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Experts List the Top 5 Most Intuitive Dog Breeds

Many dogs are perfectly content to just hang out with you. But maybe you enjoy teaching your pup elaborate tricks or even need them to perform a job. In that case, you need a highly intelligent, trainable dog. While intelligence is an individual trait and not always easy to measure, some breeds perform better at certain tasks or are more trainable than the average canine — earning them the label “smart” from humans. But which pooches prove to be the brainiest? StudyFinds consulted the experts to find the top five smartest dog breeds. Keep reading to find out whether your doggo made the list!

As mentioned earlier, intelligence isn’t easy to measure and researchers employ different ways to do so. A team of Hungarian researchers, for instance, first examined two exceptionally talented dogs: border collie Whisky and Yorkshire terrier Vicky Nina. “We wanted to know under which conditions the gifted dogs may learn novel words. To test this, we exposed Whisky and Vicky Nina to the new words in two different conditions,” explained Claudia Fugazza, first author of the study. The researchers reported both dogs successfully learned a new toy’s name by playing with it, even after only hearing the word four times. The study then examined how well 20 other dogs remember new words using the same tests. Unlike Whisky and Vicky Nina, this group could not learn the new words after hearing them only four times. Whisky and Vicky Nina were much smarter than the average dog.

But even “average” dogs can learn plenty of new words and phrases with enough repetitions. Researchers from Dalhousie University in Canada discovered that the average canine appears to know around 89 words and phrases. While this is impressive, highly intelligent dogs respond to more than twice as many: over 200 words that their owners say. The researchers stated that the most responsive dog breeds included the Australian shepherd, border collie, German shepherd, bichon frise, Cavalier King Charles spaniel, and chihuahua.

Did any of those breeds make our list? The answer is yes — one of them is the first and another lands third place. For our research, StudyFinds compared lists of the smartest dog breeds across ten expert websites and created our top five list based on the results. If you have any feedback, we’d love to hear it in the comments below!

adult black pug
Smart dog (Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash)

1. Border Collie

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The border collie is the smartest dog breed according to nine out of ten sources. “The Border Collie is a popular breed known for being the most intelligent dog breed worldwide,” states Canine Journal.

black and white border collie
Border collie (Photo by Will Gardiner on Unsplash)

A little bit of breed history by Daily Paws further explains why these dogs are so bright. “These brilliant herding dogs have kept flocks of sheep safe throughout Scotland and Wales for centuries, and shepherds often refer to them as ‘the perfect shepherding dog.’ In addition to learning cues quickly, these dogs are smart enough to learn and understand routines, and they can be trained to handle daily tasks without much supervision.”

Be warned, however, these dogs may be too smart and energetic to be mere companion dogs, depending on your lifestyle. “These pups are superstars in agility and obedience competitions, and they have exceptional problem-solving skills. The uber-trainable Border Collie is part of the herding group, so they are happiest when they have a job to do,” writes PetMD. “Their boundless energy means they can work for extended periods without tiring, so they’re excellent companions for farmers and ranchers. Puzzles and energy outlets like dog sports will help them live fulfilling lives if they’re not rounding up sheep on the farm.”

2. Poodle

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Never mind the sometimes over-the-top hairstyles — poodles have much more to offer than looks! “Poodles have the reputation for being the prima donnas of the dog world, but they rank second in the first tier of dog intelligence,” knows HowStuffWorks. “Poodles were first bred in Germany as hunting dogs, but they’re much more versatile than border collies when it comes to being a pet. While they’re sporty and easily trainable, they also love human attention and family life.”

black poodle on green grass during daytime
Standard poodle (Photo by Hans Ole Benonisen on Unsplash)

And would you have guessed that poodles once were war heroes? “They’ve also been employed during wartime to deliver supplies to soldiers on the battlefield,” shares Reader’s Digest. “The job required obedience, steadfast focus, and clear-headed decision-making, and quick-learning poodles became the obvious choice.” The more you know!

