Are Poodles Smart? Poodle’s Intelligence & IQ Explained

The Poodle is one of the world’s very popular dogs. Elegant and charm are their trademarks, as well as the fanciful haircut owners often give this breed.

The haircut and elegance sometimes make people assume that the Poodle is an airhead that relies only on physical appearance to attract potential owners.

This stereotype has been further enforced through derogatory jokes. The unfortunate thing about this stereotype is that it isn’t true.

Are Poodles Smart?

The Poodle is one of the smartest dog breeds in the world, and many rankings often include it on the list.

The canine psychologist Stanley Coren listed it in second place after his examinations following a specific set of criteria.

Poodle Pup Waiting for Command from Human

Be rest assured that owning a Poodle means inviting a canine genius to your household.

Of course, you’d need more details on the Poodle’s intelligence and IQ, not only a paragraph.

So, if you’re wondering: “why are poodles so smart?” this article is here to provide answers.

An Overview Of Canine Intelligence

Stanley Coren is often credited with developing the concept of dog intelligence, stating that dogs have the mental intelligence of a 2-year-old human child. [1]

He (and others agree) further classified dog intelligence into three broad categories:

  • Adaptive intelligence (how does the dog learn from its environment and solve problems?)
  • Instinctive intelligence (what was the dog bred to do?)
  • Working and obedience (how fast does it learn and obey commands?)

“dogs have been known to learn hundred of words, do arithmetic, and guess what people and other dogs are thinking.”

AKC

Surely we can agree with the American Kennel Club when it asserts that dogs are smarter than we give them credit for. [2]

With the above in mind, how did psychologists like Stanley Coren measure the Poodle’s IQ to know that the Poodle is the 2nd most intelligent dog breed?

The simple answer is that they focused on the measurable form of intelligence, which is work and obedience. 

How Was The Poodle’s Intelligence Measured? 

Stanley Coren conducted his research with the help of 199 obedience trial judges from the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club.

He created a set of criteria based on work and obedience intelligence because that is the only form of intelligence that promises concrete results. 

All dogs were bred to do something, so one can’t tell which has more instinctive intelligence than the other.

They also know how to interact with their environments, making it hard to determine which dog would do better at adaptive intelligence.

Plus, people own dogs today mainly as household pets. They would want to know how their pooches would fare in training. 

Coren’s criteria were used by the judges to test dogs all over the country. These dog breeds were only the purebred ones recognized in North America.

Popular breeds like the Goldendoodle, the Maltipoo, and the Japanese Chin weren’t included.

Coren’s Dog Intelligence Criteria

Here are the criteria the canine intelligence tests were based on:

  1. The number of times a command would be repeated before a dog learns it. Dogs that required a lesser number of times were considered more intelligent. 
  2. The success rate at which a dog understands and obeys a command on the first attempt. Dog breeds with higher chances of succeeding were placed top of the list.

The dogs that qualified for Coren’s intelligence test and made the ranking were those that could receive at least 100 responses.

How Did The Poodle Perform?

The words of Coren best describe the Poodle’s success in the test:

“Border collies are number one; poodles are second, followed by German shepherds. Fourth on the list is golden retrievers; fifth, Dobermans; sixth, Shetland sheepdogs; and finally, Labrador retrievers.”

Stanley Coren

This means that the only dog breed considered more intelligent than the Poodle is the Border Collie.

The Poodle surpassed popular dog breeds like the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever.

For this reason, the Poodle is always ranked number 2 on any list of intelligent dog breeds.

So, what does this entail on street level? Your Poodle can learn a new command and you wouldn’t have to repeat it more than five times.

The Poodle also had a 95% success rate on understanding and obeying known commands at the first attempt, making this breed one of the easiest to train.

Training this breed is even easier than America’s top dog — Labrador Retriever.

How Smart Are Poodles Compared To An Average Intelligent Dog

Golden Standard Poodle in Full Standing Height

The high success of the Poodle in Coren’s test is enough to conclude that the Poodle is intelligent.

When you then compare it to the average dog, you’d quickly realize that the Poodle is a genius. 

For starters, while the Poodle learns a new command after at least 5 repetitions, the average dog requires at least 25 to 40 repetitions.

Also, compared to the Poodle’s 95% success rate of understanding and obeying commands at the first attempt, the average dog has a 50% success rate.

The average dog can also learn 165 words while the top dogs can learn 250 words. 

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with an average dog, and it doesn’t mean they are dumb either. Some of these dogs are simply stubborn and independent.

On other forms of intelligence, they are good. Some of these dogs are the Siberian Husky, the Greyhound, the Dachshund, and the Great Dane.

Dig Deeper:
25 Dumbest Dog Breeds & Why They’re Actually Smart

What About Other Forms Of Dog Intelligence?

We’ve established that the Poodle is a highly intelligent breed under the work and obedience category.

But what about other forms of intelligence? Apart from work and obedience, how smart is the Poodle in other categories?

It turns out they do quite fine in other intelligence categories too.

