When a potential new dog owner is doing their due diligence, researching on information of several dog breeds is common. And, reading our “smartest dog breeds” list is not a bad place to start. It’s normal that most people would like to gauge the intelligence of a new dog.
But regardless of how smart of a dog you choose, dogs are inherently loving and kind towards human. There really is no reason to pick a dog breed just because they are smart. They really don’t need to be that smart. Most dogs should be able to go through basic dog training that’s not above and beyond what you need.
How Are the Smartest Dog Breeds Measured?
Stanley Coren, a professor at the University of British Columbia, decided to reach out to obedience trial judges. He asked them to rank dog breeds by their performance and was surprised to receive 199 responses. That’s nearly half the judges in North America alone!
From there, Coren was able to produce an effective method of measuring how smart a dog breed is. Shortly after, he came out with the first list of breed intelligence.
In his findings, the smartest dog breeds were measured by the number of repetitions needed to understand a new command. This means that “smarter” dogs are able to learn new commands with less time. Makes enough sense.
In addition, the percentage that your dog obeys a known command on the the first try reflects how smart a dog is. This means that if your dog obeys a known command on the first attempt 19 out of 20 times, they are extremely smart. Top 10 smart, actually.
Now that we understand what makes these dog breeds smart, here’s the list of the top 79 smartest dog breeds!
Top 10 Smartest Dog Breeds
The top 10 smartest dog breeds happen to also be some of the most popular and common dogs in the world. Coincidence? Probably not.
The breeds that have made this exclusive list are some of the most trainable dogs. According to Coren, the top 10 can learn a new command with just 5 repetitions or less! In addition, these breeds will obey a known command in the first try with a success rate of 95% or more. These numbers are pretty remarkable and just shows how smart dogs really can be.
1. Border Collie
The Border Collie tops the list as the smartest dog breed. Who would have guessed? They are known workaholics and arguably the best sheep herders among all dog breeds. The reason why is certainly because of such high intelligence, amazing natural instincts and workaholic mentality.
However, they are much more than just excellent herding dogs. The Border Collie is also very lively and affectionate towards its owners and family. They make for a great cuddle at home, but also commanding workers on the field.
The Poodle is a dog breed that is very dignified and proud, but for good reason. They are exceptionally quick learners and have been used to track down, hunt and retrieve a variety of things. Some are even bred to retrieve objects from the water.
Because of their intelligence, they have become very popular family dogs. They are, in fact, the 7th most popular breed in the world. The Poodle’s active personality make them a playful companion dog worth owning.
3. German Shepherd
The German Shepherd is known as the premiere dog for police force worldwide. Is it really a surprise that the authorities would choose a dog breed this high up the list? They are extremely smart, ferocious workers and brave. The German Shepherd is everything you would want in your partner-in-crime and more.
This breed is also the 2nd most popular family dogs due to their devoted loyalty. They love to work for their family and will always have their back. However, this breed requires enough work to stimulate them physically and mentally.
4. Golden Retriever
Golden Retrievers makes the list as the third most popular dog breed in America. They are almost perfect dogs for any type of owner. Obviously they’re wicked smart and one of the most trainable dog breeds. They are known to be extremely friendly and loyal sporting dogs. Whatever task you hand their way, they will take to heart and perform as best as possible. They’re the perfect feel-good family dog.
5. Doberman Pinscher
The Doberman is known to possess massive strength, size, speed and endurance. It’s why they make great police dogs as well. But when you pair all those attributes with smarts, they become known as “war dogs.” These dogs were essential in the Second Battle of Guam in 1944. Many of them died for the country in that war.
Dobermans also make great family dog because of their loyalty to the family. If you’re looking for a dignified companion that will protect you and your family, you’ve found the dog.
6. Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland Sheepdog is pretty much a small Collie. These intelligent herding dogs make great family dogs because they love to learn new tricks. And, they learn them fast. Their loyalty lies with the family and they will happily entertain the kids with tricks.
They also make great watchdogs because they are cautious around those that they aren’t familiar with. The Shetland Sheepdog is smart enough to recognize when strangers are threats or when they are friends.
