The Most Intelligent Dog Breeds: Discovering Which Breeds Are the Smartest

Apr 4, 2023 | 0 comments

Dogs have been dubbed man’s best friend for centuries, and with good reason. These furry companions have an unparalleled ability to connect with humans and are often considered part of the family. However, not all dogs are created equal in terms of intelligence. Some breeds are simply more adept at learning and performing tasks than others. We will explore the most intelligent dog breeds and what makes them stand out. We’ll delve into the different types of intelligence that dogs can exhibit, and we’ll take a closer look at some of the research conducted on dog intelligence.

Types of Dog Intelligence

There are several different types of intelligence that dogs can exhibit. Understanding these different types of intelligence can help you better train and develop your furry friend.

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Instinctive Intelligence

Instinctive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to perform tasks it has been bred for, such as herding or retrieving. For instance, Border Collies were bred to herd sheep and have a natural instinct to do so. They are known for their keen herding abilities and are often used for sheepdog trials.

Adaptive Intelligence

This type of intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to solve problems and learn from experience. Some breeds are particularly adept at this type of intelligence and are often quick learners. For example, Poodles are known for their problem-solving skills and are often used in circus performances because of their ability to learn new tricks quickly.

Intelligent Dog Breeds

Working and Obedience Intelligence

Working and obedience intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to follow commands and perform specific tasks, such as guide dogs or search and rescue dogs. This type of intelligence is particularly important for dogs with specific jobs. German Shepherds, for instance, are often used as police or military dogs because of their high working and obedience intelligence.

Social Intelligence

Social intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to interact with other dogs and people and to understand social cues. This type of intelligence is particularly important for dogs in frequent contact with other animals or humans. Golden Retrievers are known for their friendly and sociable nature, making them great family pets.

Communication Intelligence

Communication intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to understand and communicate with its owner or trainer, such as understanding commands or body language. This type of intelligence is important for effective training and communication between the dog and the owner. Doberman Pinschers, for instance, are known for their ability to understand complex commands and their owner’s body language.

Spatial Intelligence

Spatial intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to navigate and understand its environment, such as finding its way home or understanding boundaries. This type of intelligence is particularly important for dogs that are frequently off-leash. Shetland Sheepdogs are known for their spatial intelligence and are often used as search and rescue dogs.

Intelligent Dog Breeds

Memory Intelligence

Memory intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to remember and recall information, such as where it buried a bone or found food in the past. This type of intelligence is particularly important for dogs with specific jobs, such as hunting dogs. Labrador Retrievers are known for their excellent memory and are often used as hunting companions.

The Science Behind Dog Breed Intelligence Rankings

Many studies have been conducted on the intelligence of dog breeds, and it is difficult to determine which is the “best” as each study may have different methodologies and measures of intelligence. However, one of the most well-known studies on dog intelligence is by Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, who published a book in 1994 called “The Intelligence of Dogs.”

Coren’s book ranks 133 dog breeds based on three factors of intelligence: working and obedience intelligence (the ability to learn and perform tasks), instinctive intelligence (the ability to perform tasks that the breed was originally bred for), and adaptive intelligence (the ability to solve problems on their own). 

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Top 10 Intelligent Dog Breeds

According to Coren’s rankings, the top 10 most intelligent dog breeds in descending order are:

1. Border Collie

The Border Collie is a breed of herding dog that originated in the border region between Scotland and England. It is a highly intelligent and energetic dog known for its exceptional herding abilities and intense focus and concentration. Border Collies are medium-sized dogs, typically weighing between 30 and 45 pounds, with a 12 to 15 years lifespan. They have a distinctive black and white coat that is thick and weather-resistant, with a long, bushy tail.

Border Collie

These dogs are highly trainable and excel in various activities, including herding, obedience, agility, and flyball. They are also known for their affectionate and loyal personalities, although they can be reserved around strangers.

Because of their high energy levels and intense drive, Border Collies require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to be happy and healthy. They are not well-suited to apartment living and thrive in environments with plenty of space to run and play.

2. Poodle

The Poodle is a breed of dog that originated in Germany and France, although it is often associated with France today. It is a highly intelligent and active breed known for its curly, hypoallergenic coat and elegant appearance. Poodles come in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. Standard Poodles can weigh between 45 and 70 pounds, miniature Poodles between 12 and 20 pounds, and toy Poodles between 4 and 6 pounds. They typically live for 12 to 15 years.

Poodle

Poodles are popular as family pets, show dogs, and performers. They are highly trainable and excel in obedience and agility competitions. They are also used as hunting dogs and as therapy dogs. One of the most distinctive features of the Poodle is its curly, hypoallergenic coat, which comes in various colors, including white, black, brown, and gray. The coat requires regular grooming to prevent matting and maintain its shape.

