The 40 Smartest Dog Breeds – Ranked by a Psychologist

Dogs are known as “Man’s Best Friend,” but finding the perfect dog to fit your lifestyle can be challenging. Depending on their breed and pedigree, pups show a wide array of behaviors, abilities, and smarts, which can make choosing a new companion tricky.

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There are dog breeds who will happily and tirelessly work on your farm, for example, and others who only want to cuddle up on the couch with you. Knowing what you want out of your furry friend is the first and most important step.

The Science

Regardless of what you want out of your pet, clearly the ability to learn and be trained is perhaps the most important trait to look for. Intelligence is very important, and the subject of Stanley Coren’s book, The Psychology of Dogs (1994). Some of the breeds may be familiar, others may surprise you.

The Science

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We dissected the book (trust us, we always make time for pups), and have compiled a list of all the dogs that will become an intellectual best friend in no time. Check out the breeds that carry the highest intelligence. 

Border Collie

While there are many smart dog breeds to choose from, not many of them compare to the Border Collie. You are likely to find a Collie trying to figure out a problem even when nobody is around to train or reward the behavior.

Border Collie

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Traditionally used in livestock herding, this dog is capable of performing complicated tasks and loves to be put to the test!

Poodle

Coming in a close second is the Poodle (fun fact: this is the national dog of France!). Known for their intelligence and trainability, Poodles were often trained to perform circus acts in front of huge audiences, and there are even stories of these pooches wearing human clothes and acting out skits!

Poodle

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Poodles are frequently crowned “Best in Show” in prestigious competitions such as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

German Shepherd

This breed is the gold standard when it comes to learning new tricks and tasks. After all, law enforcement and the military has relied on German Shepherds to chase down bad guys, sniff out explosives, and many other important objectives.

German Shepherd

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These dogs are very quick learners and love a good test of their abilities! They also make great pets, so think of them next time you want to get a dog. 

Golden Retriever

These pooches are some of the most popular breeds around, because they are adorable and great for families.

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This is another dog you may find assisting police forces and other emergency responders. As the name suggests, these dogs were bred to be outstanding at fetching things for their owners – whether that’s a tennis ball or something far more important!

Doberman Pinscher

Smart and loyal, Dobermans were originally bred to be guard dogs deploying an elite sense of smell (along with a threatening appearance!).

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But these dogs are great at adapting to any activity or lifestyle, especially if they are trained from a young age to be around people and other dogs.

Shetland Sheepdog

These dogs love a good mental challenge and excel with new activities. Bred as a herding dog, Shetlands never get tired of learning and training!

Shetland Sheepdog
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This breed is even nicknamed “shadows” as a testament to their loyalty and attachment to their owners.

Labrador Retriever

This is another highly popular breed with families due to their easy-going nature. Labs love to swim and are experts around water – you may find this dog at the side of a hunter or fisherman.

Labrador Retriever

These dogs are incredibly sweet, making them popularly used for therapy, emotional support, and in the service of the blind or disabled.

Papillon

Also referred to as a “Toy Spaniel,” and easily recognized by their butterfly-shaped ears and fine hair.

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The cream of the crop when it comes to obedience, these dogs are popular in contest circles. If you are looking for a dog who easily behaves the way you want, look no further!  

Rottweiler

Interestingly, this breed is believed to be descended from herding dogs used as far back as the Roman Empire!

Rottweiler
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A popular breed with the armed forces, the Rottweiler possesses a level of smarts that make them easy to train and very protective. Don’t let their intimidating look scare you though, these dogs are great with families!

Australian Cattle Dog

Also nicknamed a “Blue Heeler,” this is yet another herding dog which has made the list. While Cattle Dogs are very smart, they are also very high energy!

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Owners of Australian Cattle Dogs should train them frequently and consistently in order to keep them well behaved.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

What this dog lacks in size, it makes up for in loyalty! Often used as watchdogs, they will protect their family above all else.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

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Just make sure you give this breed something to do, or else it may become restless!

Miniature Schnauzer

A variation of Schnauzers (which were traditionally utilized by armies in Europe), these dogs excel in sporting contests.

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They love to run and learn new tricks, making them ideal for active families and obedience training.

English Springer Spaniel

This dog aims to please! Along with being highly intelligent, Spaniels train easily due to their love of being rewarded.

English Springer Spaniel
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You’ll find this breed showing off new tricks in exchange for some pets and belly rubs!

Belgian Tervuren

Here we have another example of an intelligent herding dog, this one named after a village in Belgium. These clever dogs are great with families, but not so much with strangers.

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They will be fiercely protective of you and your crew but are also known as escape artists, so keep a close watch!

Schipperke

Legend has it that when Nazi Germany occupied Belgium, these dogs were used to run covert messages back and forth without being detected. Often referred to as Belgian Ship Dogs, this breed loves to explore!

Schipperke
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Schipperkes are very active and are not as well behaved when left alone. Loving to be around people makes these dogs great for families, and their high level of curiosity will keep you on your toes!