7. Labrador Retriever
There is a reason why the Labrador Retriever is the most common dog breed in the States. They are a good “jack of all trades” dog. There’s really no negatives to the Labrador. Hence, the staggering popularity.
The Lab is certainly a smart dog breed, but they are also gentle, courageous and easy to raise. They are excellent family dogs and are great around kids. Labradors make excellent companions as they are also very eager to please their people.
The Papillon dog breed is not as popular or known as the above breeds. But don’t let that deter you from raising one. Their intelligence is top-notch and they are especially good at learning tricks. Especially tricks that require a lot of athleticism. Papillons are versatile dogs that can be trained to do all sorts of things. And, they are more than willing to show off.
They’re energetic and alert, but most importantly, friendly and human-loving. Papillons are a great choice for a family dog.
The Bloodhound is one of those funny looking dogs you’d least expect to crack the top 10 for intelligence. But, here they are. Their wrinkled facial features with low hung ears are the most recognizable characteristics about them.
However, don’t mistaken their physical looks as a sign of stupidity. Their intelligence, friendliness and independence make them very dignified dogs.
The Rottweiler (or “Rotty”) is one of the most loyal dogs there are. They are confident, yet smart dogs that love and are eager to please their family. Rottweilers are generally used as watchdogs because of their bold and courageous personality.
This makes them ideal to be police dogs, herding dogs, service dogs or just a companion and friend. Like many other intelligent dogs, they do great with kids and make excellent family dogs.
(Ranked 11 – 26 Smartest Dog Breeds)
In this batch of 20 dog breeds, we are left with dogs that are still considered to be extremely smart. Just how smart, though? The dog breeds in this intelligence category are able to understand and learn a new command with just 5 to 15 repetitions.
To make things more impressive, they’re able to obey a known command the first time around with at least an 85% success rate. Not bad at all.
11. Pembroke Welsh Corgi – The Pembroke Corgi is a little bundle of energy. Their intelligence makes them very trainable, but can sometimes be stubborn in personality.
12. Miniature Schnauzer – Don’t let these small dogs fool you. Small dogs mean small brain, but not less intelligence. They’re quite obedient dogs, but full of energy too.
13. Belgian Shepherd Dog – Because the Belgian Shepherd Dog is such a smart dog breed, they’re able to effectively herd sheep. They’re some of the best herders around.
14. Schipperke – This dog breed is fearless, courageous and active. But don’t worry, they’re smart enough not to get themselves into too much trouble.
14 (tie). Belgian Sheepdog – This breed is similar to the Schipperke, from physical appearance to intelligence. They are also slightly larger, but great herders too.
15. Collie – The Collie, or Rough Collie, is the dog that played the one and only, Lassie. How smart are they? Just watch the movie if you haven’t already.
15 (tie). Keeshond – The Keeshond breed is active and energetic. But their high intelligence make them very obedient dogs to own.
16. German Shorthaired Pointer – These dogs are known to be very trainable. I’m certain their high intelligence has something to do with that.
17. Flat-Coated Retriever – The Flat-coated Retriever is always happy and optimistic. They like to socialize and are 100% devoted to their humans.
17 (tie). English Cocker Spaniel – They’re quiet dog breeds, but also extremely smart. Don’t mistaken the quietness as low intelligence.
17 (tie). Standard Schnauzer – The Schnauzer is overall very trainable and good-hearted. They love to play and can be excellent family dogs.
18. Brittany – Their attentive personality and intelligence make them very adaptable dogs. It always seems like they know whats going on.
19. Cocker Spaniel – Quiet and friendly, the Cocker Spaniel is an affectionate dog thats good with kids. They’re smart enough to know when to be gentle and also very trainable.
20. Weimaraner – Although very smart, the Weimaraner has been known to be aloof around people. They just need more time to warm up to people.
21. Belgian Malinois – The Malinois is an extremely hyper dog. They’re smart enough to be trained to be police or special search dogs. They’re like small German Shepherds.
