What Are The Smartest Dog Breeds?

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Pet parents love their dogs, no matter what. Whether wacky and silly or serious and easily trainable, everyone  who has a dog knows their quirks make them unique. However, when searching for the right breed and your family, you may look for a smart dog. 

Of course, some dogs may seem smarter than others, but all dogs are smart in their own way. However, in most cases, when we're talking about what makes a dog smart, we're considering trainability and obedience. Smart dogs are often great dogs for first-time owners, but you should be careful. While there are many benefits to having a smart dog, there are also some downsides. For example, smart dogs tend to get into trouble more because they're curious. While Fido might be intelligent and comes when called, they may also engage in destructive behavior when you're not around. 

In addition, a dog's intelligence alone isn't what makes them a great companion; you should base your decision on their personality and whether they fit with your family's lifestyle. Simply put, all dogs are smart, but some appear smarter than others because of their ability to be trained and engage in jobs. Looking for a smart dog? Check out our list of the top ten smartest dogs. 

1. Border Collie

Height: 19-21 inches

Weight 30-55 pounds1 

The Border Collie is considered the most intelligent dog by many experts. Border collies are working dogs that are eager to train and easy to please. The border collie was bred to herd livestock, so they love having a job. However, this need for a job may not be ideal for first-time pet parents because they're highly energetic and require regular mental stimulation. Without proper obedience training, a border collie may engage in destructive behavior due to boredom. However, they can make great companions once they've had their puppy training. Since they're easily trained, you won't have to worry about spending too much time working with them. However, you should still engage in regular training to ensure they have their basic commands down before letting them run around off-leash. These dogs have tons of energy, so they should have a yard to play in. 

2. Poodle

Standard height: over 15 inches

Standard weight: 40-70 pounds2

Poodles come in three sizes, toy, miniature, and standard. They all have similar personalities and intelligence levels, so for the purposes of this guide, let's discuss the standard poodle. While poodles are known for their unique fur, they're not the beauty queens you think they are; they're adept at hunting and highly intelligent. Poodles are naturally protective, but they're highly trainable and eager to please, making them good pets for first-time owners. However, because they need a job or activity, you'll need to ensure your poodle is engaged in something to prevent destructive behavior. 

3. German Shepherd

Height: 22-26 inches

Weight : 50-70 pounds3

There's a reason German shepherds are used as police dogs. They are highly intelligent, easy to train, eager to please, and make great companion animals. However, because they're bred to be working dogs, German Shepherds need tons of physical and mental stimulation throughout the day. They're not happy lounging on the couch, although they can be as long as their other needs are met. 

4. Golden Retriever

Height: 21.5-24 inches

Weight: 55-75 pounds4

Golden retrievers are just as popular as German shepherds, but they're more common in the suburbs because they're the quintessential family dog. Golden retrievers aren't only known for their beautiful coats and friendly personalities, which is why they enjoy jobs as service and therapy dogs. Many golden retrievers are also search and rescue dogs or hunters. There's a lot to love about this breed. Not only are these dogs good with children and other pets, but they're affectionate members of the family. 

5. Doberman Pinscher

Height: 24-28 inches

Weight 60-100 pounds5

The doberman pinscher is a loyal, fearless protector that's agile and strong. However, while these dogs may be known for their speed and as war dogs, they're intelligent, allowing them to participate in many wartime operations. For example, dobermans were used in WWII during combat alongside German shepherds because of their intelligence and ability to perform various duties, such as searching and rescuing wounded soldiers, detecting mines, and acting as messengers and guards. 

Smartest dog breeds list

6. Shetland Sheepdog

Height: 13-16 inches

Weight: 15-25 pounds6

Playful and energetic, the Shetland sheepdog, which looks like a smaller version of a collie, is a highly trainable working dog, making them one of the smartest dog breeds. They were bred to herd and track animals on large plots of land. As a result, they require minimal supervision once they're trained and will happily engage in a job in their free time. 

The Shetland sheepdog is good with children and other dogs and very affectionate with their owners. They're also protective by nature yet highly adaptable, being able to handle changes in their everyday routines. Since they're working dogs, they're easily trainable and eager to please. However, they're very vocal, often having to bark to herd livestock. This breed will bark at people or other animals through windows or on walks, so it's important to train them early to prevent the behavior. 

7. Labrador Retriever

Height: 21.5-4.5 inches

Weight: 55-80 pounds7

The active and outgoing labrador retriever is another popular breed in the US. These hard-working dogs were bred as hunting companions and were used on fishing boats. They are highly adaptable and trainable but have a high energy level, so they'll need daily physical activity to keep them happy and healthy. These dogs love to swim, so if you have a pool, you may find them swimming around in the summer. In addition, labs make great family dogs and are good with children and other pets. One thing that makes them stand out is that they're not very vocal dogs. While they have been known to bark, they don't bark at every little thing other highly intelligent dogs do. Instead, they'll bark to alert you to something, tell you something, or they'll be vocal during play. 

