Did you know that some dogs are as intelligent as the average 2-year-old?
From sniffing out bombs to guiding the blind, our canine friends have been lending a helping paw for years. Working dogs are normally considered the most intelligent breeds. They need a smart brain to understand the work they are doing.
Retrievers must know how to track down game and bring it back unharmed. Herding dogs have to be extremely intelligent to herd animals that are 10x their size. Guard dogs must know how to differentiate a threat from a safe situation.
These dogs have intelligence in their genetics. But, which are the smartest?
While many people will tell you that Border Collies and Poodles are the most intelligent, it depends on the job. Certain dogs are much better suited to specific jobs than others.
Below is a list of 20 of the world’s smartest dog breeds ranked by intelligence and how easy they will be easy to train.
Table of Contents
- 20. Weimaraner
- 19. Brittany Spaniel
- 18. German Shorthaired Pointer
- 17. Schipperke
- 16. Belgian Tervuren
- 15. Australian Cattle Dog
- 14. Keeshond
- 13. Cocker Spaniel
- 12. Miniature Schnauzer
- 11. English Springer Spaniel
- 10. Shetland Sheepdog
- 9. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- 8. Doberman Pinscher
- 7. German Shepherd
- 6. Rottweiler
- 5. Border Collie
- 4. Papillon
- 3. Golden Retriever
- 2. Poodle
- 1. Labrador Retriever
The Weimaraner, also known as the Gray Ghost, is an athletic hunting dog. Weimaraners were bred by German nobility to hunt big game such as mountain lions and bears. They quickly realized that the Weimaraner’s high intelligence makes them incredible hunters.
Weimaraners love learning new things and are happy to do anything you want.
They thrive at obedience trials, agility training, dock jumping, and even flyball. Just make sure to give them a job. Otherwise their active brain will become very anxious.
These dogs are people oriented and want lots of love and attention. Even the biggest brainiacs need affection! They are large dogs, standing at 23 to 27 inches tall, but this will not stop them from trying to climb into your lap.
19. Brittany Spaniel
Brittanys are a beautiful breed with an orange and white coat. It is hard to determine which is more beautiful; their appearance or smart personality. These dogs have adorable faces (that will melt your heart) and a smart brain to match.
This smart dog has roots tracing all the way back to medieval times. Spaniels were skilled gun dogs used by peasants to help feed their families.
They were first bred to hunt, but Brittany Spaniels can now do many more jobs. They love water sports such as dock jumping and are exceptional at agility.
Brittany Spaniels love their owners dearly and want to please them. They are smart and very trainable so first time owners are well suited to this breed.
18. German Shorthaired Pointer
German Shorthaired Pointers are easy to train and have a friendly personality that makes them eager to please. They love hunting but can easily be trained to compete in swimming races or obedience trials. Their intelligence makes them well suited to any job.
As well as being smart, they are also loveable and get along well with everyone they meet. They are friendly with both friends and strangers and make a great family dog.
German Shorthaired Pointers were bred by German nobles in the 1800s to be perfect gun dogs. They were successful and created a dog that can retrieve game on land and in water. They also bred one of the smartest dog breeds in the world!
Schipperkes are tiny dogs with big personalities that are used to being in charge. They were originally bred in Belgium and were used as ratting dogs on ships. They have a stealthy hunting style that makes them very skilled at their job.
They may be small, but they are mighty!
These fluffy dogs pack a lot of energy and brains into their tiny bodies. They like to be put to work and can excel at agility and obedience trials.
Schipperkes are loved by their owners because of their mischievous, curious personalities. These dogs are unpredictable and smart, making them a fun companion.
16. Belgian Tervuren
These dogs were bred in Belgium to be guard and herding dogs.
Belgian Tervurens have strong protective instincts to keep their loved ones safe. They also have the intelligence and work ethic required to herd large farm animals.
Their quick wit has brought them from the field into many other important jobs. They now serve as K-9 police dogs, military dogs, search and rescue dog, and service animals for people with disabilities. These dogs are a natural at whatever you teach them.
The Belgian Tervuren may be a working dog, but they have a very playful personality. This motivation to play makes training very easy.
15. Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Cattle Dog is a genius in the body of an athlete. This durable herding dog was first bred in Australia through the mating of Sheepdogs, Dalmatians, Collies, and Dingoes (a wild dog native to Australia)
Australian Cattle Dogs have been hailed as the savior of Australia’s beef industry.
