What makes dogs smart? Is it their ability to learn new tricks, or how well they obey commands? However you see it, the truth is some dogs are more intelligent than others. So, let’s take a look at the world’s smartest dogs — at least the consensus on the top breeds when it comes to canine intelligence testing. Though it shouldn’t be the only determining factor, it may help you decide if you want to make one of these breeds a part of your home.
- What Makes A Dog “Smart”?
- Which Dog Breed Is The Smartest?
- Top 10 Most Intelligent Breeds
- What About The Dumbest Dogs?
- The Smartest Dog In The World (Video)
- Mental Exercise For The Smartest Breeds
There are three types of intelligence when it comes to dogs: adaptive, working, and instinctive.
- Adaptive intelligence – a dog’s ability to learn problem-solving skills from the environment.
- Working intelligence – the ability to learn and follow commands.
- Instinctive intelligence – a natural ability a dog has because of which breed or type they are.
All of these types of intelligence play a role in how smart a dog is. Every dog, regardless of the breed, can be intelligent in some ways.
According to the popular book “The Intelligence Of Dogs,” trainability is the key. Stanley Coren, the author, University of British Columbia psychology professor, and neuropsychological researcher focused on dog intelligence, shares his assessment of 110 breeds to determine the smartest ones. His top ten breeds picked up on commands in five or fewer repetitions and were obedient to the commands at least 95% of the time.
According to many experts, the Border Collie is the smartest dog breed; however, dogs’ intelligence levels vary as with humans. An individual dog of any breed may prove to be much more intelligent than a purebred Border Collie. The fact is that many more factors should be taken into account when choosing the right dog breed for you and your family, aside from just the stated level of intelligence of that breed.
Here is our list of the top 10 smartest breeds based on Stanley Coren’s research. Our experts rank them for you starting with the #1 smartest breed, the Border Collie. Click on the links for descriptions of each breed.
- Border Collie
- German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever
- Doberman Pinscher
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Labrador Retriever
- Australian Cattle Dog
The Border Collie is a popular breed known for being the most intelligent dog breed worldwide. This dog began as a herding dog for sheep and livestock in England and Scotland. You’ll find this breed to be hard-working with great instincts and intelligence. The Border Collie is still widely used as a herding dog in England and Scotland and is common on farming properties.
Border Collies can learn incredibly fast and excel in agility sports due to their speed and concentration. With enough exercise and mental stimulation, Border Collies make great family pets and are known for their loyalty and protective manner.
The Poodle is among the smartest dog breeds in the world. There are three sizes of poodles, the miniature, the toy, and the standard poodle. Originally bred to be a water dog, this breed has adapted to several different sports and jobs over the years. Today the poodle is often used in agility, tracking, obedience, and herding.
Poodles excel at obedience and are one of the easiest breeds to train. Poodles require an attentive family to keep them stimulated psychologically and physically and make them feel like part of the pack.
The German Shepherd is a breed that dates back only as far as 1899 when it was a working dog in Germany. The German Shepherd’s original purpose was for herding sheep and guarding them to ensure that predators didn’t decimate flocks. The strength of these dogs alone makes them ideal for guardians of sheep flocks, but so does the dog’s ability to be easily trained.
German shepherds almost always thrive with rewarding work such as police dogs, drug dogs, therapy dogs, or in physically satisfying jobs such as agility work. They can make great family dogs as long as they have enough exercise and mental stimulation.
The Golden Retriever was initially bred as a gun dog used to retrieve game. These dogs are particularly easy to please, making them ideal candidates for many different jobs aside from being retrieval dogs during the hunt. In the U.S., the Golden Retriever is consistently one of the top five most popular dog breeds. They’re known for being one of the most dependable companions.
The Doberman Pinscher was originally bred as a protector dog to stand by the local tax collector’s side back in 1890. The original intent in creating the Doberman breed was to combine intelligence, loyalty, speed, ferocity, strength, and endurance to result in a dog that would quickly and easily protect its master.
Over time, the breed has progressed and become what it is today. When bred appropriately and carefully, the Doberman is a well-rounded and devoted dog.
The Shetland Sheepdog (aka Sheltie) was bred from dogs native to the Shetland Isles to be herding dogs that protected sheep. Shelties are keen and intelligent herders that are like a little working Collie.
Shetland Sheepdogs are very easy to train and typically rank high in agility competitions. They make great family pets, and they are loyal and eager to please their master.
The Labrador Retriever is consistently the most popular dog in the U.S., and it also happens to be one of the smartest dog breeds out there. Labradors are athletic dogs bred for retrieving fishing nets. They are excellent swimmers and are ideal for sports. Besides being wise, they are gentle and make excellent family dogs.
The Papillon is traditionally associated with royalty since many famous royals made a habit of carrying the small dogs under their arms. But don’t let their small size fool you. The Papillon is just one of two small dog breeds (counting the toy poodle) that falls into the top ten smartest dogs in the world.
This toy breed has an exceptionally high energy level, and they require higher levels of exercise than many other toy breeds. Papillons are a very extroverted breed and crave companionship.
The Rottweiler was originally bred in Rottweil, Germany, to herd livestock and pull carts that carried butchered meat to the market. In the mid 19th century, the Rottweiler began to lose its position as a working dog when trains began moving cattle to the market. However, this breed is still happiest when it has a job. They have great herding and guarding instincts.
Rottweilers require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. Rottweiler’s are loyal and affectionate dogs who are quick to learn and fast to obey. They make great family pets and are playful companions.
This dog is Australian-bred to drive cattle over long distances in rough terrain. This breed is intelligent, energetic, agile, and loves to have a job.
These dogs require extreme amounts of exercise and stimulation (or a career as a farm dog). They are loyal, protective, and brave dogs, but the downside is that they bore easily and can get into mischief without enough exercise and stimulation.
Several dog breeds didn’t quite make Coren’s list of the top ten smartest dog breeds. These next 10 runners-up from his research still have a lot to offer, and some are great working dogs too.
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- Miniature Schnauzer
- English Springer Spaniel
- Belgian Shepherd Dog (Tervuren)
- Belgian Sheepdog
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- Flat-Coated Retriever
Are you looking for the less intelligent counterparts to these smart dog breeds? Look no further than our list of these lovable yet not quite as smart dogs in our dumbest dog breeds list.
This two-and-a-half-minute video from BBC Earth gives you an inside look at Chaser the Border Collie, who, after three years of intensive training, learned 1,022 words. Chaser passed away in July 2019, but before that, he was the world’s most intelligent dog.
When you have a dog that’s a highly intelligent breed, he needs more than physical exercise. You’ll also have to consider how you’ll stimulate him mentally. Our experts have a lot of great ideas you can consider in our article about brain games for dogs. Mentally exercising your smart pup will help keep him engaged and out of trouble.
Which smart breed do you like best?