15 Smartest Dog Breeds & Why Their Smarts Could Work For Or Against You!


Are you looking for an intelligent dog breed that can file your taxes? Or maybe he can rustle up a filet mignon dinner complete with all the trimmings?

Okay, that might be a stretch, but below, we outline the 15 most intelligent dog breeds on the planet who are relatively simple to train and capable of many tricks.

Many of these dogs are known for their bright brains. But there are a few breeds on the list that might take you by surprise. One thing’s for sure — they are trainable dogs who are anxious to please their humans. But could their brilliance get them into trouble? The answer is definitely yes, especially with some of these canines. Let’s take a closer look.

Measuring Canine Intelligence

Although there is no official way to measure doggy intelligence, it is usually calculated based on how many repetitions it takes for a dog to pick up a command and stick with it. Those that pick up orders quickly, and continue to do so, are more intelligent than those who fail to learn the new command. Comparing their skills to the dumbest dog breeds is easy, although it’s fair to say that they are more stubborn than dumb.

When it comes to dog intelligence, Stanley Coren is the name that always makes its way into the conversation. In 1994, Professor Coren published his book “The Intelligence of Dogs.” His work ranks over 131 dog breeds in order of their intelligence, according to his research studies. Some of the dog’s intelligence is due to its working capabilities. In contrast, others’ smarts are based on their willingness to please humans in a family environment.

It’s important to know that every dog is unique. So just because you welcome a Golden Retriever into your life does not mean that they are destined to be the most intelligent dog in your neighborhood. According to Professor Coren’s work, 51% of doggy intelligence is determined by breed. But the remaining 49% is based on environmental circumstances, which means that you and your training efforts almost equally define a dog’s intelligence.

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15 Smartest Dog Breeds

Without any further ado, let’s take a look at the 15 most intelligent dog breeds in ascending order.

Border Collie

Most Border Collies learn a command within five attempts (95% of the time).

The Border Collie is ranked as the most intelligent dog breed by canine experts based on their work ethic and herding abilities. They have been used for centuries to keep flocks of sheep and cattle in line and safe, earning them the title of best herding dog. Border Collies are also eager to please their masters just as long as they have a job to do. If you do not stimulate their clever brains, they become mischievous.

A prime example of a Border Collies intelligence is that of Chaser. This dog is famous for learning the names of over a thousand objects. So, if there’s one dog that picks up any order quickly, it’s this pup.

Poodle

Standard poodle Outdoors
There are three sizes of Poodles, and the standard-sized Poodle is considered the most clever.

Following closely behind the Collie is the Poodle. Don’t let their pretty pompons fool you. They are exceptionally intelligent. They are also great hunters and effective water dogs, thanks to their love of ducks and other water animals.

Although they can be a little aloof with strangers, they make loving family pets. But once they have learned that their master has accepted someone into the family fold, they do too. Poodles thrive on activity, learning, and pleasing their master, making them relatively simple to train as family pets.

German Shepherd

Two Fluffy GSDs Outside on a Winter Day
German Shepherds originated in Germany and have become popular as military and police dogs.

The German Shepherd is one of the most recognized dog breeds, especially in law enforcement. They are used by the police and military around the world, and that’s not just by chance. This dog breed is exceptionally brilliant and would do anything to please its master. This means they pick up cues quickly. And being intensely loyal, they step into the firing line if it means protecting their handler.

But it isn’t just their operational intelligence that makes this pooch a clever canine. German Shepherds are the second most popular dog breed in America, so they are just as popular as family pets. Although all dogs are different, you might find that the German Shepherd is a one-person dog. They tend to have a favorite human within the family, which is usually their primary caregiver.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever laying in Dirt
Many people think of Goldens as the perfect family pet.

Like their popularity, the Golden Retriever falls just behind the German Shepherd in intelligence too. Golden Retrievers are best known for their friendly, sweet, and loving nature. Goldens are just as famous for their smarts as their personality, which is why they are one of the most popular choices when it comes to assistance and service dogs.

Golden Retrievers are wholly devoted and eager to please their humans. Plus, they are not as headstrong as the Border Collie or the German Shepherd. This can make them easier to train for first-time dog owners despite being ranked slightly lower in intelligence. They also make champion gun dogs and are regular winners in obedience and agility competitions.

