What are the smartest dog breeds?

Smarter dog breeds make owners’ lives much easier. A smarter dog breed is easier to train for different jobs and activities such as guarding, service work (armed force, police, border control, rescue dogs) or companions for the eldery, for people with mental health conditions or the disabled

Regardless of its breed, a dog can show high intelligence which can be trained by its owner. Just as we humans always learn, dogs are much the same, they develop continuously and if given a sufficient amount of attention and training, a dog can get smarter.

You can spot how smart your dog is by how fast it learns a new command (usually after only repeating the same procedure for 5 times) and how it uses new knowledge in its activities and responses to your training.

According to two British psychologists, Arden and Adams, who published their discoveries in an article in the Independent, if a dog is measured with a test on its cognitive ability and stands out at it, this dog most likely will excel in other tests as well.

An obedient dog, following set rules, might seem to display a higher sign of intelligence however, this is not the case as some dogs love to please their owners by showing how well they listen.

A dog’s intelligence is multifaceted and can be classified in:

  • Adaptive intelligence - finding out about things on its own
  • Working intelligence - learning and following new commands and set rules
  • Instinctive intelligence - the one a dog is born with
  • Spatial intelligence - the ability to remember places such as where the food or water is, finding their favourite outdoor spots
  • Kinesthetic intelligence - moving and body coordination in accordance with daily activities
  • Interpersonal intelligence - the way a dog communicates with humans, other dogs or animals
  • Intrapersonal intelligence - is the dog’s own self-awareness, knowing what it can or can’t do
  • Olfactory intelligence - picking up scents and odours undetected by the human sense of smell

The smartest dog breeds

Border Collie

Is considered to be at the top of the list for the smartest dog breeds. This is because Border Collie is amazingly easy and super fast to train, responding to new commands repeated in less than 5 times.

German Shepherd

Dogs belonging to this breed are easy to train and fast to adapt to new environments. They make for good service dogs and friendly companions.

Golden Retriever

This type of dog can be used as a working dog and as a companion. Its ability to understand humans and communicate easily with their owners, makes it for a good addition to a household that needs a dog to support an elderly family member or someone with underlying health conditions.


Poodles are extremely fast learners of new commands and tricks and you might find them in the entertainment industry in TV shows and movies. On a more serious tone, this breed was recognized as being one of the breeds fit for battles, being by the US Army used in both WWs in Europe.

Doberman Pinscher

Gread breed to be used as a guard dog, service dog or as a friendly companion. Easy to train and excellent ability to communicate.

Activities for intelligent dogs

Even if your dog is not on the smarties dog breeds list there is nothing to say that your dog isn’t smarter than other ones. You can help develop a dog’s mental ability by :

  • Starting training as soon as possible - If you have a puppy start training it from day one and continue to develop its abilities as it grows.
  • Play with your dog - to develop agility and create a strong bond between the two of you and other household members
  • Take your dogs to courses - there are obedience courses, ability courses etc.
  • Allow your dog to explore - take your dog to daily walks to explore the area surrounding your home and discover other outdoor spaces (mountains, hills, seaside)
  • Socialize - let your dog meet new canine friends as well as other dog owners to develop its interpersonal skills
  • Organize a scavenger hunt - to develop its olfactive skills. Hide a toy, a clothing item or something similar from one family member and teach your dog to find it
  • Use interactive toys - interactive toys require your dog to use its mental ability to work out how to use them. Smart pet devices will challenge your dog and give you more flexibility to deal with other tasks around home or at work.
  • Participate in competitions - some breeds like the German Shepherd and the Golden Retriever do well in competitions. The training required to participate in such events, maintain your dog alert and stimulates its mental development.
  • Give them jobs - setting some tasks for your dog will help develop its socio-emotional intelligence. It could be a task as simple as retrieving your newspaper or waking up your kids. If you are the lucky owner of a farm, give your dog a job that might include supervising other animals.

An intelligent dog must be kept entertained, allowed to explore and learn new things and tricks.

Toys for intelligent dogs

To stimulate a dog’s mental ability it’s preferable to buy and let it play with interactive toys such as:

  • Electronic toys - that move around the house and keep your dog entertained through hashing them around
  • Manual ball launchers - can be used when outdoors or in the garden, great for retrieval games
  • Electronic ball launchers - to be used both outdoors or indoors, stimulating agility, speed and retrieval
  • IQ Balls - can be filled with dog treats to stimulate active play and feeding
  • Dog puzzles - treats are hidden and only found if “solved” by the dog
  • Snuffle matts - to develop their olfactive intelligence, the search and retrieve skills
  • Hide and seek toys - soft plush puzzle toys to seek and retrieve

There are devices for smart dogs out there, be it in online shops or pet stores, that can help dog owners to better understand their pets and decide on additional activities suitable for their dogs:

  • Activity and behaviour monitors for dogs
  • Apps for dog training and socializing

The least intelligent dog breeds

When discussing the smartest dog breeds the question that arises in one’s mind is what would be the least intelligent dog breeds.

It’s hard and probably unfair to categorize and label dogs based on their levels of intelligence. All dogs are curious by nature and have a higher mental ability than some other pets.

Here is a list with what dog breeds considered to have less intelligence:

  • Afghan Hound
  • Chow Chow
  • Pekingese
  • Beagle
  • Mastiff

We are sure that if you would ask owners of such dog breeds they will tell you that their pet is wrongly named on this list. As with all dog breeds, with care, patience and good constant training any dog can develop higher skills and abilities that would achieve a better canine intelligence label.

Rather than wondering on which dog breed is the smartest, maybe new owners should focus on how to expand and nurture their dog’s instinctive intelligence through creating ways that keep a dog’s mind stimulated.

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