When potential owners begin looking into dog breeds, researching basic breed information is a must. Starting with our “smartest dog breeds” list is a bright idea (pun intended). In fact, it’s normal most people would want to gauge the intelligence of their potential new dog.
But regardless of how “smart” a dog you choose, what’s more important is that they’re loving and kind. There really is no reason to pick a dog breed just because they’re intelligent. They really don’t need to be that smart.
Most dogs will be able to go through basic dog training that’s not above and beyond what you’ll need. But if you’re looking for a dog to do a specialized job, then intelligence matters even less.
Some “dumb” dog breeds specialize in hunting, retrieving, pointing, herding, among other things. Though not the best at following commands, they excel in other areas.
RECOMMENDED: 20 Least Intelligent Dog Breeds
Table of Contents
- How Are the Smartest Dog Breeds Measured?
- Dogs with Average Intelligence
- Dogs Above Average Intelligence
- Bright Dogs
- Top 10 Smartest Dog Breeds
- The Other Factors of Canine Intelligence
- My Dog Isn’t on the Intelligence List
- Does Owning a Smart Dog Breed Matter?
How Are the Smartest Dog Breeds Measured?
Stanley Coren, a canine psychologist from the University of British Columbia, developed a criteria for ranking dog intelligence. With his criteria, Coren contacted obedience trial judges from the American and Canadian Kennel Club to help evaluate and rank various dog breeds.
He received 199 responses, which represented half of obedience judges in North America (at the time). In addition, only dog breeds that received at least 100 evaluations qualified for his final rankings.
As a result, he was able to fine-tune his system and famously rank every single recognized breed. His findings eventually led to his renowned book: “The Intelligence of Dogs.” It’s a fantastic read – you can check it out here.
The Criteria for Dog Intelligence
Stanley Coren’s criteria for dog intelligence was met with a lot of skepticism and criticism. However, he remained consistent with these two principles in which he conducted his trials.
His dog intelligence criteria was based on the following:
- Dog breeds were measured by the number of repetitions needed to learn a new command. This meant that “smarter” dogs were able to learn new commands with fewer repetitions.
- The success rate that your dog obeys a known command on the the first attempt reflects how smart a dog is. For example, if your dog obeys a known command (on the first attempt) 19 out of 20 times, they’re top-10 smart.
The results were relatively consistent. For example, Border Collies were always in the top 10, while Afghan Hounds were always in the bottom 10.
In fact, Coren estimated that a Border Collie knew 200 spoken words (commands) on average.
Dogs with Average Intelligence
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 intelligent dogs will obey a known command on the first try with at least a 50% success rate. Some dogs just need a little more clarification.
Ranked 100 – 60th Smartest Dog Breeds
100 . Boston Terrier – The Boston Terriers are called the “American Gentleman” dogs for a reason. They’re friendly, kind and entertaining – all the best qualities of a terrier.
99. Welsh Terrier – The Welsh Terrier is spirited and alert dogs. Their intelligence make them very trainable dogs too.
98. Irish Terrier – These dogs are dominant and protective of the family. At the same time, their high intelligence makes them very trainable.
97. 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.
96. Rhodesian Ridgeback – Although they’re loyal dogs, the Ridgeback is known to be a little mischievous at times.
95. Wire Fox Terrier – These Terriers are bold and fearless dogs. Despite that, they are friendly dogs to be around.
94. Chinese Shar Pei – These Chinese dog breeds are very suspicious dogs. They’re especially careful and alert around unfamiliar people.
93. Whippet – The Whippet dogs are gentle, friendly and quiet, but are surprisingly very intelligent dogs.
92. Alaskan Malamute – The Alaskan Malamutes are known for its loyalty and devotion, but they are a very playful breed too.
91. Staffordshire Bull Terrier – These Bull Terriers are bold and reliable dogs. They’re courageous and fearless, but affectionate at the same time.
