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, you may be wondering how smart these curly-coated dogs actually are.

So, are Poodles smart? How smart are Poodles? Poodles are highly intelligent dog breeds. In fact, they’re the second smartest dogs (out of 138 breeds) when it comes to obedience & work intelligence. Plus, Poodles have some of the highest instinctive intelligence among water retrievers with strong 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. While they are fast learners with an excellent recall memory, this breed is smart in other ways. Let’s examine just how smart Poodles really are.

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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 famed canine psychologist and pHD, Stanley Coren. But how did Coren come up with these results? After all, the famous researcher did not just arbitrarily come up with this list.

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.” Essentially, this type of IQ tends to measure the obedience and ability to learn of a breed.

Coren’s Canine Intelligence Criteria

Using Coren’s criteria, the obedience judges assessed and individually ranked each dog breed. And based on the data of the results, the final dog intelligence rankings were created. 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. In fact, only dog breeds that received at least 100 responses were qualified for Coren’s intelligence list. Those with less than 100 responses didn’t have enough data.

In addition, only North American recognized dog breeds participated in the trials. This meant that no mixed dog breeds (or mutts) even participated. Even popular dog breeds, such as the Japanese Chin or the Goldendoodle, did not participate in the trials.

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 smartest dog breed category – along with some good company.

Furthermore, Poodles beat out other highly popular breeds, such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, Dobermans and Labrador Retrievers. These are some of the most popular breeds in America (and possibly the world!).

So what exactly does this mean for these dogs? On average, the Poodles were able to learn a new command with less than 5 repetitions. These commands were likely basic commands, but still very impressive nonetheless.

In my opinion, what’s more impressive is that Poodles obeyed a known command with a 95% or higher success rate (on average). There are few dog breeds (or animals in general) as obedient as the Poodle! They love to work, even if its obedience training.

Poodles vs. Average Intelligent Dogs

We know Poodles are top 10 intelligent. But how do these graceful dogs compare to the “average intelligent” dog breed? While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being average, there is a sizable gap between the two classes.

The average dog is able to learn a new command with 25 to 40 repetitions. This means that your Poodle is at least 5 times faster at learning commands than your average dog. And depending on the dog breeds, they could be 20 times faster.

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. An average dog tends to be more stubborn, which explains gap.

Again, there’s nothing wrong being average! Some of the most popular family dogs are in the average intelligence category. For example, these dogs include the Siberian Husky, Australian Shepherd, Boxer, Greyhound, Great Dane and Dachshund.

Is Your Poodle Smart?

Poodles are intelligent according to real Poodle owners.

Like with humans, not all Poodles will be the same in intelligence. So to truly understand how smart Poodles can be, we decided to ask real Poodle owners. After all, these are the dog owners that would know and understand Poodle intelligence best.

By surveying the popular Poodle Subreddit (and other dog forums), we were able to collect real responses from dog owners. Here’s what they had to say about the Poodle:

Real Owner Answers:

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.”

Other Reasons Why Poodles Are Smart

Yes, Poodles excel in obedience & working intelligence. And although this type of IQ can be helpful for a dog trying to learn tricks and commands, it’s not everything when it comes to canine intelligence. Even Stanley Coren will admit this.

According to Stanley Coren, there are three dimensions of dog intelligence: 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 or intrinsic ability and/or skill that the Poodle was bred for. Not all dogs were developed to be human companions. In fact, most served a purpose in society.

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 herding dogs were not really taught to herd. Rather, they just knew how to do it to a certain degree. Similarly, the Poodles were bred to retrieve water game, such as ducks. They were some of the best water retrievers the canine kingdom had to offer.

My Poodle actually taught me how to play fetch when she was 12 weeks old by bringing a ball to my foot.

– Naira (Poodle Forums)

Did you know Poodles are some of the best swimmers? It’s not because they all spend a ton of time learning to swim, they’re just naturally adept while in water. As such, swimming is part of the true instinctive IQ of this breed.

However, retrieving also contributes to this type of intelligence. That said, 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.

Don’t believe me? Check out this Poodle in action:

Poodle’s Adaptive Intelligence

All individual dogs within the same dog breed have roughly the same instinctive intelligence. But it’s different when it comes to adaptive intelligence, as this can vary greatly. Nearly all 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, situations etc.).

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

Mine figured out how a door stopper wedge works. He’ll pick one up and move it to the bathroom door, hoping that it would stop me from getting in the bath.

The Poodle mentioned above clearly had the motivation to stop his owner from “leaving” to the bath. No, he wasn’t taught how to use a door stopper wedge. Instead, he learned the functionality of the tool and used it for himself.

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!

Again, this Poodle understood that the scent of sunscreen meant that the owner was going to head out of the house. And often times, it’s to go out on a walk with the Poodle. Clearly, this isa sign of high adaptive IQ in the Poodle!

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

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 smart 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 range from anything like obedience training, to hide-and-seek and even a game of “treasure hunt.”

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

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 here at Amazon. For a standard sized Poodle, make sure to get a large.

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. But as they get used to it, they’ll be much quicker in obtaining the treats. This works great especially if your dog is food-driven. 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 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 may want to check this out here at Amazon.

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. It also doesn’t have to be one of these recommendations. 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 smart 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. They do require a decent amount of exercise, though. But really, 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, friendly or charming as the Poodle. There’s a reason the Poodle is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world! They’re really that amazing.

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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.

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