Doberman Pinscher

Black Dog Sitting Attentively
Doberman Pinschers are highly trainable, making them great guard dogs.

The Doberman Pinscher might be best known for their doggy protection duties. But under their formidable appearance and larger-than-life ears lies an intelligent brain. Dobermans are also famous in law enforcement, and that’s also down to their smart genes, guarding nature, loyalty, and ability to pick up commands quickly and consistently.

With the Doberman, you might find that they are headstrong dogs who might attempt to take over the family household. So although they are intelligent, in inexperienced dog training hands, they might be too much to handle. Nonetheless, they often make obedient family pets who are secret sweethearts behind closed doors. You just need to know how to direct their intelligent brains.

Shetland Sheepdog

Sable Shetland Sheepdog
Many describe Shelties as “Collies in miniature,” and not just because of their appearance.

Shelties are clever pups who make fantastic herders, and they were tasked with looking after large flocks of animals without any supervision. They are versatile workers who are also used as medical alert, therapy, and service dogs. They excel in dog sports such as agility, obedience, rally, and love to learn new tricks.

Don’t let their small and fluffy appearance fool you. Shelties are high-energy dogs and need an outlet for all that energy. Although they are not as headstrong as other dogs on this list, they find inappropriate ways to entertain themselves if you don’t. They are super affectionate and love to spend time with their family, making them fantastic family pets for active families.

Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever laying on floor
Labs are one of America’s most beloved pets.

You might be surprised to learn that the Labrador Retriever is not higher up on this list. But what’s not so surprising is that the Labrador Retriever has ranked as America’s number one doggo for three decades. Not only are they family-friendly canines, but they are also pretty intelligent. This is why they are successful assistance and therapy dogs.

Labradors are relatively laid back in the home compared to other livewires on this list. And they are partial to an afternoon nap or two. They are easily motivated by praise, toys, and food, so be sure to use all of these in your training schedule. Their love of humans makes them relatively simple to train who shouldn’t attempt to overrule the household – making them ideal for first-time dog parents.

Papillon

Papillon Dog With Owner
Papillons enjoy the companies of their owners during most activities.

If you are looking for lots of canine smarts packed into a tiny pooch package, the Papillon might just be the dog you’ve been looking for. They are related to Spaniels, sometimes called the Continental Toy Spaniel, which goes a long way to explain their clever genes. They are regal pups with both looks and intelligence, which is why they have long been a favorite of royal families.

Papillons are not typical lap dogs. Instead, they’d rather spend the day playing and learning new tricks to perform in front of their family. They love to make their people laugh and smile, usually meaning that they pick up commands quickly. This pup is family-friendly, spunky, and always smiling, making an ideal addition to most families.

Rottweiler

Black and Tan Dog Standing on a Road
Rottweilers are among the most popular dog breeds in the United States.

This is the dog breed that raises eyebrows when talking about canine intelligence. That’s right, under the Rottweiler’s brawn and irresistible dopey smile is a clever pooch. For thousands of years, Rottweilers and their ancestors have been working dogs. Meaning that their relationship with humans is a close-knit one, and they are eager to please their masters.

Be warned, though, they are also stubborn creatures, and novice dog owners might find them challenging to train. They might make excellent protection dogs like the German Shepherd. Still, they aren’t as quick at picking up on commands, mainly due to their stubborn streak. Nonetheless, they still make the top 10 most intelligent dog breeds, which is no mean feat.

Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Dog in Field Outside
Sometimes known as the Heeler, this working breed pup is acclaimed for its herding abilities and workaholic personality.

Australian Cattle Dogs look after flocks for days on end, without much supervision, in extreme weather conditions. The Australian Cattle Dog is an intense pooch to welcome into your life, and they must get several hours of exercise a day.

Australian Cattle Dogs are an independent breed and might see themselves as the top dog, so they need an experienced dog owner. But in return, they offer obedience, loyalty, and fun canine addition for active families. They are best suited to country living and working but can do well in the city if exercised and stimulated. Without this, their inner devious Dingo comes out.

Pembroke Corgi

Red Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Under that cheeky smile and fluffy Corgi butt, you’ll find intelligent genes.

