The 30 Smartest Dog Breeds

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Some dog breeds are better than others when it comes to following commands and being able to adapt. It’s hard to measure the intelligence level of a dog as it’s quite a relative concept. That being said, it’s safe to say that certain dog breeds will stand out from the rest as they’re above the average in terms of intelligence. If you’re looking to adopt a dog and wish to choose a smart breed, this article could be helpful.

We’ll highlight the most capable dog breeds when it comes to attentiveness and absorbing information quickly. These dogs can be trained more easily, but you still need to put a lot of effort and establish a performant routine to develop the dog’s skills and behavior. Some dogs can have a high individual level of intelligence regardless of the specific breed, but if you wish to have a high chance of getting a smart pet, stick to the following breeds.

1. Border Collie

The border collie is considered a very smart dog given its fast command learning ability. This quick-minded dog is also incredibly agile so he can work nicely for competitions. Its high intelligence doesn’t just come from the ability to learn new commands fast, but it’s also from the way he can comply with specific details of commands.

The powerful intellect of border collie has mostly developed due to its heritage as he’s a famous herder dog. It’s extremely well adapted in terms of both obedience and balance as it’s characterized by high energy and great aptitude. This dog breed needs to be constantly learning and moving to keep its spirits high.

2. Poodle

Poodles might surprise you with their intelligence as their reputation has been built around their fancy appearance. This dog breed originated as a hunting dog and that may give you a clue for its high intelligence level. Poodles are also very capable when it comes to sports thanks to their fast-learning abilities.

You can count on poodles for being trusty companions and reliable workers. Its solid canine brain power can be put to good use for a wide range of actions and commands. This dog breed manages to combine good looks with superior intelligence. Their curly coats are hypoallergenic and that represents an advantage compared to other breeds.

3. German Shepherd

Known for its impeccable loyalty and energy, German Shepherds are very intelligent dogs. This dog is most comfortable when it has a job to do and that’s why he can often become anxious when he can’t use his energy properly. It doesn’t matter if he’s only given a simple task like supervising some children playing. If you give the German Shepherd a sense of purpose, he’ll be the happiest dog in the world.

The great protective abilities of this dog breed make them highly suitable to serve as police or military dogs. Obedience is a key characteristic of any German Shepherd. These dogs are some of the brightest and most trainable you can find. That’s understandable given their hard-working history.

4. Golden Retriever

Golden retrievers are very popular due to their friendliness and intelligence. You can teach this dog almost any trick and its gentle nature makes him a perfect match to work as a service dog. When you see a Golden retriever it’s like the idea of man’s best friend instantly crosses your mind.

These dogs appreciate regular mental stimulation and they’re quite capable when it comes to sports as well. One of its favorite activity is to carry items and retrieve them. Similar to German Shepherds, this dog breed craves a purpose and it’s extremely loyal. If they can please you and your family, they will feel like they’ve accomplished their duty.

5. Australian Cattle Dog

This a highly driven and focused dog breed which is known for its ability to bond very well with its owner. As its name suggests, the Australian Cattle dog traces back its origins to herding cattle. This dog developed a natural inclination to enjoy working so that’s why it constantly searches for ways to be useful.

While this dog breed isn’t as popular as others on this list, the Australian Cattle dog deserves some more recognition considering its high level of intelligence and great energy. The dog is bright enough to understand and execute lots of human commands. The breed is also appreciated for its overall strength and agility.

6. Doberman Pinscher

Dobermans are fearless protectors that make great companions. Even though this is a relatively new breed, Doberman Pinscher dogs are very smart and reliable to execute commands. For that reason, it’s not surprising to often find them act as guard dogs.

Aside from the high intelligence, Dobermans excel at sports considering their muscular stature and increased agility. If you want to take advantage of its trainability, it’s important to teach them from very young ages. This dog can develop a pushy behavior if you don’t raise them properly.

7. Shetland Sheepdog

This dog can be often misjudged as aloof, but Shetland sheepdogs are very intelligent and energetic. It does have a habit of being quiet and graceful in some moments. As its name implies, the dog is more than capable of managing herding jobs due to their obedient and agile nature. It can learn routines and follow directions very effectively thanks to its exceptional brightness.

Smaller in size than collies, Shetland sheepdogs are lovely dogs to own as they’re highly affectionate and form a powerful bond with their owners. This dog breed comes from Scotland originally and they’re often called Shelties.

8. Jack Russell Terrier

The Jack Russell Terrier breed comes with a sharp wit and amazing energy. This is a small dog that moves with powerful agility. It has a reputation for being fearless and stubborn. The combination of intelligence and energy makes this a suitable dog for sports and barn hunts.

This speedy dog may be tough to train sometimes given its love for agile moving. Jack Russels are very receptive and have a snappy attitude so they represent great choices if you wish to adopt a smart dog. Don’t be fooled by their small appearance, as these dogs are very athletic and vocal.

