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23 Smart Dog Breeds

Profile picture of the author - Anna Lengacherby Anna Lengacher

All dogs are smart.  Yet no matter what breed you choose, there’s always the potential for further doggy training.

Today what makes a dog smart has become ambiguous.

There are numerous ways of measuring intelligence and multiple contributing factors.

For example, in any breed of dog, you could measure the attentiveness level, the ability to learn new things, or the ability to work hard.

Or perhaps you are concerned about how quickly your fur-pal will obey your commands, or how quickly she will learn new tricks.


When talking dogs, you will find some breeds to be exceptionally fast learners, others who are easier to train, and still others who have a knack for learning lots of words.

Certain breeds are better at performing, while others are quicker to understand humans.

Sarah Hodgson, a pet behavior specialist, better explains, “Some [dogs] are social and emotionally dependent on people, so they are easier to train and far more receptive to our vision of what they should do, but they have little intuitive smarts.”

Other dogs, on the other hand, are more independent and will perform in their own unique style.


In addition to how a dog performs, motivation also differs between breeds.

You’ll find some breeds perform well because they simply love to please.  Others display winning behaviors because they simply love to get a job done.


The Absolute Smartest Dog Breeds Infographic

Three Types of Dog Intelligence

To better clarify and measure how smart a dog truly is, Coren, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia, classified intelligence into three separate categories.

First is instinctive intelligence.  This includes a dog’s instinctive abilities such as sheepherding or guarding.

Second is adaptive intelligence.  This attributes for a canine’s ability to successfully solve problems.

The third is working intelligence and obedience.  Included in this is a dog’s ability to successfully learn from humans.


No doubt all dog breeds to one extent or another are sure to have their own unique doggy smarts.

Dr. Karen Becker at Healthy Pets states, “Dogs are considered a highly intelligent species in the same league with other Einsteins of the animal kingdom such as chimpanzees, elephants, and dolphins.”

So regardless of which breed is your favorite, they are likely to have some degree of smarts.


In today’s post, you’ll learn which breeds are considered the absolute smartest.  You’ll also discover how to nurture smartness in your own canine at home, along with how to best live alongside a smart doggo.


How to Make Your Dog Smarter

Believe it or not, with a few simple steps it’s entirely possible to make your dog just a bit smarter.

Coren explains that 51% of a dog’s smarts are a result of his genes.  The other 49% are dependent on specific environmental circumstances.

This means that with just a few changes to your current lifestyle, your Fido could be getting smarter overnight.

Following is a list of keys known to nurture smartness in well-loved dogs.

  • Begin early.  Sooner is better when it comes to cultivating dog smarts.  Don’t wait until your puppy is a full-grown dog.  Instead, start training while your pal is still a puppy.
  • Reliable routines.  Develop a consistent routine so your dog can know what to expect and be prepared for what is next.  Perhaps it’s a specific mealtime routine, a daily walk after work, and/or a grooming session each weekend.
  • Keep your dog engaged.  A disengaged dog leads to a bored dog which leads to a destructive dog.  Give your dog space to disengage and the results are not happy.  Instead, keep one step ahead of your Fido and provide lots of opportunity for stimulation and engagement.  Maybe it’s a run through the park, favorite doggy toys, or time spent learning new tricks to keep your dog’s mind active and engaged.
  • Bond.  Like humans, small pups and grown dogs alike thrive on deep connections.  So take time together with your dog to become best friends.
  • Exercise together.  You both benefit on this one.  You’ll live healthier and your dog will be happier.  Plus, keep exercise fun with adventures in the park, games in your backyard, or walks downtown.
  • Train regularly.  Similar to building reliable routines, plan to also train regularly.  Be consistent in your training so your dog understands what is expected.
  • Do dog sports.  Enroll your dog in local dog sports.  Sports might include agility, conformation, flyball, jumping or herding, just to name a few.
  • Socialize early.  Before your puppy reaches sixteen weeks old, socialize your little pupper to a wide variety of environments and stimulations.
  • Praise often.  Who doesn’t thrive on a dose of honest praise?  Be generous with your doggy compliments.  Look for even the smallest signs of good doggy behavior and then lavish on the praise.


How to Live with a Smart Dog

Don’t be fooled.  Doing life alongside a smart dog is no walk in the park.