Poodles are known for their intelligence, affectionate nature, and loyalty to their owners. They are generally good with children and other pets, although they can be reserved around strangers. Their high energy levels require plenty of exercises and mental stimulation to be happy and healthy.

3. German Shepherd

The German Shepherd, also known as the Alsatian, is a dog that originated in Germany. It is a large, intelligent, versatile breed known for its loyalty, courage, and working abilities. German Shepherds typically weigh between 50 and 90 pounds, with a 9 to 13 years lifespan. They have a distinctive black and tan coat, with a dense and thick undercoat that sheds seasonally.

German Shepherd

German Shepherds are popular as police and military dogs, search and rescue dogs, guide dogs for the blind, and therapy dogs. They are highly trainable and excel in obedience and agility competitions. One of the most notable traits of the German Shepherd is its loyalty and protectiveness toward its family. They are known for their courage and willingness to protect their owners from danger.

However, due to their high energy levels and intelligence, German Shepherds require plenty of exercises and mental stimulation to be happy and healthy. They are not well-suited to apartment living and thrive in environments with plenty of space to run and play. They also require early socialization and training to prevent any aggressive tendencies.

4. Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is a breed of dog that originated in Scotland. It is a medium to large breed known for its friendly temperament, intelligence, and loyalty. Golden Retrievers typically weigh between 55 and 75 pounds and last 10 to 12 years. They have a thick, water-repellent coat that comes in shades of gold, and they require regular grooming to prevent matting and keep their coat shiny and healthy.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are popular as family pets, working dogs in search and rescue, therapy, and as guide dogs for the blind. They are highly trainable and excel in obedience and agility competitions. One of the most notable traits of the Golden Retriever is its friendly and sociable personality. They are known for their love of people, including children and other pets. They are also known for their patience and gentle nature, making them a popular choice as a family dog.

Due to their high energy levels, Golden Retrievers require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to be happy and healthy. They are not well-suited to apartment living and thrive in environments with plenty of space to run and play. They are also prone to obesity, so it’s important to monitor their diet and exercise routine.

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5. Doberman Pinscher

The Doberman Pinscher is one of the highly intelligent dog breeds of dog known for its trainability, loyalty, and alertness. They are considered one of the most intelligent dog breeds, ranking in the top 5 according to Stanley Coren’s “The Intelligence of Dogs” book. Dobermans are typically quick learners capable of mastering a wide range of commands and tasks. They are often used as working dogs in law enforcement and the military, as well as in search and rescue and therapy work. They are also successful in various dog sports, such as obedience, agility, and protection.

Doberman Pinscher

In addition to their intelligence, Dobermans are also known for their loyalty and devotion to their owners. They are very affectionate dogs and thrive on human companionship. However, they can be reserved around strangers and require early socialization to prevent aggressive tendencies. Due to their high energy levels and intelligence, Dobermans require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to be happy and healthy. They are not well-suited to apartment living and require daily exercise and activities to prevent boredom and destructive behaviors.

6. Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog, also known as the Sheltie, is a small to medium-sized Intelligent Dog Breeds that originated in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. They were originally bred as working dogs to herd sheep and cattle, and they still retain their herding instincts. Shelties typically weigh between 15 and 25 pounds and last 12 to 14 years. They have a thick double coat that sheds seasonally and comes in various colors, including sable, black, and blue merle.

Shetland Sheepdog

Shelties are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and trainability. They are highly responsive to training and excel in obedience and agility competitions. They are also well-suited for dog sports such as herding and flyball. In addition to their working abilities, Shelties make excellent family pets. They are affectionate and devoted to their owners and known for their gentle and playful nature. They are good with children and other pets, and they are also good watchdogs, alerting their owners to any potential danger.

Due to their herding instincts, Shelties require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to be happy and healthy. They enjoy going on walks and hikes with their owners and playing games such as fetch and Frisbee. They are not well-suited to apartment living and thrive in environments with plenty of space to run and play.

7. Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever is a breed of dog that originated in Newfoundland, Canada. It is a medium to large breed known for its friendly temperament, loyalty, and intelligence. Labrador Retrievers typically weigh between 55 and 80 pounds and last 10 to 12 years. They have a short, dense, water-resistant coat in three colors: black, yellow, and chocolate. Labradors are popular as family pets, working dogs in search and rescue, therapy, and as guide dogs for the blind. They are highly trainable and excel in obedience and agility competitions.

One of the most notable traits of the Labrador Retriever is its friendly and sociable personality. They are known for their love of people, including children and other pets. They are also known for their patience and gentle nature, making them a popular choice as a family dog. Due to their high energy levels, Labradors require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to be happy and healthy. They are not well-suited to apartment living and thrive in environments with plenty of space to run and play. They are also prone to obesity, so it’s important to monitor their diet and exercise routine.