9. Australian Shepherd

Similar to border collies, Australian Shepherds are brilliant and active dogs that come with a sheepdog background. This is a hard working dog that has a very friendly side as well. It can be a nice fit for a large family. The Australian Shepherd likes to express its intelligence in stubborn manners sometimes.

This dog requires constant mental stimulation and opportunities to engage in physical activity. In fact, it can even become bored or frustrated otherwise. This is another smart dog breed that loves sports and can learn new commands faster than you’d expect.

10. Labrador Retriever

Another highly popular dog breed that’s also very smart is the Labrador retriever. While some people might misjudge them as too laid-back, these dogs are very intelligent and capable to follow commands. Labrador retrievers come with some of the best qualities you could ask for in a canine companion.

You can count on this dog breed if you’re looking for intelligence as well as gentle kindness. Even though Labradors have a reputation as family dogs, they can be often selected for professional jobs. This dog breed is also known for its ability to thrive in the water thanks to some physical traits such as weather-resistant coats and flat tails.

11. Papillon

Papillon dogs have delicate frames which makes them suitable for competitive agility trials. Despite being part of a toy breed, this dog is very smart and stands out due to its friendliness and alertness. It seems like this dog is constantly searching for an activity to occupy its time.

As opposed to more obedient dogs on this list, Papillons might pose some problems when it comes to training. They have a bit of a reputation for being stubborn, but that can be countered if you manage to reward him well. The name “Papillon” comes from French and it means “butterfly”. This dog breed is proof that not just large canines are the smartest dogs.

12. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Originating from Wales, corgis have a look that sets them apart from other breeds considering their long bodies and short legs. Even though this dog is small, it boasts a great level of intelligence and doesn’t disappoint when it comes to stamina. It’s not surprising that the Queen of England prefers this dog breed when selecting her canine companion.

What’s great about this dog breed is that it is affectionate with its owner without being too needy. Many people appreciate them for their responsive intellect which makes them simple to train. Corgis are good at herding and love to stay alert as watchdogs.

13. Rottweiler

Rottweilers are very capable of reading people and form trust-based relationships very carefully. While it offers an affectionate side to their owner, this dog breed shows off a more controlled part of their personality to strangers. They are very protective dogs and they sense bad intentions from others more easily due to their high intelligence.

This dog breed is known for its rugged temperament. It may take a little extra effort to train them given how you need to earn their trust. Once you manage to do it, you will be surely rewarded by a very loyal canine companion. When trained and socialized correctly, Rottweilers become gentle dogs that can fully take advantage of their guarding instincts.

14. Bloodhound

Bloodhounds have some of the best scent-detecting abilities out of all the dog breeds. They make excellent tracking dogs because of that, but having a great sense of smell isn’t enough. Bloodhounds are also very smart and driven. Sometimes they get a bit stubborn given the intense determination to find their prey.

15. Beagle

Hailing from Britain, beagles developed their characteristics as hunting dogs. Similar to bloodhounds, they enjoy picking up scents and following them. Training them is a bit more challenging as you have to reward the dog very well to make them comply with your requests.

Beagles are small dogs with a compact and hardy build.When you look into its soft pleading eyes, you can immediately notice that beagles are very intelligent. These dogs are very expressive and inquisitive. Make sure you’re prepared for excessive barking and howling if you choose this smart dog breed.

16. Belgian Tervuren

This dog has a reputation for independence and powerful intelligence. With proper training, Belgian Tervurens will be able to use their self-sufficiency abilities to accomplish many tasks. You can make it a game for them to execute various commands and any chore can become much more enjoyable.

17. Bernese Mountain Dog

This is a big and imposing dog that may often create the wrong impression of being dim-witted. It will probably come as a surprise to many people to find out that Bernese Mountain dogs are actually very smart and simple to train. They’re less capable of adapting to new training methods and they’re overall more sensitive compared to other dog breeds.

Due to their gentle nature, it’s likely that this large dog won’t obey harsh commands. The level of intelligence possessed by the Bernese Mountain dog makes him suitable for outdoors training. That being said, this dog can become a loyal friend for lots of owners and integrate very well as a family dog. He’s particularly gentle with children.

18. Alaskan Husky

The Alaskan Husky is a cold-weather breed that developed a clever pack mentality where respect and authority play important roles. If you take the time to train them well, you will be surprised by their patience and obedience. Given how they evolved to work in groups, Alaskan Huskies are known for their intelligent methods of communication.

19. Old English Sheepdog

The Old English Sheepdog has a chubby appearance showing off a face that’s completely covered in fur. He’s a great canine for cuddling, but you won’t be disappointed by its ability to follow commands either. This dog breed developed its intelligence through herding animals so it’s more than capable to obey orders and do its assigned job.

While the Sheepdog feels at home in rural settings, this doesn’t mean that it cannot accommodate to the city life. It just takes proper training for this dog to reach its full potential.

