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Smartest Dog Breeds In The World - Top 10

Updated February 6, 2020
Which dog breed is the most intelligent? Most dog owners probably think their dog is the smartest in the world, but studies actually show a difference in intelligence between dog breeds.

One of the biggest studies on dogs' intellect was made by psychology professor Stanley Coren and published in 1994 in his book The Intelligence of Dogs.[1] The study was based on answers from dog sport judges in the United States and Canada on how well dogs from different kennel clubs performed in obedience trials. A list of the smartest dog breeds was then compiled, mostly based on how well different dog breeds could learn new commands. Here are the top 10 smartest dog breeds in the world, according to The Intelligence of Dogs. Please note, that this is not a list of which dogs that are best suited as pets.

10. Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog is a herding dog that was bred in Australia by crossing scottish highland collies with the domestic wild dog dingo.[2] The result was a persevering dog that could withstand heat and who herded by nipping the cattle at their heels.[2] The Australian Cattle Dog is intelligent and easily trained, but it also has guarding instincts and can be a bit reserved.[2] The breed needs a lot of activity, and puppies in the "rebellious stage" can become disobedient and provocative.[2]

9. Rottweiler

The Rottweiler is a working dog often used as a guard or military dog. The dog breed is by nature very kind, good-natured, hard-working and brave.[3] The Rottweiler also has a great deal of fighting spirit, will to hunt, integrity and tendency to be dominant, so it needs clear boundaries from an early age, plus lots of exercise and mental stimulation every day, which requires an active and committed owner.[3]

8. Papillon

The Papillon – also known as the Continental Toy Spaniel – is a small dog with large upright ears (papillon means butterfly in French). It has a lot of energy and gladly wants to be where the action is.[4] It often becomes a great companion dog and does not require as much grooming as one might think.[4] The Papillon is wise and easily trained, and many compete with the breed in dog sports such as agility and obedience.[4]

7. Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever – also simply known as the Labrador – is a very popular dog, probably because it is so gentle, social and happy[6]. Labradors are basically hunting dogs who enjoy working, cooperating and swimming.[6] They like to fetch, track and carry different items – they need to have meningful tasks to perform.[6] Thanks to their characteristics, Labrador Retrievers are common as guide and detection dogs.

6. Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog originates, as the name implies, from the Shetland Islands. The dog breed was orginally more cobby and had shorter hair, but was in the beginning of the 20th century cross-bred with Collies to look more like a "miniature-Collie".[7] The Shetland Sheepdog is a versatile dog that fits most owners.[7] It is obedient, curious, alert, easy to train, agile and fast – characteristics which makes it perform well in the dog sport of agility.[7]

5. Doberman Pinscher

The Doberman Pinscher – or simply the Doberman(n) – is basically a working dog that is big, strong and active.[8] The breed is very willing to work and is often used by police, security guards and emergency services.[8] The Dobermann has a big will to hunt, which it needs to vent, otherwise it becomes restless and gets into mischief.[8] Despite its imposing appearance, the Doberman is a happy and child-loving dog that loves to play.[8]

4. Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is a very popular companion dog, probably because of its intelligence and adaptability[9]. As the name implies, the Golden Retriever was bred to fetch shot game for hunters, which has made the breed responsive and willing to work.[9] A properly raised Golden is friendly, outgoing, trusting and has good self-confidence.[9] Goldens often have a great passion for water – both clean and dirty.[9]

3. German Shepherd

The third most intelligent dog, the German Shepherd, is a herding dog who needs and loves to work, and it is very popular as both a companion dog and as a service dog.[10] A well-raised German Shepherd likes to cooperate and is brave and confident.[10] The breed originates from medievel German sheep herding dogs, and during World War I, the heroic German Shepherd was used for various military missions, of which returning soldiers told tales that increased the breed's popularity.[10]

2. Poodle

The second most intelligent dog is easily recognized by its curly and water-repellent coat, which does not shed. The Poodle has existed since at least the 15th century, when small poodles were used for truffle-hunting and large poodles as water retrievers.[11] To facilitate swimming, the latter were given the typical lion-cut.[11] Poodles are happy, sporty and playful, and they want to be among people or other animals, where the action is.[11] They are quick-thinking and can, thanks their intelligence, quickly learn to manipulate their owners.[11] The photo shows a Miniature Poodle.

1. Border Collie

The smartest dog breed in the world can learn over 1,000 words,[12] but is not always suited as a companion dog since it is first and foremost a herding dog. The Border Collie has been around for centuries in England and Scotland, helping farmers maintain their cattle (mainly sheep).[13] It is nowadays a popular companion dog, but being a distinctive working dog, it can be very demanding.[13] Besides excercise, a Border Collie needs a purpose in life, and if it doesn't get it from its owner it will make one up itself.[13]
Coren, Stanley "The Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide to the Thoughts, Emotions, and Inner Lives of Our Canine Companions". 2nd ed. Published 2006. Read Feb 6, 2020.
"Australian Cattle Dog" (in swedish). Swedish Kennel Club. Retrieved Feb 6, 2020.
"Rottweiler" (in swedish). Swedish Kennel Club. Retrieved Feb 6, 2020.
"Papillon" (in swedish). Swedish Kennel Club. Retrieved Feb 6, 2020.
"Labrador" (in swedish). Swedish Kennel Club. Retrieved Feb 6, 2020.
"Shetland Sheepdog" (in swedish). Swedish Kennel Club. Retrieved Feb 6, 2020.
"Dobermann" (in swedish). Swedish Kennel Club. Retrieved Feb 6, 2020.
"Golden Retriever" (in swedish). Swedish Kennel Club. Retrieved Feb 6, 2020.
"German Shepherd" (in swedish). Swedish Kennel Club. Retrieved Feb 6, 2020.
"Poodle, miniature" (in swedish). Swedish Kennel Club. Retrieved Feb 6, 2020.
"Border collie takes record for biggest vocabulary". New Scientist. Published Dec 21, 2010. Retrieved Feb 6, 2020.
"Border Collie" (in swedish). Swedish Kennel Club. Retrieved Feb 6, 2020.