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Are Labradors Smart Dogs? Canine Intelligence Explained

Written by: Luxifa Le

Last Updated on April 10, 2024 by Dogster Team

labrador retriever standing on green meadow

Are Labradors Smart Dogs? Canine Intelligence Explained

The Labrador Retriever, more commonly known as just a “Lab,” is one of the most popular dog breeds worldwide, especially amongst families. These dogs are a working breed with a decorated history. They’re beloved for their intelligence, affectionate dispositions, and patience, making them ideal choices for families with children.

Labradors are also considered one of the most trainable and intelligent dogs, ranking as the 7th most intelligent dog breed according to the American Kennel Club and PetMD. But a simple number ranking does a disservice to these dogs’ intelligence.


What Does It Mean to Be Smart?

There’s a lot of debate about the meaning of the term “smart.” Many psychologists find the term reductive and feel that splitting it into different types of intelligence will benefit children and adults alike by allowing people to acknowledge strengths and weaknesses rather than putting them in a simple “smart/not smart” dichotomy.

Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor of psychology, breaks intelligence down into eight groups: logical-mathematical, linguistic, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic.

Using Gardener’s model of intelligence, a person could have genius-level intelligence in one area while struggling in another, and neither negates the other. We can use a similar breakdown of the different types of intelligence to determine the relative intelligence of dogs, including Labrador Retrievers.

Labrador dog eating
Image Credit: Olena Yakobchuk, Shutterstock

Relative Intelligence of Dogs: How Smart Are They Compared to Humans?

According to Stanley Coren, a Ph.D. holder from the University of British Columbia and author of nearly half-a-dozen books on dog psychology, dogs have an intelligence level roughly equivalent to a two- or two-and-a-half-year-old human.

While this figure isn’t specifically for Labrador Retrievers, Coren is a renowned dog researcher. It can be safely assumed that since Labs generally score at the higher end of the dog intelligence spectrum, they’re capable of many things included in Coren’s research.

Coren explains that dogs can learn to recognize up to 150 words (that’s why your dog goes nuts when you say “walk,”) count up to four or five (depending on the individual dog,) and even do rudimentary math calculations like 1+1=2. They can even identify incorrect math calculations by sight, such as 1+1=1 or 1+1=3.

Does a Labrador’s Coat Color Affect Its Intelligence?

Many people fallaciously believe that a Lab’s coat color affects its relative intelligence. However, there’s no scientific evidence that this is true. While many assert that Chocolate Labs are more hyperactive and aggressive than their black or yellow counterparts, this assertion hasn’t withstood any empirical testing.

In a study by Diane van Rooy and Claire M. Wade, Chocolate Labs scored no higher than Labs of other colors in hyperactivity or aggression. However, they scored lower in trainability, suggesting that Chocolate Labs are more challenging to train than other Labs.

This study based its conclusions on a combination of observable coat color and genotypes. Most interestingly, dogs with the yellow genotype and coat color actually had higher levels of “familiar dog aggression” than other Labs, significantly so, even.

four labrador retriever dogs in the grass
Image Credit By: fotorince, Shutterstock


Final Thoughts

Suppose you’re thinking of adding a Labrador Retriever to your family. In that case, you’ll find an excellent, patient, and friendly family member in it. Labradors are incredibly intelligent and will slot themselves into your family with their pleasant personalities and brilliant minds.

Featured Image Credit By: fsHH, Pixabay

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