Are Labrador Retrievers Smart?
[Full Guide]

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: January 17, 2022

Labradors are one of the most popular dog breeds because of their sweet personalities and their reputation as great family dogs. However, you might be asking yourself, “Are Labradors smart?” This is a fair question if you are trying to find a canine partner who will be good for agility, obedience training, hunting, or learning to do tricks.

What color Labrador is the smartest? The answer is any! There is no difference in intelligence between the different colors of Labs, so you don’t have to worry that one color is better than another. You can feel free to pick any of the colors within the breed without worrying about the dog’s ability to learn commands and skills.

If you are wondering how to tell if your Labrador retriever is ready to impress dog obedience judges or canine psychologists with their smarts, there are some simple ways to know if your Labrador is one sharp cookie or maybe a little more average. Use these simple tools to determine how smart your Labrador really is.

How to Tell if Your Labrador is Smart

Solving Puzzles

Dog owners often think of puzzle toys for dogs as a means to keep them busy while you are away from home. This is not the only thing that dog puzzles can do for you and your dog, however. Being able to solve a treat puzzle is a major indicator of intelligence in canines and is predictive of the ability in obedience training as well as search and rescue training
If you have been thinking, how smart are Labradors, they are smart enough to solve a puzzle! Higher-level thinking skills are required to remember the steps needed to solve a puzzle, so if your dog is capable of these skills, they are one smart Labrador!

Emotional Intelligence 

Many people believe that all dogs care about their owners’ emotional well-being, but that is not necessarily true. Labs are well-known for their ability to tell if their owners are sad, worried, or in need of comfort. For this reason, Labrador retrievers are often used for therapy work. 

Other signs that your Labrador is smart is if they bump your hand in search of attention or if they become worried when a suitcase is brought out. Emotionally intelligent breeds can remember your daily routine and activities. When things change, they tap into their awareness of their owner’s feelings to try and provide comfort.

Skills Retention

If your Labrador can learn a trick quickly and remember it days later, then they are a smart canine companion! Do remember that every dog has a unique personality, and high energy labs might seem like they are not learning skills quickly only because they are so energetic.

Labradors are often so smart that they can understand a trick despite inconsistencies in their owners’ training techniques. Labradors’ innate ability to remember behaviors and commands over time makes them excellent hunting companions and great service dogs. Any questions about whether or not Labradors are smart dogs can be resolved by seeing how quickly they can learn a new trick!

Opening Doors and Locks

While this intelligence-based skill can lead to some uncomfortable situations, dogs that can operate locks and open doors are often the smartest dogs in any bunch. Many dogs who perform simple machines and tools actually learn by watching their owners use these items first. Labrador breeders who want to create working dogs often select these puppies from each litter just because of this skill!

You might be worried about this innate skill of many Labradors, especially if you have gotten your Lab to be a family pet. Thankfully, you can easily teach your dog not to use their skills to open doors and locks by setting expectations for them in daily training sessions. You can also add a wireless fence to your yard if you are concerned about them letting themselves outside.

Follows You and Looks to You

One of the best intelligence indicators is a Lab that closely follows you and looks to you for guidance. Dogs who want direction from their owners and trainers show increased ability to learn and are much more likely to succeed in learning commands quickly and without repetition.

An additional benefit to a dog who enjoys your company and lets you guide their actions is that it fosters a deeper and more meaningful bond between you and your dog. There is really nothing like a dog connected to you in a way that makes communication almost effortless! This breed characteristic is a big part of why Labradors are such a popular breed.

How to Train a Smart Dog

Now that you have identified that your dog shows signs of amazing canine intelligence, how do you use it to teach them new skills? Training is one of the most important responsibilities of dog ownership, and it can also be one of the most fulfilling parts.

Many dog breeds require their own unique training style, and the same is true of an intelligent Labrador. You will enjoy the most success when training your dog if you can tailor your training methods to their unique way of learning. 

Thankfully, Labs are very straightforward to teach things to, and they love to please! This makes them really wonderful partners if training is your goal!

Be Patient

Remember that we talked about how emotionally aware Labrador Retrievers are! This means that you will need to be patient with your Labrador and not allow your own emotions to influence your training sessions.

Nothing derails a training session faster than hard feelings, frustration, or anger. An emotionally sensitive dog like a lab will also mirror your emotions back at you. This means that you need to be aware of your own feelings while teaching your dog new skills or tricks.

Give Them a Job

Labradors are working dogs, and they are also water dogs. Labs almost require a “job” to make them feel content and like they know their place in your family unit. Experienced Lab owners know that their dogs need to feel needed and busy to be happy.

Even if you are not planning to use your Labrador for hunting or agility, it is possible to keep them mentally engaged in other ways. Providing them with a solid daily routine can fulfill this need. Even better, making sure that they are always included in tasks like going to the mailbox, or putting the kids to bed, will make them feel needed and bonded to you and your family.

Provide Praise

Praise that is not earned doesn’t mean much to a high-drive dog like a Lab. If you are going to provide praise for a task completed or reward a behavior, make sure that you do it correctly. Because labs are sensitive, genuine verbal praise or a stroke on the head is often more than enough positive reinforcement for them.

Labs can become pushy or overly excitable if they are given praise with a high excited voice. They can also become confused by the overuse of treats to communicate intentions. Remember that these are smart dogs and that they can read your emotions. A smile and a pat on the head can sometimes be far more effective than a treat.

What Have We Learned

It is fair to say that many Labradors are going to be smarter than your average dog. Because of this, they make great working dogs. Unlike some intelligent breeds, however, Labs are also very sweet and kind, which means they are suitable to be family dogs as well.

If you are looking for a dog to be your family’s best friend and want one that can compete at obedience events, be a water retriever, or be used as a hunting dog, then a Lab would be an excellent choice for you! There is really no better breed to choose to have access to this perfect balance of skills and traits!
If you own a Lab and have considered some of the simple tests mentioned in this article, you have probably realized that you too own a very smart pet who will need the right kind of training to be happy. Make sure to give your Labrador a job and to praise them rightly. That is usually all that is needed to create a deep and lasting bond with your Labrador Retriever!

Labradors are one of the most intelligent, loving, and happy breeds of dogs. No matter whether you have a Chocolate Lab, a Black Lab, or a Yellow Lab, you probably already know that you might own the best dog on Earth!