Cart --
0 Items in Cart
Your Shopping Cart is Empty
TOGGLE

The 7 Most Intelligent Dog Breeds

Canines that Might Be Able to Get the Best of You

By July 11, 2013 | See Comments

The 7 Most Intelligent Dog Breeds

Find out here which breeds have achieved top honors for being the smartest canines around. Maybe your breed makes the list!

So you want a real brainiac for a dog? A pet that learns quickly and is aware of their environment? Want a pooch who’s curious and always exploring? Be careful what you wish for! The most intelligent dogs often out-wit their human packs. Opposable thumbs are not necessarily required for things like the opening of doors and crates, or the scaling of high shelving where treats might live.

If you’re ready for the challenge and joy of a pet who just may outsmart you, then read on! Our list of some of the smartest pups we know are some dogs who consistently score high on canine intelligence tests and some who are known by experts and their owners to have a knack for learning and smarts. And since intelligence can be measured in a number of ways, we know this list might not match up with everyone else's. As Dr. Brian Hare, professor at Duke University says, "In reality there are different types of intelligence. Different dogs are good at different things."

So in no particular order, here are seven of the most intelligent dog breeds:

German-Shepherd1. German Shepherd

German Shepherds are employed as guard dogs, tracking dogs, guide dogs for the visually impaired, and as police dogs. There’s a good reason why German Shepherds are so widely used as working dogs the world over: their ability to learn new things and interpret instructions quickly. The German Shepherd was bred specifically for their intelligence, and has been ranked the third most intelligent breed (behind Border Collies and Poodles) by tests done at the University of British Columbia.

 

Poodle2. Standard Poodle

Just ahead of the Shepherd in canine intelligence is the regal Standard Poodle, originally bred as a water dog in Germany. Because of their keen intelligence, Poodles have been used for centuries as tracking, hunting, and herding dogs. They are also excellent at many dog sports, including games of agility and obedience. Poodles are also known for their ability to sniff out expensive truffles.

 

Border-Collie3. Border Collie

The world loves the Border Collie for their lively, spirited temperament and their proficiency at dog sports like flyball and Frisbee games. But this breed is also one of the most intelligent, ranking number one on some scales of canine smarts. These dogs are at constant watch over their surroundings—alert to even the smallest changes—given their sheep herding origins.Because of their ivermectin sensitivity, make sure to use heartworm medication like Sentine for dogsl to keep them safe.

 

Dalmatian4. Dalmatian

Dalmatians get their name from their origins in the Dalmatia region in the Republic of Croatia. They were bred to guard, hunt, and to drive out rats and other vermin. Given the breed’s lively spotted pattern and high intelligence, the Dalmatian has been used widely in circuses to perform tricks. Of course, Dalmatians are also known as the “firehouse dog,” and are revered by firefighters for their service in that field. While not always top performers on dog intelligence tests, their tendency to be easily bored is why they make such great working dogs -- their minds need to be engaged.

Basset-Hound5. Basset Hound

Basset Hounds are real family dogs, and have a unique intelligence, even if they made #101 on the University of British Columbia's list. Here's why: hound dogs are bred to have a pack mentality and not to have to rely on a master's commands. Instead of feeling driven to learn commands or tricks, they were bred "to think for themselves while trailing game."* If you find yourself repeating "sit" commands, remember it might just be because your Basset Hound sees no reason to sit.

 

6. Labrador and 7. Golden Retrievers

Labrador-Retriever      Golden-Retriever

These two breeds are among the most popular in American households. They’re beloved for their gentle spirits, keen minds, and playful nature. If adopting a Retriever, be sure their breeding is trustworthy. Retrievers are commonly bred by unethical breeders or in puppy mills, due to their popularity; but inbred or poorly reared Retrievers won’t have the qualities most Retriever-lovers seek.

And don't forget Mutts!

Mixed breed dogs are a roll of the dice, but in reality, so is any dog. They each come with their own personality, and their own character traits. Those who have rescued a pet will often say there’s something different about a rescue. Dogs who have been through the ringer can seem to reflect a sort of canine gratitude upon their new forever families. Look for a mutt with traits of the breed you favor. It’s often easy to find a mixed-breed who is clearly part-this or part-that. Plus, many vets will agree: mutts can be healthier and live longer than purebreds, and they can be every bit as clever.

*Dog Intelligence by Sheppard Software

More on Choosing a Dog

Which Dog Breed is Best for You?
Small to Medium Dog Breeds
What are the Largest Dog Breeds?
My Dog Has Fleas, What Should I Do?

