Smartest Dog Breeds

Smartest Dog Breeds

Today we take a look at the smartest dog breeds and look in to what makes a dog ‘intelligent’. We uncover certain traits which are required from dogs in order to perform tasks and which breeds are known for their intelligence.

smartest dog breeds

Intelligence in dogs depends on factors including the breed, genetics, training and socialisation.

Occasionally, just like humans, an individual dog will excel at intelligence even without the benefit of these factors.

Every dog has individual strengths and abilities. It could be in a working environment, sports, agility or by providing companionship.

However, in order to carry out these tasks they have to have certain traits, which include:-

  1. Trainability: Intelligent dogs are quick learners and can easily pick up new commands and tasks. They tend to respond well to training and are eager to please their owners.
  2. Problem-solving skills: Clever dogs have the ability to think critically and find solutions to various challenges. They can apply their knowledge and experience to new situations.
  3. Adaptability: Some dogs can adjust to new environments and changes in routine with relative ease. They are flexible and able to cope with different situations.
  4. Memory: Dogs with good memory retention including training sessions, can build on knowledge already gained and advance quickly.
  5. Communication: In some cases,  dogs  have a better understanding of human cues and gestures. They make great communicators with people and other dogs.
  6. Social intelligence: Dogs with social intelligence can read and understand the body language of other dogs and humans. They are more adept at navigating social interactions.
  7. Problem-solving through observation: Some intelligent dogs can learn by observing other dogs or humans and then imitating those behaviours.
  8. Work ethic: Intelligent dogs tend to have a strong work ethic and a desire to accomplish tasks. This trait is often seen in working and herding breeds.

Smartest Dog Breeds

Border Collie smartest dog breeds

Border Collie

Originating from the border region between Scotland and England, Border Collies are exceptional herding dogs. Their intelligence and intense focus have made them the go-to breed for farmers and shepherds worldwide. Their ability to control and gather livestock is a testament to their keen problem-solving skills. Additionally, Border Collies have excelled in various dog sports like agility, flyball, and obedience trials due to their quick thinking and high energy levels.

smartest dog breeds


Poodles come in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. They are not only known for their elegance and unique grooming styles but also their remarkable intelligence. Originally bred as water retrievers, Poodles are quick learners and easily adapt to various environments. Their hypoallergenic coats and intelligence make them a popular choice for service work, therapy, and as guide dogs for the visually impaired.

German Shepherd smartest dog breeds

German Shepherd

Famous for their roles in law enforcement and military service, German Shepherds are intelligent, confident, and highly trainable. They are quick to pick up new commands and have an uncanny ability to assess situations accurately. German Shepherds excel in tracking, search and rescue, and protection work. Beyond their working abilities, they are also loyal and affectionate family companions.

smartest dog breeds


Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are renowned for their friendly and gentle nature, making them excellent family pets. Their intelligence, paired with a strong desire to please, makes them highly trainable and well-suited for various tasks. They have a gentle mouth, making them ideal for retrieving game during hunting. Additionally, their therapeutic and emotional support capabilities make them a top choice as therapy dogs in hospitals and nursing homes.

smartest dog breeds

Doberman Pinscher

With their sleek appearance and alert stance, Doberman Pinschers are both elegant and intelligent. Bred as guard dogs, Dobermans are naturally protective and fiercely loyal to their families. Their intelligence, combined with their speed and strength, makes them effective working dogs for police and military tasks. With proper training and socialization, they can be gentle and loving companions.

smartest dog breeds


Shetland Sheepdog

Often referred to as “Shelties,” Shetland Sheepdogs are herding dogs with a strong instinct to protect and control livestock. Their intelligence and agility make them adept at obedience training and dog sports. Shelties are known for their ability to excel in activities like agility, flyball, and herding trials. They are also affectionate and devoted family pets.

smartest dog breeds


Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retrievers are not only one of the most popular dog breeds but also one of the smartest. Their friendly and outgoing personalities, combined with their intelligence, make them an ideal choice for families and individuals alike. Labs excel in various dog sports like  tracking, and hunting. They are also highly skilled as service dogs for those with disabilities.

