18 Highly Intelligent Dogs That Outsmart Others

Written By Jill Taylor

How can you measure the intelligence level of a dog? It’s a difficult question for animals who can’t speak or take written exams, but dogs’ trainability, obedience, and speed of learning new tricks can reveal how smart they are. Here are 18 of the cleverest dog breeds that outshine others.

Border Collies

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According to The Spruce Pets, “The border collie is often considered the smartest of all dogs and the overachiever of the canine world.” These excellent herding dogs are often found on winner’s podiums for obedience and agility competitions. Border Collies can learn complex commands and solve problems in the blink of an eye.

Poodles

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It turns out that Poodles aren’t just the pretty faces and pageant queens of the canine world. They’re also highly intelligent and are sometimes used as service dogs due to being quite easy to train. Adapting to new situations quickly, Poodles are both beautiful and clever.

German Shepherds

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Most people think of a German Shepherd when they picture a police dog or K-9 unit, and this breed deserves its amazing reputation. For a German Shepherd, there’s nothing more important than solving problems and constantly learning. They adapt just as well to tricks in the family home as hunting for criminals.

Golden Retrievers

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Friendly, adorable, and eager to please, you’d be wrong to underestimate the intelligence of Golden Retrievers. They can be easily trained for important tasks like therapy and search and rescue missions, and they’ve got plenty of brainpower behind all of that cute golden fluff.

Doberman Pinschers

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You may not think that guard dogs need to be very intelligent, but Doberman Pinschers are excellent at being guardians of the home because they can learn and react very quickly. As well as being smart, they also stay focused on a task and are suitable for police and military roles.

Labrador Retrievers

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Labradors are one of America’s most popular dogs, and for good reason. The American Kennel Club reported their popularity ranking as being at “the top spot for a record 31 years – from 1991 until 2022.” They have excellent temperaments and are easily trainable by families and professionals alike.

Shetland Sheepdogs

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Like the Border Collie, Shetland Sheepdogs were bred to herd farm animals like their namesake, sheep. That’s a position that requires both intelligence and responsiveness, which Shetland Sheepdogs have in bucketloads! They can learn complex tasks quickly and do very well in obedience and agility trials.

Papillons

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Sometimes, the best things in life come in small packages, and the Papillon is no exception. At an average of 20-28cm tall, these tiny dogs are attentive and highly alert. They’re known for learning tricks quickly and being very responsive to training.

Rottweilers

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On the other end of the scale, Rottweilers are large and strong dogs, who might be best known for their loyalty and willingness to protect their families. However, they’re also good at problem-solving and can adapt to a variety of roles, from working with the police to herding animals.

Australian Cattle Dogs

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If you’re looking for a smart dog with a strong work ethic, look no further than the Australian Cattle Dog. While they’re full of energy and won’t thrive in small spaces like apartments, they’re intelligent, think quickly on their feet – or paws – and are good at solving problems independently.

Pembroke Welsh Corgis

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Even though Britannica states that “the corgi gained exposure from its association with the royal family of Britain; Queen Elizabeth II has had corgis since her childhood,” these little dogs are also sociable and clever. They have herding instincts that help them with problem-solving and learning new things quickly.

Miniature Schnauzers

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Miniature Schnauzers are unique-looking and distinguished dogs, who can be used as watchdogs since they’re always alert. They’re lively and have sharp minds, which means they often perform well in obedience competitions. They also thrive just as much when they’re companions in the home.

English Springer Spaniels

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Categorized as a gun dog, English Springer Spaniels have been used in hunting since the 1900s. They can track extremely well and have an excellent sense of smell, as well as being very speedy. These dogs are obedient and can follow complicated commands, and they’re always eager to please their owners.

Belgian Malinois’

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The Belgian Malinois breed is intelligent and versatile, but they might not be suitable for a family home. Forbes has put them on the list of dog breeds banned by “top home insurance companies” in the U.S., with 5% of companies not accepting the dog. Nevertheless, they often do well in protection sports.

Rough Collies

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Not to be confused with the Border Collie, Rough Collies are also an intelligent member of the Collie family. Welcoming a Rough Collie into your home means you’ll need to be ready for plenty of long walks and mentally stimulating playtime, but they can also be very good at understanding their owners’ emotions.

Keeshonds

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Although they can be intelligent and sociable dogs, you should be careful when considering a Keeshond. They are often quite independent and smart in infuriating ways, as they like to solve problems on their own – even if you don’t think there’s a problem to be solved!

Bichons Frises

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With their cheerful and affectionate natures, Bichons Frises fit into families across the U.S. perfectly. They love learning tricks and are easy to train, so they love being family pets or even therapy dogs. Just be aware that their double-layered coats can be a challenge to groom.

Vizslas

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The last dog on our list is another gundog like the English Springer Spaniel, although the Vizsla’s distinctive golden red coloring certainly makes it stand out! They’re wonderful companions who are eager to learn new tricks and excel at hunting and tracking.

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