What Are The Smartest Dog & Puppy Breeds?

Border Collie

Note: While the breeds in this collection tend to be smart, individual pets will vary.  Please consult the adoption organization for details on a specific pet.

What are the Smartest Dog Breeds?

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A dog’s intelligence is present in a variety of forms, and trainability is a sign of cleverness. Overall, attentiveness, the ability to absorb information quickly, and regular routines maintain a dog’s behavior.

Some breeds of dog are motivated by their strong desire to please, while other dog breeds are smart from instinct and their natural abilities. An intelligent dog is the result of pet parents putting in the time and effort to properly train their dog. After all, a well-adjusted dog is just smarter.


How Can I Adopt a Smart Dog?

  1. Review Dog Breeds: General dog breed information is a great place to start considering which breed maybe your pet match, because remember, each pet is an individual.
  2. Consider Your Needs: Review your household and your individual needs.
  3. Visit Local Shelters: Visiting your local animal shelter and meeting a dog can be an excellent chance to explore a pet match further.
  4. Review Adoptable Pets Online: Help an adoptable dog find a forever home on Petfinder and search adoptable pets in your area.

Because intelligence can be measured in many ways, this list focuses on dogs who understand commands in less than five repetitions and obeyed them 95% of the time or better. Check out the top ten smartest dog breeds.


1. Border Collie

  • Smart, Energetic Dog: This breed is notably known for being high-energy herding dogs.
  • Origins: The Collie comes from Northumberland, an area between England and Scotland.
  • Incredible Stamina: This highly intelligent breed thrives when they receive rigorous exercise.


2. Poodle

  • A Friendly, Active Breed: A Poodle is one of the smartest dog breeds.
  • Origins: The Standard Poodle originates from Germany. The name “Poodle” comes from the German word pudel, describing one who plays in water or water activity.
  • Extremely Intelligent: This breed is among the most trainable dog breeds. Also, this dog requires consistent training as well as regular exercise to curb unwanted behaviors.


3. German Shepherd Dog

  • Popular Breed: The GSD is one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States.
  • Origins: This dog breed came from Germany in the 19th century. Crossbreeding farm and herding dogs, the GSD inherited a strong work ethic and they’re a loyal companion.
  • Eager to Learn: Ready for anything, this dog breed requires a consistent way to expel energy.


4. Golden Retriever

  • Origins: In the mid-1800s, this intelligent dog breed came from gamekeepers in Scotland.
  • America’s Sweetheart: These playful and loyal dogs require socialization and obedience training to help them become well-mannered.
  • Loves to Play: The active Golden retriever enjoys playing fetch, swimming, and cuddling. Also, these dogs love runs, hikes, or even trotting alongside, a bicycle.


5. Doberman Pinscher

  • People-Oriented Dogs: Affectionate and sweet with people, the Doberman Pinscher requires socialization and obedience training to become a well-adjusted dog.
  • Origins: Louis Doberman, a German, first bred the Doberman Pinscher in the late 1800s.
  • Guard Dogs: These dogs have been police and military dogs, rescue dogs, and therapy dogs.


6. Shetland Sheepdog

  • Strong and Agile: This herding dog is very energetic, affectionate, and playful, making this breed an excellent watchdog.
  • Sheltie Origins: A Shetland Sheepdog hails from the Shetland Islands of Scotland. These smaller dogs were herders of smaller breeds of livestock, and for this reason, they’re a smart, hard-working animal.
  • Somewhat Larger than Ancestors: The Shetland Sheepdog is considered more massive than their ancestors. They’re known to be intelligent and to possess a sense of humor.


7. Labrador Retriever

  • Labrador Retriever Origins: This family dog originated in Newfoundland, off the northeastern coast of Canada. They were initially called St. John’s dogs after the capital city of Newfoundland.
  • Muscular and Athletic: This dog breed requires 30-60 minutes of exercise daily, or else, they may be prone to forming problem behaviors.
  • Hyperactive Dog Breed: This dog is intelligent and has an eagerness to please, all of which, along with obedience training and socialization, makes this breed easy-to-train.


8. Papillon

  • Butterfly Dog: As a result of their unusual ear shape, this breed is sometimes called the “Butterfly Dog,” and they are one of the oldest toy breeds.
  • Depicted in 16th Century Art: Called ‘Dwarf Spaniel’ or the ‘Continental Toy Spaniel,’ this breed was a favorite of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette.
  • Beauty and Brains: This breed has sensible glamour since a Papillon is easy to groom. They thrive on mental stimulation, and they learn from every experience, so positive training is essential.


9. Rottweiler

  • Working Dog Origins: Strong and loyal, the Rottweiler originated in Germany, where the breed drove cattle and pulled carts for butchers and farmers.
  • Natural Guard Dog: This breed works in the police, military, and customs, but also, they're a loyal family protector.
  • Protective Personality: Their basic instinct helps to protect their families, and it’s essential to provide early socialization and consistent obedience training to make this breed well-mannered.


10. Australian Cattle Dog

  • Unique Origins: In 1893, Robert Kaleski began breeding the Blue Heeler, and he’s responsible for crossbreeding to create a working dog.
  • An Abundance of Energy: This dog breed has tremendous physical and mental energies. Pet parents can put their dog’s power to use by training them in agility, herding, tracking, and obedience.
  • Loyal, Protective, and Obedient Companion: The ACD is a canine perfect for pet parents who are willing to accommodate the energy level and need for mental stimulation that this dog breed requires.


Smartest Dog FAQs


QUESTION: What is the top dog breed?

ANSWER: For the past 26 years, the trust-worthy Labrador retriever has been the most popular breed.


QUESTION: What is the smartest, most intelligent dog breed of all?

ANSWER: While this answer is entirely subjective, the Border Collie is one of the smartest dog breeds. Pet parents can increase intelligence in their dogs by following tips on correctly training their pets.


6 Tips for Training a Smart Dog 
1.) All Dogs are Trainable: Dogs are most comfortable to train when adequately motivated. 
2.) Use Positive Reinforcements: A dog learns best when given motivation, praise and rewards. 
3.) Cultivate a Dog’s Intelligence: Play interactive games and let them participate in dog sports. 
4.) Smart Breeds Require More: In particular, an intelligent dog requires more exercise, attention, and stimulation. Most smart breeds benefit from a type of dog or from playing dog sports. 
5.) Regular Walks: Bond through frequent exercise, play sessions, and behavior training. 
6.) Interact with the Dog: A dog's intelligence grows by the way their parent plays with them. 


QUESTION: Which are the smartest dog breeds by size?

ANSWER: That’s a lot of great dog breeds to choose from. Here’s a quick breakdown of smartest dog breeds relative to their size.


Small DogsPoodle
Shetland Sheepdog
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Miniature Schnauzer
Cocker Spaniel
Medium-Sized DogsVizsla
Irish Water Spaniel
Large DogsPoodle
German Shepherd
Golden Retriever
Doberman Pinscher
Labrador Retriever


QUESTION: What is a dog’s working intelligence?

ANSWER: Stanley Coren, a University of British Columbia, Psychology professor, wrote a book on The Intelligence of Dogs. He compiled tiers of dog intelligence after reviewing a survey from 200 training judges who scored 110 dog breeds on obedience tests.

In each intelligence tier, Coren discovered how many times a dog hears a command before they respond, and how often they obey. The top level of dog intelligence picked up a command in less than five repetitions, and they followed 95% of the time or better.

10 Dog or Puppy Breeds