What Are the 10 Smartest Dog Breeds? 

By Amanda Lutz | May 13, 2024

Border Collie outdoors on a summer day.

Prospective dog owners seek intelligent dog breeds for different reasons. Some want working dogs that can perform certain tasks, and others want pets they can train easily or teach to do impressive tricks. Like humans, dogs present intelligence in different ways, and each dog is unique. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes canine intelligence in the forms of social response, word learning, problem-solving, trainability, and communication.

A 2022 Scientific Reports study revealed that different breeds display varied measures of social cognition, persistence, inhibitory control, and problem-solving ability. While we don’t technically have all the information to fully understand dogs’ intelligence, research offers many reasons why the following dog breeds are considered the smartest. Our list is ordered from smartest to least smart breed, but any of the dogs mentioned would make for a clever companion.

1. Border Collie

Height: 19–22 inches (males), 18–21 inches (females)

Weight: 30–35 pounds

Life span: 12–15 years

Appearance: Border collies are medium-size with a medium-length, wavy double coat. Their coats come in solid colors, bicolor patterns, tricolor patterns, and merles. One or both ears can be straight or folded forward or outward. The eyes are almond-shaped, wide set, and alert, and they can be any color.

As pets, border collies are affectionate with family members, good with children, and amicable with other dogs. They’re fairly protective of their owners but open to meeting friendly strangers. Due to their working background, these dogs are highly trainable and eager to please. However, the same temperament leads to high energy levels that demand significant effort from their owners.  

A border collie is an optimal choice if you’re interested in adopting a dog that learns quickly and performs specific tasks and tricks. Chaser, a border collie dubbed “the smartest dog in the world,” developed a record-breaking vocabulary of over 1,000 words, proving that dogs can learn similarly to children.

2. Poodle

Height: Over 15 inches tall (standards), 15 inches or under (miniatures), 10 inches or under (toys)

Weight: 60–70 pounds (standard males), 40–50 pounds (standard females), 10–15 pounds (miniatures), 4–6 pounds (toys)

Life span: 10–18 years

Appearance: Poodles are available in three sizes, with all three sporting a curly, fluffy coat. Their coats come in a range of colors and bicolor patterns. Their eyes are oval-shaped and dark, and their long ears hang close to the head, set slightly below eye level.

Poodles are extremely affectionate to family members, good with children, and can be taught to coexist with other dogs. While their curly coats require frequent grooming, they aren’t prone to shedding, which is ideal for pet owners with allergies. Poodle owners often opt for the Continental clip, as seen in dog shows, or the sporting clip, to keep the coat manageable.

While poodles are highly trainable, they also have high energy levels and mental stimulation needs that must be met. Their intelligence is comparable to that of a 2-year-old child, and they can learn hundreds of words and even perform basic math tasks.

3. German Shepherd

Height: 24–26 inches (male), 22–24 inches (female)

Weight: 65–90 pounds (male), 50–70 pounds (female)

Life span: 7–10 years

Appearance: German shepherds are large, muscular dogs with a medium-length double coat in several solid and bicolor patterns. Their ears are pointed and held erect when at attention, and their eyes are almond-shaped and attentive.

While they descend from a family of German herding dogs, German shepherds are known for their ability to train for a variety of services. They’re often used as police dogs, service dogs, and obedience dogs. 

German shepherds are also known for their loyalty and strong affection for their owners. They’re good with children and can learn to get along with other family dogs. While they aren’t generally aggressive toward strangers, they can be aloof, and their affection typically must be earned. They’re also vigilant watchdogs that are likely to sound a warning when unexpected visitors arrive. 

Like most intelligent dogs, German shepherds are highly trainable. Their intelligence also leads to high energy levels and the need for frequent mental stimulation in the form of games or tasks. When not kept busy, German shepherds may create their own entertainment, which can mean trouble for their owners.

