I have recently read an article about a poodle who couldn’t stop barking at chickens, and then a forum post about how poodles are simply just pompous and kept for their looks, not their smarts. So, I dug a little deeper to find out if good looks are all there is to this lovable breed.
Are poodles smart? poodles are smart/intelligent no matter what poodle breed we’re talking about. Poodles are ranked second only to border collies in terms of intelligence or smartness. This article will look at just how smart poodles are and what it means for your poodle.
How do you ensure that your poodle lives up to his intelligence legacy? Let’s get down to it.
Table of Contents
How smart are poodles?
Studies conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia found that poodles are on par with a 2.5-year-old child.
This is because they could learn about 250 words (the average dog learns about 165 words), understand signals, and –get this – “perform basic arithmetic” that will put a 3-year-old to shame.
Fun fact: The math test goes a little like this: A person lowers one treat behind a screen, and then another, and then another. All the while, the poodle is paying attention to this. If the person lifts the screen and only one treat is there, the poodle will act surprised and stares at the treat for a long time; this suggests that the poodle understand basic addition. You can try this with your poodle and see what you find.
Anyway, poodles are also said to be good socializers with capacities for basic emotions such as happiness, anger, and disgust.
But experts say that poodles, like all dogs, do not have dog guilt (what you recognize as ‘dog guilt’ is actually fear).
Also, poodles have a basic understanding of equity (like if you give another dog a tasty treat but only give him a small portion of the treat, there will be some explaining to do!).
Poodle Intelligence compared with other dogs
Poodles are near the top of the dog class (second to border collies) but how is this determined and is it factual?
The following measures that are used to measure a dog’s intelligence (for these criteria, we have neuropsychologist Stanley Coren to thank).
This will refer to the dog’s ability to consistently follow commands upon training.
Since poodles have obedience intelligence, they are often said to be easily trainable dogs generally.
The average dog will learn and recall a new commands when it is repeated some 25 to 40 times whereas our beloved poodle learns at least five times faster.
Patterned training sessions are especially ideal for poodles and they take up the learning fairly quickly.
This can be explained as all the capabilities that a dog requires in order to execute tasks in the real world, under the guidance of a leader.
Now, as you’ll possibly note, obedience intelligence also factors greatly into working intelligence and, hence, these terms are very ambiguous.
As a result, Coren refers to them together as obedience and working intelligence.
However, experts like Stanley Coren, have pointed out that these two measures alone leave out several other forms of intelligence.
So, let’s look at the other forms of intelligence and how they relate to poodles.
innate ability; this looks at the ability of the poodle to live up to its functional legacy.
By functional legacy, I’m referring to the fact that poodles were bred as hunt dogs and water retrievers (of ducks).
So, how well the poodle excels in these areas will reveal his or her instinctive intelligence.
As a side note, instinctive intelligence contributes a lot to the overall intelligence of a dog.
The fact that certain dogs are bred for certain activities makes those dogs the smartest of the litter.
Examples of poodles’ instinctive intelligence include the guardianship showed by poodles toward their owners, the alertness of the poodle to objects in his vicinity, good swimming talent, and even the ability to quickly ‘get’ commands.
Looks at the problem-solving capacity of the poodle – is he or she capable of making changes or learning things by himself or herself?
In this case, the poodle would learn from past experience and, so, we wouldn’t expect young puppies to have developed too much adaptive intelligence.
Examples of poodles’ adaptive intelligence include the poodle removing door stopper wedges, following and learning your behaviors at certain times of the day, potty usage, and scheduled meal times.
I touched on this a bit in the beginning but, basically, poodles are among the most emotionally intelligent dogs.
Some might say that poodles have a fussy temperament – and we’ll talk about this in another article – but I think that it could be considered a sign of emotional awareness. Maybe they’re subtly controlling our reactions?
In any case, poodles are able to feel sad, happy, excited, overwhelmed, jealous, and depressed, just like us humans.
However, what the poodle sometimes chooses to do with all these emotional endowments – being aloof, I mean – may make him unsuitable as an emotional support dog.
Elsewhere, poodles combine adaptive, instinctive, and emotional intelligence when they mimic your moods.
So when you’re feeling down, they mimic that as well; when you’re joyous, they are as well. Good thing or bad thing? You tell me.
Poodle mix-breeds intelligence
If a poodle is ranked as one of the smartest dogs, how about mixed breeds of poodles, such as Labradoodles, schnoodles, and pekepoos?
Coren argues that the intelligence of mixed breeds usually follows the purebred they most resemble and a clean blend of two breeds will endow the mixed-breed dog with a good mix of the pure bred’s intelligence traits.
However, poodle breeders have also noted that mix breeding too much also tends to water down the traits of the carefully designed managed of pure breeds.
Capitalizing on your poodle’s innate intelligence
Some poodles are not as quick and smart as advertised. That’s perfectly okay.
As it happens with children as well, none is born solving an algebraic equation – none that I know of.
Ultimately, how smart your poodle is will depend first by its ingrained intelligence (that is sorted, as we’ve seen) and then by environmental circumstances. The latter refers to how well you train your poodle.
Training doesn’t have to be intensive or like a drill-like situation; poodles will pick up on commands fairly quickly.
Using juicy and nutritious treats, you can make these sessions or instances a good experience for both of you. And walks!
Take your poodle on walks whenever you can and he will be immersed in nature the way the original breeders of the poodle intended.
Why poodle’s intelligence matters
Someone may be wondering why a poodle’s intelligence matters – aren’t all dogs the same and won’t every other dog pick up on commands eventually?
Yes to both questions but your dog’s intelligence still matters. Here’s why.
You can easily train him out of bad habits
Since your poodle’s instinctive and adaptive intelligence is high, you can easily train him that certain habits are not okay.
For instance, if your poodle backs at every single thing out the window, you can train him to ease off a bit.
You can train an average dog, yes, but it will take more time and patience that you’d need with a poodle.
A pal you can lean on
They say that a dog is man’s best friend and this is especially true of poodles.
Poodles are fairly perceptive, more so than the average dog, and they will adapt to your emotions and moods.
This may be just the kind of attention and love you need to get you through some dark moments.
And vice versa; attending to your poodle’s attention needs may take you out of your problems for a while, for instance when taking your poodle out for a walk.
You can both have fun learning new stuff
Having an intelligent dog has its perks. For instance, you could teach your poodle to utter specific sounds.
In his book, Coren gives one such case. Psychologist Janet Walker has a poodle who is left home during the day.
Each evening when the family members get home, they each habitually say ‘hello’ to the poodle – “in a cheerful and sing-song tone of voice.”
Over time, the poodle learned the syllables “arl-low” and then mimicked them.
So every time a family member gets through the door, the poodle will vocalize these syllables in greeting – a treat that is reserved only for the family!
Poodles are generally very intelligent dogs – a feature that has been nurtured throughout their history.
As a result, they are quicker at taking in commands than the average dog; and this means that you can easily train him on a variety of good habits while weaning him off of bad ones.
Combining both beauty and brains, the poodle is an irresistible choice of pet if you’re looking.