20. Weimaraner

Weimaraners were bred for hunting purposes and they’re very appreciated for their unique regal beauty. Aside from its eye-catching appearance, this dog breed seems to be quick when it comes to learning new commands and excels at hunting tasks.

These dogs are both smart and affectionate. Weimaraners seem to prefer active owners as they will become bored fast without physical stimulation. That powerful instinct to hunt its prey kicks in often and needs to be satisfied.

21. Irish Setter

With reliable mental capacity and solid obedience skills, the Irish Setter represents a great canine companion. It has sleek fur with a reddish color. Its intelligence has been molded through bird hunting, and that’s why the dog has an instinctive skill to grasp fallen birds without crushing them. The Irish Setter can be considered a loyal dog, ideal for families.

22. German Shorthaired Pointer

As their names suggest, German Shorthaired Pointers use an expressive forward stance to direct your attention to a particular spot. Sometimes they may even lift their paw. This skill is enough proof for the superior intelligence of this spotting dog breed.

German Shorthaired Pointers enjoy vigorous physical activities so you need to ensure they get enough exercise because otherwise, they can become mischievous. The streamlined and powerful legs of this dog make it capable both on land and water. Coupled with high intelligence, all the traits of this dog make it very suitable for agility competitions.

23. English Springer Spaniel

Thanks to their high desire to please their owners, English Springer Spaniels are relatively easy to train. This dog breed has a close relation to the English cocker spaniel. They stand out due to the larger size and superior independence.

English Springer Spaniels are traditionally family dogs, but they also have a reliable hunting side that can come to life with proper training. This is a loyal breed which can easily switch back to its lovable personality when it’s back home after some outside time.

24. Portuguese Water Dog

Considering how it was bred to herd fish into nets and assist during fishing trips, the Portuguese Water dog retains some of its original intelligence even if nowadays it only acts as a loving family companion. This is a calm and obedient dog that enjoys copious amounts of daily exercise.

Most training programs are fairly easy to accomplish for the Portuguese water dog as he’s incredibly adaptable and smart. This breed loves to be active and can be trained without too much effort. It’s also great at swimming thanks to its webbed paws.

25. Belgian Malinois

Similar to other military dogs, Belgian Malinois canines are very obedient and learn new commands quickly. It’s not surprising that the U.S. Secret Service makes use of them for protection. The mix of superior intelligence and hardworking motivation makes this dog breed ideal for detecting explosives and narcotics. It’s also a reliable tracking dog that’s often used for search and rescue missions.

26. Newfoundland

This dog breed gets its name from the Canada province that represents their original home. These canines developed their intelligence by helping fishermen so they will instinctively love the water. They can be trained to effectively serve as water-rescue dogs.

The Newfoundland dog is large in size and has a thick coat of fur. In terms of temperament, these dogs have a stoic nature and are characterized by a strong loyalty to their owners. This breed has often been called “the gentle giant”.

27. Saint Bernard

This breed has been popularized by the Beethoven film series and among their most important traits are the regal looks and calm temperament. Not many people know that this dog possesses a high level of intelligence developed from generations of dogs that acted as diligent mountain workers in Switzerland.

Saint Bernards are very patient dogs that will get along very well with humans, particularly children. A well-trained dog from this large breed is a great canine companion that can serve and protect their families. It’s no longer used for Alpine rescues, but the dog can bring happiness to many owners and participates in sports competitions.

28. Great Dane

There are lots of large dog breeds that are gifted with a very capable intellect. One of them is the Great Dane which has a large brain that allows it to become easily adaptable and trained. This is the kind of dog that feels right at home as a member of a larger family. Even if he can adapt to a small apartment, it still prefers a larger place to roam around and that’s mainly due to its large size.

29. Brittany

Another hunting dog with a solid reputation for being intelligent is the Brittany breed. This canine has what it takes to compete in field sports as it boasts great levels of stamina and agility. Running around and completing tasks feels like the most natural thing in the world for Brittany dogs.

This dog has a history as a hunting companion and that means he can be trained quite easily compared to other dog breeds. One important difference between Brittany dogs and other hunting breeds is the increased sensitivity to correction. It’s similar to Bernese Mountain dogs in that regard as it doesn’t take well to harsher commands.

30. Akita Inu

Given the similar appearance of Akita Inu dogs with Huskies, many people can confuse these separate breeds. The Akita Inu is a lovable family dog that doesn’t trust strangers very easily. As proof of its superior intelligence, you can’t easily trick this dog into doing something if he doesn’t want to.

While they aren’t as responsive to commands as other smart dog breeds, that shouldn’t be seen as a sign of ignorance. Akita Inu dogs will sometimes disobey commands that they deem unnecessary. The Akita Inu is a Japanese breed that’s separate from the American strain that’s usually called just Akita.

By Stefan Bucur

Stefan is the founder and owner of Rhythm of the Home. He has 6 years of experience in home improvement, interior design, cleaning and organizing.

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