20 most intelligent dog breeds
Ava the Corgi (Photo: @littlepnwpups)
helloBARK! staff
By helloBARK! staff
Updated on April 18, 2019
Fact Checked This article was fact checked by one of our writers on March 14, 2019.

Most dog owners would like to consider their pets reasonably smart but there are some breeds that are more intelligent than others.

This isn’t to say that all dogs don’t have their own charm and personality, just some four-legged pooches are quicker to learn commands and tricks.

While some of our furry friends may have superior IQ levels, it is up to their owners to keep them motivated and stimulated to learn more.

In general, dogs that serve as service or working dogs are considered to be pretty intelligent.

Naturally, breeds such as Border Collie, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever and Labrador come to mind when you think of dogs who play a role in our society.

However, you may be surprised by some of the breeds in the top 20 most intelligent dogs in the world.

The Intelligence of Dogs

German Shepherds were first created in 1899 (Photo: Adobe Stock)
German Shepherds were first created in 1899 (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Stanley Coren, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, published The Intelligence of Dogs in 1994.

His book ranked the 137 smartest dog breeds in the world, with a particular emphasis on working and obedience intelligence.

Coren worked with the American Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club in order to form his list of smart pups.

He asked obedience judges at both clubs to rank breeds by performance, and received 199 responses, representing about 50 percent of obedience judges then working in North America.

Their results helped Coren to compile The Intelligence of Dogs, which remains a cornerstone for those looking to research the dogs with the best IQ.

Without further ado, here is helloBARK!’s rundown of the 20 most intelligent dog breeds

Top 10

The breeds named in the top 10 of Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs had to meet specific requirements.

They had to be able to understand new commands in five or less repetitions and obey a first command at least 95 per cent of the time.

1) Border Collie

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The Bordie Collie is one of the world’s best known working dogs. Playing a big role on farms, these dogs are the 38th most popular in the world. However, the Border Collie came out consistently top when Coren received his results from AKC and CKC obedience judges. Described as a “remarkably bright workaholic” dog, the Border Collie requires a lot of exercise and stimulation.

2) Poodle

Poodle's are the second smartest dogs in the world (Photo: Adobe Stock)
Poodle’s are the second smartest dogs in the world (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Perhaps not a breed that would immediately spring to mind when you’re trying to think of intelligent dogs, the Poodle is ranked second behind the Border Collie in terms of IQ. They’re extremely smart dogs, despite their flamboyant appearance. The Poodle was bred to retrieve small animals from the water. The AKC dispel any stereotype surrounding these dogs by describing them as “eager, athletic, and wickedly smart”.

3) German Shepherd

The German Shepherd (Photo: Adobe Images)
The German Shepherd (Photo: Adobe Images)

To see the German Shepherd so high up the list of intelligent dogs shouldn’t come as a surprise. These majestic dogs serve a purpose as both working animals and family pets in modern society. Often used by the army or police force, the GSD was the first blind eye dog in the United States back in the 1930s. German Shepherds are eager to please and quick to learn new commands.

4) Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever at the park (Photo: Adobe Stock)
Golden Retriever at the park (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Another breed that has a glowing reputation for their high IQ is the Golden Retriever. While they make great family pets due to their amiable nature, the Golden Retriever is often used as a service animal for those with a disability, be it physical or emotional. These Scottish dogs are also used to help in search and rescue, while they excel at obedience and training.

5) Shetland Sheepdog

Continuing the Scottish theme, the Shetland Sheepdog was ranked fifth in Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs. Related to the Collie, they’re a smaller version of their cousins but no less intelligent. Originally working in the rugged highlands of Scotland, the Shetland Sheepdog is extremely intelligent and is adept at herding cattle and sheep.

6) Doberman

Another powerful German breed is the Doberman. Like their compatriots the German Shepherd, the Doberman is a dog that has proven a success when deployed with the army and police. They’re extreme athleticism and powerful physique make them great guard dogs. However there is more to these dogs than brute force as the Doberman is very smart. These dogs are social and obedient.

