Meet the Smartest Dog Breeds in the World

Dogs have been man’s constant companion since the Stone Age, and it’s not just because they’re adorable. They’re intelligent in a way that’s excellent for humans, which is fully purposeful; people have bred dogs for millennia to be perfect canine companions.

As renowned canine researcher and professor Stanley Coren, PhD, points out in his iconic book The Intelligence of Dogs, the smartest dog breeds have served as more than just man’s best friend:

they’ve been navigators and field guides, wartime comrades, detectives, garbage collectors, movie stars, and security consultants.

Dogs are among the few animals to have flown to space, and they have literally and metaphorically saved countless lives.

Border collie

The border collie is the smartest canine breed known to man, according to The intellect of Dogs, which rates 131 dog breeds in terms of their relative intellect.

Do you require proof? Chaser, a South Carolina border collie with exceptional verbal abilities, recognized over 1,000 words. However, it is not only an issue of being “book smart.”

The border collie, a descendant of European herding dogs who lived around the mountainous borders of England, Scotland, and Wales, was trained to be cunning and athletic enough to survive the difficult terrain.

It also possesses a strong work ethic. The border collie, which was recognized by the AKC in 1995, is described as not just “smart, affectionate, and energetic,” but also as a “remarkably bright workaholic.”

According to the AKC, border collie owners should be prepared to provide their dog with plenty of mental and physical stimulation.

Because the breed is so bright and skilled at connecting with humans, it’s not unrealistic to believe that many of them are highly adept at getting what they want from their owners. That is why we have declared the border collie to be the smartest dog in the world.


The poodle, one of several attractive French dog breeds, is frequently regarded as high maintenance. (After all, curly hair isn’t going to style itself.)

But don’t let it fool you into believing they’re any less intelligent. The breed scores well on emotional and cognitive intelligence. In fact, Coren rates the poodle second only to the border collie in terms of intelligence.

And, while the dogs may appear aristocratic, they have also been used during conflict to transport food to soldiers on the battlefield.

The job demanded obedience, unwavering focus, and sound decision-making, and quick-learning poodles were the ideal choice.

Poodles, according to veterinarian Wendy Hauser, DVM, are easily trainable and like activities that challenge them, such as hunting, tracking, agility sports, and obedience practice.

On top of that, the breed has a joyful sense of humor and a proclivity for doing tricks and acting cute on purpose. Not that humans require any more reasons to like them. Poodles are a lot of fun and really cute in all sizes, from teacup to standard.

German shepherd

According to Coren’s assessment, the German shepherd is the second most intelligent herding dog and the third most intellectual dog overall.

The breed was bred for its high intellect (according to the AKC, they can learn a new command on the first try), high degree of attention, desire and capacity to be obedient (which makes training easy), and protective instinct for its fellow “pack” members.

According to Jill Cline, PhD, site director of the Royal Canin Pet Health and Nutrition Center in Lewisburg, Ohio, one of this breed’s qualities is its capacity to examine difficult situations and decide on the best course of action.

That’s why you’ll see German shepherds in law enforcement, search-and-rescue teams, and as service dogs for individuals with disabilities so frequently.

Golden retriever

Canine intelligence is more than just brainpower. Golden retrievers are ranked fourth because of their readiness to “comply with commands or tasks asked of them by their owners,” as Cline put it.

Because of their desire to please their owners, these canines can be counted on to behave consistently in a range of scenarios.

They were bred in Scotland to be hunting partners and game retrievers, and their relative agility and powerful gait help them in search-and-rescue missions.

As hardworking as the golden retriever is, it is also adored all around the world as a dependable, obedient friend.

The golden retriever is the favorite companion for persons with disabilities due to its cheerful mood and capacity for learning instructions (as many as 200 of them, most of which are learnt on the first try).

Fun fact: These puppies are also among the greatest canines for senior citizens to own.

Doberman pinscher

The highly intelligent and easily trainable Doberman pinscher, described by the AKC as fearless, loyal, and vigilant, was produced by a German tax collector with a bit of spare time on his hands during the off-season,

as well as an abundance of incentive to develop the perfect canine guardian. (Because, let’s face it, people can get irritated when the tax collector comes calling.)

According to Coren, “known for their fearless nature, speed, and deep stamina,” these strong yet elegant-looking, robustly athletic creatures are perfect guard dogs.

