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Does your dog ever amaze you by her ability to understand commands? To learn new tricks quickly? Experts measure intelligence in dogs in a few ways, and the smartest dog breeds might surprise you. If your dog didn’t make the top ten list, but you’re convinced of her superior intellect, don’t despair—research shows that most dogs are much smarter than we give them credit for.
The top ten canine Einsteins below all share two qualities: the ability to quickly learn new commands, and the obedience to perform them 95% of the time or better. While not every dog fits on this list, recent research, such as that by Dr. Brian Hare, shows that most dogs are much smarter than we ever knew.
So…what’s the verdict? Is your dog a smartypants? Read on!
You May Also Like: 4 Ways to Test Dog Intelligence
For quick reference, here are the top 10 smartest dog breeds as reported in Dr. Stanley Coren’s groundbreaking book, ‘The Intelligence of Dogs. Some of these dog breeds are best recognized as top guard dogs, working dogs, therapy dogs, and police dogs.
- Border collie
- German shepherd dog
- Golden retriever
- Doberman pinscher
- Shetland sheepdog
- Labrador retriever
- Australian cattle dog
Let’s meet these masterminds of the dog world!
The top 10 smartest dog breeds
There’s a reason that people are devoted to this breed! These beautiful dogs are a unique crossbreed of blue merle shepherds imported from England and the native Australian dingo. High energy and hard-working, these smart dogs thrive in an active home doing intensive sports like agility, rally obedience, herding trials, and flyball.
These dogs are known for an incredible work drive—so much so that experts recommend owners ensure their dog is engaged in work, sport, or exercise as they can be mischievous. They’re famous for their intelligence and are even known to outsmart their owners on occasion!
Ancient Roman cattle herders, cart pullers, and guardians, rottweilers are renowned for gentleness with family and friends, and strength and bravery in defending them. These dogs can be quite silly and playful, despite their size.
They were one of the first breeds used as guide dogs and are still used in some search and rescue missions. Thorough training and socialization is an absolute must for puppies to mature into solid canine citizens.
The Papillon is named for its graceful feathered ears. Royal portraiture shows small spaniels resembling the Papillon as far back as the 16th century! This toy breed is active, athletic, and companionable—the smartest of the toy dog breeds. Papillons are frequent winners at agility competitions and have a reputation for being highly trainable, even by less experienced owners.
The most popular dog breed in the U.S., the Labrador retriever is named for the cold waters off Newfoundland where they were first bred. A short thick coat, webbed feet, and a heavy tail help this intelligent dog swim long distances in cold water.
In addition to their hunting prowess, Labs are popular favorites for canine water rescue, therapy work, and assistance dog training. Labs excel in the canine sport of dock jumping.
6. Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland sheepdog may look just like a miniature collie, but they started out as a local variant of the Icelandic sheepdog found in the Shetland Islands. These small dogs were then bred to rough collies to create this unique breed.
Playful and energetic, the sheltie is equally at home working on the farm or in the ‘burbs, showing off in agility, flyball, and obedience. These dogs are well-known for their intelligence and skill at herding but are also good guard dogs as they bark and are wary of strangers.
5. Doberman Pinscher
The Doberman pinscher was originally bred by a German tax collector for protection on his rounds. In WWII, they were trained to guard sleeping troops, lead soldiers through the jungle, and give warning barks if there were enemies hiding close by.
Modern Dobermans are far less aggressive and make wonderful family dogs that love to play. Muscular in build, they’re renown for their loyalty and fearlessness and are one of the most recognized guard dogs.
Originally hailing from Scotland, this popular dog breed was started in 1865 from a lone yellow pup in a litter of black wavy-coated retrievers, crossbred with a local water spaniel by Lord Tweedmouth of Guisachan.
This gorgeous, friendly dog still excels in retrieving, as well as agility and obedience, and as service dogs. But their favorite job is being the family pet. Americans love this dog breed because they’re highly trainable and have a loving personality.
The German shepherd was standardized by breeder Captain Max von Stephanitz in 1889 with a goal of “utility and intelligence.” The modern German shepherd dog is well-known for its ability to learn commands for many different tasks—which is one reason why these beloved dogs rate so high in intelligence.
Known for athleticism, loyalty, and confidence, German shepherds can be wonderful family dogs as well as skilled herders, military canines, and assistance dogs.
More than just a foofoo haircut, poodles consistently land on the list of smartest dog breeds. This intelligent dog was originally bred in Germany for bird hunting and water retrieving.
Their storied history includes many occupations and locales, from herding sheep to crossing the battlefield to bring supplies to the wounded to the performing arts. These hunting dogs are remarkable for their loving nature, trainable intelligence, and sense of humor. The standard, miniature, and toy poodle are all highly athletic, intelligent, and trainable dogs.
And finally, no list of smartest dog breeds would be complete without a mention of this handsome dog. Originally known as the “Scotch sheepdog,” the border collie hails from the highland border of England and Scotland.
Bred to think independently and at long distances from human shepherds, they have the problem-solving intelligence and strong working drive to maintain control of the flock. Chaser, the dog who knows 1,022 toys by name, is an amazing example of the intelligence of her breed.
The next 10 dog breeds are pretty darn smart too:
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- Miniature Schnauzer
- English Springer Spaniel
- Belgian Shepherd Dog (Tervuren)
- Belgian Sheepdog
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- Flat-Coated Retriever
Learn more about your dog
Also, don’t forget training tips for your smart puppy.
- Rottweiler Puppies: Everything You Need to Know
- Labrador Retriever Puppies: Everything You Need to Know
- 9 Facts That Shetland Sheepdog People Know By Heart
- 9 Things You Probably Don’t Know About the Doberman Pinscher
- Golden Retriever Puppies: Everything You Need to Know
- German Shepherd Puppies: Everything You Need to Know
- Poodle Puppies: Everything You Need to Know
- 7 Things Border Collie People Know By Heart
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