Humans have been fascinated by canine intelligence and searching for ways to quantify it for decades. The question posed is simple, but turns out to be quite difficult to answer as there are many different types of intelligence and methods by which to measure it.
The Smartest Doodle Breeds: Understanding Language
Looking at dog’s intelligence as a whole is fairly impressive. Research has put them on par with a two to two-and-a-half year old human when it comes to understanding language. Most dogs can be trained to respond to around 150 different words. But there are a few that are a cut above the rest when it comes to their understanding of language, ability to perform complex tasks and their ability to understand and navigate their environment.
A simple google search related to dog intelligence will turn up the same breed list over and over again. The list of the smartest (and dumbest) dogs is pulled from a qualitative research study done in the 1990’s based on interviews with AKC obedience ring judges. We find this list useful, but it should be taken with a grain of salt as it only looks at one type of intelligence—namely the ability of the dog to understand and follow human commands.
This is often referred to as obedience or working intelligence and is usually the type of canine intelligence that humans are most concerned with as it relates to the dog’s trainability. A dog’s “adaptive intelligence” is not taken into account here. This type of intelligence is based on how a dog navigates his environment. So the Doodle who is skilled in opening a kennel door to escape would certainly rank highly in adaptive intelligence, but this type of intelligence is usually frowned upon by humans, who tend to value a more biddable nature.
Poodles, and Therefore Doodles, Are Among the Smartest Dogs
According to this list, the first four most intelligent breeds rank as follows: 1. Border Collie 2. Poodle 3. German Shepherd 4. Golden Retriever. The list goes on, but we pause here to highlight a couple of things. First of all, poodles are considered the second most intelligent breed out of the 133 breeds included in this study. Since all doodle breeds are combined with a poodle, you can rest assured that whichever doodle you choose will have some super intelligent genes! Your doodle will likely be easy to train and quick to perform his commands thanks to the poodle parentage.
The Border Collie ranks as the smartest breed, making the Bordoodle a strong contender for smartest doodle. All herding breeds were bred to have high obedience or working intelligence as they must work closely with their handler, following a set of complex commands to successfully round up a herd of sheep or cattle. Aussiedoodles, sheepadoodles, and other herding breeds are certainly in the running when it comes to most intelligent doodle.
But be forewarned, high intelligence does not always mean “ease of ownership.” Often high intelligence is coupled with high energy and drive. So many herding breed doodles require a lot of mental and physical stimulation to avoid turning their intelligence toward more sinister activities such as learning how to open their kennel door!
Furthermore, while highly intelligent, some herding breed Doodles are more independent thinkers. In other words, their “adaptive intelligence” is also quite high. This is especially true of the Sheepadoodle. The Old English Sheepdog was bred to be a larger and more independent herder as compared to the border collie as he was used to both herd cattle as well as protect the herd from predators and even drive the herd many miles to the market. As a result, the Sheepadoodle can be a bit of an independent thinker and need some extra special attention when it comes to channeling his intelligence into the right activities.
Could the Goldendoodle Be the Smartest Dog Breed?
Returning to our list of the smartest dog breeds, we find the Golden Retriever coming it at a solid number 4. This means that the Goldendoodle is also a strong possibility for smartest Doodle! This is also true of the Labradoodle as the Labrador retriever also ranks in the top ten of our list (number 9 to be exact). Both the Labrador retriever and the Golden Retriever were bred for retrieving purposes and have long been used as popular breeds in the obedience ring and service dog industry.
Perhaps their raw intelligence does not rank quite as high as some of the herding breeds, but they are known for their willingness to please and trainability. As a result, the Goldendoodle is an excellent choice for owners who want a highly intelligent dog that can learn many tricks and perform at a high level of obedience, but also tend to be a little more laidback than the ever-energetic herding-breed doodles (Bordoodles, Sheepadoodles, etc.)
We now turn our attention to some of the larger working breeds that have been combined with poodle for other popular doodle breeds. The Great Pyrenees, Newfoundland, and Bernese Mountain Dog are all good examples of dog breeds that fall in the middle of our list with “average intelligence.” They were bred for their physical strength and used for protection, cart-pulling or other physical tasks. While certainly still smart and trainable, this group of working breeds tends to be a bit more stubborn and goofy as compared to some of the breeds mentioned higher on the intelligence list.
As a result, the Pyredoodle, Newfypoo and Bernedoodle will likely still possess above average working intelligence (thanks to the poodle part of their heritage), but won’t top the charts as the smartest doodle breed out there. As breeders, we personally find our Bernedoodles to be delightfully clumsy and goofy with just enough smarts to be easy to train. Still, those looking for a dog that can be trained at a high level for obedience or to perform specific tasks related to service, agility, etc. will want to consider one of the more intelligent doodle breeds mentioned previously.
In conclusion, those looking for a particularly intelligent doodle may be most interested in the herding breed doodles such as the Bordoodle or the sporting/retrieving breed Doodles such as the Goldendoodle. Please keep in mind that this list we have been referencing is a very broad generalization and loose quantification of canine intelligence.
Every pup has their own personality and level of intelligence within each breed. And training has a lot to do with how your dog’s intelligence is carried out. It is up to you as the owner to determine whether his intelligence drives him to be the world’s best canine escape artist or the champion of the obedience ring.
Jenna and the JLDD Team