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10 of the Smartest Dog Breeds Celebrated for Their Supreme Intelligence: See the List

Intelligence comes in different shapes, sizes and pawprints

Dogs continuously prove how smart they are, whether obeying commands, displaying their emotional intelligence, or even highlighting their ability to get what they want! While training and environment are essential elements of a dog’s ability to learn, for some dog breeds, a heightened level of intelligence is in their DNA. From working dogs with an innate understanding of the jobs they were bred for to pups that are known for being in tune with social cues, these are 10 of the smartest dog breeds according to experts.

The following breeds were listed in The Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide to the Thoughts, Emotions, and Inner Lives of Our Canine Companions, a renowned 1994 book on dog intelligence by Stanley Coren, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia. Through Coren’s research, he found these dogs to be the brightest, displaying an understanding of new commands with fewer than five repetitions, and obeying a first command 95% of the time or better.

1. Border Collie

Blue merle border collie

The American Kennel Club (AKC) describes the border collie as “a remarkably bright workaholic.” They are herding dogs, so even as domesticated family dogs, they are active and looking to perform their job. They are also eager to please their humans, leading to an inherent trainability.

A border collie named Chaser, widely held the title of the smartest dog in the world. She passed away in 2019, but over her 15 years of life, Chaser took the world by storm with her ability to learn words. She still has the largest tested vocabulary of any animal in the world, learning to identify more than 1,000 proper nouns throughout her lifetime. Watch Chaser in action here:

2. Poodle

Black standard poodle

Whether standard, toy or miniature, poodles were made for more than to simply look pretty! “Despite the prissy preconceived notion most of us have of poodles today, the breed was originally developed as a retriever more than 400 years ago,” explains Julia Benning, Grooming Advisory Board Leader of Well Groomed Pets. “These pups are as athletic as they are intelligent and excel in many dog sports. They are one of those breeds that are so smart that sometimes when you talk to them, you almost expect them to talk back to you. This breeds intelligence and awareness makes them exceptionally well-versed for life as a family dog, as they can be more patient and accepting of young children.”

3. German Shepherd

German shepherd

There’s solid reasoning behind the popularity of German Shepherds as police dogs. In addition to their physical aptitude, loyalty and protective nature, German Shepherds are super smart and able to quickly pick up important tasks.

“As working dogs, German Shepherds, of course, excel in training, but what truly sets them apart is their emotional intelligence,” says Benning. “This breed has a sort of ‘sixth sense’ when it comes to reading people, which can come in handy for a GSD who needs to protect his owner or partner. It can come in not-so-handy when your well-intentioned GSD encounters the delivery-person intruding in the front yard.”

4. Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever

While they’re known as one of the absolute best family dogs, the Golden Retriever is a famous sporting breed — it’s right there in their name! They have a keen sensibility when it comes to field work, hunting, guide and therapy dog work and search-and-rescue. These dogs love succeeding at their respective jobs and making people happy.

5. Doberman Pinscher

Doberman pinscher

One of the things that makes Dobermans such ideal protectors is their vigilance. They’re extremely intelligent, fiercely loyal working dogs who also make great family companions. Dobermans, originally bred for military and police work, have an instinctual perceptive ability, which helps them be discerning guard dogs.

6. Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog is considered “an extremely intelligent, quick, and obedient herder.” Not to be mistaken for their cousin the Collie, Shelties are beloved competition dogs because they’re so bright, talented and eager to please. They also make great family dogs, as they’re known for being highly attuned to the mood of the household. However, their dedication to herding often results in them trying to herd anything and everything they meet, including birds, squirrels and even kids!

7. Labrador Retriever

Black lab

Another retriever breed makes the list in the Labrador Retriever, a sporting dog that also makes a great worker. “Thanks to their intelligence, eagerness to please, and willingness to work hard, Labradors are invaluable workers in a variety of fields,” says the AKC. “They’re among the most popular choices for service dog work, as well as search and rescue, bomb and drug detection, and therapy dog work.” Of course, they’re also known as one of the most loving and affectionate breeds.

8. Papillon

Tri-color papillon

Papillons are extremely alert dogs who are notably easy to train. In fact, they can be taught tricks with less time and effort than many other breeds, and they thrive off mental stimulation. This may come as a surprise based on their small size, but they also tend to be great retrievers with impressive tracking abilities. There’s quite a bit of brain power in that tiny head!

9. Rottweiler

Rottweiler

Rottweilers are perhaps best known for being powerful guardians, but they’re also highly intelligent and hard-working. They’re adept at service, therapy and guide dog work as well as obedience competition.

10. Australian Cattle Dog

Australian cattle dog

Australian Cattle Dogs, also known as Blue or Red Heelers or Queensland Heelers, are members of the herding group. They are known for their intelligence, which the AKC says is enough “to routinely outsmart their owners,” and tend to be mischievous if they’re not kept busy.


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