The Poodle’s Instinctive Intelligence

Adorable Smart Toy Poodle with Wooden Pad Walking on Bed

All purebred dog breeds have some degree of instinctive intelligence as they were all bred for specific reasons.

The Poodle is not an exception. Having said that, Poodles were initially bred and categorized for different roles.

There are three types of Poodles: The Standard, Miniature, and Toy Poodles.

  • Standard Poodle was bred mainly to retrieve waterfowl.
  • Miniature Poodle was bred to sniff truffles.
  • Toy Poodle was bred for companionship. 

Working dogs are usually considered to have higher instinctive intelligence than those bred to be solely companions.

Hence, the Standard and Miniature Poodles are the ones with more instinctive intelligence.

They aren’t separate breeds, though, so altogether the Poodle is good to go in this category. 

The Poodle’s Adaptive Intelligence

Adaptive intelligence usually varies between members as it concerns the individual dog’s reaction to the environment and its ability to solve problems.

That said, almost all Poodles have shown to be intelligent in this category. 

As many pet parents can attest, Poodles are capable of learning from past experiences and making decisions based on those experiences.

If a Poodle were to accidentally step into burning coal, best believe it would avoid that area the following day.

The Poodle’s adaptive intelligence, combined with obedience and work, makes it act almost human.

Over time, we have seen hilarious social media posts on Poodles displaying their high level of intelligence.

Some Poodles have been seen on viral posts tapping on a computer keyboard, checking out words on a piece of paper, and even getting into the driver’s seat of your car (don’t let your Poodle drive, though).

Can Poodles Talk?

A lot of us have most likely watched talking animals in animated movies and would want to experience that with our pet dogs.

Can it be possible that highly intelligent dogs learn to communicate in human language?

For now, nothing indicates that intelligent dogs can speak “human”. However, research has been leaning towards making this a possibility. [3]

It may never be possible for a Poodle to talk in words that we would understand, but with the aid of some tools, who knows?

Not too long ago, a Poodle Sheepdog mix named Bunny got more than 7 million TikTok subscribers interested by her ability to press buttons together to construct loose sentences. [4]

She successfully asked about her dad, and could even communicate pain.

With science and technology constantly expanding, the future might bring some interesting results on this.

Owning a Poodle: Is The Poodle Right For You?

The smartness of this breed is an asset to any pet parent, but this shouldn’t call for recklessness.

You still need the effort to train a Poodle, and the intelligence has some notable downsides. The Poodle is also highly energetic, which could make it challenging to control. 

For first-time dog owners, the Toy Poodle is best advisable because its small size makes it easy to manage. Apartment dwellers might also appreciate the Toy Poodle better.

While the Standard and Miniature are obedient, they need an owner that can handle the size. 

Poodles also get bored fast because of their intelligence, so training should be interesting and consistent. Use toys and puzzles to mentally stimulate Poodles. 

The first things you should teach your Poodle include:

  • Their names,
  • Learning basic dog commands like ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘lie down, and more
  • Housetraining

FAQs

How much IQ does a Poodle have?

The Poodle has a very high IQ, far more than the average dog breed and even popular breeds like the German Shepherd, the Labrador Retriever, and Golden Retriever.

The only dog breed that is considered smarter than the Poodle is the Border Collie.

The Poodle is capable of up to 300 words with a committed owner.

Are Poodles intelligent or dumb?

The Poodle is a very smart breed in all three forms of dog intelligence—instinctive, adaptive, and work and obedience.

Little wonder it is considered the 2nd most intelligent breed in the United States. 

What dog has the highest IQ?

All dogs have a certain degree of intelligence, but when it comes to the ability to respond to commands and be trained, the Border Collie tops the list.

What is the stupidest dog breed?

There are no stupid dog breeds as all dogs are intelligent in their way.

However, some dogs are considered less intelligent than others under the work and obedience category.

They include the Afghan Hound, Basenji, the Chow Chow, and the Pekingese.

Final Thoughts

You have our support to take the nasty stereotype of the Poodle being dumb, and rip it to shreds.

The Poodle is a genius of the canine world and should be respected as such. 

These dogs rank high in obedience and work intelligence and are also smart in other well-known forms of intelligence.

Poodles make good family dogs for owners who are both committed and capable of training them.

References & Notes

  1. Smarter Than You Think: Renowned Canine Researcher Puts Dogs’ Intelligence on Par with 2-Year-Old Human,” American Psychological Association.
  2. Dog Cognition: Dogs Are Even Smarter Than You Think,” American Kennel Club.
  3. Our Approach to Research,” TheyCanTalk.org.
  4. The ‘Talking’ Dog of TikTok,” New York Times

Authored By

Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce is a canine behavioral and nutritional specialist, professional dog trainer, and the CEO of Puplore. A former military working dog handler, Ben founded Puplore to provide owners with breed-specific information and to act as a go-to guide to health, nutrition, care, and to help them find the confidence they need to step up to the plate and become the best pup parents they can possibly be. A firm believer in treating all animals with kindness and compassion, and that positive discipline is paramount in achieving a harmonious canine-human relationship, Ben’s former and present careers have enabled him to become a leading light in his chosen profession and business.

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