Sure, most days it can feel super fun and exciting.

If you’re not careful, though, your dog could soon outsmart you and have you running in circles.

Smart dogs don’t exactly guarantee an easier life.

Fortunately, with just a little thought on your part though, it’s easy to stay a few leaps ahead of your Einstein dog so you both stay happy and thriving.


First, actively fight boredom in your maturing canine.  Remember that a bored dog can quickly become destructive.

The result?  Your couch may get chewed, shoes might go missing, and countertops can be cleared in mere seconds.

So be warned.  The results are seldom pretty when your dog has time to feel bored.

To stay one step ahead, give your dog a job or sport to do.  Play fetch together.  Let him run for a bit (on a leash or in a safe, fenced area).  Teach him tricks.  Do whatever it takes to keep him mentally stimulated.


Second, intentionally study your breed.  Every breed is different and every dog unique.  What makes your neighbor’s dog thrive may be the polar opposite of what your dog loves.

Be attentive to your dog and look for what makes her most happy.

What does she hate?  What makes her happy?


Third, amp up good behavior with an occasional treat.  Your Fido will smile and you’ll be happier for it.


23 Absolute Smartest Dog Breeds

In his book The Intelligence of Dogs, Coren classifies dogs according to how quickly they learn a new command in conjunction with how frequently they obey.

The top ten brightest dog breeds understand a command after it is repeated between one and five times.  Plus, you can expect them to obey you 95% of the time.

1. Border Collie

Coming in first as the smartest of all dog breeds is the Border Collie.  With a history of herding, these champions have a “herding eye” and have no problem staring folks down with their madly intense gaze.

Border Collies are high energy and require lots of exercise.  They are naturally athletic and intensely driven.  Border Collies have a deep love for learning and thrive when being taught new tricks and commands.  Action isn’t everything for the Border Collie, though.  These gems love to be affectionate and are fantastic companions.  Whether it’s on the field or in your lap, these pals are true overachievers.

2. Poodle

Prepare for a high dose of energy when saying hello to the Poodle.  You can find these pals in small, medium or large sizes but no matter their outward stature, their heart is always one big giant size.  Poodles are a fantastic find for so many reasons.

Their coat is considered hypoallergenic and presents a curly texture.  The result?  They are a fantastic match for dog lovers who struggle with pet allergies.

Thanks to their extreme smarts, Poodles are also easy to train.  Dog sports they are known to thrive in include hunting, retrieving, track, and obedience.  Poodles were first designed as a hunting dog and are hard-working through and through.  They simply won’t stop until a job is done.

3. German Shepherd

Handsome, fearless and bold.  German Shepherds are a hardworking breed that exude confidence wherever they go.  Thanks to their smart minds and keen instincts, many German Shepherds have assisted the police, K9 medical units, and the military.

German Shepherds are fiercely loyal to their people and fabulous around children.  They are protective by nature and will guard with their lives.  Take note, though: German Shepherds do need stimulation to keep their minds occupied and out of harm.

4. Golden Retriever

True to their name, Golden Retrievers love a good game of fetch.  Exercise is a favorite for the Golden Retriever and you can be sure she’ll always be up for a jaunt through the park or a game in your backyard.

Golden Retrievers are considered a sporting breed and in recent years have served as excellent service dogs.  They are friendly and carry an excellent memory.

5. Doberman Pinscher

Quick to learn, the Doberman Pinscher is a sight to behold.  They are natural speed creatures and dash through life with seemingly little effort.

Doberman Pinschers are strong, fearless, and deeply devoted.  They have served as excellent police dogs and are fiercely loyal to their master.

6. Shetland Sheepdog

Affectionately referred to as “Sheltie”, the Shetland Sheepdog is a working breed who loves to romp and play.  Shetland Sheepdogs carry a beautiful, longhaired coat and perfectly encapsulate elegance and grace.  Not to mention Shelties love to learn and are highly driven.  Give them a job to do and they won’t stop until it’s complete.

In addition, Shetland Sheepdogs are quick to respond and very alert to their surroundings.  If you are hoping for an energetic watchdog, you’ve just met your match.  Among the top ten brightest dog breeds, Shelties are exceptional at learning routines as well as following directions.  For these reasons and more, the Shetland Sheepdog is for many a dream come true.

