Are Siberian Huskies Intelligent?


Depending on who you ask, the Siberian Husky is either classed as having an average working and obedience level OR they are highly intelligent. The former derives from a book on Dog Intelligence by Stanley Coren but doesn’t really give us the full picture. There are many aspects involved in defining an intelligent dog and the book certainly gives one angle but his definition of intelligence is different to mine. In this article, we will explore whether the Siberian Husky is considered an intelligent dog.

Are Siberian Huskies intelligent? Yes, the Siberian Husky can be classed as an intelligent breed of dog. It has a very good memory which contributes to the perception of intelligence. However, the Husky can also be an incredibly stubborn breed of dog and although it may know how to do something, it may choose not to.

How Are We Defining Intelligence?

To keep this as simple as possible, I am rating intelligence in the Siberian Husky by looking at only a few different criteria. Whether they are perceived to understand what is going on around them.

  1. Whether they are able to be trained and if so, do they obey instructions? This is a tricky one as the Husky can be rather stubborn so there’s a couple of points to this as just because they don’t respond, doesn’t always mean they don’t understand.
  2. Are they able to engage in play and perform more complex activities?
  3. Are they able to be trained and if so, do they obey instructions? This is a tricky one as the Husky can be rather stubborn so there’s a couple of points to this as just because they don’t respond, doesn’t always mean they don’t understand.

The results were collated by asking questions of owners on social media, speaking to friends that are owners and performing my own research from authoritative websites, such as the American Kennel Club.

If you’re interested specifically about how you can train a Siberian Husky puppy, do take a look at my article all about this here (opens in a new window).

By the way, if you’re interested in some toys that actually work (I’ve bought loads that don’t) then do check out my most recommended toys here.

What are Examples of Intelligence in a Dog?

Are Siberian Huskies Intelligent?

So what do we mean when we talk about an intelligent dog? I don’t mean someone who will help your 11-year-old with their maths homework (although that would be quite handy right now) or a dog that can build a fire for you (see picture above). An intelligent dog is one that is smart and has a good memory. They are a dog that can learn simple tasks and learn them quickly. Some people have said that a dog is not smart if they do not obey instructions but I don’t agree with this, personally. I know we’re going way off track here but if you asked Einstein to do something and he didn’t want to do it (so didn’t) it certainly wouldn’t have made him any less of a genius. Now, I’m not about to compare the Siberian Husky to Einstein but you see my point, right? I have to take into account the stubbornness of the animal. Does it understand the task but is just choosing not to comply?

An intelligent dog is one that will respond to its name and understand several certain, key words. These usually, of course, include the obvious; ‘No’, ‘Stay’, ‘Sit’, ‘Down’, ‘Wait’, ‘Come’, ‘Drop it’, but also, can it respond to other, more complex commands, like ‘Dad is home’ – where there may be an associated action like running to a window or a door.

The main way us humans define intelligence in animals though is how closely they act like ourselves. I guess, being at the top of the food chain, gives us that right but it’s probably not accurate, or fair. We have a larger brain and are capable of so much more so we should really judge a dog’s intelligence on how good a dog is, now how close he resembles ourselves!

That said, this is exactly what we do and we’ve all seen (and been impressed) with the dog on a skateboard, playing the piano or playing basketball YouTube videos, right? If you haven’t, do check them out – they all open in a new window. When a dog starts to act in a way that resembles our mannerisms it strikes a chord with us and we think, ‘ahh, how cute – let’s stick this on YouTube!’. But really, does a dog see a basketball court and decide it wants to shoot some hoops? No, what probably happens is it sees its owner having a good time, jumping around all excited and just wants to be part of that fun and please its owner – which is absolutely cool. It’s just being a dog and doing what it does best – making us happy 🙂

Does the Siberian Husky Demonstrate Intelligence?

Yes, the Siberian Husky does demonstrate intelligence however we need to remember that each dog is an individual and it’s not possible to guarantee that just because a breed is deemed more intelligent than another, that an individual dog will be intelligent or not. The difficulty with the Siberian Husky is that it can be a stubborn, individual dog which although it understands exactly what it is being taught, may decide to ignore it and do whatever it feels like!

Are Siberian Huskies Intelligent?

I have spoken to and heard from several Siberian Husky owners and have listened to all the things this dog can do and I think it’s safe to say it certainly does exhibit several signs of having an above average intelligence. You can find several sites online that state that this dog is only of average intelligence (or less) but I think they’re getting confused by the dog’s stubborn nature and not taking into account its natural instincts.

What Do Owners of the Siberian Husky Think?