21 (tie). Bernese Mountain Dog – This dog breed makes the perfect family dog. They’re smart, loyal and affectionate towards human.
22. Pomeranian – These small dogs are surprisingly very sociable and playful. They love being active and have the intelligence to learn quickly.
23. Irish Water Spaniel – They may have a goofy and silly personality. But this large Spaniel breed is a lot smarter than it acts.
24. Vizsla – The Vizsla dog is gentle and affectionate. Although quiet, the Vizsla is quite the smart canine.
25. Cardigan Welsh Corgi – Like the Pembroke, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi is highly intelligent. The Cardigan is a great companion to have.
Dogs Above Average Intelligence
(Ranked 27 – 39 Smartest Dog Breeds)
In terms of intelligence, these dog breeds are still considered smart. Simply put, they’re above average when compared to their peers. But how far back behind in intelligence are they compared to the former two intelligence categories?
According to Coren, the above average group can understand new commands with 15 to 25 repetitions. At this level, it may not be a good idea to use fruits and vegetables as dog treats for training. Too many of those human foods can cause nasty side effects.
For a dog to be above average, they will also need to be able to successfully obey a known command on the first try, 70% (or higher) of the time.
27. Chesapeake Bay Retriever – The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is an awesome family dog. They’re protective over their loved ones, but affectionate and quiet at the same time.
27 (tie). Puli – These dogs look like the end of a mop, but don’t let fool you. These smart dogs are high in energy and obedient.
27 (tie). Yorkshire Terrier – The Yorkshire is small, but bold and courageous. Small dogs aren’t typically known for intelligence, but this little one is.
28. Giant Schnauzer – This is one powerful and dominant Schnauzer. The good news is that they’re loyal and kind dogs too.
29. Airedale Terrier – This dog breed is very sociable and outgoing. They’re highly intelligent dogs as well.
29 (tie). Bouvier des Flandres – Protective of its family, this dog is loyal and gentle. Their intelligence makes it feel like they’re very understanding of different situations.
30. Border Terrier – The Border Terrier is fearless and alert in the fields, but affectionate and obedient at home. They’re great dogs to own.
30 (tie). Briard – The Briard dog breed is known for its undying loyalty. They are great people pleasers and will fit well with any family.
31. Welsh Springer Spaniel – These small Spaniels are always lively and active. They love people, but can be a little stubborn at times.
32. Manchester Terrier – The Manchester Terrier is such a pleasant and happy dog to be around. Their wonderful personalities will liven up any room.
33. Samoyed – The Samoyed dogs love to play in a lively and energetic manner. However, they are known to be stubborn from time to time.
34. Field Spaniel – These dogs are quiet Spaniels that are cautious and docile by nature. When around those that are familiar, they really start to open up.
34 (tie). Newfoundland – The Newfoundlands are dogs that are big gentle giants. They’re sweet and kind-hearted canines.
34 (tie). Australian Terrier – Although small, the Australian Terrier is big in liveliness and energy. They make wonderful companion dogs for those just as spirited.
34 (tie). American Staffordshire Terrier – This dog breed will always have your back. They’re tenacious and courageous, yet loyal and devoted.
34 (tie). Gordon Setter – I’ve never seen a dog breed as happy and fearless at the same time. The Gordon Setter is an excellent play dog.
34 (tie). Bearded Collie – These Collies are just brimming with self-confidence. They’re smart with a energetic and lively nature to them.
35. Cairn Terrier – The Cairn is one of the oldest Terrier breeds. They can be quite the assertive and fearless dog on the field.
35 (tie). Kelly Blue Terrier – The Kelly Blue is a strong-willed Terrier that also has an affectionate side. They are very loyal and gentle around family members.
35 (tie). Irish Setter – These dogs make great companion dogs due to their independent, yet affectionate nature. They are often viewed as energetic and lively dogs as well.
36. Norwegian Elkhound – The Elkhound is one bold and courageous dog. From their stance to their look and attitude, you can tell they’re quite badass.
