Are Huskies Smart? (What The Evidence Says)

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Huskies are incredibly affectionate and energetic, but are huskies smart?

According to researchers, huskies have average intelligence for dogs, although husky owners would likely disagree with this statement.

This isn’t the entire story, however. Just like humans, dogs possess different types of intelligence. Huskies, like all breeds, are stronger in some areas than others.

Let’s take a look at how smart huskies are, and what that means for you.

How Can You Tell How Smart A Husky Is?

Measuring dog intelligence can be surprisingly complex, because there’s not one single way of determining how smart they are.

First, let’s take a look at how intelligent dogs are in general.

General Dog Intelligence

It’s estimated that dogs possess the same level of intelligence as a 2 to 2-and-a-half-year-old child. Of course, this is an oversimplification and is based on their ability to understand language.

The average dog can understand about 150 words and gestures. Dogs with the highest intelligence can learn 250 words or more. A border collie, named Chaser, has learned more than 1,000 words for different objects, putting them on par with a 3-year-old’s language development.

Another common measure of animal intelligence is self-awareness. The mirror test is considered the standard to see if an animal is self-aware. A dot is placed on the animal. If they investigate the dot, they are believed to be self-aware.

Elephants and dolphins pass this test. Children become self-aware at around 2 years old.

Dogs fail the test. However, when the test involves urine, the dogs seem to be self-aware, according to the AKC. It’s thought this is because vision isn’t a dog’s primary sense, but their smell is.

Types Of Intelligence

There are three types of dog intelligence. These are instinctive, adaptive, and working/obedience.

Your husky is born with instinctive intelligence. This is how they know the basics of being a dog. It’s why they enjoy chasing things and use their nose to explore everything around them.

Adaptive intelligence includes problem-solving and learning about their environment. For example, my pooch has learned to open and close my front door.

Because she figured out how to do this on her own, this is a sign of adaptive intelligence.

Working and obedience intelligence can be compared to human education. These are the things that we teach our dogs. This includes commands, what behaviors are desirable, and which behaviors are off-limits.

Coren Intelligence Testing

There have been several methods of intelligence testing used for dogs and other animals over the years. However, Stanley Coren’s method has become the most well-known, perhaps due to its simplicity.

Coren’s research focused on working and obedience intelligence only when ranking breeds.

The test used responses from 199 obedience trial judges affiliated with the American Kennel Club (AKC) and Canadian Kennel Club (CKC). This encompassed about half of all show judges active at the time.

Coren used two criteria to determine where dogs were placed.

One factor is the number of repetitions required for a dog to learn a new command. The next factor is how often they were successful at following a command they knew the first time it was given.

How Huskies Performed

Coren found that huskies were of average intelligence based on his test results. They ranked 77th out of 138 breeds included in the study.

The top 10 breeds were known as The Brightest Dogs. They learned a new command in 5 attempts or less. They obeyed known commands on the first attempt 95% of the time. Border collies and poodles were at the top of the class.

The next category, Excellent Working Dogs, featured welsh corgis, and Belgian shepherd dogs. Above Average Working dogs include Yorkshire terrier and the Chesapeake Bay retriever.

Huskies were in the next category, Average Obedience Working Dogs. They learned a new command within 25 to 40 attempts and followed commands on the first attempt 50% of the time.


Dognition offers an interesting option for determining your dog’s intelligence. It’s based on the belief that all dogs are intelligent, they simply have different areas of intelligence.

Dognition offers many different intelligence tests, that measure 5 different types of intelligence.

They then classify your dog into one of 9 intelligence profiles, based on their results. Dognition claims that this can help you to better understand your husky, and set reasonable expectations for them.

Given how popular human learning styles and even love languages are today, perhaps cognition is onto something.

Understanding Huskies Intelligence

Does Coren’s research really tell us how smart huskies are? What types of intelligence do they have?

The Problem With Coren’s Method

Huskies are of only average intelligence according to Coren, but is this really the case? Not according to most husky owners. 