8. Papillon

Height: 8-11 inches

Weight: 5-10 pounds8

The smallest of the smartest dog breeds, the papillon, is alert, friendly, and happy. They're known for their small size, which gives them a charming personality. However, while they may have small heads, they have big brains. The papillon is affectionate and good with children, but they're not always great with other dogs. Socializing your pup as soon as possible is beneficial since papillons tend to prefer to be the only dog in the house, but they can still form friendships with other dogs. Additionally, these dogs are open to strangers, thinking everyone is their best friend. 

These little dogs have high energy levels and will want to play all day, every day. However, they're highly adaptable and easy to train. Unfortunately, they're very vocal, which may lead to barking and howling at almost anything. They also require tons of mental and physical stimulation to keep them happy. However, the papillon could be right for you if you're looking for a small yet intelligent dog breed. 

9. Rottweiler

Height: 22-27 inches

Weight: 80-135 pounds9 

A loyal and confident guardian, the rottweiler is a breed that's gotten a lot of negative attention because of their size. While they might be portrayed as aggressive, they're anything but when raised in the right home. Rottweilers are incredibly affectionate and have a protective nature. This ancient breed was once used as a protector of money, wearing it around their necks for their Roman owners. Rotties like to have a job but have a relatively low energy level compared to other intelligent breeds. 

10. Australian Cattle Dog

Height: 17-20 inches

Weight: 35-50 pounds10

Loyal and intelligent, the Australian cattle dog is best known for their unique coat and love of the job. These dogs were bred to handle intense heat and wide open spaces, herding cattle to help farmers. Australian cattle dogs are quick learners that love spending time with their families. They don't need or want to play non-stop like some other intelligent breeds. Instead, they're eager to please but have high energy levels since their breeds were bred to run rough terrains. 

What Makes A Dog Smart?

One thing the smartest dog breeds on this list have in common is that they're working breeds. These dogs were bred to have a job, making them easily trainable. However, any dog could be trained to learn any type of job, and many dogs enjoy having something to do that stimulates them both mentally and physically. 

Of course, what makes a dog intelligent depends on your definition of the word. Intelligent dogs are typically bred to perform jobs because they need to be easy to train, so humans continue to breed the smartest. However, any breed can be nurtured and trained. However, even the smartest dog breeds don't seem as smart as they truly are. For example, dogs bred to be livestock guards may seem distracted compared to a dog bred to herd.11 However, these dogs are both smart in different ways. 

Some dogs may also be more stubborn than others, especially when it comes to training or learning how to walk on a leash. Meanwhile, some dogs are more friendly than others based on past experiences and fear. If you're wondering if your dog is smart because you're trying to train them, you should understand that some dogs require different forms of training. Some are more motivated by treats, while others prefer to learn at their own pace.

In general, what most people believe makes dogs smart is their ability to learn commands and tricks. The faster your dog is at learning, the more intelligent they are. However, your training style also affects their ability to learn. 

FAQs

What is the easiest dog to train? 

The easiest dog breeds to train are working dogs bred to do a job, such as the border collie, poodle, German shepherd, and labrador retriever. However, how you train your dog also affects how easy they are to train. If you've never trained a dog before, consider taking classes or consulting a professional trainer who can help you learn the best way to teach your dog based on their unique personality. 

Can all dogs learn to be smart?

Yes, all dogs can be smart in their own ways. While some dogs might learn tricks slower than others, every dog has something about them that makes them smart. Whether it's the fact your dog learned how to walk on a leash quickly or they know exactly what time you come home from work, every dog can be smart and learn. 

What dog has the highest IQ?

Most dogs have the same IQs as toddlers, with the smartest dogs having the same mental capacity and ability to learn as a 2.5-year-old. Dogs with the highest IQs are typically border collies, poodles, and German shepherds.12

Woman walking her labrador retriever 

Final Notes

The smartest dog breeds are typically those bred to do jobs. The faster a dog learns, the more intelligent we believe they are, but that's not exactly true. Some dogs simply learn differently, while others are smart in different ways. Of course, just because a dog is smart doesn't mean they'll make a great pet; their temperament is what truly makes them who they are. 

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References

  1. Kriss, Randa. “Border Collie Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/border-collie/.

  2. Greenberg, Aurora. “Poodle Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/poodle-standard/.

  3. Greenberg, Aurora. “German Shepherd Dog Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/german-shepherd-dog/.

  4. Greenberg, Aurora. “Golden Retriever Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/golden-retriever/.

  5. Kriss, Randa. “Doberman Pinscher Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/doberman-pinscher/.

  6. Kriss, Randa. “Shetland Sheepdog Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/shetland-sheepdog/.

  7. Paulenoff, Simon. “Labrador Retriever Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/labrador-retriever/.

  8. “Papillon Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/papillon/.

  9. Greenberg, Aurora. “Rottweiler Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/rottweiler/.

  10. Latimer, Matt. “Australian Cattle Dog Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/australian-cattle-dog/.

  11. “10 Smartest Dog Breeds: Most Teachable, Trainable Dogs.” WebMD, https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/features/how-smart-is-your-dog.

  12. “Your Family Dog May Be Smarter than Your Toddler.” CNN, Cable News Network, https://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/personal/08/07/smart.dogs/index.html.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

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