Labrador Retrievers strongly desire to please their owners and are highly responsive to training. They are known for their intelligence and are capable of mastering a wide range of commands and tasks. They are also known for their ability to retrieve and enjoy activities such as swimming and playing fetch.

8. Papillon

The Papillon is a small, toy breed of dog that originated in France. It is known for its distinctive butterfly-shaped ears and lively, friendly personality. Papillons typically weigh between 4 and 9 pounds, with a 13 to 16 years lifespan. They have a long, silky coat that comes in various colors, including white, black, and red.

Papillon

Papillons are known for their intelligence and trainability. They are highly responsive to training and excel in obedience and agility competitions. They are also well-suited for dog sports, such as flyball and rallies. In addition to their working abilities, Papillons make excellent family pets. They are affectionate and devoted to their owners and known for their playful and outgoing nature. They are good with children and other pets and make excellent lap dogs.

Their small size makes Papillons require less exercise than larger intelligent dog breeds, but they still need regular exercise and mental stimulation to be happy and healthy. They enjoy going on walks and playing games such as fetch and tug-of-war.

Papillons are generally healthy and have a long lifespan but are prone to certain health issues, such as dental problems and luxating patellas. Regular veterinary checkups and dental care are important to ensure their health and well-being.

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9. Rottweiler

The Rottweiler is a large breed of dog that originated in Germany. It is a powerful and muscular breed known for its loyalty, intelligence, and protective nature. Rottweilers typically weigh between 80 and 135 pounds, lasting 8 to 10 years. They have a short, dense black coat with distinctive tan markings on the face, chest, and legs.

Rottweiler

Rottweilers are popular as guard dogs and working dogs in law enforcement and search and rescue. They are highly trainable and excel in obedience, protection, and agility competitions.

One of the most notable traits of the Rottweiler is its loyalty and protective nature. They are known for their devotion to their owners and willingness to defend them against perceived threats. They are also known for their confidence and fearlessness, making them effective guard dogs. Due to their large size and high energy levels, Rottweilers require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to be happy and healthy. They enjoy going on walks, running, and playing games such as fetch and tug-of-war.

Rottweilers are generally healthy but prone to certain health issues, such as hip dysplasia and bloat. Regular veterinary checkups and a healthy diet are important to ensure their health and well-being. It’s important to note that proper socialization and training are crucial for Rottweilers to develop a well-rounded and well-behaved temperament. Early training and socialization can help prevent negative behaviors like aggression toward people or other animals.

10. Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog, also known as the Blue Heeler or Queensland Heeler, is a dog developed in Australia for herding cattle. It is a medium-sized breed known for its high energy levels, intelligence, and loyalty. Australian Cattle Dogs typically weigh between 30 and 50 pounds and last 12 to 16 years. They have a short, dense coat, typically blue or red speckled.

Australian Cattle Dogs are known for their herding abilities and are often used to work on farms and ranches. They are highly trainable and excel in obedience and agility competitions. They are also well-suited for dog sports, such as flyball and dock diving. In addition to their working abilities, Australian Cattle Dogs make excellent family pets. They are loyal and devoted to their owners and are known for their protective nature. They are good with children and other pets, but their high energy levels and tendency to herd can sometimes be challenging.

Due to their high energy levels, Australian Cattle Dogs require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to be happy and healthy. They enjoy long walks, running, and playing games such as fetch and Frisbee. Australian Cattle Dogs are generally healthy but prone to certain health issues, such as hip dysplasia and deafness. Regular veterinary checkups and a healthy diet are important to ensure their health and well-being. It’s important to note that Australian Cattle Dogs are highly intelligent and active, which can sometimes make them challenging for inexperienced dog owners. Early training and socialization help prevent negative behaviors and ensure they develop into well-behaved and well-adjusted dogs.

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Conclusion 

In conclusion, dog intelligence can be divided into different types, such as instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence, working and obedience intelligence, social intelligence, communication intelligence, spatial intelligence, and memory intelligence. While some intelligent dog breeds may be more naturally inclined towards certain types of intelligence, all dogs have the potential to exhibit multiple types of intelligence and can be trained and developed accordingly. 

One of the most well-known studies on dog intelligence was conducted by Stanley Coren, who ranked 133 dog breeds based on three intelligence factors. According to his rankings, the top 10 most intelligent dog breeds are the Border Collie, Poodle, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Doberman Pinscher, Shetland Sheepdog, Labrador Retriever, Papillon, Rottweiler, and Australian Cattle Dog. However, it’s important to note that intelligence doesn’t necessarily equate to ease of training or suitability as a pet, and each dog’s temperament and personality should be considered when choosing a breed.

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