All dogs have their smarts about them, but some breeds shine a little brighter when it comes to natural-born intelligence.
But what factors in dog intelligence land a breed on the list of smartest dog breeds?
Stanley Coren, PhD., has made the study of dogs his lifelong career, and he offers the breakdown of canine intelligence. “There are three types of dog intelligence: instinctive (what the dog is bred to do), adaptive (how well the dog learns from its environment to solve problems) and working and obedience (the equivalent of ‘school learning’).”
Some dogs excel in one or two intelligence factors while others ace all three, making them doggy Einsteins! Is your dog one these smartest dog breeds?
21 Smartest Dog Breeds
#1 – Border Collie
Considered the smartest breed of dog, the American Kennel Club describes the Border Collie as an “intelligent workaholic.” These brilliant pups were born to herd sheep, and they are the happiest when working. Their capacity for learning a broad array of words and commands makes Border Collies the smartest of the smart dogs. In fact, a Border Collie named Chaser is on record for learning 1,000 words.
#2 – Poodle
These curly-coated cuties are not only proud in demeanor, but also highly intelligent dogs. Coming in as the second smartest dog breed, Poodles tend to be anxious dogs and, thanks to their smarts, “it is crucial to keep this dog stimulated to avoid problem behavior.”
#3 – German Shepherd
Its no surprise German Shepherds are considered one of the most intelligent dog breeds! Thanks to their high learning capacity, this breed does well in working dog roles thanks to their natural instincts and abilities for problem-solving. But these tough dogs aren’t all serious; they are eager to please and playing with this smart dog is always entertaining.
#4 – Golden Retriever
Sweet, sporty, and smart, its no wonder the Golden Retriever consistently ranks as one of the Most Popular Dog Breeds. Goldens are just good dogs all the way around! With so much love to give, these intelligent dogs need lots of interaction and play.
#5 – Doberman Pinscher
The Doberman excels in any working position they try thanks to above-average intelligence. When it comes to family life, these sleek canines are loyal and protective. Doberman Planet lists Dobes as people-oriented dogs who “pay close attention to the emotions and body language,” making them easy to train when coupled with their keen minds.
#6 – Shetland Sheepdog
Looking much like small Collies, these sweet-tempered fluffs will guard the family as a “vigilant watchdog with a ready bark,” according to Redstone Animals Hospital. Shelties are herding dogs by nature, so be sure to give them plenty of exercise. Without it, these smart dogs will give you a run for the money when it comes to barking and getting into mischief.
#7 – Labrador Retriever
Everybody knows Labs are doggone smart dogs. As one of America’s most popular breeds, their even temperament and patience make them good at learning tricks and commands. “Labradors are among the breeds that can learn as many as 250 words, as well as visual and auditory signals. That’s about 85 more words than the average dog.”
#8 – Papillion
Known for adorable butterfly ears, the Papillion wears her intelligence just as masterfully as her beauty. As a small dog who learns through experience, “the Papillon’s trainability and eagerness to please help him excel in everything from dog sports to tricks to the show ring.”
#9 – Rottweiler
Talk about tough! Rottweilers make excellent guard dogs as they are loyal to their families and equipped with an intelligence that makes them alert for anything amiss. These big dogs can make quite the mess if not entertained, however, so be sure to load your Rottie with mental and physical activity. “Long walks around the neighborhood, a vigorous game in the yard or a swim in the pool will suffice. Outdoor activities, fun with the family and obedience training are all mentally stimulating to the Rottweiler”.
#10 – Australian Cattle Dog
Also known as the Blue Heeler, the Australian Cattle Dog is made to work. Their resolve is as tough as their sturdy, muscular bodies. A confident nature and some strong-willed smarts make the Heeler a breed more suited for seasoned dog parents.
#11 – American Leopard Hound
As beautiful as they are brainy, American Leopard Hounds have energy for days and want to please their families. AKC.org explains this makes them an easy breed to train and as they require lots of physical activity, “training for dog sports like agility, obedience and rally can also be a great way to give your dog exercise.”
#12 – American Staffordshire Terrier
The American Staffordshire Terrier is not only a smart dog but also one who is “driven to please.” Thanks to their athletic build and natural agility, the Staff masters any task placed in their strong paws. They can be headstrong, so keep patience in your pocket when working with this intelligent dog breed.
#13 – Australian Kelpie
Rated 5 out of 5 for intelligence on Vet Street, the Australian Kelpie is another hard-working breed who enjoys being on the job. Alert and eager, the Kelpie likes “to work on his own and think for himself. In his mind, you are a partner, not a boss.” Keep your Kelpie happy by offering this proud pup mutual respect.
#14 – Azawakh
A sighthound hailing from West Africa, their paws move as swift as their minds with Azawakh’s clocking speeds of 32-35 MPH. And this impressive speed can be maintained over long distances. Not only smart and fast, but these long-legged hounds are also one of the most expensive breeds in the world.
#15 – Belgian Malinois
Looking at these intelligent dogs makes one think of heroes. Often working in the Military or Law Enforcement fields, the Belgian Malinois is brave, brilliant, and beautiful. But they may not make for the most social of family dogs as Mals crave work. “Without the right amount of mental and physical activity, this breed can become neurotic, destructive and even aggressive.” Keep them working to keep them calm. A busy hound is a happy hound!
#16 – Belgian Sheepdog
Work is the name of this smart dog’s game and to watch the Belgian Sheepdog in motion is poetry. But be warned, activity is something this breed requires. As natural herders, they love to work and run. Did you know the Belgian Sheepdog’s extreme intelligence found them acting as couriers for messages on battlefields during World War II?
#17 – Blood Hound
According to the American Blood Hound Club, Blood Hounds are the oldest of the scent hounds and possesses “the keenest sense of smell of any dog.” Couple that high-powered sniffer with canine smarts, and you’ve got a super sleuth on your hands!
#18 – Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka
These little lap hounds have a name bigger than they are! The Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka is part of the Bichon family and knows little of aggression. These fluffs want to be everybody’s friend when socialized young. American Kennel Club notes Bolonka dogs are more independent than other toy breeds, but as they are “very clever and smart, they do well in formal training such as obedience, rally, tracking and agility when trained with a firm, but gentle, hand.”
#19 – Great Dane
While these giant dogs sport average levels when it comes to obedience and training, the “Great Danes do show excellent skills in response to their adaptive intellect – the ability to problem-solve.” This all makes sense when we consider Scooby-Doo, a brilliant sleuth who wouldn’t do much without a tasty treat.
#20 – Vizsla
As a hard-working hunter, the Vizsla has a high training and intelligence factor that makes them ideal for outdoor activities. Thanks to their massive amounts of energy, these ‘velcro’ dogs require plenty of stimulation, both physical and mental. If they don’t get it, get ready to replace everything in your house. A bored chewer equals destruction on four paws!
#21 – Cocker Spaniel
An excellent playmate for children and eager to please, Cocker Spaniels are as kind as they are smart. Stanley Coren’s study on dog intelligence revealed Cocker Spaniels “could learn a new command with just 5 to 15 repetitions.” And thanks to their obedience, The Smart Canine reports, “They’re able to obey a known command on the first try with an 85% or better success rate.”
So, there they are, 21 of the smartest dog breeds. And one thing most of these intelligent dogs prove, a dog with loads of brainpower does not need to get bored. That’s when bad behavior begins, and our stuff gets ruined. Keep your brilliant dogs entertained to keep harmony in the house!
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