Poodles have an appearance that makes many think of them as aloof or simpleminded, comparable to a Hollywood starlet. But contrary to popular belief, Poodles are one of the most intelligent dog breeds on the planet.
Poodles are the second most intelligent dog on Earth, just behind the Border Collie. In fact, when consistently trained, these dogs can learn and remember 300 or more words. Poodles are also extremely emotionally Intelligent and are especially responsive to human verbal tone, gestures, and body language.
The intelligence of Poodles makes them a great partner for people, but how smart are they? Keep reading to learn more about how intelligent Poodles are and how their intelligence can be explored through their interactions with people.
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.
Scientists have tested the intelligence of dogs and have concluded that dogs possess the intelligence level of a two-year-old human child.
A Poodle’s ‘high Intelligence means they are capable of the following:
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
How Intelligent Are Poodles Compared to Other Dogs?
So we’ve established that dogs are in the top ten most intelligent animals in the world, but how intelligent are Poodles compared to other dogs? Good news, Poodle lovers—Poodles are the second most intelligent dog in the world, beat out only by the supernaturally smart Border Collie.
Still, the Poodle in all its sizes is no slouch. Despite being the second-most intelligent dog in the world, the intelligence of a Poodle is so close to a Border Collie that the difference between the two isn’t much. So, if you’re looking for a dog that is as smart as a Border Collie without the neurotic obsession with herding, the Poodle may be the perfect dog for you.
This chart shows the top 20 most intelligent dog breeds in the world:
|AUSTRALIAN CATTLE DOG
|BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG
|PEMBROKE WELSH CORGI
|GERMAN SHORTHAIRED POINTER
|ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL
Poodle Intelligence: Word Association and Memory Recall
Most dogs have the ability to learn about 165 words. Your typical poodle exceeds this benchmark. When consistently trained, the poodle can learn and remember 300 or more words.
Poodles quickly pick up a word and associate it with an action or an object. It usually only takes a few times to issue a command such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, or ‘fetch’ for a poodle to associate it with the actions:
This quick word association extends to people and objects as well. A poodle will know what to get when you say ‘fetch the ball’ or ‘where’s your teddy bear?”
Poodles have great memories. This is part of what makes them so easy to train. They are able to pick up commands and remember them rather quickly.
How Canine Intelligence is Measured
Renowned canine psychologist, and author of The Intelligence of Dogs, Dr. Stanley Coren worked in conjunction with judges from the AKC and CKC to develop a canine intelligence test. In his book, Coren establishes three facets of canine intelligence:
- Instinctive Intelligence
- Adaptive Intelligence
- Work and Obedience Intelligence
Instinctive intelligence refers to the innate abilities in a specific dog breed that make them especially good at things such as but not limited to:
Adaptive intelligence relates to a dog’s ability to problem solve.
Work and Obedience Intelligence
Work and Obedience Intelligence highlight a dog’s ability to learn from a human.
There are multiple tests in each of the three aspects of canine intelligence. The results of this test showed that poodles rank the 2nd in intelligence out of 138 breeds of dog.
Each dog is individually judged and scored. The scores were calculated based on the following criteria:
- The number of repetitions it took each dog to learn a new command
- The success rate (%) that a dog will understand and obey a new command
How Emotionally Intelligent Are Poodles?
Another aspect of Poodle intelligence beyond their reasoning ability is their emotional intelligence. Like all other dogs, Poodles are extremely responsive to human behavior, especially human verbal tone, gestures, and body language. This is a behavior dogs learned on their own just by being around people for such a long time.
Not only have dogs had to learn how to interpret human body language to know whether a primitive fire was safe to approach for scraps or not, but it also evolved into their ability to hunt alongside other animals, stalking quietly when ordered or following shouted commands.
The emotional intelligence that made dogs such great hunting and herding partners in our antiquity has also led to them being very intuitive household partners too. Poodles are great at consoling you when you’ve had a bad day, and if you’re irritable, they’re good at staying out of your way.
But this high emotional intelligence also comes at a price—like Border Collies, Poodles are very emotionally sensitive and cannot tolerate harsh criticism. Any kind of punishment or harsh treatment can lead to serious regression in training activities, as the dog becomes upset and loses the will to execute requested behaviors. In other words, don’t hurt a Poodle’s feelings.
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 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 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 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 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 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.Stanley Coren
- 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 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 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The greatest fear dogs know is the fear that you will not come back when you go out the door without them.”Stanley Coren
The drawbacks of a Poodle’s intelligence can mostly be reduced by spending enough time with the Poodle while it’s growing up to socialize and train it properly. Without this attention, a Poodle can become a troublemaker.
7 Tips For Mentally Stimulating Your Poodle
So, how do you raise a Poodle to keep their high intelligence from making them a plague of mischief on the household?
