The Siberian Husky has been one of the world’s most popular breeds for many decades, and you may be thinking of getting one. But you’re likely wondering, are huskies smart with high intelligence? Let’s see why huskies are smarter than their test scores…
Although Huskies are considered only to have “average intelligence”. They are still extremely cunning, savvy, and in most people’s opinion, smart. What hides their intelligence is the fact they are very stubborn and strong-minded, often misleading people to think they’re not intelligent.
Let’s take a closer look at how Stanley Coren measured intelligence and how huskies are actually much smarter than their test scores show.
How Dog Intelligence is Measured
Stanley Coren is a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. One of his books, The Intelligence of Dogs, was originally published in 1994 with a revised version coming out in 2006. The book explains coren’s theories on dog intelligence and includes the test results and subsequent rankings of 138 breeds.
To undergo this huge test, Coren asked the obedience trial judges of the American Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club to rank breeds by performance.
Shortly after, Coren received 199 responses! This represented about 50 percent of the obedience trial judges working in North America at that time.
Stanley Coren’s Intelligence Tests
Coren defines intelligence in three different ways, the first being instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence and then finally, working and obedience intelligence.
1. Instinctive Intelligence:
Instinctive intelligence refers to the dog’s ability to perform tasks they were ultimately bred for. This can include things like hunting, herding, guarding, fetching, or supplying companionship.
2. Adaptive Intelligence:
Adaptive intelligence refers to the dog’s ability to figure out problems and challenges on its own without help.
3. Working and Obedience Intelligence:
Working and obedience intelligence refers to the dog’s ability to learn, understand and obey humans. This type of intelligence was the one used to create the rankings, therefore, people consider this the most important out of the three.
Coren asked the trial judges to test each breed and record two different factors. These factors are what Coren used as the measurement of Dog IQ.
- The number of repetitions required for the dog to learn a new command.
- The success rate as a percentage that the dog will obey a known command on the first attempt.
For quality control, Coren decided only to accept the breeds that had more than 100 responses in the experiment. If the breed did not successfully reach 100 responses they were not included in the findings.
Despite his criteria originally being met with a lot of criticism, the testings and methodology have become to be accepted as the best way to describe dog intelligence. The rankings that Coren created are now globally known and accepted.
Husky Intelligence Test Results
Let’s take a look at how the husky performed and how this compared to other breeds. You may be very surprised to find out, just like many other husky owners, that the husky was ranked 77th out of 138th.
So what does this mean? to make the results easier to understand, different classes were created. The classes that outranked the husky were defined as the following:
- Brightest Dogs (Top 10)
- Excellent Working Dogs (Second Best)
- Above Average Working Dogs (Third Best)
- Average Working/Obedience Intelligence Dogs (Category of the Husky)
The Brightest Dogs were considered able to learn a new command in less than 5 repetitions. On top of this, they successfully obeyed a known command 95% of the time, hearing it just once. These breeds are considered to have the highest level of intelligence amongst all dogs!
Breeds in this class include: Border Collie, Poodle, German Shepherd Dog, Golden Retriever, Doberman Pinscher
Excellent Working Dogs took a little longer to meet the criteria, but still scored impressively. This class of dogs was able to learn a new command in around 5-15 repetitions. They then obeyed a known command 85% of the time after hearing it just once.
Breeds in this class include: Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Miniature Schnauzer, English Springer Spaniel, Belgian Shepherd Dog (Tervuren), Schipperke
Above Average Working Dogs learned a new command in around 15-25 repetitions. They were also able to obey a known command 70% of the time after hearing it once.
Breeds in this class include: Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Puli, Yorkshire Terrier, Giant Schnauzer, Portuguese Water Dog
Average Working/Obedience Intelligence Dogs learned a new command with 25-40 repetitions. Breeds in this class then obeyed a known command upon hearing it the first time 50% of the time.