Heelers have faithfully herded large beef cattle since the early 1900s. These herding machines have incredible minds that are capable of much more than farm work. They excel at agility, dog sports, and obedience trials.
However, their smart mind can lead them to boredom easily. They will chew up your home if not given a job to channel their intelligence into.
Australian Cattle Dogs are a perfect fit for active adults. They prefer to be loyal to one owner and go on plenty of adventures with their favorite person. They do not thrive in large families.
The Keeshond is another rare dog breed with a unique history. Keeshonds were first recognized by the American Kennel Club in the 1930s and have a humble lineage of being a barge dog on Dutch vessels.
Being barge dogs, this breed can live in small or large spaces. They also do not have extreme exercise requirements and are happy with a long stroll around the neighborhood.
While they are not as high energy as some breeds on this list, they are intelligent.
If you do not keep your Keeshond entertained they may end up teaching themselves some unruly tricks! The Keeshond will not disappoint in its intelligence and friendly demeanor. You may need to keep on your toes.
13. Cocker Spaniel
The Cocker Spaniel is another type of Spaniel that has made our smartest dog breed list.
Not only is the Cocker Spaniel smart, it is also outgoing and gentle. Its gentle personality makes it a wonderful family pet.
Cocker Spaniels are a breeze to socialize due to their natural desire to please their owners and meet new people. These characteristics made the Cocker Spaniel both a dependable hunting dog and a lovable family pet. Lady of “Lady and the Tramp” was based on an American Cocker Spaniel.
12. Miniature Schnauzer
The Miniature Schnauzer is the smallest of the Schnauzer breeds. Schnauzers are famous for being low-shedding and very smart. The Standard Schnauzer dates back to the 15th century and was used to catch rats.
While the Mini Schnauzer is no longer used for ratting, it is happy wherever its family is.
Miniature Schnauzer’s are smart and have an eagerness to please. This makes them very easy to train. You can be sure it will pay all its attention on you.
11. English Springer Spaniel
English Springer Spaniels were bred to flush out birds during a hunt. They are an eager to please working dog that is playful and intelligent, but not high-strung like some herding breeds.
The English Springer Spaniel has been a capable canine in all sorts of jobs. They have even done K-9 detection work.
You can expect this smart breed to be highly trainable and great at basic obedience training.
If you can give this dog the exercise it desires, you will have no problem keeping one. The English Springer Spaniel is a lovable family pet that can double as a working dog or exercise partner.
10. Shetland Sheepdog
Shetland Sheepdogs were originally bred on the Shetland Islands.
In order to save food, these dogs were selectively bred to be smaller than their rough-coated Collie cousin. Food was very scarce due to the cold climate of the Sheltie’s homeland. While not as tough-looking as a Collie, this breed is just as smart.
As with any herding dog they are very smart and active.
This breed is eager to please and highly affectionate, making it the perfect candidate for many dog sports.
The Shetland Sheepdog will enjoy canine sports like agility and flyball. It is highly recommended to give this dog a job, but if those sports are not an option, try going on long walks and regular obedience training. Their eagerness to please will surprise you, so get ready to increase the difficulty as you continue training it.
Compact and smart, this playful breed makes the perfect active pet.
9. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Pembroke Welsh Corgis are famous for being intelligent and the Queen’s favorite dog breed!
From agility to obedience, there is nothing you cannot train a Corgi to do.
If you can socialize your Pembroke Welsh Corgi early, and give it the proper obedience training it needs, this is a smart dog for beginners.
Pembroke Welsh Corgis are adorable in every single way. Their alert bat-like ears and short legs make them very cute. Compared to their cousin, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Pembrokes have pointed ears and shorter tails.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi’s small size and moderate activity levels makes this breed perfect for apartment living. Both males and females do not grow taller than 12 inches.
8. Doberman Pinscher
Doberman Pinschers are another guard dog that are both athletic and smart. Dobermans are always alert and on-guard.
The Doberman was bred by Louis Dobermann, a German taxman and dog breeder. Its purpose was to keep Louis safe on his tax collector’s rounds.
Do not be afraid by a Doberman’s past, they can be well-mannered and loving dogs. Doberman Pinschers have a sensitive and lovable side, they are able to be gentle therapy dogs.
This dog can be easily trained by beginners, but be aware of its strength. Properly socializing this breed at a young age, and teaching it proper manners, can help prevent you from having a dog that does not know its strength.
7. German Shepherd
It is no surprise that the German Shepherd has a spot on this list. This magnificent herding breed is known for its intelligence.
