10 Intelligent Dog Breeds

Intelligence comes in many forms—especially when it comes to the most intelligent dog breeds! One type of intelligence often associated with dogs is trainability, or the ability to understand and follow commands consistently. There are many other kinds of intelligence, such as social intelligence, the ability to play nicely with other dogs and get along in groups. Another is cunning ability, the ability for a dog to get what they want before their pet parent has a clue what's going on. While all dogs are smart, these intelligent dog breeds are clever in more ways than one.


#1: Golden Retriever

golden retriever with tongue out

While almost every list of the smartest dog breeds puts the Border Collie in the number-one spot, we're handing the trophy to the Golden Retriever. This breed combines high trainability with an intuitive social brilliance that allows these furry friends to get along with other dogs, humans, and even the family cat. Calm and stable, Goldens use their intelligence in ways that endear them to the entire family. It is not an accident that Goldens regularly top all other breeds in obedience training.


#2: Poodle

Poodle on grass

The Poodle just sparkles with brilliance. This intelligent dog breed can open doors, scale fences, and do homework for your middle schooler. (Okay, that last one might be a stretch.) All three varieties—Toy, Miniature, and Standard—are quite clever, but the Standard is the top dog. Standard Poodles excel at a variety of tasks, from trotting off to win at Westminster to competing in agility trials.


#3: Shetland Sheepdog

shetland sheepdog running obstacle course

The little Shetland Sheepdog shines in high-level obedience, agility, and interactive dog games. In addition to being one of the most intelligent dog breeds, these dogs also have a sweet, sensitive temperament that makes them extremely attuned to their pet parents.


#4: Border Collie

border collie with tongue out

When it comes to sheer logic, problem solving, and brainpower, Border Collies are among the most intelligent dogs. They can learn the names of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of objects, and they understand complex directions extraordinarily well. Their only drawback is their instinct for herding can be triggered by the presence of children or other pets. Unless you are sure you are smarter than a Border Collie, this breed may not be for you.


#5: German Shepherd

german sherpard with tongue out

German Shepherds are not only some of the most intelligent dogs, but they are also workaholics who thrive on doing important jobs. This is the original can-do dog, exceling in everything from protection work to guiding the blind to herding ducks. There is little German Shepherds can't do, and their high trainability is tough to match.


RELATED: 10 Top Trainable Dog Breeds


#6: Labrador Retriever

smiling labrador retriever

Similar to the Golden but with more goofiness is the Labrador Retriever. Whether you're looking for a champion hunting companion or a dog for obedience work, America's most popular dog breed has a heart with room for everyone—and a brain to match!


#7: Australian Cattle Dog

australian cattle dog in dandelions

The Australian Cattle Dog is an alert breed with a powerful intellectual curiosity. The original breed standard for this dog was based on the dingo—Australia's native wild dog—and the Cattle Dog shares the dingo's keen, cunning intelligence. While among the smartest dog breeds, they are highly territorial and not particularly friendly to strangers.


#8: Doberman Pinscher

doberman pinscher in woods

Dobermans are smart and easy to train, and they're impeccably loyal to their family. Members of this highly intelligent dog breed can easily outsmart their pet parents, so be firm in your direction.


#9: Papillon

papillon on grass

With the Papillon, beauty and brains come wrapped in a tiny, shiny package. As one of the most intelligent dog breeds, these pups are so attuned to their companions that many Papillon pet parents are convinced their pets can read minds. Papillons are also careful observers of everything around them, and their brains and stamina work together to make them the top agility dog in their size category.


#10: Rottweiler

rottweiler on grass

The somber, steadfast Rottweiler is both a herding dog and a guard dog, combining several kinds of intelligence in one awesome package. While not as agile as many of the other most intelligent dogs on this list, Rottweilers make up for it with their imposing size and even more imposing brain.


Every Pup Is a Smart Pick!


Although this list contains some of the smartest dog breeds overall, every type of furry friend has unique qualities that make them a great pet. In fact, there is one particular quality that members of every breed possess: the ability to be a loyal, loving companion!

Diane Morgan is a pet care expert in Williamsport, Maryland, who has authored numerous books on dog care and nutrition, and has also written many dog breed and horse books.


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