The Smartest Dog Breeds in the World
Every dog owner wants to believe their dog is one of the most intelligent dogs! But do you know whether your dog is realistically one of the top 20 smartest dog breeds? Don’t worry; we’ve made a comprehensive list that covers the smartest dog breeds ranked to discover the most intelligent dog breeds in the canine kingdom.
But fret not; no matter whether your smart dog is at the top of the dog intelligence list or not, it is still the best dog for you! But what is the smartest dog out there? Let’s find out!
Top 20 Smartest Dog Breeds Ranked
Humans measure intelligence in many ways. In humans, we tend to determine intelligence on verbal and numerical ability, logical reasoning, and memory. In dogs, we also need measurable factors to assess intelligence. The most common features are:
- Inherent or instinctive intelligence: How well does the dog do what its breeding and genes want? Examples of inherent intelligence include herding, retrieving, and guarding abilities.
- Adaptive intelligence: How fast can a dog learn something itself? Meaning how quickly a dog will learn from experience and use that learned knowledge to solve other problems in the future. Example: Knowing it cannot run through a window.
- Obedience intelligence: This is the most recognized characteristic of intelligence; how fast does a dog learn a new command? This type of intelligence is as close to academic intelligence as we can get in dogs.
We humans will generally use obedience intelligence as a measurement for intelligence in dogs but remember there are other types of intelligence. The most intelligent dogs will have a combination of all three.
So, on that note, here it is, our intelligence list of the top 20 most intelligent dog breeds, all leading us to: What are the most intelligent dogs?
No. 20) Weimaraner
Also known as the gray ghost, this stoic and beautiful-looking dog is an athletic hunting dog. Bred in Germany, it was used to hunt large animals and was incredibly smart and hardworking.
The Weimaraner loves learning new things and are very orientated towards their owners. They tend to do very well at obedience trials but can even become stars on the agility track or at flyball competitions, where their long, muscular legs can send them flying down the track.
Weighing between 55 to 90 pounds (25 to 40 kilograms), these clever beauties are pretty large dogs and will need a job and plenty of long walks to keep them happy and healthy.
No. 19) The Brittany Spaniel
The Brittany spaniel may not be the most well-known breed on our list, but do not let the beautiful orange and white coat blind you. These adorable dogs can run around with even the brightest of dogs.
Used as gun dogs for a century, the Brittany spaniel is one of the best hunting dogs, but they are also helpful for many other jobs. They especially love water sports, meaning they are perfect for dock jumping but can also be stars at agility.
The Brittany spaniel is often very attached to its owners and wants to please them, making them very smart and trainable. It is well suited for first-time owners if you make sure they receive plenty of mental and physical stimulation.
No. 18) The German Shorthaired Pointer
Another hunting dog makes our list. The sweet-tempered dog might weigh between 45 to 70 pounds (20 to 34 kilograms), but the German shorthaired pointer is often incredibly friendly and loving towards its family. However, they can be a little reserved towards strangers.
The German shorthaired pointer can tend to bark without being an excellent guard dog, but what they lack in guardian instincts, they do more than make up for in hunting instincts. They are generally known as one of the best gun dog breeds, suitable for retrieving game on land and water.
This breed does need a great deal of exercise, up to two hours daily, at least. Unfortunately, they also tend to be escape artists due to their strong hunting instincts, so keep a latch on the door!
No. 17) The Schipperke
If you translate schipperke, it means “little skipper,” showing credit to its importance on the Belgian barges in keeping vermin off the boats. These tiny dogs weigh just from 12 to 16 pounds (6 to 7 kilograms) but have huge personalities and pack a lot of energy and brains into their tiny bodies.
They excel at agility and obedience trials and are famous for their mischievous and curious personalities, always keeping their owners on their toes.
No. 16) Belgian Tervuren
Bred initially in Belgium to guard and be a herding dog, this is a dog with its protective instincts intact and can even be a little possessive at times. But, on the other hand, it is brilliant, hardworking, and almost impossible to tire out.
The Belgian Tervuren is a medium-sized dog weighing from 45 to 70 pounds (20 to 32 kilograms) and has a beautiful long coat, often with a “collar” around the neck to distinguish it.
Being intelligent and very active, this dog is not for everyone. But, if you are up for it, “Tervs”, as owners often call them, will draw you in with their work ethic and a mischievous sense of humor – especially when they outsmart you.
No. 15) Australian Cattle Dog
Also known as “Heelers” and related to the Dingo (a wild dog native to Australia), the Australian cattle dog is a small genius in an athlete’s body. Some even call it the savior of the beef industry in Australia.
Heelers are pretty small dogs weighing from 35 to 50 pounds (15 to 23 kilograms), but don’t let that fool you. These dogs are resilient herders of large cattle and intelligent enough to outsmart their owners. In addition, they have an immense work drive and excel at herding, hunting, and other dog sports like agility and obedience.
Australian cattle dogs are not the ideal family dog as they often prefer adults and can be one-person dogs. However, once bonded to a person, they are infallibly loyal and the perfect adventure buddy.
