Are Toy Poodles Smart?

Are Toy Poodles Smart?

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.

are standard poodles smart
are standard poodles smart

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.

Measuring a Poodle’s Intelligence

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:

  • 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.
  • The number of repetitions needed for a dog breed to learn a new command. The fewer repetitions required meant a more intelligent dog breed.

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.

are miniature poodles smart
are miniature poodles smart

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.

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.
  • 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!

Is Your Poodle Smart?

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:

  • Slowbillybullies says Yes: “They are hilariously intelligent yet stubborn. They have the most personable personalities, I’ll never be able to have another breed!”
  • 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.“
  • Ohnothereshegoes says Yes: “Inquisitive, too smart for her own good, loving but independent, and perpetually amusing, she’s the light of my life.”
  • 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.“
  • Anonymous says Yes: “Poodles are really smart and thrive on training and mental stimulation, they aren’t just lapdogs.”
  • 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.“
  • 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.“
  • 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.”
  • 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.”
  • 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.“

How Intelligent Are Poodles?

Dogs, in general, are regarded as one of the most intelligent animals in the world, which already makes Poodles pretty smart.

A Poodle’s ‘high Intelligence means they are capable of the following: 

  • Understanding object permanence: Object permanence is the concept that just because an object is not visible does not mean it isn’t there. This is how a dog understands that when you put a treat behind your back, the treat hasn’t magically disappeared.
  • Learning up to 300 or more distinct words and hand signals of the human language: Not only are poodles capable of learning almost as much human language as gorillas and chimps, but they can also be taught to communicate via silent hand signals or even a series of coded whistles, in the case of sheep herding.
  • Acting prosocially: Poodles are one of the few animals on the planet other than apes, whales, and dolphins that have been shown to act prosocial—that is, they are capable of helping another unrelated animal or person with no expectation of reward. While it has been documented in multiple species, this level of altruism is a rare display in the animal kingdom, even among human beings.
  • Learning to count by using representative symbols: Poodles don’t understand numbers per se, but scientists have found that they understand quantity as represented by symbols and how to add up multiple symbols.
  • Following human pointing and deciphering its meaning: Scientists have long been interested in the dog’s ability to follow pointing, as dogs being able to follow human gestures and respond accordingly is one of the most fundamental connections between dogs and people.
  • Using tools: It has been declared by scientists that dogs are one of the only tool-bearing animals in the world, but their tool of choice is a unique one—dogs use humans as their tools to achieve their end goals.
  • Understanding that time is linear: There is a long-standing myth that dogs don’t understand the passage of time, but this is inaccurate. Not only have dogs been shown to understand the passage of time, but they can also accurately judge it and anticipate regularly timed events.
  • Mourning both humans and other dogs: Poodles are one of the few animals in the world that have been observed in overt grieving, both for other dogs and their human owners. This indicates a level of emotional intelligence that is much higher than many other mammals.

While this seems pretty impressive—and when you see a well-trained Poodle, it definitely can be—dogs are only the seventh most intelligent animal in the world.

Poodles are only outsmarted by chimps, dolphins, elephants, African Grey parrots, rats, and crows.

Even so, dogs are one of humankind’s longest-standing companions and have evolved alongside humans for thousands of years, and this has uniquely situated them to grow their intelligence alongside human beings through individual instruction. Poodles also have a high level of emotional intelligence that allows them to communicate deeply with humans.

What Are the Advantages of Having an Intelligent Poodle?

