If you’re looking for information about the intelligence of the Samoyed dog breed, then you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re the existing owner of a Samoyed, a prospective owner, or simply someone with an interest in this unique breed, you may have questions about how smart the Samoyed dog really is, or whether they are hard to train.
Are Samoyeds smart? Yes, Samoyeds are above average intelligence and rank at 33 for working intelligence on a list of intelligent dog breeds compiled by a top canine psychologist. Bred for intelligence, independent thinking, and family friendliness, Samoyeds can be ideal pets for those owners who can give them the physical and mental challenge they need to thrive.
As well as being smart, Samoyeds have other common traits including independence, stubbornness, and playfulness. Read on to find out more about Samoyed intelligence, training capacity, and some of the dog brain games which could support and encourage smart behaviors.
Are Samoyeds Smart?
Samoyeds are smart dogs. Their high intelligence makes them capable of learning to understand and respond to a wide range of commands, or able to perform complex actions and entertaining dog tricks.
At the same time, remember that intelligence does not always mean biddable… Samoyeds are highly independent and definitely have a mind of their own. Their capacity for learning may depend on how willing they are to cooperate with you. To train your Samoyed effectively, you should take time to build a positive relationship with your dog from your earliest days together and learn what best motivates them.
Intelligence can lead to boredom and distraction. Samoyeds may have little inclination to repeat the same actions or tricks repeatedly once they’ve mastered something and keeping their interest engaged can be a major challenge. Bored Samoyeds with insufficient attention and stimulation might escape from the yard, dig large holes or chew furniture.
What is the IQ of a Samoyed?
Obviously, dogs do not take traditional human IQ tests involving word games, counting, and reasoning puzzles. But this doesn’t mean that we can’t make an attempt to measure and compare their intelligence on some other basis.
According to a system devised by Stanley Coren, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia, Samoyeds have above average intelligence, ranking at number 33 (or 44th when considering shared placings) out of 138 breeds considered. In the top category dogs including Border collies, Poodles, and German Shepherds were ranked more highly.
It’s worth noting that this ranking system measures only one type of intelligence (working intelligence – the ability to learn commands). As Coren himself noted, there are several other relevant types of intelligence including adaptive intelligence (figuring out problems, etc..), instinctive intelligence (i.e. natural talents), spatial intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, etc…
Given their background herding and protecting reindeer in a dangerous frozen environment, Samoyeds may perform at an even higher level for some of these other types of intelligence (e.g. adaptive intelligence) and might rank higher on a more holistic scale.
Are Samoyeds hard to train?
Samoyeds can be hard to train but if you consider the lineage and key traits of the breed, you will have some of the tools you need to get it right.
Samoyeds are an ancient breed of working dog, taking their name from the Samoyede people of northwestern Siberia who originally used Samoyeds for hunting, herding reindeer, and hauling sleds. Treated as members of the family, the Samoyed breed developed a strong understanding of human beings and affinity for their company.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Samoyeds were brought from Siberia to pull sleds on Arctic and Antarctic expeditions. Most modern Samoyed strains in the UK and USA are descended from these veteran sled dogs.
Independence has been bred into Samoyeds as a trait more valuable in the harsh and unpredictable Siberian environment than absolute obedience to commands. Their independence would have equipped Samoyeds to better guide the reindeer herds and protect their human families and would have been highly prized.
Intelligence can be a double-edged sword when training a dog. On one hand, it may enable a dog to quickly learn commands, behaviors, and actions. On the other hand, intelligent dogs like Samoyeds will get bored quickly after something is learned and could then be easily distracted from their training.
All this means that today, while Samoyeds are very smart dogs, their independence, intelligence, and stubborn temperament can all make training challenging, especially for inexperienced owners.
The best approach to training your Samoyed is often patience, consistency, praise, and plenty of active fun to keep them engaged and well-exercised. Samoyeds can be very playful dogs and may enjoy training more when it involves energetic games with human owners or other dogs.
If you don’t have the time or the patience to train your Samoyed, you should look into reputable training schools in your area to give your dog the guidance it needs.
Dog Brain Games
Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise for a well-rounded dog and the mental challenges of dog training can also make your pet smarter.
Whether a puppy or an adult dog, training and playing games with your Samoyed help to establish positive behaviors and useful skills as well as building a strong relationship with you. As a breed, Samoyeds take naturally to many dog sports and physical activities. They often thrive on the stimulation and excitement of obedience or agility training.
Let’s take a look at some of the wide range of dog brain games that are cognitively stimulating as well as being great fun…
Pull the rope
In this game, your dog needs to work out how to pull a rope string to access a treat. To play, tie a ribbon, string or small rope to a treat or toy and then hide it somewhere that can’t be reached with paws or mouth (e.g. completely out of sight under furniture).
Encourage your dog to explore the situation and see if they can work out how to pull on the rope to retrieve the treat.
New routine, new ideas
To get your dog’s attention, try altering the route of your normal walk, perhaps taking a different direction or alternative route which will expose them to a new set of sights, sounds, and smells. The unfamiliarity should prompt them to follow your lead and pay more attention to you.
For this game, you will need a set of plastic storage containers that nest inside one another. Begin by placing a treat in the bottom container, then placing this inside the next container, layering treats and containers all the way to the top.
The top container should be open and contain one treat to get your dog’s interest and start their quest to open the containers and reach the treats. Make the game more complex by adding further containers. Always watch closely to make sure your dog doesn’t eat the containers
This game can be played either inside or outside the house and provides a good physical as well as mental workout for your dog. The obstacle course can be formed from household objects or furniture, or you can buy a specific set of dog agility props online. Use your imagination to set up the course and then give your dog cues to follow.
For example, you could arrange dining room chairs so that your dog can weave through them, and then a mop between two buckets for your dog to jump over. Outside, you could make use of natural formations and manmade structures for the course.
Hide and seek
Tell your dog to stay while you find a hiding place and then, when you’re ready, call your dog to come and find you. When they do find you, give them a reward, and gradually make your hiding spot more and more challenging to find so that your dog has to work harder each time.
If you want to take your Samoyed back to its Siberian roots, and you live somewhere with sufficient snow and other Samoyeds, perhaps you could teach your dog to sled and sign them up for a sledding competition.
A final word…
So, are Samoyeds smart? Yes, this beautiful, ancient breed of dog is highly intelligent and can make a wonderful companion for owners who can give the Samoyed the training, stimulation, and exercise they need. But if you ever do get a Samoyed, be prepared for an independent dog who knows its own mind and won’t always perform tricks just because they can.