90. Shiba Inu – The Shiba is a little fearless dog with lots of confidence for its size. They’re also alert and keen when outside.
89. Dachshund – Despite their small size and funny body shape, the Daschunds are actually courageous dogs. They also have a lively and playful attitude.
88. Great Dane – The Great Dane is the big, friendly giant of dogs. They’re actually very reserved and gentle dogs.
87. Boxer – The Boxer dogs are full of energy and have a playful manner. They have a bold attitude and are very courageous dogs too.
86. Scottish Deerhound – The Scottish Deerhound is gentle, friendly and docile dogs. But, they are also very dignified breeds.
85. Havanese – The Havanese are gentle and playful companion dogs that need a lot of affection in return.
84. West Highland White Terrier – These dogs are independent and courageous workers, but also friendly around those at home.
83. Wirehaired Pointing Griffon – The Griffons are proud and loyal dogs, known to be very trainable. Despite the bold personality, they’re actually very gentle.
82. Greyhound – These dogs are great runners, but also require a lot of exercise. They’re active and independent hounds.
81. American Foxhound – This dog breed is loyal and independent, but can be kind and loving dogs at home.
80. Jack Russell Terrier – These Terriers are very intelligent, but also stubborn at times. They are energetic, fearless and active dogs.
79. Otterhound – The Otterhounds are very even tempered dogs with a very pleasant manner. Everyone will get along with them.
78. English Foxhound – These dogs have extremely high patience on top of a gentle attitude. They make very good companion dogs.
77. Tibetan Spaniel – This Spaniel is aloof and independent, but they make up for it with their intelligence and assertiveness.
76. King Charles Spaniel – A very similar dog to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, these dogs are great people pleasers.
75. 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.
74. Siberian Husky – The Huskies are serious workers with a lot of energy to expend. At the same time, they’re gentle and friendly dogs.
73. American Water Spaniel – Intelligent and trainable, the American Water Spaniel is regarded as a very protective dog. They will have your back.
72. 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.
71. German Wirehaired Pointer – These are active dogs with a lot of loyalty and affection towards its loved ones.
70. 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.
69. Pointer – The Pointer is everything you want in a dog. They are very loyal, intelligent, affectionate, but active at the same time.
68. Finnish Spitz – This dog breed is generally very happy and playful. They can be very vocal dogs at home.
67. Saluki – Although reserved at times and aloof towards people, the Saluki is quietly intelligent.
66. Australian Shepherd – These are overall good-natured dogs. Their loyalty and affection towards the family make them very protective dogs.
65. Kuvasz – The Kuvasz dogs are extremely loyal dogs, but can sometimes be overly protective of their owners.
64. Irish Wolfhound – These Wolfhound breeds have a very calm personality. They’re loyal and sweet-tempered, and would do well around kids.
63. Curly Coated Retriever – This Retriever breed is known to be very trainable. Their clever attitude and lively personality make them excellent dogs.
62. 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.
61. Bedlington Terrier – The Bedlington is affectionate and intelligent, making them excellent companion dogs to own.
60. Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier – The lively and spirited personalities of the Wheaten Terrier make them great entertaining dogs to own.
Dogs Above Average Intelligence
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 learn 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 with 70% (or higher) accuracy.
Ranked 59 – 31st Smartest Dog Breeds
59. 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.
58. Norwich Terrier – The Norwich is a bit more sensitive and affectionate than most dog breeds. Despite that, they’re still very energetic dogs.
57. 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.
56. 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.
55. English Setter – The English Setter has it all. They’re smart dogs on top of being playful, gentle, energetic and affectionate.
54. Miniature Pinscher – The miniature version of the Pinscher is like you would expect: playful, active and fun-loving. However, they’re quite clever canines.
53. Australian Silky Terrier – These terriers are alert and full of joy. Their friendly nature make them a compatible dog with kids.
52. Affenpinscher – These little Pinschers are very curious in personality and love to explore. Although they love to play, they can also be stubborn.
