Highly Intelligent Dog Breeds, According to Experts
Any dog lover can tell you that canines are among the smartest animals on Earth. That’s certainly true, but no matter how smart you think your dog is, some breeds are just smarter than others — sorry, sweet beagles!
You can’t give a dog an IQ test, of course, but their intelligence can be measured in other ways, such as obedience and trainability. These are the 30 smartest dog breeds, according to experts, listed in increasing order of intelligence.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Bred to work on farms, Bernese Mountain Dogs are intelligent, easy to train, good-natured and calm. Some people describe them as lovable teddy bears. They are definitely huge — the average male can weigh up to 115 pounds and measure a whopping 27 inches tall (back height).
Old English Sheepdog
The Old English Sheepdog was historically bred to be a drover — that is, a dog that helped farmers drive the sheep to market. Today, most sheepdogs are bred to be show dogs or pets, so they've lost a lot of that herding instinct. Still, they are highly trainable, if a bit stubborn, and do well with a confident owner.
Bearded Collies are intelligent and capable of learning a lot of tricks, but they are also stubborn and highly independent. To be their best, these furry beasts need an owner who is confident and not afraid to enforce the rules. That being said, Bearded Collies are also playful and known for their "Beardie Bounce" — a happy, bounding leap.
Jack Russell Terrier
The lively Jack Russell is one of the brightest and most trainable of all terriers — when handled properly. Although the breed can excel at tricks, agility and "earthdog" training, they require a lot of attention. When not stimulated mentally and physically, they have the tendency to become destructive and difficult to control.
Large, powerful and full of energy, the Weimaraner was bred to hunt all day. Like most sporting breeds, they are capable of learning a lot, but they're also prone to distraction, and any exciting sound or scent can quickly take their attention away from you — and the task at hand.
English Springer Spaniel
The English Springer Spaniel was bred as a gun dog — one that would "flush" game out in the field. Today, they are more often bred as pets but are still a smart, highly trainable breed. As sporting dogs, they often excel at tracking and retrieving exercises, but they also enjoy obedience training courses and fly-ball games.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Often referred to as the "big dog on short legs," the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is highly trainable and food driven. Still, there are certain challenges that are more difficult for them, such as learning not to bark. (They absolutely love to bark.) Obedience training, agility training and just chasing a ball around the yard are often enjoyable outlets for excess energy.
The good-natured Irish Setter is a saint around children and particularly good around other animals. They are also naturals when it comes to water retrieving and hunting, but they can be slow to mature.
Rottweilers often catch a bad rep as temperamental or inherently vicious animals, but that's just not true. In reality, the Rottweiler is a headstrong, stubborn dog, but he’s also calm and loyal. What he lacks in happy-go-lucky attitude, he more than makes up for in trainability. You can teach a Rotty almost anything, and he learns quickly.
German Shorthaired Pointer
Large, muscular and athletic, the German Shorthaired Pointer is another breed that started out as a hunting dog. As a general rule, they can be stubborn animals but are still relatively easy to train. Because of their nature, they excel at hunting and tracking but also make excellent family pets.
The Alaskan Husky is a type of dog, rather than a breed. Unhindered by breed standards, they can vary widely in appearance and abilities. As a general rule of thumb, they are highly intelligent and can learn a lot — given the right trainer. Alaskan huskies require a lot of patience and persistence if you want to teach them anything.
One of the oldest known breeds, Alaskan Malamutes are working dogs, designed to haul, pull, hunt and backpack. They make fine family companions if you have the energy to keep up with them, but they will also gladly eat your smaller pets — no guinea pigs or bunnies! They are highly intelligent but incredibly difficult to train.
If you've ever seen the classic TV show Lassie, you are familiar with the Scotch Collie. Bred as herding dogs, Collies are generally easy to train — as long as you offer plenty of praise and encouragement. Often, they need nothing more than verbal correction to stay on the straight and narrow.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has the strongest personality out of all the retriever breeds. He likes to be the boss — plain and simple. Respect training and early socialization are a must, or this guy will fearlessly dominate humans and animals alike. That's not to say that he's not smart (he is!) — he's just a little slow to mature.
