The 20 Smartest Dog Breeds - Pet Hub USA

The 20 Smartest Dog Breeds

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Dog lovers know that while all dogs should be treated as individuals (just like us), certain breeds do have characteristics that make them “smarter.” These intelligence factors have been measured on a wide scale a couple of times in recent history: once in 1990 and then later in 2006. In those tests, 120 different dog breeds were analyzed based on three factors that we will define before the ranking begins.

Just remember, when choosing a new companion, these measurements are only a part of what makes a dog breed unique. Dogs don’t need to be “smart” to be loving, loyal, and sweet additions to your family. But if you are interested in a smart dog breed, this list is for you.

Three Factors of Measurement

black framed eyeglasses
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

The first is Instinct. This considers what tasks dogs will perform by nature at a young age without any training. This includes things such as guarding, hurting, or retrieving.

The second factor utilized in measuring canine intelligence is Adaptive problem-solving, which involves things dogs can learn to do and solve problems on their own, such as finding a way around a barrier or opening a box.

The third factor is School learning. What dogs can learn to do with human instruction, including new tasks and clues, and understanding language.

With that all explained, let’s get into it!

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20. Flat-Coated Retriever

a close up of a black dog with a ball in the background
Photo by Ruby Love on Unsplash

The kindly expression of Flat-Coated Retrievers reflects their happy-go-lucky personalities. But their wisdom distinguishes them from other retrievers in the Sporting Group. Highly enthusiastic, they respond well to training. They need at least two hours of exercise a day to stay stimulated and content. Flat-coated retrievers are used as sniffer dogs, as well as guide and assistance dogs.

19. German Shorthaired Pointer

dog running beside a fence
Photo by Tim Golder on Unsplash

German Shorthaired Pointers are versatile sporting dogs and can perform all gun dog roles. They were bred to find and chase wild game. They possess power, speed, and endurance, which means these dogs need significant amounts of stimulation and exercise. Because of their high intelligence, they excel at competitions and sports such as agility, dock diving, and obedience.

18. Keeshond

Keeshond” by E_Bass is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Keeshonds were originally bred in Holland to serve as watchdogs on barges. These dogs are very bright, do well with obedience, and can learn work tasks very quickly. With an experienced trainer and a structured environment, there’s a lot they can learn to do. Keep in mind that heavy-handed or forceful training methods don’t work with Keeshonds.

17. Collie


The intelligence, loyalty, and good nature of Collies were immortalized in the TV dog known as “Lassie.” These distinctive types of herding dogs are active and highly agile. They do best with a job to do and an active family lifestyle for stimulation. The smart dogs can be trained to perform search and rescue, as well as for competitions.

16. Belgian Sheepdog

Belgian Sheepdog
Belgian Groenendael 2” by Canarian is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Belgian Sheepdog, also known as the Groenendael variety of Belgian Shepherd, are known for their bravery and attention to duty. In a word, Belgian Sheepdogs are workaholics. Part of the Herding Group, these medium-sized, muscular dogs enjoy training and follow directions well. They are employed in a wide variety of service roles.

15. Schipperke

SCHIPPERKE, Faksimil Turbo Pure” by Svenska Mässan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Schipperke means “little Captain” or “little skipper” in Flemish. Traditionally, they kept rats away from boats. These alert, energetic, and feisty dogs are part of the Utility Group. Schipperkes were traditionally known as a working man’s dog. However, they are fine with city-dwelling as long as you give them sufficient activity and stimulation. Nonetheless, they prefer outdoor play.

14. Belgian Tervuren

Belgian Tervuren
Photo by Viktorija Stankevičiūtė on Pexels

Belgian Tervurens are medium-sized herding dogs that today are used for assistance, detection, guiding, guarding, search and rescue, and police and military work. Belgian Tervurens are known for their intelligence, alertness, and sensitivity. They are highly trainable, vigilant, and hard-working. Tervs are affectionate, too, but be aware that they enjoy trying to outsmart their owners.

13. English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniel
Photo by Rafaëlla Waasdorp on Unsplash

English Springer Spaniels were bred for flushing birds and retrieving game. Worldwide, they’re used as sniffer dogs due to their combination of intelligence and excellent scent detection. They also serve as search and rescue dogs. These sporting dogs are playful, friendly, and respond well to home-based training.