51. Norwegian Elkhound – The Elkhound is one bold and courageous dog. From their stance to their look and attitude, you can tell they’re quite awesome dogs.
50. 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.
49. 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.
48. Cairn Terrier – The Cairn is one of the oldest Terrier breeds. They can be quite the assertive and fearless dog on the field.
47. Bearded Collie – These Collies are just brimming with self-confidence. They’re smart with a energetic and lively nature to them.
46. 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.
45. American Staffordshire Terrier – This dog breed will always have your back. They’re tenacious and courageous, yet loyal and devoted.
44. Australian Terrier – Although small, the Australian Terrier is big in liveliness and energy. They make wonderful companion dogs for those just as spirited.
43. Newfoundland – The Newfoundlands are dogs that are big gentle giants. They’re sweet and kind-hearted canines.
42. 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.
41. Samoyed – The Samoyed dogs love to play in a lively and energetic manner. However, they are known to be stubborn from time to time.
40. Manchester Terrier – The Manchester Terrier is such a pleasant and happy dog to be around. Their wonderful personalities will liven up any room.
39. Welsh Springer Spaniel – These small Spaniels are always lively and active. They love people, but can be a little stubborn at times.
38. Briard – The Briard dog breed is known for its undying loyalty. They are great people pleasers and will fit well with any family.
37. Border Terrier – The Border Terrier is fearless and alert in the fields, but affectionate and obedient at home. They’re great dogs to own.
36. 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.
35. Airedale Terrier – This dog breed is very sociable and outgoing. They’re highly intelligent dogs as well.
34. Giant Schnauzer – This is one powerful and dominant Schnauzer. The good news is that they’re loyal and kind dogs too.
33. Yorkshire Terrier – The Yorkshire is small, but bold and courageous. Small dogs aren’t typically known for intelligence, but this little one is.
32. 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.
31. 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.
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 a 85% success rate. Not bad at all.
Ranked 30 – 11th Smartest Dog Breeds
30. Cardigan Welsh Corgi – Like the Pembroke, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi is highly intelligent. The Cardigan is a great companion to have.
29. Vizsla – The Vizsla dog is gentle and affectionate. Although quiet, the Vizsla is quite the smart canine.
28. Irish Water Spaniel – They may have a goofy and silly personality. But this large Spaniel breed is a lot smarter than it acts.
27. Pomeranian – These small dogs are surprisingly very sociable and playful. They love being active and have the intelligence to learn quickly.
26. Bernese Mountain Dog – This dog breed makes the perfect family dog. They’re smart, loyal and affectionate towards human.
25. Belgian Malinois – The Malinois is an extremely hyper dog. They’re smart enough to be trained to be police or special search dogs. Think of them as small German Shepherds with unlimited energy.
24. Weimaraner – Although very smart, the Weimaraner has been known to be aloof around people. They just need more time to warm up to people.
23. American 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.
22. Brittany – Their attentive personality and intelligence make them very adaptable dogs. It always seems like they know whats going on.
21. Standard Schnauzer – The Schnauzer is overall very trainable and good-hearted. They love to play and can be excellent family dogs.
20. English Cocker Spaniel – They’re quiet dog breeds, but also extremely smart. Don’t mistaken the quietness as low intelligence.
19. Flat-Coated Retriever – The Flat-coated Retriever is always happy and optimistic. They like to socialize and are 100% devoted to their humans.
18. German Shorthaired Pointer – These dogs are known to be very trainable. I’m certain their high intelligence has something to do with that.
17. Keeshond – The Keeshond breed is active and energetic. But their high intelligence make them very obedient dogs to own.
16. 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. Belgian Sheepdog – This breed is similar to the Schipperke, from physical appearance to intelligence. They are also slightly larger, but great herders too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. People are attracted to smart people. Likewise, they’re attracted to smart dogs.
The breeds that have made this exclusive category are some of the most trainable dogs. According to Coren, the top 10 can learn a new command with just 5 repetitions or less!
