Poodle Intelligence: Are They Really Dumb Like Some People Say?

Have you ever considered owning a poodle? When obtaining a new dog which is an unfamiliar breed, many people do their research before purchasing to decide if it is the right dog for them. This is where I come in to help you understand poodle’s intelligence.

Poodles are very intelligent dogs. Poodles have all three types of dog intelligence: instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence, and obedience intelligence. They rank within the top three most intelligent dogs on most lists.

The simple answer to poodle’s intelligence is that they are intelligent. However, beyond that, there are some more things you should know about having this intelligent dog in your home and how to train them properly.

How Smart Are Poodles?

Poodles are incredibly intelligent dogs. On most lists of dog intelligence rankings, poodles are ranked in second place behind the border collie. However, with all of the possible dog breeds out there, this is very impressive.

Poodles are some of the smartest dogs out there and will be a great addition to your home.

Many may question whether this poodle intelligence rating is targeted towards a specific poodle. However, all types of poodles, toy, mini, and standard, are ranked the same in intelligence.

What does it mean to have a very intelligent dog?

Dog intelligence is based off of three types of intelligence:

  • Adaptive intelligence- this refers to a dog’s ability to make changes on their own.
  • Instinctive intelligence– this is often in regards to what a dog is bred for and their ability to complete those tasks.
  • Obedience intelligence- this intelligence is based off of a dog’s ability to follow a human’s command.

Because of these qualifications for intelligence, no dog can be 100% or 0% intelligent. Most dogs are a good mix of these qualities.

Some dogs may lack in adaptive intelligence, while others may lack in instinctive intelligence.

However, because poodles rank so high on the list of dog breeds, they actually do very well with all three types of intelligence.

Adaptive Intelligence:

Poodles are able to adapt very well. They can make changes according to different situations.

A classic example of adaptive intelligence is the experiment done of dogs. Every day, before the dogs were fed, they would hear a bell ring. Eventually, the dogs began to drool upon hearing the bell, even without food in front of them.

Poodles are able to learn from their mistakes easily. Because of their adaptive intelligence, poodles can change easily.

Instinctive Intelligence:

Although their simple appearance does not show it, poodles were actually bred to be water retrievers. The origin of their name is German. “Poodle” comes from the German word, “pudel”, which means to splash around.

Way back when poodles were duck hunting companions. They would go into the water to catch the ducks.

To this day, poodles are still very good swimmers and love being in the water. Poodles are also great retrievers, able to catch and bring back different items.

Obedience Intelligence:

This intelligence is easily seen within poodles. If you were to go to someone’s home with a poodle, they would likely be able to show you many tricks.

Poodles react very well to training from humans. They easily follow commands. Rather than some dogs who take around 90-150 repetitions of command before they understand, poodles only take around 6 repetitions.

Because poodles are so easily trained, they were circus dogs at one point. Poodles used to show off their skills in front of large crowds alongside their trainer.

Poodles excel in all of the types of dog intelligence. Because of this, the poodle is known for being an extremely intelligent dog.

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The Best Poodle Intelligence Features

Because poodles are so intelligent in many ways, they naturally have some great traits.

  • Versatile dogs
  • Can do many tricks
  • Desire to please humans
  • Great memory
  • Adaptable
  • Easily trained
  • Pick up patterns quickly
  • Good with language

Although it is impossible to say that any dog is completely controlled by their owner, this is close to true with poodles.

Poodles are extremely obedient dogs and they just love to make their owner happy. Because of this, they will adapt to you and your family.

They will learn whatever tricks you want them to learn and be by your side for anything. So, although you cannot completely control your poodle, you can make many decisions for the poodle and he/she will follow what you desire.

Poodles not only learn tricks quickly, but they retain them in their memory for long periods of time.

But, you do not have to simply take my word for it. Here is another testimonial toward’s poodles memory.

“I managed to teach my grandmother’s totally untrained poodle four or five basic commands in a half hour that he still remembered a month later when I came back to visit.”


This poodle had not done the tricks at all in between visits. And yet, the poodle was still able to remember the commands. I am sure that after having your poodle for just a short time, you will fall in love with them because of this.