German Shepherds were originally bred in Germany. A German cavalry officer named Captain Max von Stephanitz wanted to breed the ideal herding dog. After years of refining the German Shepherd it now excels in K-9 police units and as search and rescue dogs.
The German Shepherd is not only intelligent and athletic, it is also a beautiful dog. This dog sports its famous black and tan coat, among many other colors.
If you can spend the time and effort to give this working dog a job, then you can expect caring for one to be easy. This breed can be a bit challenging for total beginners.
Rottweilers are the descendants of mastiff-like drover dogs. These hardworking dogs found purpose in moving herds in the German town of Rottweil, giving them the name “Rottweiler Metzgerhund” or “Butcher’s Dog of Rottweil.” Even though Rottweilers lost their jobs to railroad cattle cars in the 1800s, they soon became guard dogs.
When most people see a Rottweiler, they often notice its muscular black-and-tan body.
While many people know the Rottweiler for its strength, this powerful canine has an equally powerful brain.
Rottweilers are very loving, smart dogs. They have even been trained for search-and-rescue. They worked at disaster sites such as Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center.
With the Rottweiler, you will have the best of both worlds: athleticism and intelligence.
5. Border Collie
Border Collies are descendants of Roman dogs. They are hardy dogs that have withstood the test of time as a shepherd’s perfect dog breed. However, their intelligence does not stop on the farm. A Border Collie named Chaser has been famed for being able to identify more than 1,000 toys!
There is no doubt that the Border Collie is a smart dog. But, they are very challenging.
If there is a workaholic in the dog world, it is the Border Collie.
Border Collies are perfect for the most energetic beginners, but are not recommended for owners who want a relaxed and calm breed. In this case you might want to look at a Collie mix. If you are a beginner who wants to have a challenge, we highly suggest taking the time out of your day to give your Border Collie a job.
Papillons were originally bred to be adorable lap dogs for noblewomen. A Papillon called “Phalène” was seen in a portrait of Queen Sophia Dorothea of Prussia.
The most striking thing about a Papillon is its wing-shaped ears. Papillons were named for their ears. Its name translates to “butterfly” in French.
Papillons are not all looks. This dog has a wonderful brain that loves to be used! Do not doubt this small breed’s smarts.
3. Golden Retriever
The Golden Retriever is a smart, friendly, and loyal dog.
Golden Retrievers are the result of breeding a “yellow retriever” with the now-extinct Tweed Water Spaniel. They were bred by Lord Tweedmouth to retrieve game in Scotland. Many who have met a Golden Retriever know of its “soft mouth” which keeps game from getting damaged.
The Golden Retriever is best known for being a service or therapy dog.
This smart dog is trained to bring joy to senior homes and hospitals, often acting as a kind presence for those who need it. From therapy to service, the Golden Retriever excels in all categories of canine careers.
Poodles are smart dogs that fit into most lifestyles. The Poodle is a versatile breed that is easy to train and able to do any canine job. This breed especially excels as a guide dog and is perfect for those allergic to dogs.
While famed for their ability to look good in any hairstyle, do not let their stylish looks fool you.
Poodles were bred to retrieve ducks from water. The Poodle’s coat was meant to give them a full range of movement in the water whilst staying warm.
If you give this pup the professional grooming it needs, as well as enough exercise and training to keep that bright brain active, the Poodle is a perfect dog.
1. Labrador Retriever
The Labrador Retriever has been the most popular breed in America for over 20 years.
Labradors are smart, hardworking dogs that were bred to retrieve ducks. This athletic dog has a smart brain, webbed feet and a powerful “otter tail” that make it a well-oiled swimming machine.
Thanks to their intelligence, this water dog has had jobs in all fields.
You most likely have seen Labradors in action as a guide dog, but Labs excel in police, scent and search and rescue work.
Despite their hardworking upbringing, Labradors are known to be affectionate family dogs. They are easy to train and care for, so it is no surprise how popular this breed has been.
All dogs have the capability to be smart and talented.
The average dog has the intelligence of a 2-year-old. The smartest dog breeds have the same cognitive ability of a 2.5-year-old toddler. These dogs are able to understand commands, gestures and emotions.
Some dogs are smart at reading human emotions, others are skilled at finding a treat hidden in your home! All of the 20 dogs in our list will surprise you with just how smart they are.
Every dog, no matter the breed, can be smart. It just takes an owner who is dedicated to teaching them!
Did any of the dogs that made it on this list shock you? Let us know in the comments below!