Some dogs are more naturally more obedient and trainable than others. This largely has to do with different dog breeds’ natural intelligence and commitment to the training process from their owner. The smartest dog breeds tend to make the training process more manageable, but without proper guidance from the owner, these intelligent dogs can become disobedient.
University of British Columbia psychology professor and author of The Intelligence of Dogs, Stanley Coren, PhD, identified the top dog breeds based on obedience and training ability. Coren studied over 110 breeds when compiling his finalized list of the most intelligent breeds in the world.
Specifically, these 11 breeds listed below were able to absorb commands in less than five repetitions and obeyed commands 95% of the time (or better). Find out if your dog ranks in the top smartest dog breeds in the world. Or if you are looking to adopt a new pup, consider these breeds when making your decision.
Border Collies are well-balanced, medium sized dogs that have a fairly athletic appearance. This breed has a muscular build and an endless endurance to match. Because of this, Border Collies have been known to wreak havoc if they aren’t worn out enough before being left alone. Although with the proper amount of exercise they are incredibly obedient and loyal to their owners.
Border Collies are extremely intelligent dogs and usually appear with an alert expression at almost all times. This breed is known to be herding dogs because of their strong stamina and intelligence. While the breed is considered the world’s premier sheepherder, they can display their intelligence and obedience in a variety of ways.
Border Collies have incredible natural instincts and disciplined work ethic, which makes them a perfect dog for a busy environment. Despite their disciplined work ethic, this breed depends on human interaction and partnership. Without this companionship they often become lonely, bored, and destructive, so it’s important to make Border Collies feel comfortable and loved in their home environment.
Poodles are ranked the seventh most popular dog breed in the world due to their active, proud, and intelligent personality. This breed has a fairly average amount of energy, making them easy to tame and train. They are active dogs, holding their head high with pride, but never fail to obey their superior.
Poodles are also incredible water retrievers. The breed name actually comes from a German word “pudel” which means “to splash in water”. Due to their rich history, Poodles have become incredible water dogs and love to spend time getting wet. Despite their fur looking like a more fashionable characteristic, the voluminous hair actually serves as a protectant against cold waters.
German Shepherd dogs rank as the second most popular dog breed in the world because they are extremely loving and loyal pets. This breed is generally confident, courageous, and smart. At first glance, German Shepherd dogs are strong, well muscled animals that are alert and full of life. This makes them incredible working dogs, but also great companions.
German Shepherd dogs are often used by the police force, handicapped, military service, herding, search and rescue and drug detection. This is because they learn naturally and quickly, which simplifies the training process. In addition, German Shepherds’ stamina, courage, and commitment to their owners make them incredible dogs to own.
German Shepherds are excellently behaved and affectionate around children, so they are great for large families. They are filled with a large amount of energy and are most obedient when they are exercised enough. Much like Border Collies, in order to own a German Shepherd, you need to have enough time on your hands to give them a good workout.
Not only do Golden Retrievers make great household pets due to their loving and nurturing personality, they are also quite intelligent. This breed is constantly eager to please their owner, which makes these dogs more willing to listen to commands and adopt appropriate behaviors. They are incredibly athletic dogs with agility and competitive obedience, which comes from their ability to retrieve.
Golden Retrievers tend to show more personality than most dog breeds, which ranks them as the third most popular dog breed in the world. At a glance, Golden Retrievers are devoted, friendly, and intelligent. They make great hunting dogs due to their strong work ethic and loyalty to their owner. In addition, they are gentle dogs, which makes them capable of being around young children and large families much like German Shepherds. These dogs generally get along well with other breeds, so if you own other dogs, that shouldn’t be a problem.
The Doberman Pinscher is known for being alert, fearless, and loyal. Despite being a high-energy dog, Doberman Pinschers are incredibly trainable. The breed is energetic, watchful, determined, and obedient, and is ranked the fifteenth most popular dog breed in the world.
Due to the breed compact and muscular build, these dogs have great endurance and speed. The breed appears elegant and of proud carriage, which reflects great temperament.
Characterized by their cropped ears, docked tail and athletic build, Doberman Pinschers are often used as guard dogs, but are also suitable for all types of households. Whether being used for police, military, or as a family guardian, they are filled with compassion and loyalty.
The Shetland Sheepdog is a part of the herding group of dogs due to the breeds ability to interact well with other animals. Not only are they excellent herding dogs, Shetland Sheepdogs are bright, energetic, and playful, which makes them great companions in any setting.
Shetland Sheepdogs are generally smaller dogs and have rough-coated long hair. This breed is often referred to as the “Sheltie” and is essentially a miniature working Collie. These dogs are typically swift, light-footed runners and agile, graceful jumpers. This breed requires a fair amount of mental exercise outside of their physical regiment.