12. Miniature Schnauzer

Miniature Schnauzer

Miniature Schnauzers are the only members of the Terrier Group to make the 20 most intelligent dogs. The smallest of the three schnauzer breeds, they’re good family dogs and all-around farm dogs. They were bred to kill rats. Though spirited, they are friendly, smart, and eager to please. They do well in agility, obedience, and other competitions.

11. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Photo by Irina Balashova on Pexels

Pembroke Welsh Corgis are the smallest of the Herding Group. These affectionate companions are independent when it comes to thinking. They do well with training and thrive on activity and organization. They have natural protective instincts and make good watchdogs. Corgis may need training not to be overprotective or nip at human heels.

10. Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Cattle Dog
Australian Cattle Dog” by Llima is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Australian Cattle Dogs also go by the name Aussies, Blues, Reds, or Queensland Heelers. These super-smart dogs are tenacious herders with seemingly boundless energy. As such, they rely on having constant stimulation and challenges. Due to their intelligence, they’re responsive to training but prefer consistent but varied training structures to prevent boredom.

9. Rottweiler

Rottweiler - Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock

These huge, muscular dogs are known for their brawn, but they have an equal measure of brains to match. They were bred to herd livestock, but these intelligent dogs are also employed for search and rescue, guarding, and police work. They accept training well. The media have misrepresented them for being dangerous and overly aggressive.

8. Papillon

white and brown coated dog
Photo by Anna Dudkova on Unsplash

Papillons are named after the French word for “butterfly” because their ears resemble them. Papillons are the only breed of dog in the Toy Group to make the top 20 for intelligence. They might be small in size, but they’re huge in brain power. They learn new tricks with ease. They’re also fast and achieve top scores in agility.

7. Labrador Retriever

Adult Black Labrador Retriever Sitting on Green Grass Field
Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels

Often cited as the most popular dog breed in America, Labrador Retrievers are loyal, loving, and friendly dogs. They’re also smart as a whip and love to learn. While outstanding family dogs, Labs also excel as service dogs and are used for assistance, detection, rescue, and more. Around 60-70% of guide dogs in the US are Labradors.

6. Shetland Sheepdog


There’s a whole lot of brains in this little package. Herders by nature, Shetland Sheepdogs do their thing on anything from sheep to children. They love people. These dogs are fast, agile, and clever. They excel at dog sports.

5. Doberman Pinscher

Doberman Pinscher - Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock

With a reputation as brave protectors, Doberman Pinschers strike fear into some hearts. These highly-trainable dogs excel at obedience and are super perceptive. These dogs thrive on activity and have tremendous strength and stamina. They do best with human leadership and interaction. Daily mental stimulation and exercise are paramount to the dog’s happiness.

4. Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever - Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock

Golden Retrievers excel in two categories: Intelligence and personality. They may be the world’s friendliest dogs. They’re also nearly the smartest. They are easy to train and highly motivated to please their masters, which can be rewarding for both the dog and its owner. These fast learners enjoy the challenge of outpacing other retrievers and dogs in obedience competitions.

3. German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd - Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock

The fact that German Shepherds serve as service dogs in a variety of roles worldwide is a testament to their intelligence and trainability. With their smarts, they can discriminate between friend and foe. They can sniff out and locate practically all manner of objects. This herding breed needs regular tasks to stay content.

2. Poodle

Poodle - Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock

Don’t let the silly, floofy grooming fool you. Poodles aren’t the airheads of the dog world–quite the opposite. Poodles excel at all kinds of tasks. Poodles come in four varieties based on size: Standard, medium, miniature, and toy. But one thing they all have in common is a big brain, intelligence-wise, that is. They can be trained easily and quickly. 

1. Border Collie

close-up photography of adult brown and white border collie
Photo by Anna Dudkova on Unsplash

Border Collies have a well-established reputation for their intelligence. These energetic overachievers are highly trainable and love to learn. As such, they require a lot of mental stimulation, always needing something to do. Among the most famous intelligent border collies, Chaser had a vocabulary of 1,022 words, while Rico could recognize up to 200 objects by name.

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