37. Affenpinscher – These little Pinschers are very curious in personality and love to explore. Although they love to play, they can also be stubborn.
37 (tie). Australian Silky Terrier – These terriers are alert and full of joy. Their friendly nature make them a compatible dog with kids.
37 (tie). Miniature Pinscher – The miniature version of the Pinscher is like you would expect: playful, active and fun-loving. However, they’re quite clever canines.
37 (tie). English Setter – The English Setter has it all. They’re smart dogs on top of being playful, gentle, energetic and affectionate.
37 (tie). Pharaoh Hound – The Pharaoh is an active dog thats always alert and active. Because they’re so smart, they are known to be very trainable dogs.
37 (tie). Clumber Spaniel – The Clumber is the type of dog that you see and immediately know they’re kind-hearted dogs. However, they don’t make the best guard dog.
38. Norwich Terrier – The Norwich is a bit more sensitive and affectionate than most dog breeds. Despite that, they’re still very energetic dogs.
39. Dalmatian – The Dalmatian is brimming with energy. They’re active dogs and very outgoing with humans and other dogs. If i could, I would raise 101 of them.
Dogs with Average Intelligence
(Ranked 40 – 54 Smartest Dog Breeds)
Is there anything wrong with being average in intelligence? Not really, especially when it comes to your dog. Although average, these dogs are still very much capable of learning tricks and leading packs. It just might take a little longer.
The dog breeds in this category can learn a new command after 25 to 40 repetitions of the command. This means thats the amount of times necessary to teach the average dog something new. Dog training isn’t rocket science, but isn’t a walk in the park either.
Average intelligence dogs will be able to obey a known command on the first try with at least a 50% success rate. Some dogs just need a little more clarification.
40. Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier – The lively and spirited personalities of the Wheaten Terrier make them great entertaining dogs to own.
40 (tie). Bedlington Terrier – The Bedlington is affectionate and intelligent, making them excellent companion dogs to own.
40 (tie). Fox Terrier – The Fox Terrier comes in two sub-breeds: the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Wire Hair Fox Terrier. Both equally intelligent and friendly dogs.
41. Curly Coated Retriever – This Retriever breed is known to be very trainable. Their clever attitude and lively personality make them excellent dogs.
41 (tie). Irish Wolfhound – These Wolfhound breeds have a very calm personality. They’re loyal and sweet-tempered, and would do well around kids.
42. Kuvasz – The Kuvasz dogs are extremely loyal dogs, but can sometimes be overly protective of their owners.
42 (tie). Australian Shepherd – These are overall good-natured dogs. Their loyalty and affection towards the family make them very protective dogs.
43. Saluki – Although reserved at times and aloof towards people, the Saluki is quietly intelligent.
43 (tie). Finnish Spitz – This dog breed is generally very happy and playful. They can be very vocal dogs at home.
43 (tie). Pointer – The Pointer is everything you want in a dog. They are very loyal, intelligent, affectionate, but active at the same time.
44. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – This Spaniel breed is very sociable and loves to be around people. They can be quite fearless at times, especially when playing.
44 (tie). German Wirehaired Pointer – These are active dogs with a lot of loyalty and affection towards its loved ones.
44 (tie). Black and Tan Coonhound – The Black and Tan Coonhounds are mellow dogs with an even temper. Overall, the dog breed is easygoing and very lovable.
44 (tie). American Water Spaniel – Intelligent and trainable, the American Water Spaniel is regarded as a very protective dog. They will have your back.
45. Siberian Husky – The Huskies are serious workers with a lot of energy to expend. At the same time, they’re gentle and friendly dogs.
45 (tie). Bichon Frise – The Bichon Frise are little feisty dogs with a lot of cheer and energy. They love to play, but can be sensitive at times.
45 (tie). King Charles Spaniel – A very similar dog to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, these dogs are great people pleasers.
46. Tibetan Spaniel – This Spaniel is aloof and independent, but they make up for it with their intelligence and assertiveness.
46 (tie). English Foxhound – These dogs have extremely high patience on top of a gentle attitude. They make very good companion dogs.