More on Dog Behavior

Decoding Dog Tail Wagging
What Is Small Dog Syndrome?
The 7 Easiest Dogs to Train
The Best Dog Breeds For Older People

More Top Stories

What’s Wrong Here? 6 Common Pet Safety Hazards
What People Food Can Dogs Eat? - An Infographic
Human Food for Cats Infographic: Safe Snacks for Fluffy

comments powered by Disqus
  • mozartlady

    7/18/2013 8:43:25 PM

    Wow! I have a rescue mutt who is a German shepherd, retriever, lab mix. Could I be any luckier!!!

    • PetCareRx-Susie

      8/6/2013 2:36:42 PM

      Wow you are lucky Mozartlady! We are all lucky to be pet parents to such great pets, on or off the list! :)

    • OldeGrayWolf

      11/22/2013 1:54:35 AM

      Love it! We have an Australian shepherd/American pit bull terrier who is the abolutely smartest dog I have ever known. Just a few months old when he began trying to open doors with his front paws for 'hands', rescued me when I fell outside in a secluded area and could not get off the ground without a cane, stick, etc. He brought me a branch when I told him to 'bring it' even though we had never played with sticks or retrieved items on command. could go on and on; he loves to watch some TV programs...those with wolves, dogs, big cats or baby humans vocalizing. Lives through his nose. Truly, I feel guilty that he's not being trained and used for Search and Rescue. He is one of those mutts and yes, he's even smarter than the registered German shepherd who preceeded him and I thought she was the smartest dog I'd ever met.

  • Elirionmage

    8/6/2013 1:26:52 PM

    You forgot Australian Cattle Dogs. They are known for their intelligence as much as their durability and tenacity! ^^

    • PetCareRx-Susie

      8/6/2013 2:41:22 PM

      Very true Elirionmage, I have heard about such intelligence for that breed. I imagine the list of dogs that are intelligent and an overall great pet, could go on and on!

    • rpsangel

      8/8/2013 3:37:01 AM

      Agreed Elirionmage; My Australian Cattle Dog Cookie would not slow down for anyone, but without being trained to do so, would walk at the side of my elderly mother & slow her pace to match my mother's when she would walk down the gravel road to get the mail, on our farm in ND.
      If Cookie sensed that my mother was unsteady on her feet, she would align her body next to my mother to help her keep her balance.
      Cookie was not even a year old when she would do this.

      • Kimberly Hartwell Schmucker

        2/3/2014 4:37:47 PM

        We have a miniature Australian Shepherd. The first time on the leash, he also stayed right beside me! Why, I wonder. No other breeds do that!

    • Robert

      10/28/2013 10:07:29 PM

      Shiner, an ACD alpha female is easily the smartest dog that I have ever had. She became the self appointed "seeing eye dog" for a blind Cocker Spaniel we had at the same time. She would guide him safely around a large dog park (off leash) while silently showing her hackles to those dogs not showing proper respect to a blind dog.

  • Coast Watcher

    8/6/2013 7:32:52 PM

    hey finally, recognizing what I have known for all my life, dalmatians are smarter than your honor student.

    • Susan_Byrne

      8/6/2013 7:38:18 PM

      Ha! Sounds like a bumper sticker in the making! :)

  • Eve Alexander

    8/6/2013 7:56:52 PM

    But you listed 6 / 7 breeds in your top five list!

    • peteditor

      8/8/2013 1:09:00 PM

      That's an excellent point. We have fixed it, thanks!

  • Taylor Reed

    8/7/2013 1:03:17 AM

    I own a dal and a pittie, I can assure you that the pitti is a whole lot smarter then my dal but I love them both.

  • martha

    8/8/2013 1:57:00 AM

    I have a rescue cocker spaniel, and she is one of the smartest dogs around. I also, had one many years ago, and she was also very smart. So, don't believe everything you read.

  • KAREN

    10/5/2013 3:41:35 PM

    i will take one of each...........

  • VVV

    10/8/2013 1:42:32 PM

    Why is the German Shepherd listed as #1 but in the text it states they are ranked #3 in intelligence?

    • PetCareRx-Susie

      10/8/2013 4:38:16 PM

      Hi and welcome!

      They were listed and referenced in no particular order, I believe. As one of our readers Karen said, "I'll take one of each" and I agree. :)
      Again, welcome VVV.

  • jackie

    10/19/2013 7:16:52 PM

    Exactly! where are the Australian Cattle Dogs?? They are right up their with the Border Collies! All mine have been much smarter than me! ha ha

  • wolfjudy

    10/25/2013 7:18:50 PM

    FYI:
    The German Shepherd was developed by breeding a dog back into a wolf-the original wolf dog. The shepherd is a Great dog but they ruined it with that over exaggerated sloping back end in the US at least.

    I owned 2 wolf dogs and I can tell you they were the most intelligent canines i have ever met. It was like living with 2 other people in the house, however they have canine interests not human.