However, despite its fearsome appearance, this dog breed is recognized for being fairly kind. That, and they’re among the dogs who respond exceptionally well to instruction.

Shetland sheepdog

The small Shetland sheepdog can do everything a larger herding dog does, but on much less food. That is why they were bred to be the “collie’s little cousin.”

Farmers on the UK’s Shetland Islands used them for more than just sheep herding. The sheltie, as it is affectionately nicknamed by some, also found work herding ponies and chickens.

Shelties are exceptional at learning new commands in just a few repetitions because they are eager to please and driven to keep trying until they get it properly.

They are ranked sixth on Coren’s list of the brightest dog breeds due to their relative intellect, obedience, and quickness on their feet.

Shetland sheepdogs, like golden retrievers, are loved for their canine intelligence as well as their personality, and they’re also one of the greatest dog breeds for families with children.

Despite their small size, these fluffballs make great security dogs due to their ability to detect danger. That is instinctual intellect in action.

Labrador retriever

The Labrador retriever is a descendent of the St. John Dog (which no longer exists) and a relative of the Newfoundland.

It was developed by 16th-century settlers on the Canadian island of Newfoundland. The breed was given its name in the nineteenth century after English nobility returned from a tour to Canada with what they dubbed the “Labrador dog.”

Once in England, the Labrador retriever’s breed features (such as its water-repellant coat) were polished even further so that it could retrieve ducks on hunts.

Coren ranks it as the sixth most intelligent dog breed, citing its exceptional sense of smell and ability to make sound decisions based on it.

The Labrador retriever is noted for self-training—it can and wants to learn from humans by watching and copying rather than being taught.

This charming autodidact is the most popular dog breed in the United States, a favorite among people with disabilities, and one of the greatest emotional support dogs for all of these reasons.


The papillon is the smallest of the smartest dog breeds according to Coren’s list. According to Caitie Steffen, a pet expert with animal activity tracker company Whistle, and Angela Hughes, DVM, PhD, a veterinarian geneticist with dog DNA test kit Wisdom Panel,

the breed can trace its roots back almost 700 years—and that plays a significant role in its intelligence. The papillon has had more time than many other dog breeds to evolve into one of the world’s smartest canines, and its breeders have used that time wisely.

The papillon, whose name is a combination of the French word for “butterfly” and a reference to its winglike ears, began as a companion for nobles.

They are descended from European spaniels but were mated with toy dogs to become downsized, according to the AKC.

Their upbeat, lively personality is combined with a desire to please and a great capacity for learning and obeying directions, making these little fellas natural companions.


The rottweiler can be traced back to the Roman Empire, when it was employed to herd animals. “Today, rotties are revered as one of the smartest dogs for their sharp perception, unwavering loyalty, and acute awareness;

it’s why they’re often employed as search-and-rescue dogs, guard dogs, and police dogs,” says holistic pet therapist and author Sally Morgan.

The rottweiler is ranked ninth among intelligent dog breeds by Coren, making it one of the largest dogs in terms of size and intelligence.

According to Coren and the AKC, the muscular, rugged, and sturdy rottweiler is also noted for being extraordinarily devoted and loyal.

Not only do they make excellent police dogs, but they also make excellent obedience competitors, service dogs, therapy dogs, and household pets.

Although Coren feels rottweilers have a reputation for being scared, he believes the truth is quite the contrary. “They do not shy away from defending their masters and family,” he claims.

Australian cattle dog

These little but powerful dogs were created in Australia (naturally) to herd cattle (naturally), and they’re widely credited with helping to develop the country’s meat industry, according to Coren.

The Australian cattle dog, which is highly motivated to accomplish its job, can be a struggle for city dwellers or anyone who has the resources to keep their little herder stimulated and busy.

To put it another way, if you don’t offer these dogs something to do with their time, they’ll find something else to do—something you probably won’t appreciate.

Coren claims that this Australian dog breed is “so smart and organized” that the dogs “put their stuff back after using it.”

The Australian cattle dog, with its eagerness to learn, makes an excellent companion for human pursuits such as catch.

3 thoughts on “Meet the Smartest Dog Breeds in the World”

  1. I agree that the Border Collie is the smartest dog. I enjoyed the book “Chaser” very much. Of course there are always exceptions. I am on my thirteenth and fourteenth rescue and I have experienced many different levels of intelligence among them. What I have learned over the years is just about any breed of dog will be your best friend and companion if treated humanely. I enjoyed your article, thank you.


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