How Smart Are Huskies?
[All you need to know]

By kropek2021. • Updated September 28, 2021

As a dog trainer, I deem understanding a dog’s temperament and personality as the highest priority.

Huskies are one of the most popular breeds in the world. Pet owners find huskies adorable and happy companions, but they have “average intelligence”. But a lot of people consider huskies very savvy and resourceful in their own way

In fact, being stubborn often misleads people into considering them as not intelligent, but that isn’t always the case.  

Are Huskies Smart Dogs?

Huskies are specific sled dog breeds. They are independent and strong-willed, hence they require repetitive training to learn commands, and reinforcements are required to motivate them. The general trait to please the owner in herding dogs is missing in huskies. The breed is very focused on endurance and athletic ability. They are fast runners and chasers. 

They also tend to run away because of curiosity and high prey drive

Stanley Coren’s Dog Intelligence Test

In order to measure how well-trained a dog was, he used three criteria:

  1. The number of times that the judge had seen the same dog perform an exercise correctly;
  2. How many times the judge saw the dog fail to do so;
  3. Whether or not the judge thought the dog would be able to repeat the task without any further training.

Based on this information, Coren created two scores –

  • Obedience Score 
  • Working Ability Score

The test defines three different types of intelligence- 

1. Instinctive Intelligence:

This refers to the dog’s ability to do the tasks they were originally bred for, like guarding, hunting and preying, or providing company. 

2. Adaptive Intelligence:

This refers to the dog’s ability to do intuitive tasks like identifying fundamental problems and figuring out a way around. The tasks need to be simple for both physical and cognitive measures. Complex tasks need training. 

3. Working And Obedience Intelligence:

This refers to the dog’s ability to follow human commands. The understanding revolves around obeying and learning what we teach them. This category is the most important one amongst the three and hence prioritized to create a ranking. 

Huskies ranked 77 out of 138 in the Working and Obedience category. 

The Intelligence Of Husky

Huskies are intelligent in a different sense. They are not the kind of breed that is obedient, easy to train, and willingly follows commands. Instead, they are independent and can survive by themselves very effectively. They can also navigate around on their own, loves exploring, and are very playful. 

Because of these traits, it isn’t easy to train them. Huskies are not the smartest when it comes to them having to figure out what you asked them to do, but they are intuitive enough to decide if they want to follow your command or not. If they do not find it interesting, they will not be focused on listening to you at all.

Huskies are very unpredictable in nature. This can frustrate some owners as their dogs might completely ignore them and be disobedient at times. However, huskies also act on their instincts, and many of their actions can be considered reasonable from the perspective of intuitive intelligence. Their curiosity makes them jump and play around a lot, dig and chase animals indicating prey drive, and look for shelter. 

Huskies were also originally bred to pull sleds and run for miles. They can run up to 100 miles a day. This characteristic is still very prevalent in huskies, and they can escape possibly anything and everything. Also, hopping over fences, digging holes under gates are attempts at times to escape confinement. 

A great way of reducing the tendency to run is by providing your Siberian husky with lots of exercise in your local surroundings like inside the house, a nearby park, or yard, and to train it from a young age to not run away when the door is completely open.

Personality Of A Husky

Huskies are not the most aggressive, protective, or suspicious toward strangers. They generally start treating strangers like family and are not cautious towards unknown people. That does not make them much of a guard dog. 

Huskies are very sociable animals. They are friendly not only to people but towards other dogs as well. They have always been pack animals by nature, so they instinctively prefer other dogs over people at certain times. Huskies are also highly energetic even when they get into their adulthood. They love to play around and behave like a goofball. However, lack of mental stimulation can get them very bored. 

They are pretty quirky and funny and loves to have fun. You might well get a lot of laughs at their silly antics. They enjoy living their life and have a good time. They are not much of a barker, but they are not really a quiet breed either. Whining, howling, and moaning about getting attention are pretty standard for huskies. 

As pets, they are very loving and affectionate animals and provide excellent company. In their own way of communication, they will be your support through thick and thin. 

How Smart Are Siberian Huskies?

Siberian Huskies are actually more intelligent than the ranking that they have secured under the Coren Intelligence Test. Primarily, there is a lot more to the personality of huskies than just obedience & working intelligence.

As a dog trainer, I focus on all three categories of intelligence, and huskies are exceptionally better in instinctive and adaptive intelligence than many breeds. Their evolutionary instincts make them very instinctive. Higher IQ does enhance quick learning, but that is not all that is to look for. 

Despite their general lack of barking, Siberian huskies are very vocal dogs and hence excellent communicators. However, this trait is rare amongst dog breeds as it takes quite a bit of natural intelligence from the dog side to understand what you are commanding and respond in a way that makes sense. 

Huskies are also the best working dogs the world has to offer. They were initially bred to pull sleds in the colder regions for long distances. Suppose you tie them to a sled. They will be able to pull with bare minimum or no human training.  This shows the unique type of instinctive intelligence they possess. There is no point denying this.

All working dog breeds that do independent work are intelligent dogs, including the Siberian Husky. 

Why Huskies Rank Low In Dog Intelligence?