    The golden retriever was developed by crossing a Lab with an Irish setter-makes so much sense when you realize that as they are so similar to labs.

    Also, scientist now consider dogs to be the second smartest mammals next to man, only outdone by the chimp.

  • delandes

    10/29/2013 9:09:54 PM

    You forgot the Dutch Sheperd:( I had one who passed almost a year ago and she was smart as a whip!! We had to put her down due to cancer at almost 12 yrs. of age:) LOVED that dog!!!

  • June

    11/1/2013 3:14:00 PM

    No Leonberger but a bunch of mutts passed off as designer dogs? Really?

    • PetCareAmy

      12/2/2013 8:06:27 PM

      Leonbergers are wonderful dogs that people don't tend to know about. I suspect you have some smart Leonbergers in your life.

  • John Garrett

    11/18/2013 4:17:07 AM

    Labs, are you joking?

    • PetCareAmy

      12/2/2013 8:11:37 PM

      Labs can be a diverse bunch. I've known some who were very clever at finding ways to get into and eat things they shouldn't, and then winding up in emergency vet care, which didn't seem clever at all!

    • bjdelmoral

      12/30/2013 2:52:23 AM

      Why do you think Labs are the dominant breed used as seeing eye dogs, and working dogs in general. They are smart, easy to train, aim to please, loyal and loving. The blind, african american man in N.Y. that lost his balance in the subway, fell in and his black lab jumped in to protect him shows the depth they will go to protect their person. Unfortunately you got a lemon, which happens even with cars.

  • KAMALA1218

    11/21/2013 3:09:02 AM

    Had a Shepard akita mix . He was a retired police dog got him when he was 2 handler retired, and I adopted him. He was a loving animal smart, and great watchdog. He would go ape sh*t, and wild when some savage would stare at him. RIP Trooper we miss you

  • Tiger Lily

    12/4/2013 4:41:20 PM

    Dogs being tested in university setting aren't necessarily performing as they would in the outside world. All the herding dogs are smart, not just Border Collies & German Shepherds (though I have to say, I've trained dogs for forty years and have yet to see a breed that can perform as many varied tasks as a German Shepherd - or learn them as easily and quickly - AND perform them reliably under every situation). Labs are incredibly smart and independent which is why they make the best Guide Dogs. Poodles are smart, but become bored easily and don't make good working dogs. They learn quickly but are best suited for more playful pastimes. Still trying to imagine why the French are using them a police dogs! Hunting dogs tend to be more independent, which makes sense because they have to work on their own. Perhaps one could consider that independence a sign of superior intelligence.

    Point of my longwinded comment being: ALL DOGS ARE SMART - usually as smart as their owners let them be! Expose dogs to good training, new situations, lots of language interaction, and you will find that any breed becomes more "intelligent." Most people stop training their dogs after housebreaking, sit, etc. If you were to keep up with the training all their lives, you'd be amazed at how any breed will respond. People used to tell me their Afghan Hounds were dumb; it wasn't that they were less intelligent, only that their humans weren't getting them enough exercise so they could settle down and concentrate. I suspect this is true of many pet dogs that seem unwilling to learn new things.

    Anyway, dogs are the greatest! And unlike every other animal, they choose to be our loyal companions and helpers. Treat them with kindness and they repay you a thousand-fold.

  • yorkielover

    12/4/2013 5:07:32 PM

    You forgot Yorkshires. I have two rescued Yorkies, and they are intelligent, and very protective of their families. Luv them to death!

  • truth

    12/9/2013 4:48:43 PM

    How dare they not include Schnauzers! >:( This is an outrage! I do agree with poodles, I have owned two in my lifetime. This Schnauzer I have is smarter than them. When I put on my pants to go out, he goes in his crate!

    He is such a sweet dog, he just adapts to my life style and is always so happy. I demand they do this over and with Schnauzers as 1, Poodles as 2.. and I don't care after that.

    • Patricia Penza

      1/21/2014 11:04:00 PM

      I agree, Truth! Schnauzers are super smart! I miss mine so much; plan to get another one someday....

      • truth

        1/22/2014 4:35:37 AM

        My dog will be turning 4 soon. =) I don't think I will ever want another breed if I outlive him.(I'm not very old, but anything is possible.) I have had other people give up on a schnauzer and give them away. At first my dog was not so easy to train, mainly because I did not know what I was doing. I then watched youtube videos about training dogs.

        He is just such a loyal, fun loving dog. If I am sitting down playing a video game, he is sitting at my feet. If I pass out on the couch, I wake up with him laying against my legs. He is always eager to play, he listens to me, and also he doesn't shed! Although, with all non shedding dogs, you have to give a hair cut. =)

  • truth

    12/9/2013 4:51:15 PM

    I found a better list on dog breeds that are smart.
    http://abclocal.go.Com/wpvi/story?section=news/special_reports&id=6500108
    Schnauzers are number 12 there, woo! :D

  • Rhody

    12/12/2013 2:42:25 PM

    The Transylvanian Hound should be on this list also.

