If you want a smart, teachable companion, consider one of the smartest dog breeds.
If you have a toddler, you may know a dog’s intelligence. Most dogs are about as intelligent as the average two-year-old, but there is a range of canine intelligence among different breeds. Of course, as anyone with toddlers or dogs knows, neither a two-year-old nor a dog needs exceptional intelligence to get into a lot of trouble. However, the smarter dog breeds might give you a double take. These smart dogs will win you over with their brains, whether it’s their ability to learn new commands or their keen sense of what you’re thinking. Just keep in mind that some of that intelligence, if misguided, can lead to pretty stubborn dog breeds as well.
The famous book by psychologist and trainer Stanley Coren The intelligence of dogs is considered a definitive ranking of over 100 breeds. Coren has interviewed numerous dog breeders and trainers over several years, identifying what exactly defines intelligence in dogs. Often encountered with mixed emotions, its central thesis points to a few ways to identify the smartest puppies: These breeds are responsive to commands, radiate obedience and working intelligence, and can be trained for specialized tasks like hunting or security. Many of the top breeds on Coren’s list are often assistance dogs or police dogs.
According to Coren’s decade-long research, the 15 smartest dogs include German Shepherds, Labradors and more than a dozen other beloved breeds. (Check out his book for the full ranking of 131 different dogs!) If your four-legged best friend is one of the smartest dog breeds, make sure he never stops learning new tricks or to pass obedience tests. Your furniture and your sanity will thank you.
15 Smartest Dog Breeds, Ranked
1. Border Collies
Border Collies are so smart they need to have a job to keep them busy. These high-energy puppies make excellent herding dogs, and as pets they are happy to help around the house. Australian Cattle Dogs and Australian Shepherds also fall into this category.
Poodles are commonly associated with canine fashion, but they are also among the best dog breeds for intelligence. They were originally bred for bird hunting and water retrieval and were trained to bring supplies to soldiers wounded in battle.
3. German Shepherd
The German Shepherd is considered an excellent police, military and security dog. They are trained to sniff out bombs, drugs and people. They are also extremely loyal and protective of their masters. Despite their professional life, many German Shepherds are also perfect family pets.
4. Golden retriever
Golden retrievers are fantastic pets and their intelligence makes them well suited to be service dogs. English setters can also be categorized as smart retrievers. Retrievers are known to have soft mouths, which means you never have to worry about them around young children.
5. Doberman Pinscher
The Doberman Pinscher was originally bred to be a guardian by a tax collector who wanted protection while touring. Dobermans also make excellent police and military dogs. This pup may seem a little intimidating on the outside, but Dobermans can easily fit into many homes, provided they receive the proper training.
6. Shetland Sheepdog
Sheepdogs like the Shetland Sheepdog tend to be very intelligent. Shelties make great pets and can be easily trained to compete in agility competitions.
7. Labrador retriever
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Friendly and intelligent, Labs have been named the nation’s most popular dog breed by the American Kennel Club for more than three decades. Labs make wonderful pets, but they are also frequently used as hunting dogs, therapy dogs, and service dogs, such as guide dogs.
At just 11 inches tall, the Papillon is the smartest of the toy breeds. They are very active and highly trainable compared to some of the others smaller dog breeds. If you see a Papillon misbehaving, it’s probably because it hasn’t received the proper training. Although small, this pup packs a mighty intellectual punch.
The Rottweiler has a bad reputation, but they are actually very affectionate when raised lovingly. They are extremely loyal to their families and won’t hesitate to defend them, which makes them ideal watchdogs. When trained properly and given proper physical attention, Rottweilers all bark and don’t bite.
10. Australian Cattle Dog
As energetic as they are, Australian Cattle Dogs have high instinctive intelligence. This makes them excellent working dogs that excel in a variety of roles, especially moving livestock on farms. That being said, if these high-energy dogs aren’t intellectually stimulated, they will find their own ways to entertain themselves, usually with household items you’d rather not chew on.
11. Pembroke Welsh Corgis
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is an intelligent, intelligent, and affectionate breed, according to the AKC. These dogs make incredible herding and guard dogs and are loyal, affectionate pets that are easy to train. If this breed is good enough for the Queen of England, it probably makes a great breed for everyone!
12. Miniature Schnauzers
Mini Schnauzers are smart, ready to please, and excellent at following commands. These loyal dogs learn quickly and make excellent companions.
13. English Springer Spaniel
From most affectionate dog breeds over there, don’t let those dreamy eyes fool you: English Springer Spaniels are sturdy, well-built dogs for hunting and are very easy to train.
14. Belgian Tervuren
Belgian Tervurens (or Belgian Shepherds) are energetic, eager-to-please dogs. Relaxed owners will want to proceed with caution, as Tervs need plenty of mental and physical stimulation to keep them happy.
These Belgian Sheepdogs may be small, but they are among the breeds best known for being stealthy hunters of small animals. Schipperkes were even used during World War II by the Belgian Resistance, who used these dogs to pass messages between hideouts without the Nazi armies realizing they were, well, secret agents.
Other intelligent breeds identified by Cohen are Collies, German Shorthaired Pointers, English Cockers, Brittany Spaniels, Cockers, and Belgian Malinois.
Popular dog breeds that fell down Coren’s list, based on trainability and obedience intelligence, include Shih Tzus, Pekingese, Bloodhounds, Chow Chows, bulldogs and Afghan hounds.
Dog training is all about consistency, focus, and patience. Starting young is the best way to ensure your companion is well equipped for whatever life throws at you.
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