10 TOP Smartest (and Dumbest) Dog Breeds

When it comes to picking the right dog for you and your family there are many traits that you might consider.

While loyalty, potential for shedding and the amount of exercise the dog will need are all considerations, some people are more concerned with the capacity of the dog to learn.

In this article we will cover the top 10 smartest dogs ~ at least the general consensus as to the top ten breeds when it comes to intelligence testing in a canine forum. Please note that smart does not always mean the easiest to train as sometimes the smartest dogs can also find ways around the rules or get bored during training.

Which Dog Breed Is The Smartest?

According to many reviews the border collie is recognized as the smartest dog breed; however, as with humans the intelligence levels of dogs vary. An individual dog of any breed may prove itself to be much more intelligent than a purebred border collie.

The German shepherd dog is a breed that dates back only as far as 1899 where it was developed as a working dog in Germany. The original purpose of the German shepherd dog was for herding sheep and guarding them to ensure that flocks were not decimated by predators.

The fact is that many more factors should be taken into account when choosing the right dog breed for you and your family aside from just the stated level of intelligence of that breed.

Top 10 Smartest Dog Breeds​

1. The Border Collie
The border collie is a popular breed known for being the most intelligent dog breed worldwide. This dog was initially developed as a herding dog in England and Scotland where it herded a number of livestock but particularly sheep.

The border collie is still widely used as a herding dog in England and Scotland both and are often found on farming properties.

Keeping a Border Collie as a Pet


Keeping a border collie as a pet can be challenging for a household that is not prepared for a highly energetic and demanding dog. Border collies require a lot of exercise both physically and mentally and when they are not provided with these things they can quickly become neurotic. 
A bored border collie is a dog that no one wants to contend with because this boredom is frequently channeled in to extremely destructive behaviors such as digging and chewing. 
Most commonly the border collie excels in a household that provides extracurricular activity such as agility work, herding work, extensive obedience work or fly ball competition. 
Even with adequate outlets for their energy, border collies are herding dogs by nature and this often breeds into them an instinctive herding instinct which they will perform on anything and everything including young children.
2. The Poodle
The poodle is recognized as being among the smartest dog breeds in the world. There are three sizes of poodles, the miniature, the toy and the standard poodle. 

This breed of dog was originally bred to be a water dog; however, over the years this breed has adapted to a number of different sports and jobs. Today the poodle is often used in agility, tracking, obedience and herding.

Keeping a Poodle as a Pet

Poodles are extremely intelligent dogs and are fast learners which make them great pets for those who are willing to work with them. Due to the fact that these dogs are such fast learners many people believe that they make the perfect pet however, without direction and teaching poodles can be difficult to handle and hard headed.

Of all varieties of poodle the standard sized poodle is the version of this breed with the lowest level of energy but all versions of poodles can become highly strung and resistant when not handled with proper care. 

Poodles are needy dogs and as a breed they require an attentive family not only to keep them stimulated psychologically and physically but also a family that makes them feel like part of the pack.

3. The German Shepherd
The strength of these dogs alone makes them ideal for guardians of sheep flocks but so too does the dogs ability to be easily trained. The extreme intelligence of this dog breed however soon resulted in German shepherds being used for various other working jobs as well.

Keeping a German Shepherd as a Pet

German shepherds are much like Labrador retrievers in that they require constant stimulation in order to thrive. A German shepherd that is not provided with adequate intellectual or physical activity will take that energy and turn it elsewhere. 

German shepherds almost always thrive in taking part in rewarding jobs such as working as police dogs, drug dogs, therapy dogs or in physically rewarding jobs such as agility work.

4. The Golden Retriever
The golden retriever was initially bred as a gun dog used to retrieve game; this use meant that these dogs were bred to have a soft mouth to prevent damage to birds that were retrieved during the hunt. 