The Corgi, specifically the Pembroke Corgi, is prized for their working dog intelligence. They are employed the world over for their herding abilities and ankle-nipping techniques. And like many of the herding doggos on this list, they can do so all on their own.

Corgis know how to work hard and play hard, meaning they are obedient and have lots of fun. This is why many families invite them into their homes. They love to learn new tricks and do well in agility, obedience, and other canine competitions. Cute and clever Corgis are a favorite of Queen Elizabeth II for hundreds of reasons.

Miniature Schnauzer

Dark Miniature Schnauzer standing in field
Mini Schnauzers are quick to learn commands and patterns.

The Mini Schnauzer is a ratting dog with a farming background. They are the smallest of the three Schnauzer sizes, but many think they have the biggest personality. They keep their owners on their toes with their feisty and fun character. And with their grandad eyebrows and bushy beard, they look intelligent too. If you are looking for a clever apartment pup, this could be the dog for you.

They are disciplined with their daily routine and like you to be too, which is one of the many reasons why fanciers adore them. Like many on this list, they have a stubborn streak that can translate to training challenges. But they can be trained into very obedient family pets in the right hands.

English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniel
The English Springer Spaniel usually has spots throughout its coat.

13 might be an unlucky number for some, but not the English Springer Spaniel. This clever canine is best known for its hunting abilities and loyal attitude towards its master. They have a superior understanding of nonverbal commands such as pointing and whistling when taking direction during a hunt, making them clever cookies for sure.

After a long day of hunting or exercising, these Spaniels love nothing more than to snuggle up on the sofa with their favorite humans. They are friendly, adaptable, sweet, and lots of fun, which is why they are loved by families worldwide. They pick up household training quickly and other commands that most other breeds couldn’t. So, whether it’s a springing hunter or sofa snuggler you’re after, this pooch ticks both boxes.

Tervuren

Belgian Tervuren on leash
Tervs need well over an hour of intense exercise every day to keep their intelligent minds stimulated and out of trouble.

Also known as the Belgian Shepherd Dog, this dog breed is rarely ranked in the top 100 most popular dog breeds. Meaning you aren’t alone if you haven’t met one. They are one of four Belgian Sheepdogs, and they were bred primarily for herding flocks and guarding their master’s estate. They are happiest when working in the field alongside their master, making them unsuitable for apartment city living.

Like most working and herding dogs, Tervs have an independent streak making them hard for new dog owners. But those with doggy training experience make a shining star out of this pup. If you’re looking for a large, hairy, and clever canine, the Terv is a top contender.

Schipperke

Three Schipperke Dogs
Adults adore the Schipperke’s lively character, and children love their fluffy, fox-like appearance.

Last but not least is the relatively unknown Schipperke, also from Belgium. Nicknamed “Belgium’s little captain,” they were created to work on ships and barges to catch rats and wannabe intruders. Standing at only 13 inches high, this fluffy little pooch is sometimes mistaken for a Pomeranian. But they score much higher on IQ tests.

But what makes them even more suitable as a family pet is their obedience, quick learning, and love to fit in with their human pack. They make fantastic watchdogs and have a massive set of lungs, alerting their family to incoming visitors. On arrival, they might be aloof, but they quickly warm up to them with a waggy tail and a performance of new tricks.

Final Thoughts

Most of the dog breeds on this list come from working backgrounds. Not only do they have intelligent genetics, but they have also worked alongside humans for centuries, giving them an innate eagerness to learn from and please their masters. Some have stubborn streaks, while others do not. Some are large and formidable, while others are small, fluffy, and cute. So, whatever size and shape dog you are seeking, there is a clever canine for everyone.

But just because a dog breed is intelligent does not automatically make them the best pet for you and your lifestyle. A smart dog can easily run rings around someone who does not know how to train a dog. Or they might become so bored that they eventually do not listen to their master whatsoever, getting into lots of trouble.

Suppose you are new to the world of doggy ownership. In that case, you might want to stick to intelligent, non-stubborn dogs like the Golden or Labrador Retriever. But if you are experienced and ready for a challenge, the world of smart dogs is your oyster. Remember, you get back what you put in, and every dog needs you to show them the ropes to become the next Einstein.

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