If you’re a dog person, you know that every pooch has its own personality. Dogs are as diverse as humans, and some of their traits can be chalked up to their breed. So, which breeds take the cake—er, doggy biscuit—when it comes to intelligence? A pup’s intelligence can be measured in different ways, for example in his ability to be trained or his mastery of a certain skill. The 9 most intelligent dog breeds we’ll cover here are generally regarded among the canine community as the brightest, most responsive to training and most adaptable. Is your dog on the list?
1) Border Collie
Aside from having a fine coat of hair, this breed is known for its intense work ethic and instinct. In fact, border collies are often referred to as “workaholics.” While your run-of-the-mill Collie might not tackle Lassie-esque tasks like pulling kids out of wells, he will display a high degree of athleticism that can be traced back to his roots as a herding dog. Collies excel at learning voice and sound commands, and many enjoy tackling agility courses. They’re on the go all the time, and require lots of physical activity to keep their sharp minds busy. It’s a lesson many Border Collie owners have learned the hard way: if you don’t keep him busy, he’ll find a way to keep himself busy, even at the expense of your favorite leather shoes.
2) German Shepherd
There’s a reason this breed is employed by police forces the world over; German Shepherds are smart, courageous and steadfast, and considered fit to serve alongside members of our nation’s military. In fact, some studies have compared this breed’s intellectual capabilities to that of a two-year-old human. German Shepherds enjoy learning commands and will do well with owners who take the time to train them and nurture their intellect. Despite their “mean dog” image, German Shepherds are actually big softies for their own families, and do great with children once they’ve been properly introduced.
3) Australian Cattle Dog
Based on his relatively small stature, this breed’s lighting-fast speed may surprise you. The Australian Cattle Dog was bred for—you guessed it—herding cattle, and he’s happiest when he has a job to do. Balls, Frisbees and other retrieval toys are this breed’s best friend, and he’ll never tire of a game of fetch. If you enjoy outdoor activities like running, hiking and swimming, an Australian Cattle Dog is the perfect companion. Because of his instinct to nip cattle, this frisky guy may not do well around unfamiliar children and cats. Owners must be sure to closely monitor him during “play” so he doesn’t overexert himself.
Don’t let the poodle’s prissy reputation fool you; this dog was bred generations ago to retrieve ducks for hunters, and has maintained its air of proud intelligence ever since. Poodles are agile, quick learners known for having what many describe as a “sense of humor.” In other words, this is a dog that’s generally cheerful all of the time. If your only exposure to poodles has been through televised dog shows, do note that not all members of this breed have the signature frou-frou coat. Their curly mane can be as tame or outlandish as you want it to be—but it will require regular grooming to avoid matting and tangling.
What he lacks in stature, this cuddly pooch makes up for in smarts. Pugs are known for goofing around, always ready for a game. But don’t call the pug the class clown just yet—they’re also highly trainable and excel at puzzle toys. Pugs are gentle, affectionate and generally not “yappy” like some of their toy counterparts, making them ideal for owners who live in small spaces. If you do decide to make the pug your breed of choice, invest in a lint roller; they have quite the reputation for shedding their oh-so-soft coat.
6) Labrador Retriever
This breed is so smart we trust it to be the lifelong companion for the blind, tasked with keeping its master out of harm’s way. Gentle and intelligent, labs frequently top the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular breeds. Labrador Retrievers are “pleasers,” which means they put pleasing their owners above most anything else. They’re wonderful service and therapy dogs and do great with children. With a mild activity level and an even milder temperament, it’s easy to see why labs are one of the world’s favorite family pets.
The smallest breed on our list, the Papillon, is a happy and alert dog that rarely stands more than a foot tall. This breed is highly curious, always up for the challenge of learning a new trick and eager to impress his master. He’s highly intuitive, and in some cases has such a close connection with his master that some describe the Papillon as having “doggy ESP.” Papillons are highly energetic and love to bounce around. Though they love to be at their owner’s side the majority of the time, many Papillons are wiggly and don’t enjoy sitting still long enough for an extended cuddle session.
8) Golden Retriever
Like his retriever friend, the Labrador, the Golden Retriever is an ideal service dog. Mellow, mild-mannered and very smart, this breed is a loyal companion through and through. There’s a reason you see so many Golden Retrievers used in commercials and movies; it’s a highly trainable breed and gets along well with strangers, including children. Because of the Golden Retriever’s intelligence, he needs regular human interaction and can become depressed when left alone for too long. Be sure to give your Golden lots of attention, along with regular walks to prevent this docile breed from becoming a couch potato.
9) Jack Russel Terrier
Small and sprightly, the Jack Russel Terrier loves having his nose in everything that’s going on around him. He’s a quintessential trick dog, and the sky’s the limit with how many impressive new tasks he can master. Jack Russels are high-energy and need lots of exercise. They’re great candidates for competitive dog sports, like flyball and agility courses. If left alone for too long, though, they’re known to get into mischief, like pawing through the trash or tearing up the sofa.