15 Most Intelligent Dog Breeds

March 5, 2019

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Composing a list of the smartest dog breeds takes into account different characteristics, such as teachability, trainability and dog personality. Depending on what the dog’s trainer and owner wish to accomplish, different dog breeds are more suitable for performing certain tasks than others.

That doesn’t make them more or less intelligent, it makes them more or less appropriate for specific living conditions, family composition and task performance. On the other hand, comparing dog breeds based on their ‘intellectual’ abilities is an enjoyable assignment as dog lovers will agree no breed is stupid, some are just smarter than others.

The following list attempts to analyze and compare dog brainpower without hurting any pooch’s feelings or those of its owner.

15. Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell Terrier is mostly known for its high energy levels and neediness when it comes to physical activity and long hours that need to be invested in giving this breed proper exercise.

They are happy and loving dogs, but above all, Jack Russell Terriers are smart.

This breed can be quite stubborn, which can make training challenging, but once taught which type of behaviour is acceptable and which isn’t Jack Russell will enjoy structure, routine and order.

Early socialization is important for Jack Russell Terriers to make them well-rounded dogs as it is in their nature to hunt anything they perceive as prey as well as be aggressive and fearless when faced with a challenge or a threat.

14. Husky

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Husky is a polar dog bred to pull sleds in harsh northern climates and is one of the fastest dog breeds.

Huskies are also kept as family pets but they are primarily working dogs with high levels of intelligence, energy and athleticism.

Huskies can be easily trained to participate in a range of different activities, including skijoring, dog hiking, carting, dog scootering, and so on.

Huskies like to make themselves useful and prefer to be in work mode rather than in idle mode all the time.

Completing assignments and pulling people, cargo and other animals for amusement of others, such as in dog sports, or for helping people living in the north is how Huskies prefer to put their intelligence to good use.

13. English Setter

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English Setter is medium size dog bred for hunting and hunting games.

Although gentle, English Setters can often misbehave if not given proper mental stimulation.

Like other highly intelligent dogs, this breed requires obedience training to make life easier for both the dog and its owner.

English Setters are strong-willed and require strict treatment from owners, are highly energetic and enjoy being in the company of people.

They are attention-seekers and are the happiest when given a task to complete or a job to do. As is the case with most hunting and working dogs, this breed needs plenty of daily exercise to keep it healthy and obedient.

12. St. Bernard

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St. Bernard is a large dog breed developed as a working and rescue dog in the Swiss Alps and northern Italy.

St. Bernards are quite famous for their Alpine rescues, which is the type of dog behaviour that cannot be taught through training.

It is more the type of behaviour that reflects the intelligence and physical abilities of St. Bernards.

This breed is no longer used for Alpine rescues and nowadays often participates in canine agility contests and strength demonstrations.

Despite their size and intellectual abilities, which when not properly channeled can lead to destructive behaviour, St. Bernards are sweet and gentle dogs, especially with children.

11. Great Dane

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Great Danes are mostly known for their humongous size and often referred to as “gentle giants”.

Despite their size, Great Danes are friendly and rarely aggressive.

They were bred as hunting dogs thanks to their high intellectual abilities and desirable response to training.

With proper training and early socialization, Great Danes can excel at any role, from being a friendly family pet to being an obedient working dog.

This type of dog breed requires daily exercise but when young should not be worked too hard as they grow pretty quickly and can suffer joint and bone problems, which can later negatively affect their ability to be put their smarts to good use.

10. Australian Cattle Dog

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Australian Cattle Dog is a medium-size herding dog that is highly intelligent and enjoys performing its duties independently.

The Australian Cattle Dog is a working dog and requires strict and structured training, loves a challenge and is full of energy.

It is one of the most intelligent dog breeds and it earns this recognition by being highly obedient and trainable.

ACD requires plenty of exercise and space and unless it has a job do to, it needs to be entertained in other physically active ways to tame its high energy levels and active mind.

This dog breed requires very little maintenance but due to its mental capacity gets bored easily and it constantly needs to be kept busy.

9. Rottweiler

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Rottweiler is a medium to large size dog and a herding and working dog that is today mostly used as a family pet, guard and rescue dog.

As a working dog, it is rather smart and strong, highly dependable and the type of dog that responds well to training.

Rottweilers are also used as police dogs thanks to their obedience, devotion and good nature.

They are highly courageous and confident, enjoy being in control and in situations where they can intimidate their perceived opponent.

Rottweilers are excellent for guarding and moving stubborn stock that ignore Border Collies, for instance. They require serious and professional training to make good use of their smarts.

8. Papillon

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Papillon (French for “butterfly”) is a small Spaniel-type breed that is happy-go-lucky, adventurous and doesn’t shy away from people.

It can learn new tricks in no time and isn’t afraid to show its high level of self-esteem.

Papillon is good-natured and adapts well to its owner’s characteristics, but is particularly interesting to families with children as it is sociable and easily trainable, which makes it a great companion.

Despite its size, this dog breed needs plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Like most intelligent dogs, Papillon turns destructive if bored and left with nothing to do, and it requires extensive obedience training so that it’s not left with the option to let its imagination run wild.

7. Labrador Retriever

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Labrador Retrievers are highly intelligent, but are not herding dogs.

Labs enjoy being assistance dogs, including leading the blind, helping individuals with autism, being therapy dogs and even do detection work for the police.

Labradors are kind and pleasant, the most popular family dogs and generally loved by both dog lovers and those who claim not to be as enamoured with these animals.

Labradors express their intelligence in different ways, even by carrying an egg in the mouth without breaking it.