This is the category of the Siberian Husky and also includes: Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, Bedlington Terrier, Smooth Fox Terrier, Curly Coated Retriever, Irish Wolfhound
Why Huskies Scored Low
In general, most people are surprised to see the husky coming in at 77th with only an “average” level of intelligence. There are some things that can explain this.
Siberian Huskies just so happen to be one of the most independent, stubborn and mischevious breeds today. Many Huskies will do what they want when they want.
Most of the other breeds that placed higher than Huskies do not show this stubborn, independent mindset and are naturally more inclined to learn and obey. With the Husky, it seems a little unfair if you do not consider their extremely stubborn attitude.
Many Husky owners consider their husky to be extremely intelligent and it’s not that they don’t know what they’re being commanded to do, it’s whether or not they choose to obey.
What Husky Owners Have to Say
My Happy Husky took to Instagram to ask other Husky owners for an honest opinion of what they think about their husky’s intelligence and here’s what was said.
Here are some of the responses we received:
1. Kona_tha_Husky (IG) – “Kona is incredibly smart, and sometimes she learns new tricks within minutes! That being said, she is also very stubborn and very food motivated. So it’s often hard to get her to do anything unless she wants to. We still love her though!”
2. Stellathedirewolf (IG) – “Yes, they are absolutely intelligent, We have trained Stells to turn off the light switch and she instinctively knew how to open doors. Stells is fair quiet when we’re at home but communicated when she wants to go outside or hungry. She’s pretty stubborn when we leave her in the crate and she tries to destroy things and howls when we get home, other than that she’s easy-going”
3. Leothegreatpup (IG) – “Yes, he is so intelligent, He knows how to butter us up when he wants something. When his grandma cooks his dinner for him, he is the most attentive and well-behaved puparoo. He knows the exact time I get home so he is always waiting in the front window. His stubbornness is something unique. When he’s mad or upset he will go outside to the backyard and go to the furthest corner and lay down looking into the window straight at me as if he saying “you’re going to have to come get me”
4. Baby_sheyko (IG) – “He’s 5 months but quite smart, he knows when he does things well and when he doesn’t. This affects him in his behavior because when he wants something like going for a walk he gets very rude until he gets it. Despite all this, he is a very affectionate puppy and squanders a lot of love, when he goes out he befriends everyone.”
5. skaya.siberian (IG) – “I find Skaya to be extremely intelligent, she learns tricks very quickly and once she learns them, she applies her newfound skills in her daily life. Her stubbornness can be a challenge of course. She will often talk back to me instead of doing her tricks because she doesn’t want to have to perform them for a treat. I’ve realized that one of the reasons huskies become so stubborn is not only because of their personality but also as we as humans tend to repeat the command over and over again without giving them a chance to respond.
Are Huskies Smart? The Truth
We understand the need for tests and experiments, and while tests are never perfect Stanley Corren did a great job finding out so much information on A LOT of breeds.
But to answer the final question are huskies smart? I think we have to conclude that yes, in fact, they are very smart, despite receiving an average score. Nearly all husky owners claim their husky to be the most intelligent dog they’ve ever had. But sometimes what comes with intelligence, is a great deal of stubbornness and attitude (and that’s where huskies come in).
Unfortunately, the experiment conducted could not have considered breeds that are naturally very independent or stubborn. Some people will say this is irrelevant and some will say otherwise.
What do you think? If you have a husky, give an honest comment below and we can carry on this interesting topic!
Should you get a husky?
Perhaps you’re asking this very question to help you know if you should get a husky or not.
Well, it’s no lie that the Husky is an amazing breed, but a husky does come with challenges and their big exercise requirements, attention-seeking nature, and stubbornness can sometimes cause them to be too much dog for a beginner.
While I will never say do not get a Husky, you do have to be ready for a constant test whether this is from their exercise needs, mischievousness, or training difficulties.
But don’t be put off, If you are up for the challenge you will have an amazing addition to your family that will change your life for the better!
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