7) Labrador Retriever

Labrador retriever playing outside smile in green park (Photo: Adobe Stock)
Labrador retriever playing outside smile in green park (Photo: Adobe Stock)

While the Labrador Retriever may rank number one out of 193 dog breeds in the popularity stakes in United States, they come in at number seven for intelligence. These lovable dogs serve a valuable purpose in our society, like the Golden Retriever. Often used as guide dogs or service animals, they also make caring and loyal family pets. Their eagerness to please and high IQ makes them easy to train.

8) Papillon

Not necessarily a dog that you’d think, the Papillon is ranked number eight for IQ. Described as a “quick” and “curious” dog on the AKC’s website, the Papillon have been given the nickname “dwarf spaniels”. They were bred to be lapdogs for noblewomen in royal courts and have remained a popular family pet.

9) Rottweiler

Like the German Shepherd and Doberman, Rottweilers are well suited to roles with the army and police given their robust nature. These self assured dogs can trace their roots back to the mastiffs used during the days of Roman dominance. Often stereotyped as fearsome dogs, the AKC website says the Rottweiler can be loving and loyal pets in a family setting.

10) Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog can also go by the names Blue Heeler or Queensland Heeler. As their name suggests, the Australian Cattle Dog served a purpose on the farm and on rural landscapes. With a beautiful coat full of colour, these dogs have a reputation for being able to outsmart their owners.

Top 10-20

The breeds listed from 20th down to 10th in The Intelligence of Dogs have to fulfill certain requirements.

These include understanding new commands in 5 to 15 repetitions and obeying the first command 85 per cent of the time.

11) Pembroke Welsh Corgi

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi’s ancestors are thought to have arrived in Wales, United Kingdom with the Vikings. These small dogs were used to herd cattle and sheep by nipping. Known for their association to Queen Elizabeth II, Pembroke are popular dogs worldwide. They’re also very intelligent.

12) Miniature Schnauzer

The smallest of the three Schnauzer breeds, the Miniature Schnauzer is ranked highest on the list of intelligent dogs. These outgoing dogs are bright and easy to train. The Miniature Schnauzer was bred to be a versatile farm dog that could hunt small vermin and be adept watch dogs.

13) English Springer Spaniel

These sporty dogs are known for their boundless energy and stamina. However, the English Springer Spaniel brings more than athleticism to the table with their high IQ. They were bred to work closely with humans in terms of hunting and sporting pursuits. The English Springer Spaniel’s intelligence and desire to be around humans makes them highly trainable.

14) Belgian Shepherd Dog (Tervuren)

Described as a self-assured herding dog on the AKC’s website, the Belgian Shepherd Dog is a medium sized breed that crave human company. They’re an intelligent breed that enjoy learning new commands, obedience skills and tricks.

15) Schipperke

Next up is another Belgian breed called Schipperke. These jet black pups were used as a ratters and watchdogs, which perhaps explains their curious nature. They may be small, but these dogs are robust and very smart.

16) Belgian Sheepdog

Continuing the Belgian theme, the Belgian Sheepdog is ranked at number 16 in The Intelligence of Dogs. Larger than the Belgian Shepherd, the Belgian Sheepdog is jet black like the Schipperke. The AKC website describes these dogs as a “highly trainable herder whose versatility and intelligence is the stuff of canine legend”.

17) Collie

The Collie is renowned worldwide, thanks in part to the exploits of Lassie on our television screens. With a fluffy coat and loving personalities, it’s no wonder the Collie is a firm favourite with families. These herders are very intelligent and quick to learn.

18) Keeshond

Hailing from the Netherlands, the Keeshond is a breed that you may not have encountered before. With an intelligent expression thanks to the markings around their eyes, the Keeshond is a symbol of Dutch patriotism.

19) German Shorthaired Pointer

Immediately recognizable thanks to their brown and white patterns, the German Shorthaired Pointer makes the top 20 for the world’s most intelligent dogs. Serving a purpose as a gun dog in hunting, the GSP does well with positive reinforcement during training.

20) Flat-Coated Retriever

Sneaking into the final spot in the top 20 is the Flat-Coated Retriever. Like the German Shorthaired Pointer, the Flat-Coated Retriever was used as a gun dog. With their eager to please nature, they’re highly trainable.