Dog Training Smartest Dogs

Are Border Collies Smart? – Here’s Why They’re the Most Intelligent Dog

Border Collies are the most intelligent dog breed in the world.
Written by Richard Jeng

Border Collies are some of the hardest working dogs you’ll find. They have a loving and affectionate side, but also a fierce workaholic attitude. They’re full of energy – all the time. But how does their intelligence compare to other dogs?

So, are Border Collies smart? The Border Collie is the world’s smartest dog breed for obedience and working intelligence. In fact, the world’s most intelligent individual dog was a Border Collie who knew over 1,000 nouns. And with high adaptive and instinctive IQ, it’s no wonder they’re such smart dogs.

There’s no denying it – the Border Collie is an extremely smart dog. There are so many reasons why they’re second to none in dog smarts. So, let’s examine what really makes them the “world’s smartest.”

RECOMMENDED: 100 Most intelligent Dog Breeds

How We Measure a Border Collie’s Intelligence

Border Collies ranked first in intelligence for obedience and working intelligence.

The smartest dog breeds list that skyrocketed the Border Collies’ popularity is largely credited to canine psychologist Stanley Coren. But how we he conclude that Border Collies were the most intelligent?

Coren had the help of 199 obedience trial judges from the Canadian and American Kennel Club. His idea was initially met with a lot of enthusiasm and he received a huge response.

The Dog Intelligence Criteria

Using Coren’s dog intelligence criteria, the judges evaluated and ranked hundreds of dog breeds. His criteria for the trials were as follow:

  1. The number of repetitions necessary for a dog breed to learn an unknown command. As you may have guessed, the fewer repetitions needed, the higher the breed ranked for dog intelligence.
  2. The success rate of the dog breed obeying a known command on the first try. The higher the rate, the more intelligent and obedient the dog breed.

Though hundreds of dogs were evaluated for Coren’s dog intelligence study, not all breeds made the cut. Only those that received at least 100 evaluations made the final list.

Thanks to the popularity of the Border Collie, they made the cut. In addition, only dog breeds that were officially recognized by the AKC and or CKC participated. In other words, there were no mixed dog breeds in Coren’s trials.

How the Border Collie Performed

The Border Collie performed the best, landing them the title of the “smartest dog breed in the world.” They were in a class of their own and only 9 other dogs came close.

Being in the top 10 for intelligence meant that Border Collies are able to learn a new command with fewer than 5 repetitions. They can easily pick up a new command in a few short minutes!

Personally, what’s more impressive is how obedient Border Collies actually are. These dogs are able to obey a known command (on the first attempt) with a 95% or better success rate!

Few dog breeds can compare. However, there are 9 other dog breeds in the same intelligence class. For example, the Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Labrador, Poodle, Dobermann and Rottweiler.

Border Collies vs. “Average” Dogs

The Border Collie blew the competition away. Out of 138 qualifying dog breeds, they came out on top! But how do these dogs compare to your average intelligent dog?

The “average dog” is able to learn a new command with 25 to 40 repetitions. So, the Border Collie is at least 5 times faster in learning new commands.

Furthermore, average intelligent dogs will obey a known command on the first try with just a 50% or better success rate. Not even close to the obedience of a Border Collie.

There’s nothing wrong with being average. In fact, some of the world’s most popular and hard working dogs were classified as “average” in Coren’s test.

For example, the Australian Shepherd, Husky, Great Dane, Greyhound, Shiba Inu, Boston Terrier, Dachshund and Boxer are all average.

Other Reasons Why Border Collies Are Smart

There's more to a Border Collie's intelligence than just obedience.

When it comes to measuring a dog’s IQ, there’s so much more to it than just obedience and working intelligence. However, that component of dog intelligence is the most objective. So, it’s easier to measure and rank dog breeds that way.

With that said, there are three dimensions of dog intelligence. The other two are adaptive and instinctive intelligence. Both of which, are more subjective than obedience/working intelligence.

Still, we have evidence that point to Border Collies having extremely high adaptive and instinctive intelligence. Here are the other reasons why these dogs are highly intelligent.

First Class Herding Dogs

Instinctive intelligence refers to the inborn or natural ability and skills that the dog breed has. In other words, what was the dog bred for?

When you think of herding dogs, the Border Collie comes to mind. They’re some of the best herding dogs in the world. In fact, they’re considered the best sheep herders.

The innate ability of the Border Collie to round up sheep, move them into formations and drive them towards a direction requires instinctive intelligence. Remember that they’re able to do this without further human training. It’s instincts.

Because these dogs are so good at herding, we know that they have extremely high instinctive intelligence. It’s pretty difficult to find a Border Collie with low herding instincts.

Nearly all individual Border Collies have roughly the same instinctive intelligence. It’s the adaptive intelligence where these individual dogs may differ.

Border Collie’s Adaptive Intelligence

The last dimension of dog IQ is adaptive intelligence. This component refers to the ability for the Border Collie to learn for itself.

If a dog is excellent at problem solving and or learning from previous experiences (and mistakes), they tend to have high adaptive intelligence.

The Border Collie is not all about obedience training and herding. Though adaptive intelligence in these dogs can vary, most of them are born with high adaptive intelligence.

