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Are Cockapoos Smart? Facts & Breed Intelligence Explained

Written by: Chris Dinesen Rogers

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Dogster Team

red cockapoo standing in the grass

Are Cockapoos Smart? Facts & Breed Intelligence Explained

We all like to think our dogs are the smartest canines in the world. Many pets will act submissive or neutral toward people. However, selective breeding has encouraged specific traits in the various breeds, often based on the job they do. Intelligence typically follows, especially with pups tasked with more complex duties, like herding.

Cockapoos are a different story. They are an example of the so-called designer breeds. Enthusiasts bred the American Cocker Spaniel and Poodle, usually the miniature variety, to get the resulting dog. Its breeding stock includes intelligent animals. Does that mean that Cockapoos are smart? Cockapoos are smart to some degree, with some mitigating factors that can influence the outcome.


History of the Cockapoo

The Cockapoo is a relatively new dog. Enthusiasts began selectively breeding the parent stock in the 1960s1. It is not recognized as a breed by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), United Kennel Club (UKC), or the American Kennel Club (AKC). It’s not even under active consideration under the latter’s Foundation Stock Service Program (FSS), the pathway toward “official” status.

However, several canine hybrid organizations2 recognize it, including the Designer Dogs Kennel Club and International Designer Canine Registry. The dog also has two national clubs, the Cockapoo Club of America and the American Cockapoo Club3. These facts are significant because they form the basis of the typical traits of a Cockapoo, such as its intelligence. Let’s delve further into its breeding stock.

Asian woman grooming puppy cockapoo dog
Image By: MT.PHOTOSTOCK, Shutterstock


The Poodle is a relatively old breed, with its history going back over 400 years in Germany. The dog was called the Pudelhund, meaning water dog. This pup was initially bred as a hunting companion for waterfowl. It’s a role it still serves today for both flushing and retrieving game. That speaks to this breed’s intelligence. According to author Dr. Stanley Coren, it is the second most intelligent breed.

The Poodle is easy to train and eager to please. This pup has the energy and the playfulness to boot. This dog is so smart that providing adequate mental stimulation is a must-do to keep it physically and mentally healthy. Interestingly, AKC classifies the breed in the Non-Sporting Group. However, breeders can enter their dogs in the organization’s hunting tests.

Cocker Spaniel

The Cocker Spaniel is another old breed with a history going back hundreds of years, presumably to Spain. It also started life as a bird dog. Only its quarry was the woodcock. The Cocker Spaniel split into two separate breeds in the 1940s, with the American and the English varieties. The English Cocker Spaniel is still a hunting companion because of its larger size.

However, both are part of AKC’s Sporting Group and participate in competitive events, such as fieldwork and agility. This breed is intelligent, as one would expect with a hunting dog. However, the Poodle has the edge, perhaps because it still is tested mentally in the field and show rings.

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Factors Affecting Canine Intelligence

Describing a dog as intelligent is subjective. Therefore, we must look toward science to help us define it correctly in context with the Cockapoo. Research places the intelligence of the typical canine comparable to a child between 2 and 2.5 years old. That means your pooch can probably count up to five and learn up to 165 words. One super-learner picked up 1,022, but this Border Collie was a rare exception.

Genetics plays a significant role in intelligence, as we’ve seen with the history of the Cocker Spaniel and Poodle. It can also have an indirect effect through canine aggression. One study found that American Cocker Spaniels were more likely to bite or try to bite their owners than other breeds. While the parent stock can be nippy, the Cockapoo is more docile. It can influence training and, consequently, intelligence.

Of course, training is the key to the game. It’s imperative for you to assert yourself as the dominant member of the pack. The best approach is positive reinforcement, given that the Cockapoo is sensitive to harsh words or punishment. Remember that this pup is eager to please. Negative experiences, especially as a puppy, will adversely affect your relationship with your pet.

A merle cockapoo playing a game of fetch
Image By: Noviceshooter98, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

The Cockapoo comes from two parent breeds known for their intelligence. It has the genetics to learn commands and tricks. However, it’s essential for owners to take an active role in training to develop their pets’ intelligence and channel their energy in appropriate ways.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: mountaintreks, Shutterstock

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