These dogs are particularly easy to please which makes them ideal as candidates for many different jobs aside from being retrieval dogs during the hunt. In the United States, the golden retriever is the fifth most popular dog breed when it comes to dog ownership.

Keeping a Golden Retriever as a Pet

Golden retrievers are one of the most popular breeds of dog kept as pets worldwide. The golden retriever is a quick learner that is well mannered and easy to please. These intelligent dogs are gentle with their human families but require exercise daily in order to remain a good family dog. 

Without adequate exercise the golden retriever will become overly energetic and may easily harm young children or become a nuisance in their behavior. This breed of dog generally prefers to have a job or a challenge such as constant obedience training or a sport to keep them busy as well as mentally stimulated.

The golden retriever like many of the dog breeds already mentioned are great for a number of popular dog jobs including: drug detection, seeing eye dogs and therapy dogs.

5. The Doberman Pinscher
The Doberman Pinscher was originally bred as a protector dog to stand by the side of the local tax collector back in 1890. The original intent in creating the Doberman breed was to combine intelligence, loyalty, speed, ferocity, strength and endurance to result in a dog that would quickly and easily protect its master.

Over time the breed has progressed and become what it is today; however, the tendency of this dog breed to the traits for which it was originally bred make it the prime target for those looking to selectively breed aggressive dogs. When bred appropriately and carefully however the Doberman is a well rounded and devoted dog.

Keeping a Doberman Pinscher as a Pet

The Doberman pinscher is another dog breed that is often chosen as a popular pet breed because of the balance of characteristics common to the breed. When choosing a Doberman pinscher it is important to research the genetic line of the dog you pick due to the number of temperament and health conditions that can occur through poor breeding. 

A well bred Doberman is a dog that is extremely intelligent and requires regular exercise in order to be well rounded and obedient. A bored Doberman is a dog that has far too much energy to function as a family pet as like many other intelligent breeds since it will become destructive.

6. The Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland sheepdog is commonly referred to as the Sheltie and was originally bred from dogs native to the Shetland Isles. These original dogs of the Shetland Isles were bred to be herding dogs that protected sheep. 

Over the years it is said that the Sheltie was developed through the cross breeding of various other dogs with the Shetland herder. The Sheltie rounds out our top ten list of the world’s smartest dog breeds.

Keeping a Shetland Sheepdog as a Pet


Keeping a Shetland Sheepdog as a pet works well for many people, this breed is loyal and eager to please its master. The Sheltie is not a yard dog and requires pack life to be a healthy and happy dog. 

The Sheltie is an intelligent dog and often uses that against its owner if the owner is not firm and consistent by refusing to obey. A Sheltie that is well exercised and given psychological stimulation is a happy dog but even then it may be seen to herd family members or even strangers.

7. The Labrador Retriever
The Labrador retriever is the most popular dog in the U.S. and it also happens to be one of the smartest dog breeds out there. Labradors are athletic dogs that were originally bred for retrieving fishing nets and as such they have webbed feet and extremely strong necks. 

Labrador retrievers are excellent swimmers and have a dual layer coat that is designed to maintain the dog’s body temperature even when the dog is submerged in freezing waters as they frequently were when used to retrieve fishing.

Keeping a Labrador as a Pet

The intelligence level of the Labrador retriever is particularly high which makes these dogs particularly good for working dogs. Working dogs can work in a variety of fields but all dogs that were bred to have a “job” are generally miserable without adequate mental and physical stimulation and the Labrador is no exception.

A bored Labrador will destroy a home, misbehave, dig under a fence or otherwise act out. If you plan to keep a Labrador as a pet it is important that you always offer your dog adequate exercise in addition to stimulation to prevent boredom.

Some ways that you can prevent your Labrador from getting bored include: playing games such as hide and seek, teaching new commands, taking part in activities such as agility, working as a therapy dog handler and providing new stimulation on a regular basis.