  • MeToo

    12/30/2013 10:21:02 PM

    My dogs mother was a Husky, father was unknown. He was so smart that at just 14 months he ditched a drunk teenager in the middle of the night (walking home, tried to get him to take a "shortcut" and returned to the house where the party was that they had left. He went about 18 blocks and showed up at their door barking and scratching. No collar, no leash, no kid. That is smart isn't it? Sadly, Bandit was killed by a cougar May '13 while visiting a relative in a rural area. He had just turned 13.

  • Sarah Ivans

    12/31/2013 4:17:02 AM

    It's funny that everyone thinks the breed of their own dog is always the smartest. I must wonder how many actual recognized breeds they truly evaluate. I am willing to bet their may be a rare breed or two that could be on this list too.

    • maggie

      2/11/2014 1:50:56 PM

      Sarah I am 71 years of age and have owned and loved at lease a dozen dogs ....The Cattle Dogs in my opinion are the smartest by far....

  • Noah

    12/31/2013 3:00:15 PM

    I am a bichon frise. I had my CGC at a year and therapy cert at 2. I ride a skateboard and do endless tricks. I just get the whole therapy thing. I am very smart.

  • Cruz

    1/3/2014 5:34:25 PM

    I have a rescue dog Schnauzer mix and she is one of the smartest little dogs I have ever seen. Also have a Golden Retreiver 6 months old now and he is also very smart. I think for the most part your pets are as smart as the pet owner wants them to be. If you spend the time and effort you'll get a well adjusted and smart pet.

  • Chas

    1/7/2014 2:59:04 PM

    I guess they have never had an Australian Shepherd. Short sighted for a long list of breeds.

  • patricia

    1/28/2014 10:52:49 PM

    How about doberman?.aren´t they clever?

  • baarb

    2/3/2014 3:41:55 PM

    not only would I have included Australian cattle dogs but Weimaraners as well- Weimaraners watch and learn from an owners actions-

  • Alan Lowder

    2/4/2014 7:04:25 AM

    Australian Shepherds and Cattle Dogs stay next to you as part of their herding instinct. Try walking away from them when they feel like they are on duty. I have a rescue mutt that I had DNA tested. 1/4 border, 1/4 aussie, 1/4 cattle dog and 1/4 golden retriever. I think he is smart more from being a mutt than his genetics. But really, let's face, it all dogs are smart enough to train their owners.

  • mwpncookeville

    2/11/2014 1:39:30 PM

    I see some anti - doberman bias at work...

    • mwpncookeville

      2/11/2014 1:44:20 PM

      Canine intelligence is an umbrella term that encompasses the faculties involved in a wide range of mental tasks, such as learning, problem-solving, and communication. The Doberman Pinscher has ranked amongst the most intelligent of dog breeds in experimental studies and expert evaluations. For instance, Psychologist Stanley Coren ranks the Doberman as the 5th most intelligent dog in the category of obedience command training, based on the selective surveys he performed of some trainers (as documented in his book The Intelligence of Dogs). Additionally, in two studies, Hart and Hart (1985) ranked the Doberman Pinscher first in this category.[16] and Tortora (1980) gave the Doberman the highest rank in trainability.[17] Although the methods of evaluation differ, these studies consistently show that the Doberman Pinscher, along with the Border Collie, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever and Standard Poodle, is one of the most trainable breeds of dog.

  • maggie

    2/11/2014 1:47:26 PM

    I had the honor to have raised 3 ACD's...they are loving highly intelligent and make great guard dogs...

  • sross615

    2/12/2014 2:27:02 PM

    It is obvious from the other responses that you should have included the Australian Cattle dog. We have had two, My daughter has one and my son has two. Only the Border collie rivals them in intelligence.Every vet I have spoken to rates them in the top 3.

  • Angela Williams

    2/19/2014 4:22:42 PM

    It is obvious Lauren Leonardi LACKS RESEARCH SKILLS for the Standard Schnauzer should have made the list by far. Dubbed “the dog with the human brain,” this German breed can retain a four hundred word vocabulary in addition to having a permanent memory of humans when rubbing its beard up against individuals to store each uniques scent. When it comes to being a ratter and guardian, the SS uses various tactics when approaching an enemy (i.e. Alexander the Great tactics) to keep them guessing at all times. Last, this breed is used more frequently to detect human cancer. The breeds Leonardi identified had a common factor, guard dog, but since when did guarding trump detecting cancer?

Was this article helpful?