working performance.

Poodles are the second smartest dogs, according to renowned canine psychologist and pHD, Stanley Coren. But how did he come up with these results?

With the help of 199 obedience trial judges from the AKC and CKC, Coren was able to construct a dog intelligence list based on obedience & working intelligence.

Coren’s Canine Intelligence Criteria

Using Coren’s criteria, the obedience judges assessed and individually ranked each recognized dog breed. Here’s what the trials were based on:

  1. The number of repetitions needed for a dog breed to learn a new command. The fewer repetitions required meant a more intelligent dog breed.
  2. The success rate (%) that a dog breed will understand and obey a known command on the first attempt. Dog breeds with a higher success rate were ranked higher for canine intelligence.

However, not all dog breeds that were assessed made Coren’s final intelligence rankings. For example, only dog breeds that received at least 100 responses were qualified for Coren’s intelligence list.

In addition, only North American recognized dog breeds participated in the trials. This meant that no mixed dog breeds (or mutts) even participated.

How the Poodle Performed

Poodles ranked at the top of the list. In fact, only one dog breed (the Border Collie) outperformed the Poodle. Because of their outstanding performance, Poodles were classed in the top 10 most intelligent dog breed category.

Furthermore, Poodles beat out other highly popular breeds, such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers.

So how well did they do? Poodles were able to learn a new command with less than 5 repetitions. These commands were likely basic commands, but impressive nonetheless.

In my opinion, what’s more impressive is that Poodles obeyed a known command with a 95% or higher success rate. There are few dog breeds as obedient as the Poodle!

Poodles vs. Average Intelligent Dogs

We know Poodles are top 10 smart. But how do these graceful dogs compare to the “average intelligent” dog breed?

The average dog is able to learn a new command with 25 to 40 repetitions. This means that Poodles are at least 5 times faster at learning commands than your average dog.

When it comes to obedience, the average dog will obey a known command on the first attempt with a 50% or higher success rate. In other words, Poodles are roughly 70% more obedient.

There’s nothing wrong being average! Some of the most popular family dogs are in the average intelligence category.

For reference, “average” dog breeds include the Siberian Husky, Australian Shepherd, Boxers, Greyhounds, Great Danes and Dachshunds.

Owners: Is Your Poodle Smart?

Poodles are intelligent according to real Poodle owners.

To truly understand how smart Poodles can be, we decided to ask real Poodle owners. By surveying the popular Poodle Subreddit forum, we’re able to collect real responses from dog owners.

Here’s what they had to say about the Poodle:

1. Disgustipated says YES: “Poodles are smart and curious, and are really good at learning your every move. Mine knows that hiking boots mean fun but dress shoes mean she’s getting left at home.”

2. Slowbillybullies says YES: “They are hilariously intelligent yet stubborn. They have the most personable personalities, I’ll never be able to have another breed!”

3. Anonymous says YES: “Poodles are really smart and thrive on training and mental stimulation, they aren’t just lapdogs.”

4. Arcticfawx says YES: “She’s very smart and easy to train, very curious. She picks up on things fairly quickly, stable temperament, very good bounce back from fear/startle. I love her to pieces.”

5. Rickieson says YES: “He’s super easy to train! We can literally teach him a new trick in an afternoon, he loves it. They’re so smart and love to learn.”

6. Rice_on_white says YES: “She’s extremely smart and learns new commands very quickly. She is friendly and happy around all other animals, loves playing with our cat, and is a total snuggle bug.”

7. Anonymous says YES: “Poodles are hands down the smartest dogs i’ve own….and my family has raised 5 breeds! They’re such great communicators that I sometimes think she knows what i’m saying when I don’t use the usual commands.”

8. Illbevictorious says YES: “She’s super smart and learned quick. Kind of stubborn but very sweet. Very friendly with other dogs and people. Not too bark-y but somewhat.”

9. Ohnothereshegoes says YES: “Inquisitive, too smart for her own good, loving but independent, and perpetually amusing, she’s the light of my life.”

10. Bionic4life says YES: “Poodles are smart enough to walk themselves. I swear my toy poodle understands every word that I say. He just chooses which ones to react to.”

Poodle Owner Survey Recap

Out of the 10 Poodle owners we collected responses from, all ten thought their dog was smart. Most dog breeds will receive a few “no” and some “mixed results.”

However, Poodles got a “yes” all across the board. It doesn’t get more impressive than that. It’s hard to argue against the intelligence of Poodles when all the owners believe they’re highly intelligent.

We know this is an extremely small sample size, but it’s still difficult to find any owner that would say otherwise.