I have spoken to several owners about their experience with this breed and asked them a very simple question. I asked whether, in their opinion and based on their previous experience with other breeds of dog, how does the Siberian Husky compare when we’re talking about their intelligence?

In total, I had 343 responses and here are the results:

  • 318 people (92.71%) considered their Siberian Husky had an intelligence level that was above average compared with other dogs.
  • 18 people (5.25%) considered their Siberian Husky had an intelligence level that was average compared with other dogs.
  • 7 people (2.04%) considered their Siberian Husky had an intelligence level that was below average compared with other dogs.

This appears conclusive and indeed it should, considering the numbers we see above. However, we need to bear in mind that we asked the owners of the breed this question and obviously they may be a little biased, and rightly so! However, even with this bias factored in, it is hard to dispute such a resounding agreement between owners that yes, they consider their Siberian Husky to be of above intelligence.

What I think makes the Siberian Husky stand out though is their memory. When they go out for walks they may lead you on a trail that they’ve been on before and not just yesterday, years ago! They will also remember where things are around the house so if you have a secret stash of dog-treats somewhere that they once saw the location of, don’t be surprised for them to ‘find’ them one day long after you forget about them!

Here Are Some of the Think They Say They Did!

Although the numbers that I provided above are pretty convincing, I wanted to hear a little more from the people that actually voted. I wanted to know in a short sentence what their thoughts were of the Husky and their intelligence. Here are a few quotes, do let me know if you agree!

“They Think Like People”  

“If she doesn’t get her own way she has a tantrum and shows me what she wants and when she’s ready for dinner… incredibly clever!“,

“They train us, not the other way round.”

“Huskys aren’t like other dogs. They make their own choices and decisions.”

“Definitely not like any other dog I’ve known. I would say they are around the same intelligence scale of a highly trained GSD, but they are lots more independent in comparison. They pick & choose when they want to please”

“Very intelligent breed. Our girl finds ways to tell us what she needs. We understand her very well.”

“Super intelligent mine have me well trained”

“Very clever but bloody ignorant “

“Huskies are independent thinkers. Which makes them very intelligent, but also very stubborn. They train us very well “

“Mine are intelligent. If I put on a certain coat they know its walk time. But then occasionally I think have you got a brain when they turn around and headbutt the door frame.”

“Mine is too clever, she opens doors by the handle, won’t bother if I open crisps but can somehow tell the difference when it’s her treat bag, she’ll hide things under her chin and act like she has nothing. She’s no angel! she has selective hearing and a very stubborn learner, refuses to learn a thing without some kind of incentive, even after she’s learnt a command, say sit, as soon as she realises she ain’t gaining from it she’s done…”

“put it this way…. non of my other dogs in the past (German Shepherds and labs) have ever jumped on my trampoline to get onto next doors shed roof for bird food… just saying “

“We have one that puts the light on when it gets dark and another that opens doors even when we spent the afternoon changing the handles upside down the bugger now puts his nose under the handle and lifts.”

“Exceptional emotional intelligence and incredibly loyal. We have one of the rare husky’s with fantastic recall too…. off lead! Awesome animals and an utter delight to have around. But…. you must stimulate their brains!!”

Summary

This has been an interesting article to write as the perception of real-life owners don’t seem to reflect the formal interpretation of the breed. It is clear that as far as the opinion of actual owners of the breed is concerned, the Siberian Husky is an above average dog breed. But let’s take a step back for a moment. There is so much more to dog ownership than worrying about how intelligent they are. The Husky has so many personality traits and yes, it can be a bit silly at times and do things that would certainly make you question the findings of this article! However, don’t you sometimes do something totally stupid? I know I do. We can’t all be perfect all the time.

As I said, the intelligence of a dog is just a small part of the whole package. When we’re looking for a dog the thing on the top of the list would not typically be how intelligent it is. It’s everything, combined, that makes a dog what it is and I think that as all owners of the Siberian Husky would agree on is that this breed is something special.

Remember that there’s a lot more behind those beautiful eyes you see when face-to-face with a Siberian Husky.

Finally, if you want more information about the Siberian Husky, check out my Complete Guide right here.

Matt

I'm Matt Pettitt, joint founder of the Pets Knowledge Base alongside my wife, Jane. Since I was just 2 years of age I've had pets in my life - which I don't mind admitting is now 47 years ago! I strongly believe that when you introduce a pet into your family you should do everything you can to give it the best life possible. I've learned a lot during these past (almost) five decades and this blog gives me a medium to share everything I have learned, both good and bad about pets. If you'd like to know more about us, and how to contact us - take a look at our About page here!

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