Most of us like to think that our dogs are pretty brainy, they understand us like no other, after all. While all dogs are individuals with their own special ways of showing love, intelligence and a whole range of diverse emotions, there are a few breeds that come out on top in terms of smarts. When we say “smarts,” we obviously don’t mean solving mathematical equations or running governments, though wouldn’t a country with a dog as Prime Minister/President be a great place?
Actually there is already at least one dog in office. In the Minnesota town of Cormorant, a nine-year-old Great Pyrenees pup is now serving his third term as Mayor, and the people are very happy with him.
Back to the point, bringing out the intelligence in our dogs also comes down to training. Like humans, without the right guidance their potential can be lost. It’s really about finding the balance of bringing out the best in your dog with just letting them be their doggy self.
Here we list the ten smartest dog breeds, but if your furry friend doesn’t make the list never fear; all dogs are special, smart, trainable and full of ability in their own ways. You simply need to surround them with motivation and love. These facts are also great to know if you’re a dog minder, as they can help you with relating to the dogs on a new level.
1. Border Collie
Other than being adorable and beautiful, border collie dogs are also packed with brains. This affectionate and energetic breed, like many intelligent dogs, comes from a working background. Their profession is/was of course sheep herding, which has resulted in athleticism, agility, sharp senses and organisational abilities.
Some of the breeds on this list are renowned and widely acclaimed for their intelligence. The poodle, however, is more known for its lary look than its brainy ways. Despite the stereotypes that come with poodles and their owners alike, the poodle is actually considered the seventh most popular dog breed on the planet and comes with the added bonus of being hypoallergenic. They show their smarts through their ability to track, hunt, retrieve and follow instructions with ease. These dogs are actually the French counterpart to golden retrievers, so it’s no surprise really.
3. German Shepherd
Of all the dog breeds under the sun, the beloved and adored German shepherd is the second most popular of all. This is not only because of their proud, confident and courageous image, but also because of their intelligence and balanced moods. Due to their sharp minds and practical ability, they are often put to work as service dogs and police dogs but their qualities extend well beyond work. They are also extremely loyal, trustworthy and good with children, so a perfect dog overall.
4. Golden Retriever
Everyone’s beloved, friendly faced golden retriever gets a place on this list thanks to their combination of smarts, friendliness and sporty abilities. While we’ve all probably known a few golden retrievers on the simpler side (still incredibly beautiful, pure and lovable) the breed is actually a smart bunch. They take their “jobs” very seriously and want to do very well at whatever task is laid before them. This is why they excel in retrieving tasks, serving as seeing-eye dogs for the vision impaired and working in search and rescue scenarios.
5. Doberman Pinscher
These dogs are obviously strong, fast and come with plenty of endurance, but they aren’t only stars in the sporting field, they’ve got the book smarts to back it up. Their capacity to retain information makes them sought after police dogs and service dogs. They are in fact so widely adored for their strength of character and noble presence that there is a Doberman pinscher statue in Guam which exists to honour all dogs who lost their lives during the Battle of Guam in 1944, when the Americans recaptured the island of Guam from the Japanese.
6. Shetland Sheepdog
These beauties, derived from the working collie or rough collie, are essentially the smaller counterparts of their parent breed. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that they are playful and smart herding dogs who are keen to learn new things and play with kids (or energetic adults). Affectionately known as shelties, they’re not only a loving a loyal family dog but a proud watchdog; a bit more like a cat, they’re initially apprehensive with strangers. Oh and Lassie was a rough collie, which should give you an idea of how brainy shelties are.
These bouncy little guys are not only up and alert but friendly and happy. Papillon translates to “butterfly” in French, and they gave this breed the name specifically because of the shape of their ears, but it also reflects the spirit of their personality. They’re fast, versatile and can be trained to complete many tricks, which is where their intelligence is best reflected. Above all, however, they are loving, confident and don’t have an aggressive bone in their bodies.
8. Labrador Retriever
Another popular breed, especially here in Australia, is the Labrador. While their intelligent, soft, loving and family-friendly nature is obvious, Labradors make great guide dogs and rescue dogs thanks to their inherent desire to do what is right for those around them, and their strong tracking instincts.
Not just a beautifully wrinkled face teamed with adorable droopy ears, the wonderful bloodhound is also a smart, inquisitive and curious dog. These friendly dogs have been noted for their particularly keen sense of smell since as far back as the year 300, and anyone who’s known a bloodhound will attest to the strong sense of wisdom they exude.
These beautiful dogs get a bit of a bad rap from time to time, but they are actually loyal, loving, gentle and confident dogs who want activities to complete. Their guarding nature is what is often trained in an aggressive way, but it all depends on how they’re raised. In a loving, respectful and patient home, a rottweiler will be a wonderful companion. Their smarts also land them roles as service dogs, police dogs, herders and even therapy dogs.
Tiahn Wetzler is a journalist, writer, editor and animal lover. Follow her on Instagram @tiahnwetzler