No. 14) Keeshond
Quite a rare breed, the keeshond is another barge dog bred to guard dutch vessels as they traveled around. With their long grey fur, the keeshond smile, and an amiable disposition, Keeshonds are often a dog breed to remember.
They weigh from 35 to 45 pounds (15 to 20 kilograms) and are not the biggest dogs on the list, meaning Keeshonds are pretty happy in large and small places. Their exercise requirements are also a lot less; most are satisfied with long walks.
They need frequent brushing, and beware of the Keeshond bark with such long fur. As guard dogs, these do like their voices, primarily if their owners do not appropriately entertain them!
No. 13) Cocker Spaniel
Almost everyone recognizes the cocker spaniel, but did you know that behind the beautiful demeanor hides an incredibly intelligent pooch? Originally bred as a hunting dog, this lovely breed can excel in almost any dog sport and will always be happy to go for a run with you!
Being outgoing, gentle, and intelligent makes many cocker spaniels beloved family members worldwide. They want to please their owners and are very hard working when tasked with a job. On top of that, they are often also quite friendly towards strangers, which means they’re often not the perfect guard dog.
No. 12) Miniature Schnauzer
The smallest of the schnauzers at only 11 to 20 pounds (5 to 9 kilograms), this little dog packs an intelligence to match most and a loyal and cheerful disposition. As a bonus, they are also famous for being a low-shedding breed!
Miniature schnauzers er very smart and eager to please; bred initially to catch rats, these dogs are also incredibly fast, making them perfect for the agility track. However, the best part about the mini schnauzer must also be that they are ideal family dogs that get along well with other animals and kids and love lots of playing time with their family.
No. 11) English Springer Spaniel
Another spaniel makes the list! The English springer spaniel is the largest spaniel weighing 45 to 55 pounds (20 to 25 kilograms) and is a hunting dog. Despite its high intelligence, it is a calm and balanced family dog that loves to spend time with everyone, especially children.
The devoted English springer spaniel does have a lot of energy and will need an outlet for both physical and mental energy, but you will indeed have a loving friend for life if you give it that.
Note: A new type of English springer spaniel has appeared in recent years, the FT Springer. It is the same breed, but FT stands for Field Trial, meaning these are dogs bred from hunting lineage. If you are looking for “just” a family dog, we recommend getting a regular English springer spaniel.
No. 10) Shetland Sheepdog
We’ve reached the top ten smartest dog breeds and at a firm no. 10 is the Shetland sheepdog, also known as the “Sheltie.” This lovely little fluffy dog weighs just 15 to 25 pounds (7 to 11 kilograms) but is one of the fastest and brightest dogs on any agility track globally!
Originally bred on the Shetland islands to herd sheep, this herding dog is both active and intelligent, eager to please, and affectionate, making them lovely family dogs. You will never doubt your Sheltie’s wish to work. They will tell you with their barking every step of the way!
No. 9) Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Maybe you know that this clever dog is the Queen of England‘s favorite breed? It is for a good reason. These adorable short-legged dogs are intelligent, goofy, and stubborn at times! However, socialize and train your Corgi from a young age, and you’ll have a great dog for first-time owners.
Pembroke Welsh corgis are slightly smaller, weighing up to 30 pounds (13 kilograms), compared to the similar Cardigan Welsh corgis. They are known to be affectionate, without being needy, and can at times be independent.
Despite their long and low build, they are surprisingly agile and love to work, making them perfect for almost any dog sport you could wish for.
No. 8) Doberman Pinscher
You may recognize this large dog as a formidable guard dog from the movies, but these dogs are often enjoyable and affectionate work dogs. They love to be around their family and are quick and easy to train. But be aware of their strength; weighing up to 90 pounds (40 kilograms), the Doberman is a powerful dog!
Dobermans will need a lot of socializing as puppies, partly because they rarely realize how big they are! But, if you make sure to activate this intelligent dog and give it lots of love, it will return it tenfold.
No. 7) German Shepherd
Of course, the German shepherd is also on this list. Known for being a working dog worldwide as service dogs, police dogs, and in the army, it is no surprise that this is one of the most intelligent dog breeds.
Originally bred in Germany as a herding dog, this breed excels in almost any dog sport and job. But, of course, these clever dogs need a leader to direct them; otherwise, they are smart enough to do their jobs! But if you train with your German shepherd from a young age, you will have a devoted dog that will go with you through thick and thin.
No. 6) Rottweiler
With the male weighing up to 100 pounds (45 kilograms), this large dog may seem all muscle and have no brain. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Originally bred as herding dogs, they are often guarding dogs today.
Still, most rottweilers are very loving and intelligent dogs suitable to train for almost any task – especially those that take a bit more muscle power. These clever dogs may not be the star of the agility track, but if you are looking for an obedience partner that will still watch the kids at home, the rottweiler is a beautiful breed.