Labrador Retrievers like to climb, jump, swim and amuse themselves in different ways but are the happiest when tasked with a meaningful job.

6. Shetland Sheepdog

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Shetland Sheepdog is a medium size dog that like most other highly intelligent breeds is a herding dog as well.

Shetland Sheepdog is relatively reserved, doesn’t show off as a Papillon does, but it’s always alert and rather gentle with its owners.

Research has shown that Shetlies can understand a new command in less than 5 repetitions, which makes them one of the most intelligent dog breeds.

Teaching a dog to sit and roll over isn’t a great sign of the pooch’s intelligence. On the other hand, dogs that are natural herders, who take livestock from one place to another and defend it from predators are highly intelligent as no amount of training can ever produce this type of behaviour in non-herding dogs.

5. Doberman

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Doberman is a relatively large dog breed originally bred to intimidate debtors who owned tax money.

Dobermans sure do look intimidating, but with proper training and early socialization they can make great companions and family pets.

And they have their intelligence to thank for that. Dobermans are extremely loyal and excellent guard dogs, which are all traits that cannot be taught through dog training.

They understand their owner’s temperament well and will adjust to the given situation and do whatever it takes to keep their owner safe and happy. Dobermans are used as police dogs due to their high level of obedience, susceptibility to training and fearlessness.

4. Golden Retriever

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Golden Retrievers are large, water-loving dogs that are highly intelligent and easy to train.

Their brain capacity makes them suitable for different activities, including leading the blind or deaf, hunting, searching and rescuing.

Still, their most popular role is that of a beloved family pet, especially in suburban areas with plenty of space to roam around.

They are trusting, loving and eager-to-please dogs, which doesn’t help their ranking as guard dogs. On the other hand, they are highly trainable and obedient, which only works to increase their popularity among different types of dog owners.

Golden Retrievers enjoy working and making themselves useful, and focusing on a task at hand is quite effortless for this breed.

3. German Shepherd

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German Shepherds are large working dogs bred to herd sheep but thanks to their intellectual abilities, strength and agility they are often employed as police and military dogs, assistance and rescue dogs, and they sometimes even act in movies.

German Shepherds were particularly bred for their intelligence. Research has shown that this breed can learn simple tasks after only 5 repetitions, which puts them at the No. 3 spot of most intelligent dog breeds.

They are very skillful at interpreting instructions and are highly obedient, which makes them desirable for policing and searching tasks. German Shepherds are reliable and loyal dogs and very popular as family pets.

2. Poodle

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Poodles come in three different sizes, toy, miniature and standard, and although they are all great dogs to have, the standard poodle is usually recommended to families with children.

Poodles are water dogs and particularly successful at dog sports thanks to their intelligence and physical stamina. Poodles are active and smart dogs, and their primary activity is hunting.

They are thus energetic, but also highly sociable, and usually perform quite well in obedience training. Poodles thrive in well-organized environments and like stability and relaxation.

They are confident dogs more than equipped to assess their own worth. Poodles can be trained to be excellent companions on swimming, hiking, camping and any other kind of trips that involve the outdoors where they can shine because they have it all – beauty and brains.

1. Border Collie

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Border Collie is a herding dog that prides itself on its intelligence and instinct.

Border Collies need plenty of exercise but can easily be trained to perform dog sports and stay healthy, happy and as busy as possible.

They were bred to guard livestock, primarily sheep, and excel in obedience training and any activity that requires athleticism and brains.

Border Collies are demanding dogs and require a significant amount of mental stimulation, but aren’t picky when it comes to choosing companions.

They get along well with people and other dogs. Border Collies are working dogs that thrive in the country where there is plenty to be done in just one day.

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Jan Bryan
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Jan Bryan

I have a Jacky and I must admit, having had dogs all my life, he is one of the most intelligent dogs I have ever had. He is the only dog I know that will check the direction you are pointing rather than checking the end of your finger. Also, when I was trying to teach him to give me his paw, he ignored me. In the end I gave up. A few weeks later I asked him for his paw and he gave it to me. He knew all along what it was but decided not to do it.… Read more »

Tuck
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Tuck

Lol it caught my attention when you mentioned the finger pointing because any direction i point mine searches in that exact direction for whatever i may be point out… awesome.. he is extremely intelligent..

Spot
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Spot

Ditto…..

Chrisg510
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Chrisg510

I seen poodle but i only encountered dumb poodles its definitely abomination… i like bigger dogs but i measure canine intelligence based on how long would that breed live w/out service of man to help feed em…. i see smaller dogs lasting longer from hiding but poodle seems to reliant from human.. out of all types of breeds i only see rottweilers and german sheppard thriving smart tough and versitle… pack of poodles would probably collectively bark and run away from threats eventually becoming food.. german sheppards and rotts will be smart enough to live and survive w out man…… Read more »

Thomas Ford
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Thomas Ford

Not even close. Working with 5 different veterinarians while going to college and volunteering for many animal organizations. Not to mention owning several of the top intelligent breeds I’d have to say without question the Dobermans were head and shoulders above the others. Not only were they fast learners but they thought for themselves. In other words they weren’t little robots like the other breeds above them claiming to be more intelligent. Problem solvers is what I would best describe them. I think the reason people aren’t willing to give the Doberman it’s dues are because of their independent thinking… Read more »

Dave
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Dave

My Jack totally outdoes his bigger buddy companion (doberman) …When i point my finger my jack gets in alert mode and looks and searches in the direction i am pointing without me saying a word.. my dobe on the other hand licks and smells my finger and stares at me like uhhhh.. lol