Poodle Intelligence – Are Poodles Smart or Dumb?

Your poodle is one of the most intelligent dogs in the world.

It’s one reason why the poodle is a go-to for breeders when creating breeds. Whether Cockapoo or Labradoodle, any animal born from the poodle has a reputation for being highly intelligent.

How smart is your poodle? Let’s find out.

Poodle Intelligence – A Good Place to Start

Let’s start with Dr. Stanley Coren. He was a canine psychology professor (yup, it’s a thing!).

Dr. Coren worked at the Vancouver University of British Columbia. He wrote The Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide to the Thoughts, Emotions, and Inner Lives of Our Canine Companions.

In one section of the book, the professor ranked the intelligence of 133 breeds.

The poodle ranked number two for intelligence. (For the record, the border collie got the top spot). Unfortunately, the scientific community questioned the professor’s results.

Let the controversy begin.

The Brouhaha

The professor did not personally observe, study, or test any of the animals.

He submitted questionnaires to the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club judges. The judges had to give their opinion on what they observed in the show. (I assume none of them were canine psychology professors.)

Reportedly, the ranking left out relevant factors. It focused only on working and obedience intelligence. Among facets left out were canine instinct, adaptive capability, and emotional involvement.

Not all dog breeds were a part of the finalized survey. Any canine that didn’t get at least 100 responses was dismissed.

The dog world divided on how the professor got to his conclusions. Dr. Coren produced another time in 2006. That included responses from dog owners and included elements associated with trainability.

Also, though your poodle may have gotten a high spot on the list, there have never been any actual tests of intelligence on poodle breeds. They were all lumped into a single category.

One question that played a role in the decision-making concerned a doggy’s ability to learn. The poodle got a quick grasp of commands in fewer than five repetitions. Like other more intelligent dogs, poodles are capable of obeying an order after the first time they heard it.

Now, poodle owners might be saying: Wrong! My poodle doesn’t come near to being that smart!

I’ve got your back, poodle lovers.

Are All Poodles Smart?

Consider that when it comes to intelligence, your dog is no different than a human. As we know, not every human that walks into the room is brilliant. Poodles are different because they are smart. There’s no doubt, but here are things to take into consideration.

Dr. Coren’s book only used poodles in dog shows. I’m talking about canines already well trained, already demonstrating a high level of intelligence, already trained in various techniques and commands.

Despite the intelligence attributed to the poodle, they require sufficient and proper training. You have to take temperament into account too. Otherwise, good behavior will differ.

The unique personality (poodles can be fiercely independent and stubborn, mainly if untrained) impacts how your poochy behaves and how you perceive its intelligence.

Commands are only a fraction of the intelligence equation. Being able to follow a command or knowing not to pee indoors isn’t demonstrative of smarts. A dog has to live to her full capacity, find her way, and understand the world.

What May Help

Here are great ways to train your poodle. When done properly, you’ll likely see the intelligence he’s famous for.

Focus on one command. You start with ‘sit,’ move onto ‘heel’ and work your way to ‘fetch’ and all the other good stuff.

You and your poodle have to be in the mood. If either of you finds yourself distracted, neither party will want to teach or learn. A poodle may be expecting a walk or a meal. If you’re stressed or rushed, he’ll sense it and resist.

Get some solid guidelines for training. Chat with vets, breeders, and other dog owners for recommendations. You can simplify the training Butch with step-by-step instructions.

Here are two highly-regarded dog training books.

Other Ways to Gauge Poodle’s Intelligence

Like humans, book smarts don’t make you the brightest bulb in the room. Here are ways to rank your pooch’s intelligence.


We’ve proven long-term memory in dogs who find their way home, which is sometimes months and years after they were initially lost.

Canines have short- and long-term memory. Any dog can forget something in under five minutes. This is why you have to consistently reprimand them for bad behavior.

However, training and repetition usually trigger long-term memory. That’s when your dog stops repeating bad behavior.


You may not be aware, but dogs do not speak English, French, Spanish, or anything else. Yet, they understand when we talk to them. (Seriously, who isn’t familiar with your poodle looking at you like you have no idea what you’re talking about?)

Dogs do comprehend. You call them, they come. The sound of cue words like “food” triggers a reaction. If I say to my dog, “You wanna go outside,” he runs to the door!

That behavior shows intelligence.


Dogs are better than we are at making sense of the world.

Their senses are far more acute than ours. (It’s why they hear someone at the door before you do). Your poodle sees better in the dark than you do. They also have better hearing and sense of smell.

When it comes to perception, your canine has a greater idea of situational awareness than you ever will. She can even perceive the Earth’s magnetic poles!

The Magnetic Pole Study

A group of scientists found if you left a dog with no obstacles (no fences, leash, distractions, etc.) when she goes to the bathroom, she’ll align herself north to south.

The study was conducted over two years and got the same results no matter how many different breeds they used.

Is My Poodle as Smart as Me?

For some reason, unlike dolphins, whales, and monkeys, there are no unique studies comparing human and dog intelligence.

I’ve often wondered if my pooch was more intelligent than me. He has excellent instincts and when we get lost on a hike, Sam’s a lot better at finding our way out than I am. (Of course, now I have GPS. So thanks to tech, I’m smarter than my dog.)

Many dog owners feel having a dog is like having a child. If that’s your way of thinking, know that, in general, having a poodle is the equivalent of having a two- or three-year-old child.

Toddlers are developing their skill set. You see the capacity for problem-solving and their discovery and enjoyment of their senses and motor skills. We marvel at their curiosity and enthusiasm.

Now, you might argue, well, learning doesn’t stop at two or three for the human.

Saying a dog, on average, stays at the level of that age doesn’t mean they are not growing intellectually. Remember, your poodle uses emotion far more effectively than you do. The limited age range is directly related to your poodle’s lack of self-recognition.

Self-recognition refers to our ability to comprehend ourselves. A human looks in a mirror and realizes they’re looking at themselves. The ability comes as early as 18 months.

Dogs will never stand in front of a mirror and know they’re looking at themselves. That’s why dogs never move past the three-year mark.

According to Marc Bekoff, former professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, dogs are not visual animals. They use sight far less and are more likely to identify situations by sound or smell.

Emotional Intelligence in Poodle

Emotion is critical to the human condition. We have a large range of emotional stimulus that comes in everything from contentment to disgust and love.

The scientific community believes the dog has a limited range of emotions. They can show fear and self-awareness. But, unlike humans, they do not develop pride, shame, guilt, contempt, or other complex feelings.

Many poodle owners or professionals may argue against this. Yet, perception plays a part. You describe a poodle as “proud” or “stubborn” because this is what we see. There are times when you reprimand your dog and see shyness or shame.

Dogs have basic emotions and many scientists see their use more as mechanical and reactive. When a dog is angry or threatened, he snaps or snarls. He can whimper and yelp.

But Fido doesn’t undergo the intricate chemical changes we do. The animal doesn’t let emotion influence how he feels or what he’s going to do, like humans.


In the dog world, the poodle’s intelligence is one to live up to. She’s clever and fun. But she does not process the world the way you and I do. Of course, every poodle has her traits and characteristics.

One poodle may not socialize with humans and the other may love people. Similarly, your dog’s intelligence is unique.

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