Here are seven tips for mentally stimulating your super-smart poodle:
1. Make sure they get more than enough exercise
A tired dog is a well-behaved dog, and Poodles have one of the highest energy levels out of any dog breed. They are easily as energetic as many of the other herding breeds, such as collies and retrievers. and regular exercise helps stimulate your poodle’s mind Therefore, the best way to ensure they don’t take out all that excess energy on the house is to tire them out physically, and mentally, with exercise.
2. Buy them plenty of puzzles
Dog puzzles are not only a good way for your Poodle to exercise their big brains, but it’s also a good way to help keep them occupied if you have to be separated from them for work or school. Providing mental stimulation decreases the chance that the dog will become frustrated and bored. If anything, your problem may end up that your Poodle picks up how to do the puzzle too fast!
3. Enroll Your Poodle in obedience school or classes
Poodles are notorious for being at the top of the class in obedience school. Not only does this give them a formal education in commands they can carry with them the rest of their life to make both you and your Poodle’s life easier, but it’s also a good source of positive socialization with other dogs. For many puppies, obedience lessons are their first real opportunity to spend time with other dogs their age.
Brain Training For Dogs
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4. Teach your Poodle games
Dogs have the intelligence level of toddlers, and you know what else they share with toddlers? A love of simple games. Click here to see some games recommended by the American Kennel Club that can not only keep your Poodle entertained but can also help make your Poodle even smarter.
Alternatively, if your poodle is stuck inside on a rainy day, check out this video for some great simple mental stimulating activity ideas:
5. Teach your Poodle tricks
Along with teaching your Poodle games, there are tons of neat party tricks that you can teach your Poodle from retrieving the newspaper to playing dead. Introducing new tricks is a good way to keep Poodles engaged when they are getting bored and resistant with more traditional obedience commands.
6. Teach your Poodle scent work
Not only is scent work an entertaining game to the dog by itself, but scent work has also been shown to make reactive or excitable dogs calmer. A major advantage of scent work is that it can be done independently, which is a good option for dogs that become agitated around other dogs in dog sports.
7. Make sure your Poodle is well socialized
This doesn’t just mean exposing your Poodle to a wide variety of animals, people, plants, and inanimate objects. It also means exposing them to environmental stimuli that could potentially trigger fear or confusion, such as wheelchairs, mass transportation, thunderstorms, gunshots, and other triggering stimuli. Desensitization to these kinds of stimuli can make dogs much less likely to resort to neurotic behaviors.
The Poodle’s intelligence is one of the best things about the breed, but it’s important that their intelligence is harnessed through training and socialization, or it can be turned against the dog’s owner. Poodles are a stubborn, sensitive dog that can become reactive or irritable if their intelligence isn’t used constructively.
What Learning Toys Mentally Stimulate A Poodle?
Poodles are known for their cognitive abilities and their need to be kept intellectually challenged so as not to become bored and destructive.
This clever canine needs more than squeaky toys and balls to fetch to keep their intellect stimulated. Poodles enjoy toys that are challenging and rewarding.
The size of your poodle’s puzzles and toys should proportionate with the dog’s size. If it is too big or too small, you may end up exposing your dog to a safety hazard.
High IQ toys are especially useful for this brilliant breed if they are home alone for a few hours or more. While there is some overlap, the different types of high IQ toys include:
- Treat dispensing
- Hide and Seek
Treat Dispensing Toys
Treat dispensing toys can range from basic to challenging. Most are shaped like a ball, pear, or barbell and have a small hole to place a treat inside. Even the more basic treat dispensing toys will keep a food-motivated poodle busy for a significant amount of time.
Puzzles for Problem Solving
Puzzles aren’t just for people! They engage poodles and dispense treats, always a great reward for the food-motivated poodle.
Puzzles require dogs to shift objects around in various directions or open and close hinged pieces in order to earn their reward. Many puzzles can be adjusted to change the format or level of challenge to keep the poodle on its toes- or paws.
Foraging Toys Offer Opportunity to Practice Innate Skills
Poodles love these toys because they satisfy their need to search and dig. This activity mimics truffle hunting, a sport that poodles tend to excel in.
These toys usually come in the form of a fabric mat with different levels of fabric in which to hide toys and treats. With this toy, poodles can problem solve and stay physically active.
Apparatus Toys for Your Above Average Pup
Similar to puzzles, these toys require dogs to manipulate various objects in order to retrieve their reward. They can be adjusted to create new challenges and increase the level of rigor.
Hide and Seek Toys
These toys awaken the poodle’s inner hunter and keep them both mentally and physically active.
Hide and seek toys are designed with openings in which other toys of various sizes and treats can be hidden to engage the poodle’s curiosity until they have retrieved their prize!
Poodles Are Smart, But They Need Guidance
Poodles are indeed the second-most intelligent dog in the world, but all that intelligence doesn’t mean anything if the Poodle isn’t nurtured to make the best of their smarts. That means keeping up with their energy levels, their mental stimulation, and their need for attention.
If you’re willing to put in the time and energy it takes to train one, a Poodle can end up as your best and brightest canine companion.
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