The Samoyed is a loving and affectionate dog and makes an excellent family pet. They love human company and being part of the household. They were originally bred as a true utility working dog in the arctic circle. This means they are energetic and yes, intelligent.
Just how intelligent are Samoyeds
Are Samoyeds smart? In short Yes. The Samoyed is considered to be above average for obedience and working intelligence. They are ranked 44th out of the 138 tested breeds. They are also known to have high intelligence in the instinctive and adaptive intelligence areas. This makes the Samoyed an all-round smart cookie.
Working and obedience intelligence in itself is not a good indication of a dog’s intelligence as this is purely testing working intelligence and trainability. It doesn’t take into account instinctive intelligence, adaptability, empathy, and problem-solving skills, and the many other forms of intelligence. We will look closer at other types of dog intelligence and how well Samoyeds do with these.
The three types of dog intelligence
There is a lot more to dog intelligence that learning new commands and being obedient. Obedience intelligence is just one of the three types of dog intelligence. The three types of dog intelligence are;
Obedience intelligence is what we have discussed above. Samoyeds rank very high in this form of canine intelligence. Samoyeds are able to learn a new command in 15 to 25 repetitions. They are then able to obey a new command they have learned in 70% or more of attempts. See below for more on how working intelligence is tested. But how do they rate in the other types?
Obedience and working intelligence is the most objective of the three types of canine intelligence making it easy to test and quantify. Adaptive and instinctive intelligence can be more subjective.
Instinctive intelligence relates to the skill and purpose the dog was bred for. It is an innate ability that doesn’t need to be taught. For example, a herding breed instinctively knows how to herd usually with little or no training required.
Samoyeds were originally bred as herding and utility working dogs. Their duties included herding reindeer, pulling sleds, hunting and being watch dogs. Although they are more of a pet these days, they will do have the instinctive traits of a working dog.
Adaptive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to solve problems and to learn and figure out things for themselves. This can be hard to measure but there are some tests you can do with your Samoyed to see how good they actually are at adaptive intelligence.
Puzzle toys are one good way to do this. Most puzzle toys involve your dog working out how to to get a treat. The exemption is the iFetch Frenzy. When selecting puzzle toys for your Samoyed try to choose toys that are a little more difficult or have different levels of difficulty.
For the top puzzle toys for dogs see here.
This video below shows a couple of other tests you can do to see just how well your Samoyed works things.
How is working and obedience intelligence measured
The list of dog breed intelligence was created by Stanley Coren who is a dog psychologist. Coren worked with 199 North American obedience trial judges to help with his study. Only pure breed dogs from the American Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club participated. This meant that mixed breed dogs and breeds not recognized by the kennel clubs were not tested.
The test used to measure dog intelligence was two-fold. They first tested how many repetitions it took for a certain breed to learn a new command. Secondly, they tested what percentage of the time the dog obeyed the command on the first attempt. Dogs with a high percentage of obeying the command were considered to be obedient.
As mentioned above, Samoyeds are able to learn a new command in 15 to 25 repetitions and obey the learnt command on 70*% or more occasions.
Other signs of intelligence in dogs
Apart from the three types of canine intelligence discussed there are other things that dogs do that are quite smart. Firstly is empathy. This is a kind of emotional intelligence of how well your dog is able to read you and your emotions. Samoyeds are very people orientated and love your company. They are very empathetic.
Another intelligent, if not a little sneaky, is strategic manipulation. This is when a dog will deceive us in order to get something they want. Researcher Marianne Heberlein did a study into this when she realized her dogs were doing it to her.
Marianne had a routine of taking her dogs out to the toilet each night before bed and gave them a treat when they came inside. One day she realized that one of her dogs would pretend to go toilet just to get the treat. This prompted her to investigate more.
With a research team at the University of Zurich, 27 dogs were tested. They paired each dog with two human partners. A co-operative one who allowed the dogs to eat treats, and a competitive one who withheld the treats.
The handler led each dog to one of three boxes. One had a tasty sausage, another had a less appetizing dog treat and the last one was empty.
The dogs quickly learned if the handler was co-operative or competitive and led the co-operative partners to the sausage box more often than the competitive partner.
By leading the competitive partner to the incorrect box the dog had a chance to keep the delicious sausage for itself later on when the experiment was repeated with a co-operative partner.
Let us know in the comments of examples of strategic manipulation your Samoyed has used on you.
Are Samoyeds easy to train
With their above-average ability to learn commands quickly you would naturally assume training a Samoyed would be easy. However, due to some of their traits, it may not always be that easy.
Samoyeds are known to be quite stubborn and independent. Even if they know the command, if they don’t want to do it they won’t. This can lead to a battle of wills. A battle you will probably lose up against a stubborn Samoyed.
The key is to provide the right motivation for them to want to follow your command. See how to reward a dog for ideas.
Another aspect of the Samoyed personality that may add a challenge to training is they get bored easy. If your Samoyed decides that they are bored with the task they will wander off to find something more interesting to do.
This trait of getting bored easy is why it is crucial to provide plenty of exercise and mental enrichment for your Samoyed. To learn about the six categories of mental enrichment for dogs see here.
Do Samoyeds need lots of mental stimulation?
Yes. This energetic breed is incredibly smart and requires constant stimulation. A busy household, people coming and going, running around outdoors, playing with toys, and playing with other pets in the household are needed to keep this intelligent dog’s mind stimulated.
Interactive toys involve tasty treats or just a plain tennis ball can keep a Samoyed entertained for hours. One of the best ways to provide a mental challenge for your Samoyed is to use puzzle toys. For suggestions on the top puzzle toys for dogs see here.
However, this breed enjoys plenty of attention and doesn’t tolerate being ignored. So, playing a game is an excellent way to bond with a Samoyed, provide them the exercise they require and keeps their mind stimulated so they don’t act out in destructive ways.
How to improve your Samoyeds intelligence
Your Samoyed is already pretty intelligent. However, there are ways to improve your dog’s intelligence. These can include;
- Socialization – provide plenty of opportunities to your Samoyed to socialize with other dogs, animals, and people.
- Teach tricks and commands – learning is a great way to provide mental stimulation and enrichment and increase brain power.
- Food Enrichment – instead of feeding your dog just from a bowl use puzzle toys and feeders to make them work for their food. For more on feeding enrichment for dogs see here.
- Keep them active – Samoyeds are high energy and need plenty of exercise. A healthy dog is less stressed and bored and smarter. For a guide to Samoyed exercise see here.
- Quality diet – diet is crucial to keeping a dog healthy and functioning at their best.
- Reward intelligence – give your dog praise and rewards for showing signs of intelligence.
- Puzzle toys – Provide your Samoyed with toys that test and improve their problem-solving skills. For the best puzzle toys for dogs see here.
- Environmental enrichment – make their living environment more interesting and engaging. For more on environmental enrichment see here.
Summary – How smart are Samoyeds
Samoyeds are ranked around 44rd on the canine test for working and obedience intelligence. This above-average ranking gives some insight into Samoyed intelligence but is only part of the picture.
Working and obedience intelligence is often used to indicate how intelligent a breed of dog is as it is more measurable. The other types of canine intelligence such as adaptive, instinctive, and emotional intelligence are more subjective and difficult to quantify.
Samoyeds are very trainable but can be stubborn so sometimes patience and persistence may be required when training them. They can be excellent at problem-solving and adaptive intelligence. Samoyeds are also in tune with human emotions and have high emotional intelligence.