What Dog Breeds Are the Smartest?

By October 21, 2021Dog Breeds

Does your dog have a knack for quickly learning new tricks? Are you amazed by his or her ability to comprehend commands? Every pet owner believes their pooch is a genius. However, when it comes to smarts, some dog breeds rate higher on the intelligence scale than others. While every dog is unique, experts lean on a few different methods to measure how smart certain breeds are.

So, what dog breed are smartest? First, let’s explore what constitutes intelligence when it comes to man’s best friend.

What Makes a Dog Smart?

According to ScienceAlert, there are a few different ways you can evaluate a dog’s acumen, including their “adaptive intelligence (i.e., figuring stuff out), working intelligence (i.e. following orders), and instinctive intelligence (i.e. innate talent) – not to mention spatial intelligence, kinesthetic intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, and more.” Generally, intelligence level rests on a canine’s ability to consistently obey commands, perform tasks at an optimal level, learn quickly, and their overall willingness to learn human-related functions.

Why Are Some Breeds Smarter Than Others?

What it all boils down to is the intention behind why the breed was first created. Take the Toy breed, they were initially bred for their adorable appearance and to serve as lapdogs. Because they weren’t developed to be herding or working dogs, they tend to lack a little in the intelligence department. Retrievers, however, were created to be hunters and quick learners, causing them to display a higher level of intelligence. Why a breed was introduced to the world plays a key role in how effectively they respond to intelligence evaluations.

The Top 5 Smartest Dog Breeds


#1. Border Collie

As one of the smartest dogs in the pack, border collies possess a massive amount of agility and intelligence, which can be attributed to their ability to herd sheep. They are known to grasp a brand-new command in a mere five seconds. What’s more, they correctly follow these commands approximately 95% of the time. Weighing an average of 31 to 44 pounds, border collies were bred to work independently, yet display sensitivity towards their owner’s needs. Due to their calm demeanor and obedient nature, this breed is extremely easy to train.

#2. Poodle

Poodles are the overachievers, often securing the winning ribbon at dog shows for their obedience and agility. Don’t let their massive curls fool you, they’ve got some serious brainpower under those fluffy manes. Eager to please, poodles are tried and true family dogs. While this breed is not one to chase after sheep or intruders, they’re cuddlers that’ll always be curled up by your side. They are capable of easily picking up new tricks and are known for being one of the easiest breeds to train. These curly-haired cuties are often highly sought after for their hypoallergenic qualities.

#3. German Shepherd

You can consider the German Shepherd guard dog the Jack or Jill-of-all-trades. Try not to get this breed confused with the Belgian Malinois. They serve as therapy dogs, seeing-eye dogs, protection dogs, movie star dogs, medical assistance dogs, you name it. While they may not be as clever as a Poodle or be a brilliant problem-solver like the Border Collie, their intelligence and versatility make them a popular choice for many dog owners. They are incredibly loyal, even-tempered, and purposeful, often enjoying having a job to do.

#4. Golden Retriever

These lovable goofballs are charming and obedient. While you won’t see a Golden Retriever playing police dog anytime soon, they have great social skills, everyday smarts, and are easy to train. Most people are surprised to find that the Golden Retriever scores high in the IQ department. 

#5. Doberman Pinscher

Dobermans were introduced to the world in the late 19th Century after Louis Dobermann, a German tax collector, wanted to breed a medium-sized pooch that could serve as a companion and guard dog. Besides their tenacious protective instincts, they’re also very intuitive with the ability to sniff out unfriendly individuals. Dobermans aim to please their owners and can be sensitive and lovable with kids. They are also extremely easy to train, making them a great choice for a family companion.  

How Smart Are Dogs Compared to Humans?

According to Stanley Coren, a psychologist, and leading canine researcher: 

“We all want insight into how our furry companions think, and we want to understand the silly, quirky and apparently irrational behaviors [that] Lassie or Rover demonstrate. Their stunning flashes of brilliance and creativity are reminders that they may not be Einsteins but are sure closer to humans than we thought.”

Their ability to solve complex problems, be intentionally deceitful – a.k.a. trick their human companions into feeding them treats – and comprehend more than 150 words, puts them much closer to human intelligence than most would give them credit for.

How to Test the IQ of Dog Breeds

There are a couple of exercises you can try with your pup to get a feel for their intelligence level. One of the simplest tests you can do is tossing a blanket over your dog’s head and setting the timer to see how long it takes for them to successfully free themselves. Other tests you can perform are designed to evaluate your pooch’s language comprehension and short/long term memory abilities. 

Just remember:

Even if your furry four-legged pal doesn’t excel at these tests or isn’t one of the most intelligent dog breeds, that doesn’t mean (s)he won’t recognize when you pull into the driveway after a long day at the office or come snuggle up next to you in bed.

While some dog breeds are known for naturally being smarter than others, there’s still plenty of training exercises you can use with your pooch to help bridge that gap.