Reasons Why Poodles are Smart

Yes, Poodles excel in obedience & working intelligence. And although it’s helpful for a dog to be obedient and quick leaners, it’s not everything when it comes to canine intelligence.

According to Stanley Coren, dog intelligence is comprised of three components: obedience/working, instinctive and adaptive intelligence.

As you may have guessed, Poodles are also very smart dogs in regards to both instinctive and adaptive intelligence.

The Best Water Retrievers

The second dimension of dog IQ is instinctive intelligence. This component refers to the innate ability and/or skill that the Poodle was bred for.

For example, the Rough Collie is one of the most prized herding dogs. Their instinctive intelligence is herding. Being able to round up livestock, push them into formations and guide them to a destination requires this special instinctive intelligence.

These dogs were not taught to herd, they just knew how to do it. Similarly, the Poodles were bred to retrieve water game, such as ducks.

Did you know Poodles are some of the best swimmers? It’s not because they spend a ton of time learning to swim, they’re just naturally adept while in water.

The Poodle’s instinctive intelligence is their ability to efficiently swim towards water game and bring them back to their owners. In fact, they’re one of the best dog breeds at this very specific job.

Poodle’s Adaptive Intelligence

All individual dogs within a breed have roughly the same instinctive intelligence. However, adaptive intelligence can vary among individual dogs.

Poodles, however, have been known to show signs of high adaptive intelligence.

Adaptive intelligence refers to what the dog is capable of learning for him or herself. In other words, how great of a problem solver they are and whether they’re able to learn from the past (experiences, mistakes, etc.).

One Poodle owner tells us just how smart his Poodle is. He says:

Poodles are incredibly smart. Mine figured out how a door stopper wedge works. So he’ll pick one up and move it to the bathroom door when I’m going to bathe him, hoping that it would stop me from getting in the door.

Another owner tells us how her Poodle knows when they’re about to go for a walk. She explains:

Before I go take my Poodle out for a walk, I put on sunscreen. Now she’ll lead me to the dresser where there’s sunscreen every time she wants to go for a walk!

Both these stories show just how high a Poodle’s adaptive intelligence can be. They quickly learn from previous events and may sometimes even use their past experience to communicate to humans.

Again, these are just two stories. But if you asked any Poodle owner or did some research online, you’ll find so many of these intelligent anecdotes!

Smart Toys for Smart Poodles

With intelligent dog breeds, such as the Poodle, you can expect they’ll need a ton of mental stimulation, at least to live a healthy and happy life.

This can be anything from obedience training, to “treasure hunts” and even a game of hide and seek.

Those are all great stimulation ideas, but all require most of your attention, which many Poodle owners may not have. When you’re busy, the solution is to provide dog puzzles and smart dog toys to help with mental stimulation.

One of my favorite dog puzzles is the StarMark Bob-A-Lot Dog Puzzle. It’s essentially a weighted toy where you put delicious treats or your Poodle’s meal in.

The Poodle will need to bob the toy until treats come out from the bottom. It’s fun, interactive and Poodles love playing with it. I highly recommend checking it out at Amazon.

Another fantastic puzzle is the Nina Ottosson Outward Hound Dog Puzzle. You’ll hide treats and your Poodle will have to figure out how to “unlock” the treats by sliding the tabs.

My dog loved playing with this and would be kept occupied for hours, at least in the beginning. However, as they get used to it, they’ll be much quicker in obtaining the treats. Still, I highly recommend it – take a look at it here.

The final recommendation is the Outward Hound hide and seek plush toy. I think it’s absolutely adorable and my sister’s Australian Shepherd pup is obsessed with this.

The objective of this dog puzzle is to try to get the squirrels out of the tree trunk. Put them deep inside the plush trunk and they’ll spend a good time trying to get them out.

They have other animals, such as bees, but the squirrels were too cute to pass up. If you’re interested, you should really look into this at Amazon here.

There are a ton of ways you can provide mental stimulation for your Poodle. It doesn’t necessary have to be a dog puzzle or smart toy. However, they give you some “time off” with your Poodle.

Is the Poodle For You?

Remember that it’s not necessary to have a smart dog. All dog breeds are intelligent enough for whatever you need. They don’t really need to be that intelligent. Also, don’t let the “experts” tell you whether your dog is smart or not.

Instead of asking whether Poodles are smart dogs, you should be asking whether their temperaments and personalities fit your own needs.

These dogs are as graceful and charming as they come. Plus, they’re affectionate and can be very loyal dogs. You just need to provide them with the attention and care they deserve.

So if you think the Poodle is right for you – go for it! There are few dog breeds as wonderful and friendly as the Poodle.

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.

Leave a Comment