Additionally, these breeds will obey a known command on 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.
Highlights: Entertaining, Active, Curious
The Australian Cattle Dog is one of the premier herding dogs to hail from Australia. Part of the reason why they’re such fantastic herders is because of their high dog IQ. Though they love to work, it takes intelligence to be such skilled and efficient herding dogs.
Australian Cattle Dogs are also famously called the Blue Heelers. They’re called this because of their unique herding technique, in which they nip at the heels of the cattles. Many Australian Cattle Dogs also come in a blue coat color too, hence the complete name.
Highlights: Loyal, Protective, Affectionate
The Rottweiler (or “Rottie”) is one of the most loyal dogs in the dogdom. They are confident, yet smart and big on pleasing people. Rottweilers are generally used as watchdogs because of their bold and courageous personality.
There aren’t not many people I know that would want to mess with one. Rottweilers make fantastic police dogs, herding dogs, service dogs or just a companion and friend. They’re just that versatile. And, like many other intelligent dogs, they play great with kids.
Highlights: Friendly, Cheerful, Optimistic
The Papillon dog breed is not as popular or known as the others on this list. But don’t let that deter you from keeping one. Their intelligence is first class and they are especially good at learning tricks – mainly 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 people-oriented. Papillons are a great choice for a family dog or affectionate lap dog.
Highlights: Friendly, Social, Active
There’s a reason why the Labrador Retriever is the most common dog breed in the States. They’re a good “jack of all trades” dog. There’s really no negatives to the Labrador. Hence, their staggering popularity. In fact, they’ve been the most popular breed in the United States for decades.
The Lab is certainly a smart dog breed, but they are also gentle, courageous and easy to raise. They’re excellent family dogs and great around kids. Needless to say, Labs are the perfect companion dogs.
6. Shetland Sheepdog
Highlights: Playful, Lively, Cheerful
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 show off too). Plus, they learn them fast. Their loyalty lies with the family and they will happily entertain the kids with tricks.
Some say they’re the perfect playmates for children. Furthermore, they make great watchdogs because they’re vigilant by nature, especially around those they’re not familiar with. Fortunately, the Shetland Sheepdog is smart enough to recognize when strangers are threats or friends.
Highlights: Devoted, Fearless, Vigilant
The Dobermann has massive strength, size, speed and endurance. Like the German Shepherd, they’re fantastic police dogs. Because of all their amazing physical attributes, along with high intelligence, Dobermans are often called “war dogs.” Why you ask?
They served in the Second Battle of Guam in 1944 and many of them died for the country in that war. Still, Dobermans make great family dogs because of their intense devotion. If you’re looking for a dignified companion that will protect you and your family at all cost, you’ve found the dog.
Highlights: Friendly, Affectionate, Loyal
Golden Retrievers are the third most popular dog breed in America. They are almost perfect dogs for any type of owner, which explains their immense popularity.
Obviously, they’re wicked smart and one of the most trainable dog breeds. They’re known to be extremely friendly, loyal and skilled sporting dogs. Whatever task you hand their way, they will take to heart and perform to the best of their abilities. They’re the perfect feel-good family dog.
Highlights: Confident, Brave, Diligent
The German Shepherd is the premiere dog for police forces around the world. Is it really a surprise that law enforcement would pick a dog breed this high up the list? They are extremely smart, ferocious workers and brave. All of which, make them ideal for a partner-in-crime.
German Shepherds are also the 2nd most popular family dogs due to their devoted loyalty and protective instincts. They love to work for their family and will always have their backs. However, they require a ton of work.
Highlights: Dignified, Affectionate, Active
The Poodle is a dog breed that’s very dignified and proud – rightfully so. They are exceptionally quick learners and have been used to track down, hunt and retrieve a variety of game. Some Poodles are even bred to retrieve objects from the water.