4. Golden Retriever

Height: 23–24 inches (male), 21.5–22.5 inches (female)

Weight: 65–75 pounds (male), 55–65 pounds (female)

Life span: 10–12 years

Appearance: Golden retrievers are powerful, medium-size hunting dogs with a medium-length, double coat that ranges in color from light golden to dark golden brown. It has a feathery tail and short ears that fall to the side of its head, and its eyes are dark and friendly. 

The Golden retriever is a lively and enthusiastic companion that displays puppy-like behavior well into adulthood. Bred for hunting, with the capability to retrieve waterfowl for hours on end, they have limitless energy. 

Goldens are also very friendly. They’re affectionate with family members of all ages, peaceful with other dogs, and friendly to strangers. They’re devoted to their owners and highly trainable, easily learning a range of commands. They also make good therapy dogs.

Their intelligence and exuberant nature mean they require substantial mental stimulation to stay busy. Yet, these needs can easily be met through playtime with children, problem-solving activities, and obedience training. While their lustrous coats don’t typically require daily grooming, they shed heavily and should be brushed routinely to avoid matted fur.

5. Doberman Pinscher

Height: 26–28 inches (male), 24–26 inches (female)

Weight: 75–100 pounds (male), 60–90 pounds (female)

Life span: 10–12 years

Appearance: Doberman pinschers are large, sleek, imposing dogs with short, smooth coats found in only four recognized colors (black and rust, blue and rust, fawn and rust, and red and rust). Their tails are typically docked, and their ears are typically cropped. Their eyes are almond-shaped and dark.

Although they’re fiercely protective, Dobermans are affectionate with family, good with children, and open to strangers. They can learn to get along with other dogs and have high energy levels, making them good playmates. These dogs are also highly trainable and respond well to socialization and obedience training. They also make good guard dogs. However, their high energy levels demand they get routine exercise to avoid becoming irritable. 

The Doberman’s short coat requires minimal grooming to maintain its shine, though it sheds frequently.

6. Shetland Sheepdog

Height: 13–16 inches

Weight: 15–25 pounds

Life span: 12–14 years

Appearance: The Shetland sheepdog bears a strong resemblance to the collie, with a lustrous, long, double coat in a variety of solid, bicolor, and tricolor patterns. Its tail is long and full, its ears are small and held erect or folded forward, and its eyes are almond-shaped and dark or occasionally blue in blue merles.

Also referred to as a sheltie, the Shetland sheepdog is an intelligent herding dog that originated in Scotland’s Shetland Islands. They’re excellent watchdogs, which means they’re often vocal and extremely loyal to their owners but may also be reserved toward strangers. As herding dogs, they’re highly trainable and quick to pick up commands.

As a family dog, shelties show affectionate behavior toward family members of all ages. They’re also playful companions to other dogs, making them a good pairing for other energetic breeds. Like most herding dogs, their high energy and intelligence require their owners to keep them busy with routine tasks or games. This can be achieved with agility trials and frequent play.

Maintaining your sheltie’s long coat requires frequent grooming to avoid tangles and frequent vacuuming to keep up with its shedding.

7. Labrador Retriever

Height: 22.5–24.5 inches (male), 21.5–23.5 inches (female)

Weight: 65–80 pounds (male), 55–70 pounds (female)

Life span: 11–13 years

Appearance: The labrador retriever ranges from a medium to large size, with a black, chocolate, or yellow short double coat. Their heads are wide with large, close-hanging ears and brown eyes. Their tails are thick at the base and gradually taper toward the end, creating a rounded appearance often described as an otter tail. 

Known for their outgoing disposition, the labrador retriever has a long-standing position as one of America’s most popular dog breeds. Unsurprisingly, labs are great family pets and get along well with other dogs. They are open to meeting strangers and are very playful, requiring routine exercise to stay busy and keep fit. 

Their kindness doesn’t impact their intelligence, as labs are easily trainable and eager to please their owners. The breed is classified as a sporting group, meaning they’re fond of athletics, such as swimming and fetch. Although their short coats don’t require excessive grooming, they shed frequently.