No. 5) Papillon
The top 5 most intelligent dogs are here, starting with the papillon! The papillon is the smallest dog on our list, weighing just a maximum of 10 pounds (5 kilograms). Their tiny size does, however, not deter these dogs. Being highly intelligent and agile, they excel at agility but are also clever enough for almost any other type of work – even as service dogs!
Due to their small size, these dogs are perfect for almost any owner as they can live in apartments or houses and be equally happy. Just make sure you properly socialize them as young puppies to ensure they get along with other animals and humans.
No. 4) Golden Retriever
If you are looking for an intelligent, friendly, family dog and don’t mind a bit of fur around the house, the golden retriever is probably the perfect breed. Bred as retrieving hunting dogs in Scotland, these dogs are one of the most common service and therapy dogs there is.
At 55 to 75 pounds (25 to 34 kilograms), these lovely dogs aren’t exactly small but are so easy to train; they can learn to behave themselves in almost any environment. But, remember that they are still dogs and will have a teenage phase, where they are just as impossible as any other breed!
No. 3) Labrador Retriever
Whether it is black, yellow, or brown, the Labrador retriever is a much-loved family member worldwide. Weighing from 55 to 80 pounds (25 to 36 kilograms), these goofballs are as loving as intelligent. No wonder they are the most popular dog breed in America!
Originally meant to be hunting dogs, these friendly dogs are always eager to please and prefer being always with their family. Topped with stellar intelligence, it makes them the ideal service and working dog, suitable for almost any job and dog sport.
The Labrador retriever is generally a very laid-back breed, but don’t mistake this for lack of energy. These dogs need to exercise and train to stay happy and healthy.
No. 2) Poodle
If you want an extremely intelligent, versatile, and loving dog breed, the poodle is a perfect addition to your family. It even exists in three different sizes, with lots of colors to choose from, and it doesn’t shed, meaning it can be happy in almost any environment and lifestyle.
Originally bred as hunting dogs to retrieve ducks, the poodle is, without a doubt, one of the smartest dog breeds in the canine kingdom. They can do almost any canine job and excel in dog sports while being very loving companions. Poodles tend to get very attached to their owners and will happily join you on any adventure, like a run, hike, or beach trip!
No. 1) Border Collie
Here we are, what is commonly known as the most intelligent dog breed: The border collie. Bred to herd sheep, these hardy and beautiful dogs are smart enough to excel at almost any dog sport, but especially agility and other fast-paced sports are their home turf.
But be aware that these dogs tend to be workaholics. So if you are looking for a high-energy dog breed that will work all day and love you, the border collie is perfect for you!
Weighing from 30 to 55 pounds (13 to 25 kilograms), these remarkable medium-sized dogs need to be exercised and have a job to stay happy. But, if you’ve got the time and energy, your border collie will adore you and be ready to settle down for a cuddle when the workday ends.
The Intelligence Level of the Average Canine
Whenever a new person meets my dog, they will inevitably ask, “Is it a smart dog?” My favorite answer is; I swear that sometimes he’s smarter than I am. Of course, from a psychological viewpoint, that may not be strictly true, but there is no doubt that dogs are far more intelligent than most people give them credit for.
Research into canine intelligence has increased significantly throughout the last couple of decades, with many experiments currently still running, using new technologies like MRI scanners, etc.
The latest results show that dogs can solve incredibly complex tasks and problems, whether they are one of the smartest dog breeds or not. However, what is most impressive when we look at canine intelligence and the newest research is that our furry friends understand the tone of our voice and the specific words!
The results also show that dogs are capable of impressive social intelligence and sensitivity – beating even our closest animal relatives (chimps) at how well they read us. Overall, psychologists estimate that an average dog has intelligence comparable to a two- to a three-year-old child!
Dogs are also capable of complex emotions like jealousy and bonding emotionally with humans. This is, of course, not news to people who own dogs; we all know our dogs love us. But it is pretty remarkable that an entirely different species not only understand us and wants to solve tasks with us. They also recognize us enough to feel emotions for us!
Of course, there are limits to dogs’ intelligence. We spend many hours with dogs and tend to overestimate our dogs’ abilities and apply human emotions to them, also called anthropomorphism.
Something that primarily occurs when it comes to dogs “looking guilty.” Dogs have adapted so well to living with humans; they can read us from a mile away and will act accordingly to please us.
They do, however, not have the intelligence to feel and understand guilt in the way we humans do – they react to their owner being upset. However, that does not mean that dogs aren’t incredibly intelligent, and we should be proud of the tasks our best friend manages to complete every day.
That’s All, Folks!
You made it to the end of our list! Was your dog breed one of the top 20 smartest dog breeds? Maybe not, or perhaps it is. No matter what, there is no doubt that dogs are far more intelligent – emotionally and logically – than what we used to believe, and more importantly: They make our lives all the richer for being in it!
Catharina is a Veterinary Medicine student from Uni of Copenhagen. When she isn’t making camp in the library, stuck to the books, she’s also a writer and avid photographer. Capturing everything from buildings to dogs – especially her poodle Bailey is a frequent subject.