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Are Labradors Smart? Exploring Canine Intelligence

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By Misty Layne

Happy man on sofa with labrador

As Labrador owners, we feel like our dog is the most intelligent and amazing dog ever to live. After all, we know just how smart and obedient these dogs can be—it isn’t just the breed’s friendliness that makes them one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S.!

But how do we find out how intelligent our dog really is? Are our Labradors as smart as we think? Labradors are incredibly smart—in fact, in a study done with 199 dog obedience judges to measure intelligence in dogs, Labrador Retrievers came in 7th place!1

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How Exactly Is Dog Intelligence Measured?

The study that measured how intelligent a dog breed is was done by Stanley Coren2. In this study, he surveyed 199 dog obedience judges to find out how breeds met the following criteria:

  • How many repetitions it takes for a breed to learn an entirely new command
  • How quickly a dog would obey a command it knows on the first try

How do those two things tell us how smart a pup is? Well, more intelligent dogs learn a new command with fewer repetitions. And the faster they respond to a known command, the smarter they are.

How Labradors Stacked Up Against Other Breeds

As we said previously, Labrador Retrievers came in 7th place in this study, meaning the breed is highly intelligent. Being that high up on the list of dogs means Labradors can learn a new trick or command in 5 repetitions or less. And considering a dog of average intelligence learns new tricks and commands in 25–40 repetitions, that’s pretty smart!

Labrador Retrievers will also obey a command they know on the first try with 95% or more success, while the average dog only does so roughly 50% of the time.

cute labrador looking at laptop
Image Credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

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Are There Other Ways Intelligence Is Measured?

There are several different areas of intelligence, according to Stanley Coren. These include the two criteria above: working intelligence and obedience intelligence. Other aspects of intelligence include instinctive, adaptive, interpersonal, and spatial intelligence. Adaptive and instinctive intelligence can also be used to measure how smart a dog is.

Adaptive Intelligence

What is adaptive intelligence? It’s the ability of a Labrador to learn things for itself. An example would be how quickly your dog figures out puzzle toys or solves a problem it’s having, such as how to open a gate it wants to get through. Though adaptive intelligence can vary by individual dog, anecdotal evidence from Lab owners indicates that the breed has a high adaptive intelligence overall.

Labrador Retriever wet look
Image Credit: GerMai, Pixabay

Instinctive Intelligence

Instinctive intelligence is the job or ability a dog breed was bred for. Labrador Retrievers were originally bred to work in water helping fishermen, which means they have the innate skill to swim and fetch things from the water.

Nowadays, Labrador Retrievers are usually family dogs, but that doesn’t mean that instinctive intelligence isn’t there. If you’ve ever played fetching games with your pup, you know how good they are at them. This is instinctive intelligence at work!

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How Can I Figure Out How Smart My Dog Is?

Want to see just how intelligent your Lab is? You can give them a doggie IQ test right there at home! You’ll be setting forth a few tasks for your dog to accomplish and timing them to see how fast they can figure out how to do them. With these tasks, you’ll test their problem-solving ability, ability to make associations between things, reasoning skills, cognition, learning, and more!

guy baby talking a labrador
Image By: SG SHOT, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

The Labrador Retriever is one of the smartest dog breeds around, as it came in 7th on the list of most intelligent dogs during Stanley Coren’s study. There are several aspects of intelligence to be measured when it comes to dogs, including adaptive, obedience, working, and instinctive intelligence—and you can test all these on your own dog with an at-home doggie IQ test! No matter where your pet ends up on the intelligence scale, though, they’ll still be the best dog in the world.

Featured Image Credit: Olena Yakobchuk, Shutterstock

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