While there aren’t many scientific studies on how the Husky brain works, researchers have found some interesting things. For example, scientists believe that the Husky has a larger hippocampus than any other dog breed. This means that the Husky can remember complex information longer than other dog breeds.

Another study showed that huskies have significantly less gray matter in their cerebellum than other dog breeds. 

The Husky Lineage

The ancestry of all dogs generally traces back to the gray wolf. Along with the several Arctic breeds, Huskies present genetic closeness to the currently extinct Taimyr wolf of North Asia. Siberian Huskies also show an association with Sher Pei and Finnish Spitz. The ancestry ratio ranges between 1.4% to 27.3% of admixture between Taimyr wolf of North Asia and ancestors of high latitude dog breeds.

The dog breed dates back to the Chukchi tribe of northeast Asia, almost 3,000 years ago.

Why Are Huskies Hard To Train?

Huskies were bred as sled dogs from the polar regions. They are very energetic and athletic in nature. Their independence can definitely be very frustrating to pet owners at times. Their high prey drive and playful nature can definitely come as a challenge to tame. 

But speaking from years of experience, huskies are really great companions to have. If you can provide them with a wide enough space to run around and some mental stimulation to get them active, they will be much more attentive. 

But huskies are not really ‘dogs with tricks.’ They are more of runners and athletes. Owners at times struggle with teaching huskies basic obedience skills such as not pulling on leash or not jumping up. The training of huskies is a task that requires patience and persistence.

How To Train Your Huskies

Now that we understand our husky better appropriately trained let us see some practical ways to train our adorable four-legged friend – 

1. Prioritize Starting Young

One of the most important tips to remember while training a husky. They are generally very strong-willed and of independent persona. But because huskies are pack animals instinctively, training them from a young age will make them follow your command much faster. 

My advice would be to start training as soon as you adopt. Be very patient because the attention span of the pup isn’t particularly long. Invest time and effort. Beginning to train in the early years helps them develop better socialization skills. But this does not mean your Huskies cannot be trained in older age. With proper positive reinforcement and dog communication, you can teach commands at any age.

2. Paying Attention To Your Husky

For obedience training, spending time and bonding with your Husky is very important. As an owner, you need to build a bond of trust with your dog. Showering them with affection and care helps them develop a bond with you. This trust will make it easier for huskies to follow your command as they will have the assurance that there is no harm in doing so. In addition, with huskies, you need to show respect for them to respect you back. 

Punishment is a big no when it comes to training your dog. Refrain from yelling, showing excessive anger, or any form of abuse. These increase fear in the mind of your pet, and they train out of fear. This is not training for betterment but reinforcing fear for you in your pet’s mind. The independent nature of huskies will make them run away in case they are forced or frightened. They might also start acting out and being worse and not come back at all.

A straightforward way is to take your husky out for their daily walk or exercise and spend time with them while training. This will not only make them feel loved but also count towards providing attention.

3. Providing Your Husky With Positive Reinforcement

By reinstating positive reinforcement, you reward your dog for the actions that are deemed proper. Verbal appreciation works very well with Huskies.  Any behavior you want your husky to repeat makes the puppy understand that through a language he understands. For example, give them belly rubs or ear scratches. This reinforces the fact that what they did is a likable behavior. 

An effective way to do that is to treat the whole training exercise as a game. Use rewards like treats, toys, or even affection as an encouragement factor. Every time your husky pup or dog listens to your likable command or commands, give them their reward. Please make sure the treats are in smaller portions for your dog, so you don’t overfeed them.  

4. Be Persistent And Patient 

Training is indeed a job of saints. There is no exaggeration here. Be positive around your dog. If you stay calm, they will stay relaxed. Remember, your canine buddies are your companions, and they want to please you. A little extra effort and time will help both of you get better results. 

Make sure you are persistent with your husky pup. Training huskies require repetition of the same command quite a lot as they are not the quickest learners. However, don’t give up or let your husky trick you into thinking they don’t know what they are clueless. Take your time and do not push them into doing something they do not want to do. 

Refrain from yelling, losing your temper, getting angry, or resorting to anything physical. Instead, have fun with them, enjoy playing. Your dog will not get trained overnight. So make the process of training fun and engaging.

5.  Ending Training Session In A Good Spirit 

With enough exercise, huskies can be kept less hyperactive at all times. It is ideal for 10 to 15 minutes per session, with 1 to 2 sessions a day. A more extended training period might result in your husky losing interest in the activity. 

Make sure to end training on a good note. If your husky follows your command diligently, you can cut down on the session time. Praise them and play with them so that they look forward to training with you. 

Conclusion

Huskies are intelligent in their own way. They are highly intuitive and, if trained properly, can become adept at performing complex tasks as well. However, they are born free-spirited, and the best way to get along with them is to enjoy their curiosity and goofiness. 

I agree huskies have an ill reputation of being difficult to train and stubborn, but their temperament depends on the love and attention they receive from their owner. They are very passionate and loyal to their caregivers and will show that by cuddling and communicating their way. 

Being patient and dedicated to training your husky will actually help your husky become a better companion. So please do not undermine your husky’s intelligence and focus on not giving up on them while training. It indeed is a difficult task, but it is worth the time and energy you will put in. 

Your husky will become an essential part of your family in no time.