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Brown German Shepherd sitting under a tree.

Top 11 Smartest Dog Breeds

4 min read

Dogs are super intelligent animals, they can learn a huge amount of human language and can even understand your moods! But did you know that some dog breeds are smarter than others? Keep reading to find out what the top 11 smartest dog breeds are.

Dogs are incredibly intelligent animals. Not only can our dogs learn and react to a wealth of human language, they also seem to be able to understand our moods. But did you know that some breeds are smarter than others?

When it comes to deciding which dogs are smart and which are bottom of the class, it isn't as simple as you'd think. Dog IQ tests are mostly based on a dog's desire to get treats or toys, so the results are often coloured by how treat-driven the dog is.

Over hundreds and sometimes thousands of years, dogs have been bred to be specialists at doing certain jobs, so some breeds excel at certain skills more than others. For example, Bloodhounds can follow a week-old scent for over 100 miles, while Border Collies are incredibly talented when it comes to showing off their tricks and agility.

However, some dog breeds are particularly good at learning new things, including tricks and commands. So, we've put together a list of the top five smartest dog breeds from around the world.

Border Collie sitting on top of a mountain.

Who are the smartest dogs breeds out there? Top 11 intelligent canines

1. Border Collie

The majority of obedience champions, agility stars, flyball wizards and sheepdog herding winners are Border Collies.

Their intelligence, enthusiasm and willingness to work has seen them awarded the top spot in canine psychologist Stanley Coren's intelligence rankings, so they deserve their place at the top of a list of smartest dog breeds.

Amazingly, most border collies can learn a brand-new command in under five seconds and follow it 95% of the time. They even have an intense stare technique that intimidates livestock. Be warned though, they'll probably do it to you to try and convince you to hand over your sandwich!

Who is the smartest dog in the world?

The smartest dog in the world is a Border Collie called Chaser. Not only does she know the name of all her 1,000 unique toys, she knows a huge amount of words and brings things when asked. Apparently, she has the cognition and development of a toddler. How's that for a clever dog breed?

 

2. German Shepherd

A German Shepherd is a very common working dog, and it's thanks to their huge intelligence. This is a breed who has been a devoted companion to the armed forces, police and security services, so you may not be surprised to know that they are one of the cleverest dog breeds. Extremely adaptable and trainable, German Shepherd dogs are always a popular dog among the military and police as they're easy to train to sniff out bombs, drugs and even people! Due to their super-powered nose, they're also frequently used as search and rescue dogs.

German Shepherds' ability to learn new things also means that they were used as the first ever guide dogs. If you're thinking about getting one, you should know that they require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation for all that brainpower, so if you don't have much time on your hands, a German Shepherd may not be for you.

Before considering a German Shepherd, it's important to know that this breed can be prone to health problems. Be sure to do your research and only purchase a puppy from a Kennel Club accredited breeder or a breeder that does health tests.

 

3. Toy Poodle

These dogs are so much more than your average pampered pooch. Many believe that Toy Poodles are little more than fluffy fashion accessories. But did you know that they are one of the smartest dog breeds and have an extremely high working intelligence?

Many people forget the poodle's working roots, but they were actually bred to fetch things out of the water, making these dogs amazing swimmers. They're an incredibly clever dog breed and they can read human body language, and sometimes are even known to anticipate their owner's actions before they speak or gesture.

Despite being small in stature, they're considered one of the most trainable dog breeds, as Toy Poodles genuinely enjoy learning. Plus, they're a hypoallergenic dog breed, which is perfect for people with allergies to dogs.

 

4. Papillon

Named the smartest of all the toy dog breeds, the Papillon is no lap dog. Despite their small size, they're highly active and make brilliant watchdogs. The original purpose for the Papillon breed was to be ratters and get rid of pests, and apparently even Marie Antoinette had one.

Papillons are a small dog with a huge brain and are the number one toy breed in obedience competitions. They also excel in the mini versions of virtually every dog sport, making them great for outdoor dog training. This smart dog breed even has a sophisticated French name - 'papillon' means butterfly in French, and it comes from the shape of their ears!

Shetland Sheepdog running with tongue out.

5. Shetland Sheepdog

You may recognise this breed of dog as looking like a miniature version of Lassie! The hardworking Shetland Sheepdog is one of the smartest dog breeds and they are incredible at obedience and agility competitions.

Their instinct to herd is so ingrained in their DNA that apparently, they've been known to try and herd their family members.

Did you know that a Shetland Sheepdog can understand a new command in less than five repetitions? Now that's a clever dog breed! They are also devoted to their owners, as well as being full of energy and ever alert for anything that's different or exciting.

6. Golden Retriever

The Golden Retrievers excel at so many jobs, we couldn’t leave them our of our smartest dog breeds list. They’re wonderful therapy dogs, trusted partners of law enforcement agents and are known to take the top prize in many dog sports competitions involving agility and obedience.

As well as being an intelligent dog, Golden Retrievers are beautiful friends that behave well and try very hard to please their owner. No wonder they’re one of the most popular dog breeds in the world!

7. Labrador Retriever

Another dog familiar with therapy work, as well as search and rescue missions, the Labrador Retriever deserves a place on any intelligent dog breeds lists out there. Back in the day, you might have seen them braving the cold Atlantic waters next to hard-working fishermen. Originally from Canada, this breed has quickly managed to find fans all over the world and if you’ve ever met a Labrador Retriever you know why. These dogs are true sweethearts, constantly wagging their tails and always on the go. They are easily trained and eager to learn too!

8. Dobermann

One of the most impressive things about the elegant Dobermann is their fierce intelligence. There’s no doubt that these pups come with smarts, after all the breed has unbeatable skills as a property guard and in security work. So, if you’re looking for a smart dog breed that’s loyal and protective, the Dobermann checks all the boxes. However, you do need a big garden or access to the countryside, as these intelligent dogs love to keep active too.

9. English Springer Spaniel

You probably know the English Springer Spaniel as the fluffy, friendly fellow that’s always busy exploring their surroundings. But did you know they are extremely smart and natural athletes too? No matter how advanced the dog trick you’ve got in mind, they’ll be able to figure it out unbelievably quickly. But do make sure you keep this Spaniel on a leash when out and about, or else they might make it their mission to chase every bird or rodent in sight.

10. Miniature Schnauzer

This is a dog that comes with their very own signature look thanks to their unique eyebrows and moustache. But under their fluffy appearance there’s a smart dog and a lively spirit. A natural watchdog, their brain always works hard to protect their owners from dangers, both perceived or real. This means they quite vocal and suspicious of strangers. But that’s just the Miniature Schnauzer’s way of showing how much they love their owners.

11. Australian Cattle Dog

A perfect day in the Australian Cattle Dog’s book starts with agility training in the morning, a herding competition in the afternoon and non-stop games of fetch in the evening. This super-intelligent and friendly breed loves to keep active. But in return, they’ll give their owners plenty of love and protection.
 

Did your dog make the list? Or is your dog breed super-smart and hasn't made the list? Let us know on our Facebook page!

If you're thinking about getting a new dog, have a look at our dog breed library for information on almost 200 breeds of dog.