For example, one owner tells us a story about her Border Collie:

Biscuit, my Border Collie, knows when its time for…everything! For example, if i put on sunscreen, were going for a walk. If I pick up the keys, I’m leaving the house. If I start the water for the tub, he’s getting a bath. He’s so incredibly keen!

The fact that Biscuit was able to learn the small details of human actions and connect it with a certain activity or event is incredible. This is adaptive dog intelligence at its finest.

Another owner gives us this example:

My Border has a bit of separation anxiety. He’ll start barking if I leave the house to go to work, dinner, friends, etc. But if I’m going out to water or cut the lawn, he won’t bark. He somehow knows…

These are just a few examples of Border Collies with extremely high adaptive intelligence. However, I’m certain that if you asked any Border owner, they’ll tell you the same type of stories.

Though this may not be the case with all Border Collies. I think it’s safe to say that most exhibit this type of dog intelligence.

Is Your Border Collie Smart?

Is you Border Collie smart? How smart are they?

One of the best methods of gauging the intelligence of a dog breed is to ask the owners. For you convenience, we surveyed the Border Collie Subreddit and asked this question. Here’s what these owners had to say about their Borders:

Real Owner Answers

1. Tigui91 says Yes:One of the great things is that Border Collies are so smart the virtually teach themselves how to potty train, and crate train. You have to be patient and try not to get frustrated as they are very sensitive dogs.”

2. Jerretjackzn29 says Yes:I’ve never met a dog that I thought was ‘too smart’ until I met my Border Collie. Seriously too smart for his own good sometimes.”

3. Mr_brant says Yes:Out of all the dogs I’ve ever owned, my latest Jett is by far the most intelligent. I rescued him in 2010 during a pretty difficult time in my life and in reality, he rescued me.

4. Settlersofmixed says Yes:I think everyone in the world knows that Border Collies are intelligent dogs….and if not, trust me they are!

5. Turtlebeansforall says Yes:So, I grew up with Border Collies. Fair warning to all owners. If you get another dog breed that’s…less intelligent, you may not be able to tolerate it!

6. Thehazzanator says Yes:Border Collies are very smart loving creatures. I’ve grown up with so many different dogs, but as an adult now with a Border Collie, I couldn’t imagine her being any other kind of dog.”

7. Rcj72688 says Yes:There’s a reason why Border Collies are the smartest breeds in the WORLD. I was skeptic until I actually brought one home.

8. Ereencepark2 says Yes: “There are little things he does that makes me KNOW he’s smart. But my Border Collie can be really stubborn with training at times.

9. Tokisushi says Yes:Border collies are really high energy and incredibly smart, but each individual can have different aptitudes and personalities.”

10. Amareloremipsum says Yes: “My 6-month old Border Collie Kratos is so amazing. He’s very intelligent, gentle with people and kids, responsive and athletic. He’s just my dream dog.

Dealing With Smart Border Collies

Now that we’ve seen just how smart Border Collies are, there are some things to consider. Many owners will tell you that a smart dog is not for everyone.

This is because the more intelligent dog breeds need more mental stimulation. This is certainly true for the Border Collie. Without sufficient stimulation to their minds, they may exhibit some destructive behavior.

Mental stimulation for your Border Collie usually comes in the form of obedience training. Not only does it keep them sharp, but also obedient.

And according to Canna-Pet, the Border Collie needs at least 1 to 2 hours of physical and mental activities every single day!

Smart Toys for Border Collies

Of course not every dog owner will be able to provide a couple hours for their Border Collie. It’s why I recommend getting your dog some smart toys and dog puzzles to help out!

Here’s just a few of my dog’s favorite smart toys! The first I’d highly recommend is the Nina Ottosson Dog Puzzle. It’s a pretty unique puzzle and comes in three variations (I got the Hide n’ Slide).

Slip in your Collie’s favorite treats and let them go to work (as they do so well) on figuring out how to reach the goodies. It’ll keep your Border Collie entertained and stimulated for a while!

If you want to check out the Nina Ottosson, I highly recommend checking it out at Amazon here. My dogs love this and I’m sure yours will too!

Another fantastic smart toy is the StarMarks Bob-A-Lot Feeder. It’s great if your Border Collie eats too fast, but most importantly, it makes them “work” for their food.

The Bob-A-Lot comes with two chambers, so you can put both their treats and meals in there. Just make sure you’re getting a large size for your Border Collie. I highly recommend checking it out at Amazon!

It doesn’t matter if you choose to go with my two recommendations or not – there are so many good ones out there! However, my dogs have used these and I’m comfortable recommending them.

What’s more important is that you get your Border Collie something. Browse through Amazon and you’ll see a ton of great interactive dog toys for your dog!

Is a Border Collie For Me?

The Border Collie is a fantastic dog, but are they the right fit for you? When picking out a dog breed, it’s important that you pick one based off your needs, lifestyle and personality.

Never pick a dog breed because they’re “smart.” The truth is, all dogs (especially Border Collies) are smart enough for you and your family. And as we mentioned, these dogs require a lot of work because they’re so smart.

If you have the time and capacity to raise a healthy and happy Border Collie, then by all means go for it! They’re loving dogs with an energetic personality! There’s never a dull moment with these dogs.

In fact, they’re the happiest when you assign them a job or role in the family. Give them that and they’ll thrive!

Posts you may like:

About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd. Read More.

Leave a Comment

You cannot copy content of this page