46 (tie). Otterhound – The Otterhounds are very even tempered dogs with a very pleasant manner. Everyone will get along with them.
46 (tie). Jack Russell Terrier – These Terriers are very intelligent, but also stubborn at times. They are energetic, fearless and active dogs.
46 (tie). American Foxhound – This dog breed is loyal and independent, but can be kind and loving dogs at home.
46 (tie). Greyhound – These dogs are great runners, but also require a lot of exercise. They’re active and independent hounds.
46 (tie). Wirehaired Pointing Griffon – The Griffons are proud and loyal dogs, known to be very trainable. Despite the bold personality, they’re actually very gentle.
47. West Highland White Terrier – These dogs are independent and courageous workers, but also friendly around those at home.
47 (tie). Havanese – The Havanese are gentle and playful companion dogs that need a lot of affection in return.
47 (tie). Scottish Deerhound – The Scottish Deerhound is gentle, friendly and docile dogs. But, they are also very dignified breeds.
48. Boxer – The Boxer dogs are full of energy and have a playful manner. They have a bold attitude and are very courageous dogs too.
48 (tie). Great Dane – The Great Dane is the big, friendly giant of dogs. They’re actually very reserved and gentle dogs.
49. Dachshund – Despite their small size and funny body shape, the Daschunds are actually courageous dogs. They also have a lively and playful attitude.
49 (tie). Shiba Inu – The Shiba is a little fearless dog with lots of confidence for its size. They’re also alert and keen when outside.
49 (tie). Staffordshire Bull Terrier – These Bull Terriers are bold and reliable dogs. They’re courageous and fearless, but affectionate at the same time.
50. Alaskan Malamute – The Alaskan Malamutes are known for its loyalty and devotion, but they are a very playful breed too.
51. Whippet – The Whippet dogs are gentle, friendly and quiet, but are surprisingly very intelligent dogs.
51 (tie). Chinese Shar Pei – These Chinese dog breeds are very suspicious dogs. They’re especially careful and alert around unfamiliar people.
51 (tie). Wire Fox Terrier – These Terriers are bold and fearless dogs. Despite that, they are friendly dogs to be around.
52. Rhodesian Ridgeback – Although they’re loyal dogs, the Ridgeback is known to be a little mischievous at times.
53. Ibizan Hound – These hounds have a kind of clownish personality to lighten the mood. But don’t mistaken them as dumb, they are certainly intelligent dogs.
53 (tie). Welsh Terrier – The Welsh Terrier is spirited and alert dogs. Their intelligence make them very trainable dogs too.
53 (tie). Irish Terrier – These dogs are dominant and protective of the family. At the same time, their high intelligence makes them very trainable.
54. Boston Terrier – Overall, the Boston Terriers are very lively and friendly to be around.
54 (tie). Akita – The Akitas are dignified dogs with a docile and friendly personality. They’re always alert and very courageous.
Did your dog breed not make the list? That’s okay. But if you still want to see how your dog breed’s intelligence stacks up with the rest, you can. Check out our list of the least intelligent dog breeds.
Note: If your dog is not on either list, it may be because they are a mixed breed. However, if your dog isn’t a mixed breed, they may not be a recognized breed. The dog breeds that made this list are only those that are officially recognized by the American and Canadian Kennel Association.
Does Owning a Smart Dog Breed Matter?
In a nutshell, no it does not and should not matter. If you had a kid that was loving and affectionate, but not as intelligent as you wanted, what would you do? Would you abandon them or wish you had another kid? Of course not!
Choose a Dog Breed that Matches You
I understand where people come from when they obsess over buying smart dog breeds. Sure, it can make dog training easier and save some time initially. But I always suggest that its best to find a dog breed that matches your personality.
Unless you need a dog trained for something special (think police, service, etc.), every dog can learn all the basic tricks necessary. And, all dogs can learn how to be house trained easily.
But every dog breed has a unique personality and temperament. I urge you to pick a dog that fits your personality, hobbies and lifestyle regardless of how smart they are.