Poodles are capable of becoming many different types of dogs. Their most popular roles in history have been:

1. A water retriever

Poodles were bred to swim in the water to hunt ducks.

This began in Germany. Poodles were excellent swimmers and retrievers. They still have these same qualities to this day.

2. A circus dog

Because they are easily trained, poodles have been used in the circus to show off the many tricks they are able to do.

Have you seen pictures of a poodle with a ridiculous looking hair cut? They looked so unique because those poodles were performers along side their owners.

3. A lap dog

Poodles have also had a role in wealthy homes as a lap dog as a sign of wealth.

Poodles love being around people, especially their owner. So, sitting on their lap for long periods of time is great for them.

Reminder: Although poodles love to be around humans and will easily sit on your lap, they still need their exercise. Poodles are very active and need their time to run as well.

Each of these roles that poodles have been in is completely different from one another. It almost seems as if you would need completely different dogs for these different roles.

However, with their people-pleasing personality, poodles can adapt to however you would like them in your home.

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Possible Negatives that Come with a Smart Dog

Poodles are intelligent. Because of this, many of you are likely celebrating. However, it is not that simple. Just because a dog is intelligent, does not mean the dog is what is best for you and your home.

One of the best intelligence features that poodles have is also one of their worst. This intelligence is their adaptive intelligence.

Because poodles are very adaptable, they can learn bad habits just as fast as they learn good habits.

Some of these bad habits that you likely do not want your dog to have is biting objects (other than toys), barking when someone rings the doorbell, digging up the yard, begging for food, etc.

When a dog is able to adapt, this can go in the right or wrong direction. Although it is a sign of intelligence to be adaptable, you only want your dog to adapt in good ways.

If you are not watching your dog very carefully, they will naturally do some bad things. With adaptive dogs, they simply need discipline.

Just because poodles are intelligent dogs, does not mean that they naturally know that digging up the yard is bad.

They need to be taught to steer away from bad habits by their owner through discipline. However, once the dog is taught correctly to stay away from these bad habits, they will be just fine.

Yet, without a watching eye, they will learn these bad habits quicker than other dogs.

Another negative about having these intelligent dogs is that they cannot be excluded.

Poodles are naturally very social dogs. Because they love to please their owner, they are very easily trained and intelligent dogs.

However, because they are such social dogs, they struggle to be alone. Poodles will often have separation anxiety while being away from their owner.

Poodles are not the dog that you want to leave out of an activity. These dogs need attention and lots of it.

If you have company over and you are wanting to put your poodle away while you are doing fun things, you will find that you have made a very poor decision.

Poodles have the equivalent of FOMO (fear of missing out). This is a negative when you are trying to get things done.

However, if you just bring your furry friend along with you, they will be happy as well as you.

What This Means for Your Home

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Poodles will be by your side through just about any trick you can throw at them.

By this point, I am sure that you are fully aware that poodles are intelligent dogs. They have proven it throughout history with their many great and intelligent qualities.

However, everything is different when it is coming to your home. I think it is important to ponder on what these qualities that poodles have means for your home.

1. A Cheerful Companion

Poodles are a great partner to have for any household. These dogs are typically very happy.

They will be by your side through just about any trick you can throw at them.

Because poodles are intelligent, they will be able to come with you wherever you go. They can adapt to different situations. So, poodles are the perfect dog to bring with you anywhere.

2. Great Manners

Because poodles are so easily trained and adaptable, they are one of the top dog breeds to have good manners.

You can likely picture this easily in your mind because a typical picture of a poodle is the wealthy lap dog.

Poodles do not have naturally good manners. They are just like any other dogs with the desire to bark, run around in the mood, and do your typical dog things.

However, because poodles adapt to human response, they are able to quit poor behaviors.

It will not be difficult for you to have a well-behaved dog with a poodle. You will likely receive compliments for your poodle’s excellent manners often.

3. Poodles Still Need to Be Trained

After hearing all of this information, it is easy to sit back and let your poodle do their magic.

However, poodles are not a miracle of a dog. They can be amazing dogs. However, they still need just as much training and care taken to be as great as any other dog.

