If you have a toddler, then you might have some familiarity with the intelligence of a dog. Most dogs are about as smart as the average two-year-old (and have the same propensity to get in trouble) but there is a range of canine intelligence across different breeds. While some of the top pups may be easy to predict, you may be surprised by which canines are considered some of the smartest dog breeds.
These clever canines will win you over with their brains, whether it's their ability to learn new commands or their astute sense of what you're thinking. Intelligent dogs can be great dogs for first-time owners as many are easy to train. But, keep in mind that some of this intelligence, if misguided, can result in some pretty stubborn dog breeds as well.
Many of the top breeds tend to be incredibly loyal, obedient, and are often employed as service dogs or police dogs. If your four-legged BFF happens to be one of the smartest dog breeds, make sure they never stop learning new tricks or going through obedience trials. Your furniture and your sanity will thank you!
1. Border Collie
The descendant of herding dogs who lived in the rockiest areas of the British Isles, the border collie was born to be clever and nimble enough to navigate treacherous terrain. Called the world's most workaholic breed by some, the brilliant border collie flourishes when they have a job to keep them occupied and are intelligent enough to comprehend and follow routines set for them.
The poodle has always been the first dog that comes to mind when people think of canine fashion, but just because they're beautiful doesn't mean they don't have the brains to match. Poodles have a high emotional and mental intelligence, meaning they can understand their owners on an intellectual and emotional level. These fashion model Fidos have also been previously employed as bird hunters and war-time supply delivery dogs, jobs that require a tremendous amount of discipline, focus, and decision-making skills.
3. German Shepherd
The German shepherd has long been heralded as one of the best police, military, and security guard dogs. Known for their incredible intelligence, one of the GSD's most highly regarded traits is its ability to assess complex scenarios and determine the best approach. These problem-solving skills have made them not only great law enforcement dogs, but great service dogs as well. In fact, did you know that the first seeing eye dog was a German shepherd named Buddy?
4. Golden Retriever
Intelligence isn't measured just by mental acuity, and this goes for dogs as well. For the fantastic family-friendly Fido the golden retriever, their intellectual forte is in their ability to follow directions incredibly well. They have a natural gift for learning commands and can complete tasks with equal parts eagerness and ease. People pleasers by nature, these pups are diligent workers and beloved companions, making them great hunting, competition, and therapy dogs.
5. Doberman Pinscher
The Doberman pinscher was originally bred to be an intimidating guard dog by a tax collector who wanted protection while making his rounds. Judging by the reputation the Doberman has today, we dare to say he succeeded. Despite its intimidating appearance, the Doberman is actually very affectionate and gentle, known to get along great with adults and children alike. The breed's guard dog background makes them extremely intelligent, highly alert, and devotedly loyal dogs that would fit in well with almost any family.
6. Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland sheepdog's close resemblance to its cousin the collie is no coincidence. Bred to do everything larger shepherd dog breeds could do but in a much more compact canine, the Sheltie has the personality of a big dog in a small pup package. The Sheltie retains many traits prized in other shepherd dogs such as being agile, obedient, and highly motivated, but it stands above the rest in terms of its training intelligence. The Sheltie is smart enough to learn new commands in only a few repetitions!
7. Labrador Retriever
Not actually from Labrador but the Canadian island of Newfoundland, the Labrador retriever has a peculiar past. Brought over to England in the 1800s, the breed's water-proof made them great waterfowl retrievers while on the hunt. But, what makes this Rover truly remarkable is its superior sense of smell. The Labrador's supreme sniffer helps it track down and retrieve hunted game, and to make good judgments on where to hunt next. Labrador retrievers also have "adaptive intelligence", meaning they can learn and train themselves to do things. With their high intelligence and happy-go-lucky personality, it's no wonder that the Labrador retriever has been called America's most popular dog breed by the American Kennel club for more than three decades!
Standing at only 8 to 11 inches tall, the papillon is one of the smallest dog breeds on this list. But just because this breed has a small body doesn't mean it's not storing a huge brain! One of the oldest dog breeds, able to trace its origin back almost 700 years, this factor has a surprising impact on their intelligence. As an old dog breed, the papillon has had the chance to develop their intelligence for centuries. And what can these perky pups do with their centuries worth of knowledge? Well, they're at the top of the game when it comes to performing and learning new tricks.
The rottweiler is another dog that gets a bad rap. Bred to be guard dogs, Rotties are very muscular in appearance, but despite what some may think, their brains are on par with their brawn. Rottweilers are very perceptive, and have a great instinctual intelligence, making them popular police and military dogs. But, these dogs aren't all work, they're known to be extremely playful, loyal, and affectionate as well.
10. Australian Cattle Dog
As high-energy as they come, Australian cattle dogs, also known as red heelers, have an equally high instinctive intelligence. This makes them great working dogs that excel in a variety of roles, especially moving livestock on farms as they are quick-learning and intelligent enough to predict and outsmart the herd (and even their owners on occasion). That being said, if these high energy dogs are not intellectually stimulated, they'll find their own ways to entertain themselves—usually with household items you'd rather they not chew on.
11. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Stars of social media, many may be surprised to learn that the Pembroke Welsh corgi was originally bred to be a herding dog! As a herding dog the corgi's critical thinking skills and ability to improve made them great at outwitting unpredictable farm animals. These traits have carried over into the home in their extreme enthusiasm to learn new tricks and play fun games with their friends - be it Fido or human!
12. Miniature Schnauzer
The miniature schnauzer's face fur may resemble facial hair, but don't let this Fido's elderly appearance fool you; beneath that beard is an extremely energetic and intelligent dog. Miniature schnauzers love a good challenge, and they shine in any sport where they can employ their intellect. They especially thrive in agility competitions, where their observational skills, and ability to recognize patterns give them a 'paw' up on the competition.
13. English Springer Spaniel
Bred to work alongside humans in the fields, the English springer spaniel is a highly trainable hunting dog. Like other gundogs they can train to a whistle, but, more remarkably, they can even comprehend nonverbal commands. These are one of the smartest dogs breeds, indeed, and they are also extremely loyal and eager to please. However, that dedication to humans can be a double-edged sword. English springer spaniels bond closely with their owners, and if left alone for a long period of time they can become quite naughty dogs.
14. Belgian Tervuren
Bred by Belgian farmers to serve as both a herding and guard dog, the Belgian Tervuren, also known as the Belgian shepherd, still maintains the brainpower and decision-making skills that once made it a prized pooch on many Belgian farms. As one of the smartest dog breeds, this breed combines the endless work drive of a herding dog with the acute attentiveness of a guard dog into one clever canine. They're smart enough to come up with ways to keep themselves entertained when bored, whether these be activities their owners approve of is another story, however.
These Belgian sheepdogs may be small, but they're among the most famous breeds for being stealthy, small-animal hunters. Bred to be rat-catchers on Flemish canal boats the Schipperkes is capable of sneaking around without arousing attention. In fact, these dogs were used during World War II by the Belgian Resistance to run messages between hideouts without Nazi armies realizing they were covert canine agents.
A lauded dog from Lassie fame, the collie is a breed that needs no introduction. Like the fictional Lassie, collies are extremely loyal, intelligent, and have a strong desire to be of service. Recognizable by their lithe, light bodies and long, pointed snout, these attributes make them swift and agile herding dogs. Their strong herding instincts and people-pleasing personality make them highly motivated and single-minded dogs, who won't rest until whatever task they're given is complete.
A member of the spitz lineage and a distant cousin of the Pomeranian and Samoyed, it's no surprise that the keeshond is also an extremely fluffy Fido. These cloud-like canines have plush coats and distinctive markings around their eyes that look like glasses, giving them an intelligent appearance befitting of their personality. Once called the Dutch barge dog, the keeshond was bred to be a guard dog on commercial ships in the Netherlands, making them intelligent, eager to please, and quick learners. In the modern day they have found work as service dogs, acting as seeing-eye and therapy dogs.
18. German Shorthaired Pointer
Bred to be the quintessential hunting dog, the German shorthaired pointer is also one of the smartest dog breeds. An incredibly versatile gundog, with mastery of both land and water. These dogs have powerful legs that make them great hunters on the ground, and webbed feet that let them pursue prey in the water. Bred to work long days on the hunt, they are smart, swift, and have high stamina. Though developed to be a master of the hunt, the GSP was also fashioned to be a family-suited Fido. They are loyal, loving, and lively pooches, so whether they are running around the yard or in the height of a hunt, the GSP is at its best in any situation where it can use its intelligence and athleticism to its full potential.
19. Flat-coated Retriever
A relatively obscure type of retriever, the flat-coated retriever's round, almond-shaped eyes and distinctive long head unique to its breed gives it a clever and caring expression. Another gundog breed, the flat-coated retriever is extremely outgoing, with a strong inclination to lend a helping paw to people. They are said to possess a puppy-like rambunctiousness even into adulthood, so extensive exercise and engagement to help channel this energy is a must for this breed.
20. Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Though almost always in the shadow of its more popular cousin, the Cardigan Welsh corgi has many merits that make it stand out on its own. Originally fulfilling the role of guard dogs on farms, their long and low-to-the-ground bodies also made them great herding dogs that could nip at the heels of animals to get them going. To herd animals almost six times their size, Cardigans needed to be quick on their feet and able to think on the fly, making these fuzzy four-legged friends incredibly fast learners.
Though these dogs may be more predisposed to intelligence, this doesn't mean you can skip out on training. Training dogs is all about consistency, focus, and patience. All dogs have the potential to be an intelligent pooch, the key is to start training young to ensure your companion is well-equipped for whatever life has in store.