7. Labrador Retriever

Say hello to your favorite companion when meeting a Labrador Retriever.  These beauties are members of the sporting group and are fantastic family additions.  They love children and have no problem making friends smile.

It’s no surprise then that the Labrador Retriever is the most popular dog breed across the United States.  These dogs love to please, they thrive on bringing people smiles, and many have made terrific rescue dogs.  Labrador Retrievers are kind, clever, and so much fun to have around.

8. Papillon

Papillons are fast, fearless, and tiny.  Think big dog in a little dog’s body when meeting the Papillon.  These dogs are small in stature but have no problem hanging out with the big guys when it comes to smarts.  Papillons are quick to learn new tricks, they are alert to their surroundings, and they are active through and through.  However, exercise is a must when sharing your home with the tiny Papillon.

Never mind their small size, Papillons hold a steady spot among the smartest of all dog breeds.  Plus, their friendly demeanor makes them a favorite with many dog lovers.

9. Rottweiler

When it comes to occupation, the Rottweilers know how to wear a host of different hats.  From police dogs to service dogs, guard dogs, therapy dogs, and beyond, Rottweilers have proven themselves skilled in a variety of roles.

Rottweilers are a sturdy breed who are fiercely loyal to their people.  They are generally happy and love to learn.  Thanks to their exceptional smarts, they are known to excel in obedience competitions.  Not to mention they are champions at reading people and bonding deeply with anyone considered family.

10. Australian Cattle Dog 

Cue the action when adding an Australian Cattle Dog to your home.  These pals love a good dose of action and thrive on attention.  They are also loyal to their people, perceptive of their surroundings, and deeply driven.

The Australian Cattle Dog’s first purpose was to herd cattle.  Today they continue to live active whether it’s a run through the park or a stroll downtown.  Plus, Aussies are quick to observe what is going on and they have no problem bringing smiles to faces.

Excellent Working Dog Breeds

Following the top ten brightest dog breeds is a variety of excellent working dog breeds.  Each of these breeds will typically learn a new command after hearing it between five and fifteen times and obey a command 85% of the time.

11. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Strength meets athleticism in the stunning Pembroke Welsh Corgi.  These beauties first originated as a herding breed and today love a good dose of action.  They live life low to the ground and are eager to learn new things.  As a result, training is relatively easy with a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.  To top it off, Pembrokes are quick to show affection and love towards anyone considered family.

12. Miniature Schnauzer

The smallest of all Schnauzer breeds is the miniature Schnauzer.  These little guys love to do life right by your side and simply despise long periods of alone time.  They sport a big personality in a little dog body and are one large bundle of energy.

Miniature Schnauzers first originated in Germany.  Today they are a sturdy, terrier breed with robust tenacity.

Miniature Schnauzers are also low-shedding, making them a perfect match for people who suffer from dog allergies.

13. English Springer Spaniel

If you are looking for a stunning athlete, meet the English Springer Spaniel.  These stunning canines are born gun dogs and originally were experts in flushing and retrieving woodcock.  They present a compact build with an amiable disposition.

14. Belgian Shepherd Dog

True to their name, the Belgian Shepherd dog thrives on acting as a shepherd while herding anyone considered part of his herd.  Belgian Shepherds first originated in Belgium as a medium-large breed.  Thanks to their smarts, this breed is easy to train and highly versatile.

Plus, to amp up their herding instincts, you can expect Belgian Shepherds to be highly alert and gracefully agile.

15. Collie

Majestic, loyal, and active.  These are but a few words that encapsulate the well-loved Collie.  Making their first debut in Scotland, Collies are a long-haired herding breed.

Collies present the epitome of speed coupled with elegance.  They are strong, they are resourceful, and they are a dog-lovers best friend.

16. German Shorthaired Pointer

German Shorthaired Pointers are versatile hunters with a love for the water.  They are known to excel in agility.  Plus, they are a stunning picture of canine strength and endurance.  If you are looking for a favorite swim buddy, don’t miss this breed.

17. Flat-coated Retriever

A bundle of mischief and happiness is what you can expect from the Flat-coated Retriever.  These pals are a confident breed who thrive when given mental and physical stimulation.

In the ring, Flat-coated Retrievers are champions in obedience, rally, and agility.  Additionally, as their name implies, Flat-coated Retrievers are skilled at retrieving game both on land as well as in water.