8. Papillon

Height: 8–11 inches

Weight: 5–10 pounds

Life span: 14–16 years

Appearance: The papillon is a small, dainty dog with a silky, medium-length coat. It can be found with bicolor or tricolor patterns of many colors. Its eyes are dark and round, and its tail is long and arched, with a flowing plume of fur.

Papillon is French for butterfly, a name that can be attributed to this pup’s large, wing-shaped ears. Despite their small stature, papillons are athletic and hardy. They’re also generally happy and energetic, eager to interact with friends and strangers. They’re highly trainable and enjoy participating in obedience and agility competitions. At home, they’re affectionate with family members and good with young children.

Beyond their need for copious playtime and mental stimulation, papillons need a reasonable grooming routine to keep their silken coat free of tangles and debris. While they shed moderately, they require less vacuuming than some of the short-haired dogs on this list.

9. Rottweiler

Height: 24–27 inches (male), 22–25 inches (female)

Weight: 95–135 pounds (male), 80–100 pounds (female)

Life span: 9–10 years

Appearance: Rottweilers are big, powerful dogs with a short, smooth coat that comes in three color patterns (black and rust, black and mahogany, and black and tan). Their thick tails (when not docked) may stand at attention when the dog is active. Their heads are wide, and their eyes are dark brown and almond-shaped.

Rottweilers are protective and territorial but also incredibly affectionate and highly adaptable. Descended from the mastiffs of the Roman legions, rotties are confident and brave. When properly trained and socialized early, their territorial instincts are easily controlled. 

Although this breed would prefer to have all of your attention, they can learn to get along with other dogs and small family members. As active dogs, they need routine exercise or specific jobs to avoid boredom. Rottweilers require companionship to avoid boredom and irritability. Their coats only shed moderately, with minimal grooming needed.

10. Australian Cattle Dog

Height: 18–20 inches (male), 17–19 inches (female)

Weight: 35–50 pounds

Life span: 12–16 years

Appearance: The Australian cattle dog is a strong, compact working dog with a short, smooth double coat available in five standard colors (blue, blue mottled, blue speckled, red speckled, and red mottled). Its head is muscular, with oval-shaped eyes and pointed ears. Its tail is thick, although it’s sometimes docked. 

Also known as blue heelers, Queensland heelers, and Australian heelers, the Australian cattle dog was developed to herd cattle. They’re energetic problem solvers who shine at agility. While highly intelligent, they can be stubborn, potentially causing challenging training sessions.

With natural protective instincts, Australian cattle dogs are generally watchful and suspicious of strangers. They’re moderately affectionate with family members and can be trained to interact with young children and other dogs.   

Cattle dogs need mental stimulation to ward off boredom. Otherwise, they’re likely to get into mischief. Their intense work drive and high energy level make them good running partners.

In Conclusion

Smart dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and temperaments. While the above breeds are considered the 10 most intelligent, many other well-behaved, smart dogs exist. This includes the Pembroke Welsh corgi, German shorthaired pointer, miniature schnauzer, and English springer spaniel.

Remember, the more intelligent the dog, the more mental and physical stimulation it will likely need. Before choosing a dog for your family, thoroughly research the breed to ensure you have the time and resources to care for it properly.

Smartest Dog Breeds FAQ

What dog has the highest IQ in the world?

The border collie is known as the dog breed with the highest IQ. They can learn new commands in minutes and obey known commands at least 95% of the time.

Which dog breed has the lowest IQ?

According to research conducted by Stanley Coren, UCLA psychology professor and author of The Intelligence of Dogs, the Afghan hound is the dog breed with the lowest IQ. They’re independent and strong-willed, preferring to spend their time playing and lavishing their humans with affection.

How intelligent are dogs?

According to research, dogs are highly intelligent, with mental abilities close to that of a 2-year-old child. The average dog can learn 165 words and count up to four or five.