There are some fantastic benefits of having an intelligent breed like the Poodle. Here are some of the advantages you can enjoy by choosing to love such a smart breed: 

  • Poodles can do tons of tricks: There’s a reason that Poodles have been popular circus dogs for hundreds of years. These bright dogs aren’t just smart enough to learn a huge repertoire of tricks; they also have a natural class clown personality. If they can make people laugh or pay attention to them, they’ll act like a complete ham. That means not only can they learn lots of tricks, but they also enjoy showing them off.
  • Poodles excel at obedience: Naturally, a dog that can understand up to 250 human commands can do well not just in basic obedience that makes them good canine citizens, but also in the types of advanced obedience that can sweep competitions.
  • Poodles are easy to train in bite inhibition: Because Poodles have a naturally strong respect for their owners and respond quickly to gentle correction, Poodle puppies learn quickly not to put their teeth on human skin or clothing.
  • Poodles can travel easily: Poodles love both people and other dogs. Their easy ability to pick up travel commands like jumping up into vehicles, waiting patiently to be buckled in, or walking well on a leash means that they can be taken any place dogs are allowed without being a hassle to their owners.
  • Poodles housebreak quickly: Poodles are some of the fastest dogs to house train and can easily be trained to ring a bell to let their owners know that they need to go out. Many Poodle owners report that their Poodle puppies had very few accidents before understanding the concepts behind house training as long as they were diligent in taking them out.
  • Poodles make vigilant watchdogs: While Poodles are not a dog that is bred for watching the household, their high intelligence makes them curious and more likely to investigate suspicious noises. Their high degree of loyalty for their owner means that they will also fight to protect them despite not being a naturally aggressive dog.

A man once told me that his dog was half pit bull and half Poodle. He claimed that it wasn’t much good as a guard dog, but it was a vicious gossip.

  • Poodles have a ton of personality because of their smarts: The fact that they are intelligent makes Poodles bright and lively dogs who are quick on the uptake and have a clever—even mischievous—personality. This means that there’s never a dull moment when a Poodle is around, as they live to please and entertain.
  • Poodles do well in dog sports: Because they’re good at following commands, are very athletic, and have a natural desire to please, Poodles are the perfect choice of dog to introduce to dog sports. Poodles can do well in everything from fly ball to dock diving. They can even compete in herding competitions!
  • Poodles can teach other dogs: The interesting thing about having an intelligent dog (or cat, for that matter) in a household is that they can make training other animals in the household easier. Dogs learn well by mimicking, and seeing another dog perform a behavior can often be the pushing point that teaches a watching dog the concept.

The high intelligence of a breed like a Poodle can give a dog owner a lot of advantages when training and living with their dog, as long as they go out of their way to use and nurture that intelligence to establish a strong working bond of communication with their dog.

What Are the Disadvantages of Having an Intelligent Poodle?

Even though there’s a lot of benefits to having an intelligent dog like a Poodle, there are also some distinct disadvantages of having an intelligent dog.

Here are some of the things you need to look out for when you have a highly intelligent Poodle: 

  • High need for mental stimulation: Not only do Poodles need a high level of physical activity to stay balanced in their behavior, but they also need a high degree of mental enrichment. Without puzzles, games, and other activities designed to use the dog’s mind and sensory inputs, a Poodle will soon become bored. This usually either leads to destructive behaviors or frustrating ones, such as excessive barking.
  • High energy: Almost all the smartest dogs in the world are also very high-energy, active dogs, and the Poodle is no exception to the rule. This high energy is perfect for channeling into sports, obedience, or agility training. Still, if left unchecked, it can lead to a dog who decides to create chaos to entertain themselves.
  • Take up more time: Because Poodles require a lot more training and stimulation to be well-behaved, this means that a dog owner will have to set aside more time to spend with a Poodle than they would need to with a more aloof or less intelligent breed of dog.
  • Emotionally sensitive: Poodles are very emotionally intelligent, but this emotional sensitivity means that yelling and physical punishments do not easily roll off a Poodle’s back. If you ever strike a Poodle to correct them, they may not easily trust you again, and it will likely take a long time for them to forgive you completely.
  • Need more attention: Another aspect of the Poodle’s emotional sensitivity is that it does not do well when separated from its owner for long periods. Like Border Collies and other herding breeds, Poodles were bred to work directly alongside humans. Without other stimulation, many Poodles can become lonely and anxious when separated from their people.

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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