18. Brittany Spaniel

Brittany Spaniels are an active gundog with a fondness for bird hunting.  They carry a medium build with high levels of energy.  So be warned: if you let a Brittany Spaniel grow bored, he will soon prove restless and mischevious.  Yet give this breed a job to do and they will absolutely thrive.

These beauts are loyal to their people and quick to love deeply.

19.  Cocker Spaniel

Greeting you with a winsome gaze is the Cocker Spaniel.  The smallest of all sporting breeds, Cocker Spaniels are compact in size and upbeat in spirit.  They are a sturdy pal with a working breed background.  On any given day you can expect a Cocker Spaniel to carry a happy face and an endearing disposition.

20. Weimaraner

Originating first in Germany is the swift ‘Gray ghost’.  Weimaraners love to shadow their owner and when socialized well, are quick to make new friends.  Thanks to their exceptional smarts, this breed presents a host of skilled hunters.  Not to mention they are a bundle of energy running tandem with an obedient will.

21. Bernese Mountain Dog

Smart and quick to learn accurately describes today’s Bernese Mountain Dog.  This breed is easy to train and quick to perceive how friends are feeling.  They love to herd and are often slightly sensitive.  So avoid quick changes and loud, raised voices when a Bernese is in the house.

22. Pomeranian

Not to be outdone is the happy and compact Pomeranian.  What these gems lack in size they more than fully compensate for in affection.  You can count on these little gems for a good doggy hug and a slobbery kiss on the check.  Pomeranians also thrive on training and love an exciting exercise routine.

23. Irish Water Spaniel

Last but not least is the curly-coated Irish Water Spaniel.  This breed is the clown of today’s spaniel family and has no problem bringing countless smiles into the world.  In addition, Irish Water Spaniels are a hunting breed who are alert and inquisitive by nature.  They are agile, quick, and sport a water repellent coat.


Smartest Dog Breeds Listed by Size

Small Dog Breeds

Miniature Poodle

Miniature Schnauzer


Pembroke Welsh Corgi



Medium Dog Breeds

Australian Cattle Dog

Border Collie

Brittany Spaniel

Cocker Spaniel

English Springer Spaniel

Standard Poodle

Shetland Sheepdog


Large Dog Breeds

Belgian Shepherd

Bernese Mountain Dog


Doberman Pinscher

Flat-coated Retriever

German Shepherd

German Shorthaired Pointer

Golden Retriever

Irish Water Spaniel

Labrador Retriever




Smart Dog Breeds FAQ

Q. Which breed of dog is the most intelligent? 

A. Thanks to their love for learning, the Border Collie is considered the most intelligent dog breed.  They are driven, athletic, and energetic.  Plus, they have a background in herding.


Q. Are some dog breeds smarter than others? 

A. Yes, some dog breeds are smarter than others.  While specific dog breeds learn commands quickly and obey nearly 100% of the time, other dog breeds are not so smart.


Q. What breed of dog is most obedient? 

A. The Border Collie is among the most obedient dog breeds.  They typically understand commands after five or less repetitions and can be expected to obey 95% of the time.


Q. How do I build my dog’s intelligence? 

A. Build reliable routines for your dog, train regularly, and exercise together.  In addition, engage your dog in dog sports, socialize your dog to a variety of environments, and praise often.


Final Thoughts

In addition to the breed, every dog is prone to be unique.

There will always be exceptions to this list no matter which breed you choose.

So while the breeds listed here are considered the smartest of all dog breeds, it’s important to note there will always be differences along the way.


Did your breed make this list of absolute smartest dog breeds?

If the answer is no, you needn’t worry.


While the dogs listed here are considered exceptionally smart, other dogs can learn new things as well.

No matter which breed you choose, simply be patient, use frequent positive reinforcements, and always be consistent in your training.


If you already have a smart dog, go ahead and introduce him/her in the comments below.

Or if you are still browsing for your very own smart bundle of doggy goodness, you can always browse available puppies for sale at


Until next time,

VIP Puppies



Profile picture of the author - Anna LengacherAs the Editor in Chief, Anna Lengacher helps dog lovers learn the ropes of finding, raising, and caring for their dogs so they can enjoy many happy memories together.


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