Talk to most dog owners and they’ll tell you their dog is the smartest and most wonderful dog in the world. While this is exactly what you’d expect from a genuinely devoted owner, there are studies that tell us which the smartest dog breeds actually are.
Whether you’re looking to settle a discussion on this matter or find a pup of superior intelligence to join your family, this article will help you on your way.
Does Intelligence Matter That Much?
When we talk about intelligence in dogs, we are reviewing their instincts, obedience and ability to adapt. However, as with humans, every dog's personality is unique and as such their behaviour is not simply down to breed characteristics or their purported intelligence as the smartest dog breed.
Understanding your dog's intelligence or capacity to learn is simply a way of ensuring you have reasonable expectations of them.
It can also help you to better understand your furry friend, aid in training and help you further enrich their lives as much as they do yours.
So without further ado, here is our list of smartest dog breeds in order.
Smartest Dog Breeds
1. Border Collie
Anyone familiar with dogs likely already knows that Borders are the smartest breed in the world. Long lauded for their intelligence Border Collies have a winning combination of smarts and a willingness to please.
This makes them easy to train and put to work. A working breed, Border Collies usually need plenty of mental stimulation to keep them happy and out of trouble.
With studies showing that they can understand more than 1000 words, there is no shortage of fun and connection you can enjoy should you opt for this wonderful breed.
Loyal and smart, poodles are known to be quick learners, though their enthusiasm can sometimes get in the way of things. Both the miniature and standard breeds enjoy being challenged and are often champions at hunting, tracking and agility.
As a low-shedding breed, poodles are a great choice for anyone with allergies that are seeking a smart puppy companion.
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3. German Shepherd
Frequently used by law enforcement and security companies, German Shepherds excel at evaluating situations and reacting accordingly. This has also made them a leading choice for disability service dogs in some countries.
Don’t let their imposing size fool you, while both intelligent and alert, Shepherds are also gentle giants who make great pets for families.
4. Golden Retriever
Calmer than their working breed counterparts, golden retrievers deliver high intelligence and ease of training.
Less intense or driven than working breeds, Retrievers need less stimulation and happily comply with commands. This can make them a more reliable and consistent companion and one better suited to work as a service or therapy dog.
Highly intelligent and with instinctive protective behaviour, Dobermans have long been the top choice for guard dogs or work with law enforcement. Similar to Border Collies, a Doberman's high intelligence level can see them become bored or destructive if not properly stimulated.
Adequate training and activity are essential should you opt for this handsome breed.
6. Shetland Sheepdog
A smaller working breed, this breed is smart, quick on its feet and quite vocal. This is why they have been a leading choice for herding dogs for generations. Known for their ability to follow complex instructions as well as their ability to problem solve, Shelties also benefit from plenty of stimulation and interaction.
Despite their skill at work, this breed is also known to be a devoted and affectionate family member that loves a good cuddle.
7. Labrador Retriever
Brave, loyal and highly emotionally intelligent, retrievers are chosen as service dogs around the world for good reason. Readily trainable, retrievers make for wonderful family pets that are just as happy to relax and rumble with the kids.
Be sure to start training early as their intelligence and enthusiasm for life can see them become overwhelming or destructive if not properly managed.
Intelligence isn't only reserved for the medium to large breeds, the pint-sized papillon is one of the smartest breeds around. Spirited and athletic, this breed is not a toy breed that loves to laze around in laps.
Being naturally inquisitive and bright, Papillons enjoy being active and being challenged daily. Be persistent with obedience training as this breed will try to outsmart you at every turn!
With records of this breed dating back to the Roman Empire, Rottweilers have been a sought-after breed for thousands of years. Perceptive, loyal and able to pick up on the smallest things, Rottweilers are quick to learn and enjoy nothing more than being with their owners.
Often preferred as guard dogs, police dogs or in search and rescue roles, this large breed looks imposing but is a softy at heart.