The issue is that this test only measures one type of intelligence. There’s much more to a husky’s intelligence than its ability, or willingness, to learn and follow commands.

A Siberian husky in a field

In fact, in my opinion, it’s no surprise that huskies were considered average in this respect.

Huskies are very strong-willed and can be quite stubborn. How often are huskies unable to learn or follow commands quickly? How often do they choose not to obey because they are independent, rather than not understanding what their owner is asking?

It’s impossible to know for sure. However, we can say with certainty that their independent nature accounts for some of the gaps between them and the “smartest” breeds.

Husky Communication Intelligence And Empathy

Huskies are excellent communicators because they are very pack oriented. If you own a husky, you’ve probably noticed that they communicate using different vocalizations.

They also use body language and facial expressions very well, similar to humans.

According to the book “Inside of a Dog”, huskies may be the breed most able to communicate with other dogs and humans. This book states that the closer the breed remains to its wolf ancestors’ appearance, the better they can communicate. This would put huskies at the top of the class, and suggest that they have very high communication intelligence.

Along with their ability to communicate, they are also more empathetic than most breeds. This may stem from their communication skills as well.

They seem to read our communication better than most breeds, which allows them to be aware of our thoughts and feelings. Because they are highly pack oriented, they naturally care about how the other members of their “pack” are feeling.


Huskies are also incredible problem solvers. It’s well known that they are excellent escape artists. In fact, they are famous, or infamous, for this particular skill.

They are also great at solving puzzle toys, which is another indication of their problem-solving abilities.

A husky’s problem-solving skills are one reason why they require lots of mental stimulation. Without it, they get bored, which leads to unwanted behaviors.

This makes sense when you consider their origins. Huskies spent a significant amount of time on their own in the arctic tundra.

When they weren’t hunting and braving the arctic temps on their own, they were working with the Chukchi tribe of Siberia, pulling sleds.

Huskies And The Three Types Of Intelligence

Let’s recap what we’ve learned about husky intelligence. We know that huskies are considered average when it comes to obedience intelligence.

However, they are likely above average in the other two types of intelligence. Their problem-solving ability suggests that they are high in adaptive intelligence.

They are also considered high in instinctive intelligence. Instinctive intelligence looks at the breed’s ability to do what it’s bred to do.

Huskies are very good at serving their purpose. They are renowned for their mushing and racing abilities, as well as their companionship. This means they have high instinctive intelligence as well.

Can Huskies Be Trained Easily?

Based on Coren’s results, you may already have an idea about the answer to this question. Huskies are not the easiest dogs to train.

If you dream of a docile pooch that will constantly aim to please you, a husky isn’t the dog for you. However, husky lovers find this challenge to be part of their charm.

A husky sat outside in the sun

You can make training a husky easier by understanding them, and how to train them properly.

Training Basics

First, it’s important to understand that most training occurs through conditioning. Over time, your husky will learn that some behaviors have a positive outcome, and others have a negative outcome.

Huskies, like humans, want positive results, so they will perform the behaviors that provide them with good things, and avoid those that have negative outcomes.

Motivate Them

Your husky loves you, but pleasing you simply isn’t a huge motivation for them. To train them, you’ll need to find a way to motivate them.

Huskies love food, so training with treats will make the process much simpler and more fun for both of you. You can also use special toys or activities as part of your reward system.

Keep it Positive

When training a husky, you should only use positive reinforcement. It’s important to be confident and assertive, but not aggressive. Punishing them will only trigger their stubborn streak, and involve you in an unnecessary power struggle.

You can respond to unwanted behaviors by ignoring them, rather than giving a harsh reprimand. Huskies love attention, so they will quickly get the message.

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About The Author

Hi, I’m Carrie! I’ve always had a special connection with nature, and animals of all shapes and sizes in particular. I’ve been a writer for nearly a decade and recently joined the Malamute Mom team. I love providing information to other dog lovers.

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