“The Poodle is a dog breed that’s very dignified and proud – rightfully so,” says TheSmartCanine. “They are exceptionally quick learners and have been used to track down, hunt and retrieve a variety of game. Some Poodles are even bred to retrieve objects from the water. […] With such a high intelligence, it’s no surprise why Poodle mixes (like the Labradoodle or Goldendoodle) are super smart too.”

3. German Shepherd

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This is probably less of a surprise than the poodle for most readers. After all, these dogs are known for being employed as police and military dogs, although they can do other jobs as well. “German Shepherds happily serve as police dogs, seeing eye dogs, medical assistance dogs and therapy dogs, so it’s no surprise that consistent obedience comes standard with this breed,” states Good Housekeeping.

brown and black german shepherd on green grass field
German shepherd (Photo by Jana Ohajdova on Unsplash)

Also not surprising: The German shepherd is originally a herding dog. “The German Shepherd is a breed that dates back only as far as 1899 when it was a working dog in Germany. The German Shepherd’s original purpose was for herding sheep and guarding them to ensure that predators didn’t decimate flocks. The strength of these dogs alone makes them ideal for guardians of sheep flocks, but so does the dog’s ability to be easily trained. […] They can make great family dogs as long as they have enough exercise and mental stimulation,” says Canine Journal.

According to Daily Paws, German shepherds are “one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States for a reason. With perhaps the greatest combination of size, athleticism, and intelligence in the entire dog kingdom, the German shepherd is prized for everything from show competitions to military and police work. Deeply loyal and eager to please, well-trained German shepherds make excellent family pets as well. The first genuine canine movie star — Rin Tin Tin — was a German shepherd, and that’s not a coincidence. They learn and retain new skills with alarming speed and consistency, and they have the physical gifts to accomplish truly astonishing feats — in their younger years at least.”

4. Golden Retriever

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Mostly known for being friendly (and fluffy), golden retrievers are also clever! “With training, Golden Retrievers can excel in various tasks such as hunting, retrieving, obedience, and even service and therapy work,” writes PetMD. “Their ability to learn quickly and respond well to commands means they’re relatively easy to train with a pocket full of treats to reward their food-motivated minds.”

golden retriever with black collar
Golden retriever (Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash)

According to TheSmartCanine, “Golden Retrievers are the third most popular dog breed in America. They are almost perfect dogs for any type of owner, which explains their immense popularity. Obviously, they’re wicked smart and one of the most trainable dog breeds. […] Whatever task you hand their way, they will take to heart and perform to the best of their abilities. Goldens can do it all. Plus, they are the perfect feel-good family dog.”

Finally, Daily Paws summarizes that “in addition to being some of the friendliest dogs alive, [golden retrievers are] also among the smartest. It’s why they make excellent service and therapy dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, hunting dogs, and champions in field and obedience competitions.”

5. Doberman Pinscher

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The doberman is more than a guard dog, though he or she excels at the job. “The original intent in creating the Doberman breed was to combine intelligence, loyalty, speed, ferocity, strength, and endurance to result in a dog that would quickly and easily protect its master,” knows Canine Journal.

black and tan doberman pinscher
Doberman pinscher (Photo by Anna Kozakova on Unsplash)

“But as intimidating as this fierce-looking dog breed may appear, the breed is actually known for being quite gentle. That, and they’re among the dogs that take amazingly well to training,” explains Reader’s Digest.

“The Dobermann [original German spelling] has massive strength, size, speed and endurance. Like the German Shepherd, they’re fantastic police dogs. Because of all their amazing physical attributes, along with high intelligence, Dobermans are often called ‘war dogs.’ […] They served in the Second Battle of Guam in 1944 and many of them died for the country in that war. Still, Dobermans make great family dogs because of their intense devotion. If you’re looking for a dignified companion that will protect you and your family at all cost, you’ve found the dog,” adds TheSmartCanine.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links.


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