8. The Papillon
The Papillon is so named for the shape of the fringe on the dogs’ ears that resemble a butterfly in appearance. This dog breed is traditionally associated with royalty since many famous royals made a habit of carrying the small dogs under their arms but don’t let their small size fool you. 

The Papillon is just one of two small breeds of dog (counting the toy poodle) that fall in to the category of the top ten smartest dogs in the world.

Keeping a Papillon as a Pet

This dog is a particularly fast learner and is easy to integrate in to any family that understands how to handle a small dog. The Papillon make a great companion dog however it is important not to manhandle this small dog too frequently or you risk giving the dog a nervous disposition or separation anxiety. 

This toy breed has a particularly high energy level and as such they require higher levels of exercise than many other toy breeds.

9. The Rottweiler
The Rottweiler was originally bred in Rottweil, Germany where the dog was intended to herd livestock and pull carts that carried butchered meat to the market. 

In the mid 19th century the Rottweiler began to lose its position as a working dog when trains were utilized for moving cattle to the market. The Rottweiler today is still considered among the world’s smartest dogs.

Keeping a Rottweiler as a Pet

Rottweilers do not have the high energy levels of the border collie and Australian cattle dog however, they require frequent exercise to maintain a healthy weight. It is also important to ensure that the Rottweiler receives adequate levels of mental stimulation in order to prevent them from becoming bored and acting out. 

When bored a Rottweiler will entertain itself most commonly by creating havoc within the home and destroying items that do not belong to it, they may also dig under or jump fences. 

When provided adequate exercise and stimulation Rottweiler’s are loyal and strong dogs who are quick to learn and fast to obey. As with Dobermans however, it is important to thoroughly research the genetic line of a Rottweiler in order to avoid any temperament or serious health conditions.

10. The Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian cattle dog was originally bred in Australia in order to drive cattle over long distances. 

Unlike other breeds of herding dogs the Australian cattle dog was specifically designed to work in rough Australian terrain with larger herding animals. Today, it is known to be the seventh smartest dog breed.

Keeping An Australian Cattle Dog as a Pet

Australian cattle dogs are much like border collies when it comes to being kept as pets. These dogs require extreme amounts of exercise and as such without a job to do, vast levels of exercise and stimulation or a career as a farm dog, these dogs are prone to high levels of energy and mischief. 

The Australian Cattle Dog is a loyal and brave dog known for being a hard worker and will exhibit serious behavior problems when not provided with enough exercise and stimulation.

We also have a listing of runner-ups that didn’t quite make the top 10 list of smartest dog breeds.

Runner-Ups

  • Brittany Spaniel 
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi 
  • German Shorthaired Pointer 
  • Vizsla 
  • Beauceron 
  • Belgian Malinois 
  • Australian Kelpie 
  • Great Dane 
  • Australian Shepherd 
  • Belgian Sheepdog 
  • Belgian Tervuren 
  • Cocker Spaniel
And, for those that are wondering who the less intelligent (i.e. dumbest; but still very lovable) dogs are, checkout our list of the dumbest dog breeds.

The Dumbest Dog Breeds (But That Much More Lovable)

When it comes to dogs, they are pretty intelligent. But not all are as smart as others. What are the dumbest dog breeds and which dogs won’t be bringing you back the morning newspaper or making your house guests oooh and aaah at their crafty tricks?

According to research the following breeds show less intellectual promise than most other dogs. Intelligence for these breeds was determined by Canadian and U.S. kennel club judges and the amount of time it took a dog breed to master a new command. Of course, we’ve found that, that can make these dogs just that much more lovable.

1. The Afghan Hound

Most people who are familiar with the silky coated Afghan hound will readily admit that they can be one of the most neurotic breeds. The independent nature of these dogs makes them extremely difficult to train; however, they are also affectionate dogs that love to be included in the family pack.

Afghans’ are sensitive dogs which can add to the difficulty level of training them when combined with the high levels of independence.