In order to be happy and well-behaved, this breed requires mental stimulation such as advanced obedience, herding, or challenging games. This can be done through something as simple as hiding your Shetland Sheepdog’s toy around the house and making them try to find where you placed it.
Labrador Retrievers rank as the number one most popular dog to own in the world. This comes with little surprise, as Labrador Retrievers are one of the most lovable and obedient dog breeds. These dogs are a pleasure to own and play incredibly well with other dogs and people.
They are active, friendly, and outgoing with a high amount of energy. This requires owners to properly exercise their Labrador Retriever in order for make their behavior consistent. This breed has a strong build and an athletic composition, which makes them incredible outdoor dogs.
Labradors are known for their ability to hunt in a variety of difficult conditions, whether that is in the water or on land. They also perform well in show rings and have a great temperament as a family companion. Much like Golden Retrievers, Labradors are eager to please their owner, which results in owning a well-behaved and intelligent pet.
The Papillon is a small, friendly toy dog that is incredibly dainty. The breed is typically very lively, alert, and friendly, but also incredibly intelligent. Similar to the Shetland breed, Papillons require both mental and physical exercise. Mentally, this breed enjoys interactive games with their owners and agility training. Additionally, they are very quick on their feet and excel in obstacle courses.
Papillons have a strong desire to please their owner and coupled with their high intelligence, they are one of the easiest dog breeds to train. Due to this, Papillons are often the grand champion of toy group competitions in both agility and competitive obedience. Outside of the ring, Papillon make great apartment dogs because of their small size and ability to entertain themselves.
The Bloodhound is famous for its stereotypical role as a “true” detective due to the breed’s incredible sense of smell. In fact, this breed can often detect a scent based on one or two skin cells, which makes them great additions to the police force.
Bloodhounds can trail a scent for miles at a time, tuning out the sound of their owner and their surroundings, so it is important to properly train this breed at a young age. However, Bloodhounds are known for their wisdom so the training process typically runs smoothly.
Bloodhounds are typically independent, but also very friendly. They are less comfortable around strangers but are incredibly affectionate with their family. While also portrayed as particularly lazy on TV, Bloodhounds actually have a large amount of energy. The breed loves being outside and especially enjoys participating in vigorous activities.
While the Rottweiler can seem intimidating due to its powerful and muscular build, the breed is actually known for its loyal and loving personality. The breed likely gets this reputation because these dogs are much more reserved around strangers and can be protective of their owner. In addition, they are often used in police searches, where they can get more aggressive.
Rottweilers display their intelligence through their protective nature of their family. They have a strong understanding of who to protect and understand when someone is not welcome. Although are fairly mellow guard dogs, it is still important to socialize them at a young age and be firm in the training process in order to minimize their aggressive behavior.
As an owner, you need to teach this breed the difference between protectiveness and aggressiveness. Once you instill this behavior, these dogs are incredibly gentle, playful, and loving companions. In fact, Rottweilers often mistake themselves for small lap dogs and have no hesitation when it comes to cuddling. They’ll often crawl into your lap when you sit down, so get used to the 100 pounds of pure affection joining you on the couch.
Australian Cattle Dogs
As seen in the name, Australian Cattle Dogs were originally cattle herders on expansive ranches and are still used as herding dogs to this day. The breed enjoys having a “job” to do because it allows them to exercise their brain more easily. Besides herding cattle, the breed excels in canine sports including and not limited to agility, obedience, rally, fly ball, and disc competitions.
It is important that if you own an Australian Cattle Dog you are able to give them a sufficient amount of physical exercise. Because they are used to herding cattle for long periods of time, you need to be able to exercise them appropriately.
Similar to Rottweilers, Australian Cattle Dogs are suspicious of strangers, which can cause the breed to act protective and slightly aggressive towards people they aren’t familiar with. Due to their herding tendencies they can also be inclined to be playful around children.
This can be seen in the form of chasing or nipping, but if you raise Australian Cattle Dogs alongside children, they are more likely to treat the child with respect rather than as a playmate. Although, it is suggested that Australian Cattle Dogs are raised in families with older children in order to instill the chain of command.
What becomes evident from these dog breeds is that even if your dog is naturally more intelligent than other breeds, as an owner you still need to play an active role in their training process. It is particularly important that if you do own a smart breed that you use firm, fair and consistent training. Your dog will likely be able to pick up on training behaviors more quickly, but they will also attempt to outsmart you along the way. Using positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play, and treats will condition your dog to want to behave well.