You still need to be patient in training your poodle to do tricks, obey, and steer away from poor habits.

Although a poodle has a high level of intelligence, that is not the end of the story.

4. Easily Potty Trained Dog

One of the worst things about having a dog in your home is training them not to use your things as a toilet.

Anyone who has had a dog knows the awful sight of coming home to a poop filled carpet.

However, you are in luck with a poodle. Because they have high obedience intelligence, they will learn at a fast pace where they are able to go to the bathroom, which is not inside your house.

5. Great Therapy Dog

Although not everyone has a doctor’s prescription for a therapy dog, it is my opinion that everyone needs a little therapy in their lives.

It is a true relief to have a loving dog there for you whenever you become stressed or any negative emotion.

It is part of a poodle’s instinctive intelligence to be by their owner’s side. This makes a poodle a great therapy dog.

6. A Puppy is a Puppy

This may seem obvious, but you cannot rely on your poodle’s intelligence during their puppy phase.

No matter how intelligent a dog is in their older years, they will still be a puppy when they are young.

Just because it is a poodle does not mean you will see your puppy running around with a crazy amount of energy like the world is coming to an end.

Can Poodle Intelligence be Improved?

Now if you already own a poodle and have not found your dog to be that smart, there is no need to worry. Your dog is not at all that dumb.

However, all dogs need to be trained to show off their intelligence.

Without speaking to your dog and giving them commands, they will never be able to learn to do a trick.

There are a few things that you can do in order to improve your poodle’s intelligence. Although their intelligence cannot be improved. You can train your dog to look outwardly intelligent.

Expose your poodle’s senses.

Your poodle wants to see the world. They want to be able to smell all sorts of smells, feel all sorts of textures, and so on.

By taking your dog around exposing them to many things, they will have their senses open. They will also be a happy dog. Poodles actually really enjoy learning. Getting your dog out there and exercising will lead to a better-behaved dog.

Repeat Training.

Patience is truly a virtue when you are trying to train your dog. Your dog will not get it immediately. If it is not natural for them to do whatever you are trying to get them to do.

Do not fear. Your dog is perfectly fine if they don’t understand it the first time, or even the first ten times.

Be persistent with your training and do not give up.

Poodles Intelligence in Comparison

The list of dogs in their ranking of intelligence was most famously done by the psychologist, Stanley Coren.

He studied dog breeds to find where they were on the ranking of intelligence. He used over 200 dog obedience judges to assist him.

For his criteria, he used the three types of dog intelligence: obedience, adaptive, and instinctive.

The dogs that rated within the top 10 on his list goes as follows:

  1. Border Collie
  2. Poodle
  3. German Shepherd
  4. Golden Retriever
  5. Doberman Pinscher
  6. Shetland Sheepdog
  7. Labrador Retriever
  8. Papillon
  9. Rottweiler
  10. Australian Cattle Dog

These top 10 dogs were rated as the brightest dogs. As far as understanding commands and following them, these dogs all rank in the same area.

Each of these dogs are incredibly smart. They have ranked far above the 79 dog breeds that Coren studied.

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What makes them so smart? Why are they so special?

I have found that the top-ranked dog breeds are ranked because of their instinctive intelligence. Some dogs are lacking in their instinctive intelligence because they were not bred for a specific reason.

Each of these dogs, and dogs that rank highest have all been bred for a specific purpose. Because of this, they have their own unique qualities in which they excel in.

For poodles, they excel in swimming because of their instinctive nature. Poodles are also instinctively obedient because they were bred as hunting companions.

As a hunting companion, these dogs would have to follow along orders and learn very quickly.

Why are Border Collie’s ranked above poodles?

For me, it is difficult to rate a dog’s intelligence when they are so similar. However, Coren was able to differentiate between different dog breed’s intelligence.

Border Collies and poodles were bred for very different purposes. Border Collies were bred to be herding dogs. They were given a great responsibility in watching over their flock.

Because Border Collies were bred to have a tremendous responsibility and work individually, they are ranked as the brightest dog breed.

When poodles were bred, they were supposed to be more of a partner than an individual hunter.

