The Smartest Dog Breeds
If you're looking for a whip-smart dog, look no further than these breeds.
Every pet owner thinks that their dog is a genius. However, some breeds really are above average in the smarts department.
A dog’s intelligence is usually evaluated by its ability to learn new commands quickly, problem-solving capabilities and level of obedience. But if your pup is more the stubborn type, or isn’t quite as bright, just remember that smart canines can sometimes be challenging pets. Besides, a dog doesn’t need to be an Einstein to shower you with affection and be a terrific companion!
With that said, here are some of the smartest canine breeds around.
Originally bred to herd sheep in the United Kingdom, the border collie is highly intelligent. In fact, most experts typically rate the border collie as one of the smartest of all dog breeds. Border collies also excel at agility sports, due to their speed and concentration.
Poodles may get an unfair reputation as prissy dogs, due to their high-maintenance grooming requirements. But if you’ve ever gotten to know one, you’ll know that they are incredibly smart, trainable and loyal dogs. In fact, poodles were even used in the U.S. military during World War II.
Golden retrievers are known for being both friendly and smart. That’s what makes them such fantastic service dogs for the disabled. They were originally bred in Scotland and are now one of the most popular dog breeds around the world.
There’s a reason that German shepherds are commonly used as police, military and bomb-detection dogs. They are among the brightest and most trainable of all dog breeds. As the name implies, these dogs originally hail from Germany and were bred as working and hunting dogs.
A relatively new breed that’s less than 150 years old, Doberman pinschers were first bred in 1890 by a German tax collector who wanted a guard dog to protect him. That may explain why Dobermans are known for being both fiercely smart and protective. Even now, they are often used as both guard and military dogs.
Hailing from Scotland, the Shetland sheepdog was bred to be a herding dog. Smaller in size than a collie, these dogs are both smart and hard-working. Shelties, as they’re often called, are also known for having a sweet and easy-going nature.
Although Rottweilers have been given a bad rep, these dogs are gentle giants when trained and socialized properly. In addition to being smart, they are also highly motivated to work and have strong herding and guarding instincts. This makes them ideal to serve as police and protection animals.
Don’t be fooled by their laid-back personalities and family-dog reputation. Labrador retrievers are also super smart. Combined with their amazing sense of smell, these dogs can track down drugs, bombs and even criminals.
Although lists of the smartest dog breeds tend to be dominated by larger canines, the papillon is one of the few smaller-sized breeds that are as intelligent as they are pint-sized. These dogs originally hail from France and Belgium, and the name “papillon” means “butterfly” in French — likely a reference to their wing-shaped ears. Papillons are highly active and easy to train.
Australian Cattle Dog
Australian cattle dogs are gifted when it comes to understanding and executing human commands. Bred to roam the challenging terrain of Australia and herd cattle across long distances, these dogs are also strong and hard-working. As a pet, they love to exercise and do well in agility competitions.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Queen Elizabeth loves her corgis, and so do many other pet owners! These dogs originated in Wales and are known for their distinctive long body and short legs. Despite their small size, they were bred to be herding dogs and have high stamina and quick intelligence.
More than any other dog breed, bloodhounds are known for their extraordinary scent-detecting capabilities. Because of this and their high intelligence, they are well-suited to serve as tracking dogs. As a pet, a bloodhound benefits from a good deal of mental stimulation and physical activity.
Portuguese Water Dog
As a breed, Portuguese water dogs came into the spotlight when President Obama’s family adopted two of them, Bo and Sunny, while in the White House. These dogs are active, highly intelligent and easy to train. They are also said to love exercise and have webbed paws that make them adept at swimming.
It’s not hard to understand why many people are devoted to beagles. These dogs hail from Britain and are amazingly smart hunting dogs. Once they pick up on a scent, they aren’t easily distracted — a trait that can be an asset or a frustration, depending on the circumstances.
Belgian Malinois dogs are regarded as highly trainable military dogs. In fact, the U.S. Secret Service uses these dogs exclusively to serve and protect. Not only do they bond tightly with their humans, but these dogs are also intelligent and motivated to work.
Known for having distinctive eye colors and heavy, thick coats, huskies were bred to withstand the harsh, cold climates of Siberia. As pets, these dogs are friendly but razor-sharp. They love to dig and have a strong drive to run.
Named after the province of Canada they hail from, Newfoundlands are were bred to work alongside fishermen. Because of this, these extra-large dogs have a love for water and can be trained as water-rescue dogs. They’re also intelligent and make for loyal companions.
Although small in size, the Yorkshire terrier’s intelligence shouldn’t be underestimated. Their ability to understand human communication and their desire to please their owners has made them wonderful indoor dogs. And although they don’t typically rank as high as herding and hunting dogs in terms of trainability, they are still considered to be above-average in intelligence.
Jack Russell Terrier
Energetic, speedy and smart are just some of the characteristics of a Jack Russell terrier. Originally bred by their namesake, a British reverend named John Russell, these dogs’ hunting instincts and high intelligence make them superior at agility training. Although sometimes these dogs’ high energy can work against them, making them (hilariously) too excited at competitions.
If you’ve ever encountered a miniature schnauzer, you may have noticed these dogs’ distinctive mustaches. In fact, the word “schnauzer” comes from a word that means mustache in German. Originally bred as farm dogs, these pups are smart and playful.
English Springer Spaniel
Closely related to the English cocker spaniel, English springer spaniels are larger in size and have an independent streak. Their intelligence and love of being active also make them great competitors when it comes to obedience and agility competitions. They’re considered easy to train, due to their desire to please.
Thanks to the movie “Lady and the Tramp,” cocker spaniels have a reputation as being elegant, ladylike dogs. But, in addition to being gentle and affectionate, these dogs are also smart and are said to be descendants of hunting dogs. They’re also beloved by celebrities, with Oprah and Kate Middleton among the famous fans of this breed.
Referred to as Brittany spaniels prior to 1982, these hunting dogs thrive on activity and have a zest for life. This joyfulness, combined with their quick wits, makes them easy to train. So, if you’re looking for a dog to shine at competitions, look no further than a Brittany.
Although originally bred to be hunting dogs, Weimaraner dogs also make great companions for active people. They love to run and chase, and are known for being quite clever. In fact, these dogs can quickly become bored if not given enough stimulation.
Irish Water Spaniel
Native to Ireland, Irish water spaniels are equally talented at hunting and swimming. Due to their curly coats, they’re often mistaken for poodles, though they’re not related. They are, however, whip-smart, alert and easily trained, making them a great choice of pet for an active person or family.