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The 5 Smartest Dog Breeds

Written by Cathy Piche

Updated

Everyone has their own list of what’s important when looking for a new dog. Whether you’re after something that likes a cuddle on the sofa, looks cute or is going to be easier to take care of. But most owners want a dog that’s intelligent. The problem with ‘intelligence’ in the dog world, is it often goes hand in hand with willfulness. The trick is to find a breed that’s intelligent enough to take training well but still loyal and pack oriented enough to want to please you. 

Of course, there are many different ways in which a dog’s intelligence can be ranked. Like humans, some dogs might have sharp minds for hunting or guarding, but take longer when it comes to obedience training. It doesn’t mean they’re not smart – just that their mind is better suited to different kinds of work and learning. You just need to find the training tactic that works best for them. 

What us humans really need to understand is how our dogs respond to different commands and situations, and what motivates them. Because the smartest dog might not be the best suited to your family and lifestyle.

But the one thing all dogs do have in common is that they need a patient and dedicated owner who won’t give up when it comes to teaching them how to behave in certain settings. In this blog we’ll look at five of the most intelligent dog breeds, and the lifestyles they’re best suited to.

1. Border Collies

Border Collie

The Border Collie places at #1 in canine behavior expert, Stanley Coren’s Intelligence of Dogs rankings, which looks at the relative intelligence of 131 dog breeds. According to Coren, the Border Collie can learn a new command in less than five repetitions and will follow that command at least 95% of the time. 

As well as being the world’s smartest dog, the Border Collie is also known for its excellent herding abilities. Often known as a ‘workaholic’, they have incredibly strong instincts, and are agile enough to work in treacherous terrains, and one Collie from South Carolina was even said to understand over 1,000 words.

Sounds impressive, right? But unless you and your family have the time and energy levels to provide a dog this intelligent with the physical and mental stimulation they need, you might struggle with a Border Collie in the house.

Though sweet and affectionate, the Collie’s smarts means that they need to be ‘working’ regularly. Plenty of outdoor activity and toys and games to keep the brain active is essential but if they’re bored or understimulated, the Collie – which can grow up to 22 inches and 55 lbs – can become anxious and destructive. Oh, and watch out for them herding up young children!

2. Poodles

Poodle

Poodles come with plenty of advantages as pets, including their beautiful but hypoallergenic coat and their friendly, loving nature. So it’s no surprise that Poodle cross-breeds, like the Labradoodle and Cockapoo, have seen such a sharp increase in popularity over the past decade.

But another benefit of owning a Poodle is their intelligence. Their elegant posture and high-maintenance coat might not make them look like the smartest of breeds, but according to Coren’s survey the Poodle ranks at #2. 

The Poodle performs best in cognitive and emotional intelligence tests – you might have seen them performing tricks at dog shows – and has also been employed as a working dog mostly as a water retriever. The Poodle’s obedience, focus, and quick thinking also made the breed a popular worker during wartime, delivering supplies to soldiers on the battlefield. 

Growing to at least 15 inches and 70 lbs, the Poodle is easy to train, has a fun personality, and loves the affection of their owners – all characteristics that make them excellent pets. But their working mind and superior agility means they need regular and consistent physical and mental exercise which makes them best suited to similarly active families. 

German Shepherd

There’s a reason the German Shepherd is one of the most employed dog breeds in the world. This superior working breed is used by the military and police as well as home- and business-owners in need of a whip-smart guard dog. These roles might have given the German Shepherd a reputation as aggressive and scary, but their work as seeing-eye dogs, therapy dogs, and medical assistance dogs all prove the breed to be affectionate and patient.

In fact, the main characteristics that have landed the German Shepherd the ranking of #3 most intelligent dog breeds in the world are their focus, obedience, and strong instincts and evaluation skills. According to the American Kennel Club the German Shepherd can learn a new command in just one go – even quicker than the Border Collie. 

As a member of the family, they’re protective and incredibly loyal to their ‘pack’. German Shepherds can grow up to 26 inches and 90 lbs, and as long as your family is prepared to keep them active and accept their protective instincts, they could be the perfect pet for you.

4. Golden Retrievers

Golden retriever

One of the most popular pets in the USA, the Golden Retriever was originally bred as a hunting dog and is still regularly used as a seeing-eye dog, guide dog, and search-and-rescue dog. The breed scored highly in Coren’s intelligence survey due to its ability – and willingness – to obey and comply with tasks and commands given to them. 

And though it can’t be denied that this is largely down to their smarts, it’s also true that Golden Retrievers just love to please their humans making them one of the easiest breeds to train. Despite their working history and high levels of intelligence, you can also count on the Golden Retriever to provide plenty of laughs thanks to their fun and goofy personalities.

Many Golden Retrievers are able to learn over 200 commands, often on the first try. So if you’re new to dog ownership their obedience and playfulness can make them an easy breed to slot into your lifestyle. Just remember that they need plenty of exercise and can grow as large as 24 inches and 75 lbs.

Doberman Pinscher

The beauty of a Doberman Pinscher – beyond their sleek and noble appearance – is their ability to act as a fearless guard dog and also an affectionate companion that loves children. Dobermans have often been used as police dogs and have even worked in wartime thanks to their speed, agility, and quick-thinking intelligence.

Fast to learn and instinctively obedient, the Doberman is easy to train and fiercely loyal. In guarding and protective roles they are known to be fearless and alert, and their elegant-yet-muscular appearance can be intimidating if you’re on the wrong side of them. 

But in reality, the Doberman – which can grow up to 28 inches and 100 lbs – is a large yet loving and gentle family member that can adapt easily to almost any household as long as they’ve given enough exercise.

Training a new dog? No matter how well they rank on Stanley Coren’s intelligence survey, all breeds need a little extra motivation when it comes to learning new commands. So always having a treat on hand is essential. With Front of the Pack’s freeze-dried dog treats you can reward your pup without having to worry about the extra calories. Made from raw meat protein and freeze-dried to lock in all the nutrients and flavor, these treats make an excellent healthy snack that’s sure to motivate their obedience.