There is not much of a difference between the border collie and the poodle intelligence, other than their purpose for breeding. Because of this, you will find the different dogs seem equally intelligent in your home.

To be honest, you will not be able to tell too much of a difference between dog intelligence. There are silly things that all dogs do that make you question their intelligence.

But, even the brightest dogs will do those silly things.

Especially within dogs that are in the same range of 10 as a dog, the intelligence will be very similar.

An important thing to note is that you have a responsibility for your dog’s intelligence as well.

“51% of a dog’s intelligence stems from its genes while 49% is based on environmental circumstances.”

Stanley Coren

When Coren says environmental circumstances he isn’t talking about the weather. Your dog’s intelligence will not change based on if it’s hot or cold outside.

By environmental circumstances, Coren is referring to where your dog is being trained and what its daily activities are like. This also refers to the people your dog is around and the roles your poodle has.

Although your poodle already has some amazing things going for them, that only does half of the job.

It is true that because poodles were bred well, they have higher intelligence than many dog breeds.

However, it is your job to help your poodle with the rest of the intelligence percentage. That 49% is your job. Through training and working with your poodle, they will be able to excel in intelligence.

This situation is similar to raising children. Depending on the child’s home, they will differ in intelligence.

For example, if the home has parents who read to their child often, they will have an easier time reading. But, if a child grows up in a home with no reading, they likely have more difficulty when they are supposed to be reading.

Your poodle needs your help in the home to increase their intelligence.

The more time you spend with your poodle training them or just being around them and taking care of them, the more likely they will be to become intelligent.

Of course, every dog is different. You cannot rely on the fact that you have a poodle to guide their intelligence.

Rather than that 51% of intelligence, your poodle may only have 35%. Whatever it is, you must work to complete the rest of the percentage.

Why Do People Say Poodles Are Dumb?

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Like many things that you hear around by word of mouth, rumors are often simply not true. However, that does not mean that these rumors have come out of nowhere.

You may have heard people say that poodles are not smart dogs. Some people have strong opinions on the poodle.

Sadly for the poodles, this information does not come from any facts. Although poodles may be seen to some as less intelligent, they are actually extremely intelligent.

As I described earlier, poodles have had three famous roles within history: a water retriever, a lap dog, and a circus dog.

With the last two roles, poodles have received a significant amount of hate.

Because of their role in typically wealthy or rich homes, poodles are seen as very pompous.

We often reflect the owner’s personality onto the dog’s personality. Because the owner’s personality may have been pompous, we assume that poodles are also pompous.

This is not true, however. Poodles are simply very loving and social. So, they love to sit on their owner’s lap to be with them. But, because of their interesting haircuts in wealthy homes or as circus dogs, they look even more pompous.

Poodles have often had very fancy looking haircuts as well as hair dying. However, there was always a purpose behind these looks.

In my experience, while walking poodles compared to any other dog, there will be a different reaction. When I walk my golden retriever, I often am complimented and have many people wanting to pet her.

However, with my poodle, there is a dramatic decrease in compliments and people wanting to pet her. I am fine without getting compliments about my dog. However, it is interesting to see the difference in opinion about dogs out there.

I stumbled across a blog by Jan titled “Confessions of a Former Poodle Ridiculer.” In this blog, she gave me another hint of why people think poodles are dumb.

Jan states, “The word Poodle is associated with lap dog, wimp, someone who carries out the wishes of a more powerful person.”

The fact that poodles are most often seen sitting on their owner makes them look like they have no intelligence for themselves. Rather than the intelligent dogs they are, they look like submissive dogs with little intelligence.

With Jan’s experience with having a poodle, she soon came to this conclusion.

“I realized quickly that she understood everything I said…and thought. She can do inductive and deductive reasoning. She’s so smart, it’s scary. “


So, just as Jan was able to discover how truly intelligent poodles are, you can also discover it for yourself.

Poodles receive a bad reputation for being dumb dogs. And yet, they are ranked as one of the very brightest dogs out of all.

You do not have to take my opinion on a poodle’s intelligence. Simply visit a poodle and you will soon discover their intelligence is far higher than expected.