The Smartest Dog Breeds Might Surprise You

Plus nine other cute pups that all belong on the honor roll.

By Blake Bakkila and Caroline Picard, GOOD HOUSEPING

While all dogs make for best friends, some are, um, more lovably clueless than others. But when it comes to working intelligence (i.e. following commands), certain types stand out from the pack. After surveying almost 200 dog-obedience judges, psychologist Stanley Coren named these breeds as the best of the bunch in his book The Intelligence of Dogs.
Overall, the smartest dog breeds are:

1. Border Collie

2. Poodle

3. German Shepherd

4. Golden Retriever

5. Doberman Pinscher

6. Shetland Sheepdog

7. Labrador Retriever

8. Papillon

9. Rottweiler

10. Australian Cattle Dog

Read more about these nerdy dogs below, but if you're curious, we've answered some FAQs about dogs' IQs that may be on your mind:

What makes a dog "smart?"

Coren evaluated their levels of intelligence based on instincts, obedience, and ability to adapt. In the book, you can even have your dog take an IQ test.

Are bigger dogs smarter than small dogs?

We're thinking yes. It hasn't been confirmed as a fact, but research suggests that bigger dogs could be smarter. If you look at this list, you'll find that the only tiny pup is the papillon. Coren recently posed this question in a post for Psychology Today, aptly titled "Are Big Dogs Smarter Than Small Dogs?"

Looking at a study from earlier this year, Coren shared, "Data were obtained from 1,888 dogs, and the results were unambiguous. There was a clear trend indicating that larger dogs were able to accurately remember over a longer period of time than were their smaller counterparts."

Which dog, er, isn't so smart?

They're so lovable and cute, but the Afghan Hound breed took this spot. "The Afghan Hound, at the bottom of the list, was bred to spot, pursue and pull down antelope and gazelle," explained Coren, clarifying that dogs are bred to perform specific tasks. "If you ever saw one of them running you would appreciate how refined his skill as a running hunter is."

What about the Queen's corgis?

Don't worry, the royals chose wisely. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi took 11th place in Coren's rankings, followed by the Miniature Schnauzer, English Springer Spaniel, Belgian Tervuren, and Schipperke.

Now, let's talk about our BFFs. These are the smartest dog breeds, according to Coren:

1) Border Collie

The valedictorians of the dog world, these herders took the top spot in in Stanley Coren's intelligence rankings, meaning most can learn a new command in under five seconds and follow it at least 95% of the time.

2) Poodle

Nowadays you can adopt cockapoos, whoodles and goldendoodles, to name a few, but breeders love regular, ol' poodles for more than just their hypoallergenic qualities. The curly coated cuties also took the silver medal for working intelligence in Coren's survey.

3) German Shepherd

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.

4) Golden Retriever

That's right. One of the nation's most beloved family pets also took home straight As in this intelligence survey. While the breed originated in hunting, Goldens also enjoy acting like straight-up goofballs once in awhile too.

5) Doberman Pinscher

Dobermans got their start in the late 19th century, when a German tax collector named Louis Dobermann wanted a medium-sized pet to act as both a guard dog and companion. Translation: These fearless protectors can hold their own, and hang with kiddos.

6) Shetland Sheepdog

Smaller than collies, the adorable fluffballs hold their own in herding, agility, and obedience trials. Consequently, Shelties do tend to bark, chase and herd but their affectionate nature and love for cuddles will erase any hard feelings.

7) Labrador Retriever

Labs love to please, whether it's as guide dogs, narcotic detection dogs, or just everyday family pets. Americans have accordingly made them the most popular breed in the country for a whopping 27 years in a row.

8) Papillon

The first toy breed to crack the top 10, papillons aren't your average lap dogs. The 5-pound wonders often take home top prizes at competitive agility trials, according to the American Kennel Club. Their name - French for "butterfly" - alludes to their tall, pointed ears.

9) Rottweiler

Rottweilers likely descended from drover dogs in Ancient Rome, with the rugged, dependable temperament to boot. An engaged Rottweiler owner will take care to train and exercise their pooch thoroughly – with the reward of a loving and loyal friend.

10) Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog sits outside of the top 50 in AKC's popularity rankings, but don't miss out on this smartie-pants breed. Alert, curious and pleasant, the high-energy herders do best with a job. Whether or not that involves cows is up to you.


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Pets Magazine: The Smartest Dog Breeds Might Surprise You
The Smartest Dog Breeds Might Surprise You
Plus nine other cute pups that all belong on the honor roll.
Pets Magazine
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