Due to their high intelligence and fantastic temperaments, they have become widely popular family dogs. In fact, they’re the 7th most popular breed in the US. The Poodle’s cheerful personality make them a playful companion dog worth keeping for any family.
With such a high intelligence, is it really a surprise why Poodle mixes (like the Labradoodle and Goldendoodle )are super smart too?
Highlights: Loyal, Hardworking, Smart
The Border Collie tops the list as the #1 smartest dog breed. Who would have guessed? These workaholics are arguably the best sheep herders among all dog breeds.
They’re intelligent, hard workers and skilled. However, they’re much more than just excellent herding dogs. The Border Collie is also very lively and affectionate towards its family. They make for a great cuddle at home, but also commanding workers on the field.
The Other Factors of Canine Intelligence
The 100 smartest dog breeds list featured in this article was based on obedience/working intelligence. However, there’s so much more to dog IQ than just that – namely, instinctive and adaptive intelligence.
Stanley Coren used working and obedience intelligence because it’s much easier to rank dog breeds based on that type of intelligence. Both instinctive and adaptive intelligence are less objective. Let me explain why.
Instinctive Canine Intelligence
Instinctive intelligence refers to the innate ability or skill of the dog breed. In other words, what the dog was bred for.
For example, Australian Shepherds may be average for obedience intelligence, but they excel with instinctive intelligence. Australian Shepherds were bred to herd livestock, and as a result, they’re some of the best herders in the dogdom.
The ability to round up livestock and guide them to towards a location requires intelligence, especially without previous training from humans.
Though they may be just family dogs and companions today, each dog breed was originally bred for a certain job. Whether it’s herding, guarding, retrieving, ratting or hunting, all dogs have instinctive intelligence.
Adaptive Intelligence in Dogs
The third and final component of canine IQ is adaptive intelligence, which refers to what the dog can learn for him or herself.
How great is the dog at learning from previous experiences and the environment? Is the dog good at solving problems without human intervention? All these questions are used to assess adaptive intelligence in dogs.
Within the same breed of dog, individual dogs have roughly the same instinctive intelligence. However, adaptive intelligence can vary a lot from dog to dog.
However, there are many dog breeds known for high adaptive intelligence, such as Cocker Spaniels, Shiba Inus, Golden Retrievers, Poodles and many more.
An example of adaptive intelligence is a dog learning that when you put on sunscreen, you’re going to walk the dog. It could also be a dog avoiding a house with a large aggressive dog on walks.
My Dog Isn’t on the Intelligence List
Did your dog breed not make the list? That’s okay, there are a few reasons they may not be on this list.
1. Outside the Top 100
This list only accounts for the 100 most intelligent breeds. However, there are many more dog breeds than that. According to the AKC, there are currently 193 recognized dog breeds. So, nearly half of all recognized dog breeds fall outside this top 100 list!
2. Mixed Dog Breeds
There is no data on mutts at the time because there are simply too many variations. However, if your dog is a cross of two highly intelligent breeds, they’re likely very intelligent – such as the Goldendoodle. See mixed dog breeds here.
3. Not a Recognized Breed
This list only contains breeds recognized by the American and Canadian Kennel Club. For example, the Japanese Spitz wasn’t included in Coren’s trials.
Those dogs may be recognized by the JKC, but not the AKC or CKC. Thus, they wouldn’t be included on this list.
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!
Keep in mind, you don’t need to spend a fortune to buy a smart dog. Not all dogs near the top of the intelligence list are expensive dog breeds.
Choose a Dog Breed That Matches You
I understand why people obsess over buying smart dog breeds. Sure, it can make dog training a bit easier and save some time initially. But I always suggest that its best to find a dog breed that matches your personality and needs.
Unless you need a dog trained for something special (think police, service, etc.), every dog can learn all the basic commands necessary. And, all dogs can learn how to be house trained with relative ease.
But every dog breed has a unique personality and temperament. With that said, I urge you to pick a dog that fits your personality, hobbies and lifestyle regardless of how smart they are.
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