smartest dog breeds - Papillon



The Papillon, meaning “butterfly” in French, earned its name from its distinctive butterfly-like ears. Despite their small size, Papillons are intelligent and highly trainable. They have a strong desire to please their owners, making them excellent candidates for obedience training and dog sports. Their agility and quick learning abilities have made them successful competitors in agility competitions.

smartest dog breeds - Rottweiler



Rottweilers have a strong, confident presence and are naturally protective of their families. Their intelligence and versatility have led them to excel in various roles, including police work, search and rescue, and as therapy dogs. Early socialization and proper training are essential to ensure they grow into well-behaved and loyal companions.

smartest dog breeds


Australian Cattle Dog

Developed in Australia for herding cattle, Australian Cattle Dogs are highly intelligent and full of energy. They require mental and physical stimulation to thrive, making them ideal for active individuals or families. These dogs excel in dog sports such as obedience, agility, and herding trials. Their loyalty and alertness make them excellent watchdogs as well.

Test your dog's intelligence

How To Test Your Dog’s Intelligence

Testing a dog’s intelligence can be a fun and engaging way to bond with your furry friend and stimulate their mental abilities. Try some of these activities to test your dogs skills in problem solving, learning ability and communication skills


Problem-Solving Toys: Provide your dog with puzzle toys and interactive feeders. These toys challenge dogs to figure out how to access treats or kibble, stimulating their problem-solving skills.

Hide and Seek: Hide treats or toys around the house and encourage your dog to find them. Start with easy hiding spots and gradually increase the difficulty. This tests their scent-tracking and memory abilities.

Command Training: Teach your dog new commands or tricks. Dogs that quickly learn and execute commands demonstrate a higher level of intelligence and the ability to understand and follow instructions.

Tug of War: Play tug of war with your dog. This can help assess their strategic thinking and strength.

Fetch and Retrieve: Teach your dog a name for individual toys. Then test your dog’s ability to retrieve a specific toy by name. This demonstrates their ability to understand and respond to verbal cues.

Solve Simple Problems: Introduce simple problems, e.g. place three plastic cups upside down in a row with a treat placed under just one of them. Move the cups around and test your dog to see if he can detect the one with the treat inside.


Interactive Dog Toy

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The Nina Ottosson level 3 Dog Twister puzzle dog toy is designed for advanced levels of problem-solving play that challenge your dog with learning sequential steps. A fun way for your smart pups to train their brain while redirecting destructive or negative behavior in an exciting way!


Memory Tests: Teach your dog a sequence of actions or tricks and see how many they can remember and perform in order.

Social Interaction: Observe your dog’s social intelligence by noting how well they interact with other dogs and people. Do they understand and respond appropriately to body language and cues?

Scent Work: Hide treats or toys in different areas and see how well your dog can locate them using their keen sense of smell.

Adaptability: Introduce your dog to new environments, people, and situations. Watch how they react and adapt to these changes.

Listening Skills: Test your dog’s ability to differentiate between various sounds, such as their name, a specific command, or a whistle.

Game/ Play: Play games like “find the hidden toy” where you cover a toy with a blanket, and your dog has to figure out how to uncover it. Put treats wrapped in newspaper in a cardboard box and let your dog figure out how to find them.


Remember that each dog is unique, and intelligence can manifest in different ways. Some dogs might excel in one area but not in another. The key is to keep the activities fun, positive, and rewarding for your dog. Whether they perform exceptionally or not, the goal is to keep them mentally stimulated and engaged, which contributes to their overall well-being.

Even dogs who are not considered smart offer companionship, loyalty, fun and joy to their owners lives. They might have quirky personalities which make you laugh, which is just as important.

I once had a dog who definitely wasn’t the smartest dog breed. She refused to learn all commands but knew instinctively when I was having a bad day. She would just place her head on my shoulder and I instantly felt better.

There are so many ways that dog’s enhance our lives, so they don’t have to be the smartest, because we love them anyway.

Do you have a really clever dog?

What is the smartest dog breed in your opinion?

I would love to hear your stories or pick up some training tips.


Additional Reading

Dog Enrichment Toys For Instincts And Senses

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