Dog Breeds
what are smartest dog breeds

What Are the Top 10 Smartest Dog Breeds? Waggel Answers

Written by Steph McCulloch


Deciding to bring a pup home isn’t a decision made lightly. It takes careful planning and lots of research. You want to find a furry friend who fits in with your lifestyle, right? This means taking into consideration their size, temperament, age, and maintenance levels.
Dog reading a book


Deciding to bring a pup home isn’t a decision made lightly. It takes careful planning and lots of research. You want to find a furry friend who fits in with your lifestyle, right? This means taking into consideration their size, temperament, age, and maintenance levels.

However, something some people don’t take into consideration is the intelligence level of their chosen breed. This means they struggle to train them or teach them to pick up on certain commands. Fear not as we’re here to discuss the smartest dogs and have even compiled them into a list of the top 10 according to research.

Top 10 smartest dog breeds

Before we begin we want to discuss the definition of intelligence. According to doggy researcher and professor Stanley Coren in his book The Intelligence of Dogs, there are three different types of canine intelligence.

The first is ‘instinctive’ and refers to the specific skill sets the dog has been bred for by humans. The second is ‘adaptive’ and focuses on how well the dog can learn from their surroundings to solve problems. And the third and final type of intelligence is ‘working and obedience’.

This is pretty simple and refers to how well the dog does their job and how hard they are willing to work. Coren states that these three types of intelligence are all linked together to exemplify how well dogs can communicate with humans by understanding our movements and by expressing their own in return e.g., a bark or movement in response to a command.

When thinking of canine intelligence most translate this into how well a dog can be trained. As mentioned above, this isn’t the only measure of intelligence. Each dog should be evaluated individually as their level of intelligence is dependent on many things.

Coren discovered that the average dog can understand 160 words but some breeds can understand more than 250! So, from his extensive research, he compiled a list of the most clever pooches and we’re here to share them with you in the hope that you can make an informed decision about your future pet and understand more about what breed of dog is the smartest.

1. Border Collie

 a border collie

Perhaps the most widely recognised intelligent dog breed is the Border Collie. They’re considered the ‘workaholics’ of the canine world and are high-energy with an amazing ability to problem solve and learn commands in little to no time at all.

Chaser the Border Collie was considered one of the smartest dogs with the largest tested memory of any non-human animal. She could identify and retrieve over 1,000 toys by name.

Border Collies consistently rank high in intelligence rankings and are known for their remarkable problem-solving abilities, making them excellent working dogs but also wonderful family pets.

Just remember to give them plenty of physical stimulation and they can become among the best human companionsone could wish for.

2. Poodle

a smart poodle

In second place is the beloved Poodle. Their smarts and eagerness to please their owners make them a great choice for service and assistance dogs.

In his research, Coren discovered that Poodles are great at learning from past experiences. This means that with their high IQ, they’re super quick to learn new commands. Some Poodles even have a nose for sniffing out truffles, great if you’re a fungi fan.

3. German Shepherd

a happy German shepherd

German Shepherds are a widely known smart dog breed and were bred naturally to work, making them ideal candidates as military and police dogs.

With their loyal and athletic temperament, the German Shepherd loves nothing more than learning new tricks and protecting what matters most; their owner.

4. Golden Retriever

a smiling golden retriever

Whilst Golden Retrievers can often be soft and silly, they’re actually incredibly smart dogs and are expected to be as clever as a 2-year-old human!

Research has also suggested that they can learn over 160 words with ease making them the fourth most intelligent breed in the world. Due to their loving but clever nature, Golden Retrievers are used as working dogs in a wide range of industries and professions.

Golden Retrievers are also a very popular breed known for their friendly and affectionate nature, making them ideal family pets. Despite their natural abilities to be independent and energetic, they are also one of the more obedient larger breeds, known for their loyalty.

5. Doberman Pinscher

A Doberman Pinscher

Dobermans are also among the smartest breeds with almost human intelligence. Their adaptive intelligence means they can learn new tricks and commands with ease, sometimes outsmarting their trainers. With an intelligent, working brain they can pick up on threats in almost any situation making them the top dog when it comes to guarding and protection.

Like German Shepherds, they’re also used in military and police work due to being physically strong and agile. A truly athletic breed with natural smarts.

6. Shetland Sheepdog

A Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdogs are some of the most responsive dogs to train. They love to constantly learn new things, therefore many owners train their Shelties to help out around the house with washing and tidying duties.

Shelties are often considered good dogs for first-time pet owners and families. Their gentle yet high-energy nature makes them great with kids meaning they’re sure to get both physical and mental stimulation every day.

7. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever

Labradors are recognised as the seventh smartest dog out of 138 breeds. Their excellent retrieving skills (hence the name) mean they can adapt to new environments with ease.

Though they were bred to be hunting and water dogs, their calm and collected nature make them excellent family dogs though this isn’t to say they don’t get a rush of zoomies every now and then.

Their retriever nature is equal to their instinctive intelligence so be sure to provide them with plenty of exercise and behavioural tasks to satisfy their energy levels and you'll have a truly devoted companion.

8. Papillon

A Papillon

The Papillon packs both beauty and brains! With their butterfly wing-style ears the Papillon looks regal but is also a highly intelligent and active dog who loves participating in activities with humans.

They’re very affectionate dogs though they can struggle with separation anxiety if left for long bursts of time so it’s best to take this pretty pooch with you where possible. Due to their small size, they make the perfect travelling companion.

9. Rottweiler

A Rottweiler

Rottweilers are one of the most misunderstood dog breeds. In actual fact, they’re one of the smartest dogs in the world making them big both in size and IQ.

Though they are robust, Rottweilers are very affectionate and loyal making them the perfect sidekick. They’re also very alert and work on instinct - great news if you’re looking for a guard dog.

10. Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog is a working dog with high levels of energy and independence. They rank tenth in Stanley Coren’s list of intelligent dogs and are super quick at learning commands.

Also known as Blue Heelers, these dogs rank highly in all three measures of intelligence and are recognised as the number one cattle-herding dog meaning they don’t just work hard, they work smart.


Dogs have been our faithful companions for hundreds of years and this isn’t just because they’re super cute. Dogs are loyal, intelligent, and in tune with our needs making them excellent protectors, guides, and most importantly, best friends.

It’s been shown through dozens of studies and most notably, Coren’s work, that dogs want to communicate effectively with us because they care about us.

Although all breeds are amazing, these top 10 have certain traits and characteristics that put them a cut above the rest in terms of intelligence. So if you’re looking for a new furry addition to your family, why not consider one of these smart dog breeds?

We’ve also got a range of other blog posts on dogs that don’t shed, The different types of Spaniel breeds, and Cockapoos versus Cavapoos, go check them out!

If you're looking for a beloved breed of your own, why not read our super cute "dogs with long ears" post? We look at each aspect of a breed's characteristics with our helpful content, to make sure you choose the best breed for you and your family.

Oh, and be sure to insure them with Waggel for true peace of mind!

Looking for dog insurance? We don’t just write about smart dogs, we also provide fantastic pet insurance for both cats and dogs. We’ve got a wide range of coverage options to help you and your pet find a policy that suits you both best.

Waggel Pet Insurance

Need more help? You're in luck if you're a Waggel Pet Insurance member. Along with our excellent coverage, we offer access to a 24/7 online vet to answer all your sticky questions, especially if you need grooming assistance.

Not a member? Why not get a quote now and cover your furry friend for a range of illnesses, all while enjoying our amazing perks and rewards.

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