2. The Basset Hound

The lovable face, droopy ears and bloodshot eyes make this dog an endearing character to most people, but unfortunately this breed is not one of the most intelligent. The basset has an amazing sense of smell and when trained well they can put that nose to the grindstone, but it’s the amount of work it takes to get the dog to that point that fails it.

Basset hounds are notoriously difficult to train and housebreaking them can be a bear but where they fail in speed learning, they excel in companionship. Bassets make great family dogs but need owners that can stand by them through a rather large learning curve.

3. The Beagle

The beagle often draws people in with its long floppy ears and its cute rounded snout, but if you are looking for an easy to train dog, the beagle is not for you. This tri-colored breed is a loveable but willful dog and it is this hardheadedness that earns this breed a spot on the “least intelligent” list.

Ironically however, the beagle is a particularly intelligent and driven working breed but it is their bullheadedness that earns them a “difficult to train” label. This breed requires a patient owner and early socialization but makes a great family dog when it receives consistent training.

4. The Mastiff

Many people see the mastiff as a “dumb ox” and unfortunately (like the beagle) their hardheaded and independent nature often gets them labeled as unintelligent dogs. Mastiffs have the intelligence; however, their reluctance to listen to anyone they do not deem a firm and competent leader earns them the label of “unintelligent.”

If this giant breed receives positive reinforcement training from a strong leader, and is trained in shorter class periods, they are less likely to be labeled as “dumb.” This is an excellent family dog but one that requires constant training to keep it a manageable and socially acceptable dog because of its size.

5. The Pekingese

Ask most dog trainers and they will tell you that Pekingese are one of the most difficult dog breeds to train ~ ironically, most will agree that mastiffs are easier to train! Pekingese are independent dogs that have an air of authority about them that they often get away with because of their small stature.

As these smaller dogs are babied however, their dominating nature continues to grow. These small dogs tend to be affectionate with their “master” but find small children and other animals to be a nuisance. This dog should always receive constant socialization in order to avoid nipping.

6. The Bloodhound

The Bloodhound is an incredibly talented scent hound which is why they are most often used by search and rescue teams or professional trackers. Unfortunately for this hard working breed, bloodhounds are not considered the smartest of dogs.

Bloodhounds make great family dogs and work well with children and the elderly but they require a firm leader. This breed can cause significant frustration for impatient trainers but with the right trainer the bloodhound is determined to succeed.

7. The Borzoi

The borzoi is not the most well known dog breed but is well known by those familiar with it for being extremely cat-like. This obsessively clean dog is an independent breed that resembles a cat not only for its cleaning habits but also for its lack of desire to please.

Where most dogs are driven only to please their families, the borzoi is not as driven and forces its owner to work hard to train them. Once a dog owner has proven to this breed that they are capable of strong leadership, they are always rewarded with companionship and loyalty.

8. The Chow Chow

The chow chow or the lion dog is yet another incredibly stubborn dog breed that finds its hardheaded nature placing it on the least intelligent dogs list. Chow chows are very dominant dogs and without a firm handed and devoted owner they are next to impossible to control.

If allowed, this breed will take the place as head of the pack and while it will always provide healthy companionship, it should not be allowed to dominate.

9. The Bulldog

Bulldogs are strong and brave dogs in small packages; however, they are not known for their ability to “catch on” quickly. These short squat dogs are great guard dogs and amazing family dogs but require a dedicated owner who can work with them repeatedly to train them well.

The bulldog is also known for its need for human affection which can be overwhelming for owners used to more independent breeds. Bulldogs require lifelong training like many of the breeds on this list.

10. The Basenji

The basenji is another seldom seen dog breed in the United States that is dedicated to living a feline-like lifestyle. This breed is known for seldom barking or for barking in a manner that sounds like human “laughter.”

This independent dog is very active and needs a strong owner who is patient and can work with them over time to train them. Basenjis must have proper socialization in order to develop in to healthy dogs.


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