True to his name, the Siberian Husky has roots that trace back to the sled dogs used by ancient Siberian tribes. Today, he remains an excellent sledding or pulling dog, and he trains easily when he’s doing something he loves. On the other hand, huskies are naturally selfish and do not train easily on tasks they don't enjoy.
One of the smartest of all dog breeds, the Australian Shepherd can learn almost anything when given the opportunity. They are eager to learn and love mental challenges. Just make it very clear that you are the one in charge. These guys tend to be domineering and stubborn if they can get away with it.
The Peter Pan films use a Saint Bernard to portray "Nana," the dog that cares for the children. Given their gentle, protective nature, the choice makes sense. Adult Saint Bernards are calm, relaxed and docile. Some even describe them as "clingy." They do well with families and have amazing patience with children.
Some historians claim the Akita Inu was bred and raised by ancient Japanese samurais, which could account for their high level of trainability and steady temperament. Although they can be strong-willed, Akitas are generally calm and quiet and very easy to housebreak. His personality, however, may leave something to be desired.
There are two types of English Setter: the field/hunting type and the bench/show type. They both tend to be mild-mannered, sociable and highly intelligent, but their mellow personality can make them seem unmotivated and even lazy. Fortunately, they are also food motivated, and you can use that to your advantage.
Although he is absolutely massive, the Great Dane is also gentle and mild mannered. If you start training at a young age, the process will be easy. Wait too long, and you could have a giant problem on your hands. The Great Dane's large size can make him dangerous, even when he doesn't mean to be, so proper manners are a must.
With origins as a hunting dog, Brittany Spaniels are intelligent and relatively easy to train, but it requires a gentle hand. A harsh rebuke can completely destroy their spirit and leave them distrustful of you forever. Use a gentle touch, and this breed will eagerly follow your every command.
Australian Cattle Dog
The strong-willed Australian Cattle Dog requires an owner who can take charge. In the right hands, this breed has an exceptional capacity to learn. With an experienced dog handler, the Australian Cattle Dog excels in the areas of tricks, obedience, agility routines and (of course) herding.
According to some sources, the Papillon is the most trainable of dog breeds — although housebreaking isn't necessarily his forte. When it comes to advanced tricks and problem-solving exercises, however, you won't find a better performer. Just remember to be firm, because these little guys will boss you around, given the chance.
The Doberman Pinscher is remarkably smart and easy to train, but he requires a firm hand, or he can become very domineering. These dogs are loyal and amazing protectors in addition to being sensitive and eager to please. They are often used in police work, search and rescue missions and as therapy dogs.
The Shetland Sheepdog, or Sheltie, is an intelligent, responsive breed. Although they are relatively easy to train, they don't do well with tension and loud noises. They also tend to be "Velcro dogs" that want to stick to their humans and not be left alone. That being said, Shelties are sensitive and sociable and get along with almost everyone they meet.
Golden Retrievers are giant love bugs — it's impossible to meet one and not fall completely in love. Known for being sweet, devoted and eager-to-please, they are highly intelligent and very fast learners. This is one of the few breeds that is easy to train, even for a novice dog owner.
The #1 ranked AKC dog for many years running, the Labrador Retriever is a perennial favorite. They are fun, happy, a little goofy and a lot intelligent. With their smarts and their happy-go-lucky attitude, they are easy to train for pros and novices alike. Although they are generally easy to control, they do have a tendency to chew when bored.
Coming in near the top of the list, the German Shepherd is one of the most intelligent of all dog breeds. Provided they are trained and socialized early, these dogs are naturally obedient as long as you treat them with firmness and respect. Always eager to please, they don't take kindly to heavy-handed treatment.
Despite their fancy-pants reputation, Poodles aren't nearly as delicate as people make them out to be. In fact, they are rather sturdy and athletic — especially the larger standard variety. They are also highly intelligent and intuitive, making them naturals at obedience and agility competitions. Even better? They are pros at learning difficult tricks to impress family and friends.
Coming in at #1: the Border Collie! You're really not going to find a dog any smarter than this family favorite. In fact, these dogs are so smart that they have been known to unlock gates and let themselves out. So much for that 6-foot fence! They are highly trainable, but they can be difficult for newbies to handle.