Keeshond

This breed is known for being extremely observant. They pay very close attention to their surroundings and will quickly notice anything unusual, making them very useful in a familiar setting.

Keeshond
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However, this attentiveness can be a double-edged sword, as it can be difficult to get them to focus on what you want at times!

German Short-Haired Pointer

These dogs want to do whatever you want to do! “GSPs” were bred as hunting dogs specializing in waterfowl, similar to Labrador Retrievers.

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A pointer is the ultimate playful friend and companion. Very smart and affectionate, they only want to be around you!

Brittany Spaniel

Here is another breed which is ideally suited for sportsmen. Named for the province in France from which they originated, Brittanys weren’t officially recognized as a breed until 1907.

Brittany Spaniel
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Loyal and smart, Brittanys also have some of the best noses of any dog breed you can find.

Weimaraner

One of the most unique and recognizable breeds due to their light grayish coat and bright blue eyes, Weims are quick-witted and easy to train.

Weimaraner
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These are one of the largest dogs on the list due to their history of use in large-game hunting.

Belgian Malinois

A very strong and athletic dog, Belgian Malinois are often used in police work and search and rescue missions.

Belgian Malinois
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While they can be great with families, just make sure your dog has some kind of task to perform, which is when they are at their best! Were you surprised by any of the breeds that made the list? If you or your family are looking for a new dog, these are some great options to consider!

Dalmatian

In the Walt Disney movie 101 Dalmatians you see Dalmatians making a whole lot of mischief. Dalmatians are, in fact, incredibly intelligent and easily understand commands once trained. They also have a knack of easily opening doors once they learn how.

Dalmatian
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The breed originated in Croatia and is named after the Adriatric coast of Dalmatia. Dalmatians have been used in times of war and is the dog that all fire departments around the world use. They are amazing dogs with wonderful, social natures.

French Bulldog

French Bulldogs are one of the most popular breeds on the planet. They are also one of the priciest, based on the fact that in order to impregnate the females, artificial insemination is performed, due to their narrow hips. When they give birth to puppies (2-4) a caesarian section needs to occur.

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French Bulldogs were bred to be toy versions of the big English Bulldog. They are very intelligent and take well to training, as long as the exercises are fun. They make wonderful lap dogs and are generally upbeat in nature.

Dachshund

Dachshunds originate from Germany and were bred for hunting purposes. Their name translates to “badger dogs.” You will find three different types of Dachshunds available –  smooth coats, longhaired, and wirehaired.

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Dachshunds are very intelligent and possess independent natures with a happy disposition. They are naturally playful and can be easily trained. You just need to keep in mind that their attention spans are short, so training needs to be kept fun, and in short bursts.

Siberian Husky

Siberian Huskies are stunning dogs that originated in Eastern Siberia. They were originally bred by the Chukchi people who used them as companions, and to pull their sleds. Siberian Huskies are naturally very strong with high endurance levels.

Siberian Husky
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These dogs have coats that are exceptionally thick, with eyes that are often blue or they will have heterochromia, meaning one eye will be brown and one eye will be blue. They are intelligent dogs but tend to be stubborn, so you need to show them who is boss from the beginning.

Scottish Terrier

Scottish Terriers are bossy dogs with feisty personalities. They were originally bred as working dogs in Aberdeen, Scotland. People used them to chase foxes, rabbits, badgers and other animals of small stature.

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They are intelligent and their intelligence needs to be channelled. They are not the easiest dogs to train, as they can be highly aloof and often aggressive at times. They are very lovable dogs, but can be very domineering over other dogs.

Yorkshire Terrier

As the name states, Yorkshire Terriers originated in Yorkshire, England. Their small size made them perfect to hunt and catch rats that plagued mines. There are five breeds that make up a Yorkshire Terrier – a Maltese, Skye Terrier, Dandie Dinmont Terrier, tan and black Manchester Terrier, and now-extinct Leeds Terrier. 

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Today they are very popular among celebrities and make perfect lap dogs. They also fit in small bags easily and are perfect to take along, even when shopping. They are classified as “highly intelligent” dogs, and are easy to train, as long as it starts from a young age and with short bursts. 

Afghan Hound

Afghan Hounds are one of the most beautiful looking dogs out of all the dog breeds. They are high maintenance with coats that need to be brushed every day. Afghans also need to be washed at the salon at least every 5 weeks.

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They originated in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. They were bred specifically as hunters and to help lead their human owners to the prey. They are not the easiest dogs to train because of their aloofness. They are very smart, but independent. 

Shar Pei

Shar Peis are interesting looking dogs. When they are puppies they are covered with a ton of excessive skin. They are very old dogs, having originated in China around 200BC, and were used to hunt and protect their owners. They were originally used as fighting dogs as well. 

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They are intelligent, can be incredibly stubborn and are very devoted to their pack (family). They need an owner who is in charge and can be easily trained, as long as it starts from an early age. They will only bark when they are worried or while playing.