10. Australian Cattle Dog
Now infamous thanks to its anthropomorphic depiction in kids' show Bluey, the Australian Cattle Dog or Blue Heeler is one of the most intelligent working breeds. Just as happy on a farm or participating in agility work, Australian Cattle Dogs are intuitive, quick and eager to learn.
Originally bred by crossing dingoes with blue-merle collies, Cattle Dogs are muscular, compact, incredibly tough and loyal to a fault.
Small but mighty, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a spirited breed that was a long-standing favourite with Queen Elizabeth II. Companionable without being needy, Corgis are quick to learn and wonderfully playful.
Despite their robust appearance and small size, Corgis are quite athletic and love herding. A little on the stubborn side, you’ll need to be firm when training your Corgi as they may see themselves as smarter than you!
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12. Miniature Schnauzer
The terrier group of breeds is known for its intelligence, but not usually known for its compliant nature. The schnauzer is the exception to this and has a strong desire to please. This makes for an easy-to-train, clever companion that excels at obedience as well as sports such as agility.
You’ll need to mix up enrichment activities for this clever pup as they can quickly tire of repetition.
13. English Springer Spaniel
Both beautiful and intelligent, Springers love being part of the family and are eager to please. Energetic and bred for hunting, they can happily work and play all day but are also excellent cuddly companions.
Able to learn quickly and from past mistakes, this is a truly cluey breed that is sure to impress. As they happily get along with other animals, they are also ideal for homes that already have pets.
14. Belgian Tervuren, Sheepdog and Malinois
All descendants of the Belgian Sheepdog, this breed is perfect for anyone seeking an active companion with incredible smarts. Great at complex tricks, tracking, herding, sledding and more, this breed lives to please.
Loyal and confident, this breed is a lot of fun to train and work with which often sees them in military or law enforcement roles.
Smaller than the Belgian Sheepdog, but from the same ancestry, this breed shares the same curious, confident and clever nature as their larger counterparts. Bred as ratters for canal barges, Shipperke’s intelligence and eagerness to please make them easy to train.
Combined with this fierce intelligence is an equally playful nature which makes them a great option for families with children.
16. Rough Collie
More. colloquially known as a ‘Lassie dog’ this breed rose to prominence thanks to a TV show of the same name. With Lassie as a shining example of the breed's ability to be trained in complex tricks and follow directions, this breed is enduring in popularity.
Often chosen as water rescue dogs or guide dogs, this breed learns quickly and happily complies with instructions. While they have been linked with aggression towards strangers, they are loyal family companions that adore children.
Smart, but stubborn, this breed needs a firm and consistent approach to training for them to shine. Similar to the Schipperke, the Keeshond was bred by the Dutch for work on barges.
As a double-coated breed, they do require a significant amount of grooming to keep their coat at its best. You will also need to keep your Keeshond actively engaged in enrichment or exercise as a bored Keeshond is likely to invent his own fun - usually of the destructive kind.
18. German Shorthaired Pointer
Bred to locate and retrieve during hunting activities, this breed is capable of incredible obedience and self-control. Best for active households, they are energetic, playful and usually easy to train (so long as there are no distractions).
Due to their intelligence, Pointers do not do well when left alone for long periods without something to keep them busy. Boredom, as with so many intelligent breeds, can lead to negative behaviour.
19. Flat-coated Retriever
A relative of the Labrador, this breed combines confidence and intelligence into one energetic package. Extremely sociable, they thrive on attention and the affection of others - which can make them a handful at times.
Easy to train and eager to please, this breed tends to retain its boisterous puppy-like behaviour well into adulthood, so proper training is a must.
With a sense of smell three million times better than human beings, bloodhounds have long been used in search and rescue or law enforcement for obvious reasons. So accurate are they with their scent work that their work even holds up in court!
Intelligent, devoted and tolerant of even the most rambunctious family members, this breed enjoys moderate exercise as much as a good nap.