If you want an intelligent and teachable companion, consider one of the smartest dog breeds.
If you have a toddler, then you might have some familiarity with the intelligence of a dog. Most dogs are about as smart as the average two-year-old, but there is a range of canine intelligence across different breeds. Of course, as those with toddlers or dogs know, neither a two-year-old nor a dog needs exceptional intelligence to get into a lot of trouble. The smartest dog breeds might have you doing a double-take, though. These clever canines will win you over with their brains, whether it's their ability to learn new commands or their astute sense of what you're thinking. Just keep in mind that some of this intelligence, if misguided, can result in some pretty stubborn dog breeds as well.
Psychologist and trainer Stanley Coren's famous book The Intelligence of Dogs is regarded as a definitive ranking of more than 100 breeds. Coren interviewed numerous breeders and trainers of dogs over several years, identifying what exactly defines intelligence in dogs. Often met with mixed emotions, his central thesis marks a few ways to identify the smartest pups: These breeds are responsive to commands, radiate obedience and working intelligence, and can be trained for specialized tasks like hunting or security. Many of the top breeds in Coren's list are often service dogs or police dogs.
According to Coren's decade-long research, the 15 smartest dogs include German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, and more than a dozen other beloved breeds. (Look to his book for the full ranking of 131 different dogs!) If your four-legged BFF happens to be one of the smartest dog breeds, make sure they never stop learning new tricks or going through obedience trials. Your furniture and your sanity will thank you.
15 Smartest Dogs Breeds, Ranked
1. Border Collie
Border Collies are so smart that they need to have a job to keep them occupied. These high-energy pups make excellent herding dogs, and as family pets, they are happy to help around the house. Australian Cattle Dogs and Australian Shepherds also fall into this category.
Poodles are usually associated with canine fashion, but they are also among the very best dog breeds for intelligence. They were originally bred for bird hunting and water retrieving and have been trained to bring supplies to soldiers wounded in battle.
3. German Shepherd
The German shepherd is heralded as great police, military, and security guard dog. They're trained to sniff out bombs, drugs, and people. They're also extremely loyal to and protective of their masters. In spite of their professional lives, many german shepherds make perfect family pets as well.
4. Golden Retriever
Golden retrievers make fantastic family pets, and their intelligence makes them well-suited to be service dogs. English setters can also be put in the smart retriever category. Retrievers are known for having gentle mouths, meaning you'll never have to worry about them around young children.
5. Doberman Pinscher
The Doberman pinscher was originally bred to be a guardian by a tax collector who wanted protection while making his rounds. Dobermans also make great police dogs and military dogs. This pup might look a bit intimidating on the outside, but dobermans can fit into many households with ease, as long as they're getting the proper training.
6. Shetland Sheepdog
Herding dogs like the Shetland sheepdog tend to be highly intelligent. Shelties make great family pets and can be easily trained to perform in agility competitions.
7. Labrador Retriever
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Friendly and intelligent, labs have been named the most popular dog breed in the country by the American Kennel Club for more than three decades. Labs make wonderful family pets, but they're also frequently used as hunting dogs, therapy dogs, and assistance dogs, such as seeing-eye dogs.
At only 11 inches high, the Papillon is the smartest of the toy breeds. They're highly active and highly trainable compared to some of the other smallest dog breeds. If you see a badly behaved Papillon, it's probably because it hasn't received proper training. Though small, this pup packs a powerful intellectual punch.
The Rottweiler gets a bad reputation, but they are actually very affectionate when raised with love. They are extremely loyal to their families and don't hesitate to defend them, making for ideal watchdogs. When trained properly and given appropriate physical attention, Rottweilers are all bark and no bite.
10. Australian Cattle Dog
As high energy as they come, Australian cattle dogs have a high instinctive intelligence. This makes them great working dogs that excel in a variety of roles, especially moving livestock on farms. That being said, if these high energy dogs are not intellectually stimulated, they'll find their own ways to entertain themselves--usually with household items you'd rather they not chew on.
11. Pembroke Welsh Corgis
The Pembroke Welsh corgi is a smart, intelligent, and affectionate breed, according to the AKC. These dogs make amazing herding and guard dogs and are loyal, loving pets who are easily trained. If this breed is good enough for the Queen of England, it probably makes a great breed for everyone!
12. Miniature Schnauzers
Mini Schnauzers are intelligent, willing to please, and excellent at obeying commands. These loyal dogs are fast learners, and they make great companions.
13. English Springer Spaniel
Among the most affectionate dog breeds out there, don't let those dreamy eyes fool you: English springer spaniels are rugged, well-built dogs for hunting and are highly trainable.
14. Belgian Tervuren
Belgian Tervurens (or Belgian shepherds) are high-energy, eager-to-please dogs. Relaxed owners will want to proceed with caution, as Tervs need lots of mental and physical stimulation to keep them happy.
These Belgian sheepdogs may be small, but they're among the most famous breeds for being stealthy, small-animal hunters. Schipperkes were even used during World War II by the Belgian Resistance, which used these dogs to run messages between hideouts without Nazi armies realizing they were, well, secret agents.
Other intelligent breeds that Cohen identifies are collies, German shorthaired pointers, English cocker spaniels, Brittany spaniels, cocker spaniels, and Belgian Malinois.
Popular dog breeds that fell towards the bottom of Coren's list, based on trainability and obedience intelligence, include Shih Tzus, Pekingeses, bloodhounds, chow chows, bulldogs, and Afghan hounds.
Training dogs is all about consistency, focus, and patience. Starting young is the best way to ensure your companion is well-equipped for whatever life has in store.
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