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Top 10 Smartest Dog Breeds


While all dogs make best friends, some are, shall we say, more adorably clueless than others. But when it comes to working intelligence (i.e. following instructions), certain dog breeds stand out from the pack. After interviewing nearly 200 dog obedience judges, psychologist Stanley Coren named these breeds as the smartest of the bunch in his book. The intelligence of dogs. The book was published in 1994 and updated in 2006, and remains the literary reference on the subject to this day.

If you’re curious, we’ve also dug up some little-known facts about dog intelligence that might blow your mind. For example, have you ever wondered if large dog breeds are always smarter than small dog breeds? Or how you yourself determine a dog’s IQ in the first place? All of this is important to know when it comes to ranking the smartest dogs.

And don’t forget: intelligence is not everything. If a dog isn’t right for you or your family, it doesn’t matter if it’s a furry Einstein or dumber than your couch cushions. We’ve also ranked the best family dogs, the best apartment dogs, and the healthiest dogs so you can make the right decision about which breed is best for your family and your needs. These are the smartest dog breeds, according to Coren. And once you’ve decided to bring a new four-legged friend to your family, check out these unique dog names for inspiration.

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These days, you can adopt Cockapoos, Whodles, and Goldendoodles, to name a few, but breeders love regular old Poodles for more than their hypoallergenic qualities. The curly-haired cuties also won the silver medal for work intelligence in Coren’s survey.

  • Height: 10-22 inches
  • Lester: 6-7o pounds (depending on variety)
  • Life expectancy: 12-15 years old

German shepherd

German Shepherds gladly serve as police dogs, guide dogs, medical assistance dogs, and therapy dogs, so it’s no surprise that consistent obedience is the norm with this breed.

  • Height: 22-26 inches
  • Lester: 50-90 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 7-10 years old

RELATED: 13 Best Watch Dogs to Protect Your Family and Home

Golden retriever

That’s right – one of the nation’s most beloved pets also earned A’s in this intelligence survey. While the breed was originally bred for hunting, goldens also like to act as goblins from time to time (which you already know if you have one).

  • Height: 23-24 inches
  • Lester: 65-75 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 10-12 years old

Doberman Pinscher

Dobermans got their start in the late 19th century, when a German tax collector named Louis Dobermann wanted a medium-sized pet to serve as both a watchdog and a companion. Translation: These fearless protectors can defend themselves, and hanging out with the kids.

  • Height: 24-28 inches
  • Lester: 60-100 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 10-12 years old

RELATED: 35 Best Large Dog Breeds For People Who Want Awesome Pets

Shetland Sheepdog

Smaller than collies, these adorable furballs hold their own in herding, agility and obedience trials. Therefore, Shelties tend to bark, chase and herd, but their affectionate nature and love of cuddles will erase any hard feelings.

  • Height: 12-15 inches
  • Lester: 14-20 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 12-15 years old

Labrador Retrievers

Labs love to please, whether they serve as guide dogs, narcotics detection dogs, or just everyday pets. The Americans therefore made it the most popular breed in the country for 27 consecutive years.

  • Height: 21-25 inches
  • Lester: 55-80 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 10-12 years old

RELATED: 20 Most Popular Dog Breeds in the United States


The first toy breed to make the top 10, Papillons are no ordinary companion dog. 5-pound wonders often take top prizes in competitive agility trials, according to the American Kennel Club. Their name – French for “butterfly” – alludes to their large, pointed ears.

  • Height: 8-11 inches
  • Lester: 4-9 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 12-16 years old


Rottweilers are likely descended from the cattle dogs of ancient Rome, with a hardy and dependable temperament. A committed Rottweiler owner will take care to train and exercise their dog thoroughly – with the reward of a loving and loyal friend.

  • Height: 22-27 inches
  • Lester: 85-130 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 8-10 years old

What makes a dog “smart?”

Coren assessed breed intelligence levels based on instinct, obedience, and adaptability. But pet behavior expert Sarah Hodgson says it’s all relative. “Some are socially and emotionally dependent on people, so they’re easier to train and much more receptive to our view of what they should be doing,” she says. “But they have little intuitive intelligence.” An example is a hunting dog, because although they are not receptive, they have superior senses of sight and smell. Likewise, terriers may not take direction well, but they have excellent hearing.

Do dogs have an IQ?

Not exactly. As Hodgson explained, “IQ” really depends on the quality you observe. In Coren’s book, you can ask your dog to take an IQ test he created based on his scans. For example, if your dog can learn a new command in less than five repetitions, you may consider him a Mensa Puppy member.

Are big dogs smarter than small dogs?

This hasn’t been confirmed as a fact, but research suggests larger dogs may be smarter. If you look at this list, you will find that the only little pup is the Papillon. Coren recently asked this question in a post for psychology todayaptly titled “Are big dogs smarter than small dogs?

“The data was obtained from 1,888 dogs and the results were unambiguous,” he shared. “There was a clear trend that larger dogs were able to remember accurately over a longer period of time than their smaller counterparts.” Keep in mind, however, that some companion dogs were bred to have particular traits, like being calm and non-confrontational. Hodgson adds that many small breeds are descended from larger breeds and therefore have similar drives, instincts and, yes, intelligence.

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