labrador commands training

By Andrew Fischer

How many commands can a Labrador learn?

Labradors are among the smartest dogs in the world. According to several studies, their mental abilities are similar to a human child age 2.5 years.

Labrador Retrievers have the capacity to learn in average about 170 words. Some sources even say that Labradors can understand up to 300 words. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone succeeds at teaching his dog 170 or 300 commands. Most Labradors are capable of learning some 30 commands rather easily. Only really patient, persistent and talented dog owners are able to teach their Labradors 170 commands.

When it comes to Labrador intelligence, any two dogs might be very different not only in terms of their intelligence levels, but also in their willingness to learn and to obey your commands. Many smart Labs can find repetitive training rather boring and may stop obeying your commands!

Labs are also great at picking up body language. I heard a story about a Labrador who learned to shake his head from side to side to indicate “no” when her owner tried to get her to go outside when it rained. So Labradors are not only capable of learning the meaning of the word “no” but are also able to use their body language to emphasize that meaning.

Dog intelligence is often measured by how many times a dog needs to be introduced to a new command in order to remember it. Labradors can learn a new command in five attempts, which makes them one of the smartest dog breeds in the world. They will also follow your command first time in around 95% of the time. This means they are quite obedient and you will usually not have to repeat your command several times.

How to teach your Labrador more than 30 commands?

One trick that helps dog owners to teach their Labs more commands is to use as much body language as possible. Dogs watch our faces and body language very closely and they remember commands much more effectively if they are supported by gestures and specific facial expressions.

Also, dogs find it easier to remember and differentiate words with hard consonants at the beginning of them. Short words of one syllable are also much easier for dogs to remember. So instead of teaching your dog “sit down” you should just teach him “sit” etc.

Can Labradors count?

Recent studies show that Labradors can count up to five, possibly even more. 

They have also a basic understanding of arithmetic and are capable of simple computations like 1+2 or 3+2. 

Labradors have a strong vocabulary

Labradors show an outstanding recall of words. 

My Labs were able to pull a specific toy from a pile of toys when I named it. There were over 60 toys in that pile.

Most Labradors that have only a basic training remember the meanings of some 30 words (these include the usual commands like lie down, sit, come, stop, etc.) However, if you spend a lot of time training your dog patiently, you can manage to teach them up to 170 words or even more.

Patiently trained Labradors can also learn some more specific commands such as “find X”, where X can be any object you have at home like a ball, newspaper or shoes.

Three types of dog intelligence

Dogs have different types of intelligence. 

Instinctive intelligence is about what each breed was bred to do. Labradors were bred to retrieve objects and were used as working dogs. They are therefore quite smart in those areas. 

Dogs have also an adaptive intelligence, which is about how well your dog is is able to learn from his environment.

The last intelligence is the obedience intelligence, which is about how well your dog is able to learn your commands.

Labradors seem to have quite developed all three forms of intelligence. They are capable of copying human behaviour, they can remember the location of objects and shorter routes in the environment. Labradors are also known for being able to operate simple mechanisms and machines.

Labs are also great at deliberately deceiving their owners in order to get rewards.