13 Of The Smartest Dog Breeds

Smart dogs are like cute dogs—everyone thinks they have one. You might think you have one of the smartest dog breeds on your hands just waiting to crack the next theory of relativity, but your li’l Einstein might have a harder time in Algebra 101 than you think.

Like humans, intelligence comes in many forms. Finding out how they “play smart” is the key to unlocking their puppy IQ.

How Can You Identify The Smartest Dog Breeds?

Whether your pup is purebred or mixed, you can gauge their most common characteristics and intelligence patterns by figuring out which breed group they fall under. The breed groups are:

  • Sporting
  • Non-sporting
  • Herding
  • Working
  • Terrier
  • Hound
  • Toy

Dog intellect manifests in a variety of ways, and their dedicated group allows you to figure out how to make the most of their brain. For instance, breeds bred to hunt and retrieve are much more likely to think quickly on their feet, looking for nimble and efficient means to impress their people and secure their prey.

Hounds, terriers, and scent-trained dogs might look more adorably dull on the surface, but behind their one-track “nose minds” are the inner-workings of a brain that ticks like a Swiss clock. Highly intelligent dogs are more capable of solving problems, tackling treat puzzles, communicating with you, and, well… getting into trouble.

Whether they’re book-smart or street-smart, remember that the smartest dog breeds require more dedication from their people in terms of enrichment, exercise, and play! With great intelligence comes a higher capacity for boredom, which, without an outlet, may manifest as destruction, anxiety, stress, behavioral issues, and general naughtiness.

13 Of The Smartest Dog Breeds

Neuropsychologist Stanley Coren examined what drives dogs’ intelligence in his bestselling book The Intelligence of Dogs1. Based on his research, the primary factor is trainability. Dogs who are eager to please their people and take the initiative are considered “smarter” in a technical sense.

That being said, let’s dive into the canines that consistently rank near the top of the smartest dog breeds list.

1. Border Collie

The world’s foremost sheep herder, border collies lead the pack in sharp intellect, powerful instincts, and quick decision-making. When you think of “smartest dog breeds,” these guys come to mind first.

2. Poodle

Experts at retrieving, poodles of all sizes tend to have a curious and active demeanor. They are eager to learn, love challenges, and excel at trick training.

3. German Shepherd

Due to their high intelligence and deep focus, German shepherds are among the world’s most popular service dogs. Their ability to make quick decisions in hazardous environments makes them ideal for the job and wonderfully whip-smart companions.

4. Golden Retriever

Goldens‘ impulse to please is great, which makes them easily trainable and useful as service animals. Known for their agility, strength, and dependability, golden retrievers are one of the most popular family dogs.

Related Article: Positive Reinforcement Training For Dogs: What It Is & How It Works

5. Doberman Pinscher

Highly regarded for their stamina, speed, and tenacity, Dobermans are equally hard-working, playful, and affectionate. They’ll free all the treats from that puzzle ball in record time.

6. Labrador Retriever

Gentle, kind, and eager to please, Labradors were bred to hunt and retrieve, and are among the best command-followers in the canine world. (They also rank among the best puppy-dog eyes at mealtimes.)

7. Papillon

French for “butterfly” as an homage to their wing-like ears, papillons trace their royal lineage back to 14th century France. Sharp, bouncy, and happy to be with their people, papillons are the smallest dog breed to make the smartest dog breeds list.

8. Shetland Sheepdog

A highly intelligent dog, Shetland sheepdogs demonstrate the same keen focus and herding awareness as border collies.

9. Rottweiler

These brawny go-getters, Rottweilers are cherished for their obedient and hard-working nature. Keep an eye on those expressive “eyebrows,” because they’ll be sure to tell you exactly when it’s time to hand over whatever you’re eating.

10. Australian Cattle Dog

Give an Australian Cattle Dog a job, and he’ll show you how smart he is. These herding dogs are energetic, analytic, and some of the top-performing obedience competitors on the dog show circuit.

11. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Famous for tagging along with the British royal family, Welsh corgis are athletic, playful, and exceptionally skilled at tracking small game. Their floofin’ booties are pretty impressive, too.

12. Miniature Schnauzer

Also known as the “bearded brainiac,” mini schnauzers were bred to snuff out vermin and pests on farms. Nowadays, they still exhibit the same curious nature that makes them one of the world’s smartest dog breeds.

Related Article: Which Dog Breeds Live The Longest?

13. English Springer Spaniel

Bright, alert, and obedient, springer spaniels were breed to track game and accompany hunters on arduous treks. Today, they’re highly regarded for their focus and problem-solving skills.

Did your dog make the list of smartest dog breeds? If so, look at this new information as an opportunity to make the most of your pup’s active brain. If not, don’t worry! There’s more to canine intelligence than what meets the eye. Good behavior, a positive attitude, and a spunky zest for life matter just as much as intelligence, if not more.


1Coren, S. (2006). The Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide to the thoughts, emotions, and inner lives of our canine companions. Pocket.

Jake Wells

1 month ago