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus are incredibly beautiful dogs with coats that are high maintenance. The translation of Shih Tzu is “little lion.” They originated from China and Tibet (over 1,000 years ago) and are independent in nature, extremely affectionate, intelligent and independent. 

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They are easy to train, provided you use treats, and love praise and rewards. They are a breed that needs professional grooming at least every 5 weeks. An interesting fact is that they were wiped out during the communist revolution and the breed had to be rebuilt. 

Chow Chow

Chow Chows are unique looking dogs that look like little bears and hail from China and Tibet. They have the sweetest round ears and an interesting tongue that is blue-black/purple in color. They are intelligent dogs with an independent streak and need a lot of discipline right from the start.

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It is easiest to train your Chow Chow while holding them on a leash, and giving them a treat. They need to be slowly trained with treats at every step of the way. They can be aggressive dogs (this needs to be watched) and are highly protective of their owners.

Saint Bernard

These massive dogs originate from the western Alps in Italy and Switzerland, and are made for cool weather with their big bodies and thick fur. They are working dogs and were originally used to protect Switzerland’s Hospice, called Saint Bernard.

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They are well-known for having helped find and save travelers that were lost and hurt. Saint Bernards are very intelligent dogs that are kind and gentle, make great family pets and love being indoors. 

Bouvier des Flandres

Bouvier des Flandres are large dogs that originated in Flanders, Belgium. They were originally used as working dogs for the farm, as they are great at sheep herding, cattle droving, and pulling carts. Right now, they are being used in the police force and as guard dogs.

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They make great pets, as they are very protective, and their large size usually scares away intruders. They are very responsible dogs, with a lot of control and great intelligence. It is very important to train them from a young age as they will otherwise be too dominant over their owners. 

Pit Bull Terrier

Pit Bull Terriers are highly misunderstood dogs. Most people are scared of them because they know they are a breed that are often used in dog fights. The reason they are associated with professional dog fights is the fact that once they attack and bite something, they won’t let go.

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Actually, pit bulls who are raised with a lot of love are very loving and protective over the families they live with. They are good with children too. They are extremely intelligent and training is a cinch with them. 

Pomeranian

Pomeranians are gorgeous little dogs that absolutely adore their owners. They sometimes adore them too much though, and can be overly possessive over them. They can also suffer from heart problems when older, or if under too much stress.

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They love the indoors and can bark quite a lot. These dogs are very intelligent and can be trained easily. They will always follow you wherever you go, and will want to be by your side at night time, in bed. They make lovely companions and are an absolute joy of a breed.

Malamute

Malamutes are Siberian Huskies’ big cousin, that originate from Alaska. They are simply massive – frighteningly so. In reality, they are mushy on the inside with really sweet personalities. 

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However, they need an owner who is in charge from the beginning. They are strong-willed and confident dogs, that are intelligent, love to play, and make the best of companions. They must be trained from an early age, and it is very important to feed them only after you eat first (it’s an alpha thing). 

Smooth Fox Terrier

Smooth Fox Terriers hail from England. They are dogs packed with energy, and were originally bred to hunt small animals. They are dogs that are always aware of their surroundings and are fine with strangers if introduced early to them.

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They are easily trained, when trained young, and are intelligent too. They make the best of guard dogs, as they are so vocal, and are quite bossy and lively in character. They are great for you if you love to exercise with your dog close by. 

Jack Russell

Jack Russells are absolutely adorable dogs who attach themselves to their owners at a very young age. They love to jump and bounce around and investigate things. They are highly curious dogs who love to eat, and adore their families.

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Jack Russells also have very happy dispositions and are a joy to be around. They need to be trained, and must socialize with other dogs from an early age. They are incredibly smart but can be stubborn and need order, routine, and structure.

Puli

These interesting looking dogs are often called  “Rustafarian dogs” because of their coats, which protect them and keep them warm. They originated in Asia, and were brought over to Hungary over one thousand years ago. They were used as herding dogs.

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Pulis are highly intelligent, very self-confident, and sensitive to their owners. They are lovely dogs to have around the young, elderly and sick, as they protect so well, and are very gentle. They are easily trainable, but you need to show who is in charge from the beginning.

Chihuahua

These little feisty dogs originate from Mexico. They are intelligent dogs with the ability to learn things at a lightning pace. They are good in exercises of agility and obedience, and are curious, bold explorers.

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Chihuahuas can also be very noisy dogs. Although they are small in size, they have really bold personalities. They fit in incredibly well with families and love children, but when it comes to strangers, they can be very snappy.   

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The name “Cavalier King Charles Spaniel” is quite a mouthful. These elegant-looking dogs originate from England and Great Britain. They are very elegant-looking and are one of the most popular dogs in the United States.

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They have an average intelligence, but are ranked much higher in intelligence than many other breeds out there. They don’t bark much, and can suffer from many ear infections in their lifetime. They work well as therapy dogs and need treats to be encouraged when it comes to training.

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