Top 10 Smartest Dog Breeds Ranked According to Science

Think your dog is one of the smartest canine cookies around? See if they made the list.

Published July 4, 2023

Everyone thinks their dog is the smartest (and they're not necessarily wrong!), but there's actually a science-backed list of the smartest dog breeds ranked by cognitive ability. Dr. Stanley Coren, a University of British Columbia professor, published research on the smartest dog breeds in his book, The Intelligence of Dogs, which is considered the gold standard for determining canine intelligence. His studies took into account each breed's memory, obedience, and problem-solving skills. Did your smart pup make the list?

10. Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog is bred for herding cattle, which takes a lot of brain power. Owners of Australian Cattle Dogs know this breed is easy to train and has the natural ability to drive cattle over large areas. Don't be surprised if your smart cookie tries to herd you, too!

Fast Fact

Dr. Coren's research shows that dogs have the mental ability of a 2-year-old child, and can learn more than 150 different words and gestures.

9. Rottweiler

Rottweilers are often thought of as fierce guard dogs, but they're also loyal, active, and incredibly smart. This breed is best suited to owners who will commit to training and exercising their rotties, since this breed needs an outlet for their endless energy.

8. Papillon

Bred in Italy during the Renaissance, the Papillon was a favorite among nobles because of their high intelligence. Papillons are tiny dogs, weighing less than 10 pounds when fully grown. Talk about a lot of smarts in a small package! Even though they're the smallest breed on the list, Papillons are protective of their owners and serve as great watchdogs.

7. Labrador Retriever

With a goofy grin like that, you might not expect the lab to be on this list, but they're a lot smarter than most people think. The Labrador Retriever is a longtime favorite of families and hunters alike because of their friendly and intelligent nature. These qualities also make this breed a great choice for service dogs.

Fast Fact

As if their intelligence wasn't impressive enough, studies also suggest the Labrador Retriever is the least aggressive dog breed. Just another reason to love the lab!

6. Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog absolutely dominates in dog sports, not just because they're athletic, but because they're smart to boot. In fact, Shelties are one of the most winning breeds in the sport of canine agility. They're also sweet, playful, and incredibly fluffy.

5. Doberman Pinscher

Dobermans serve as members of many police K9 units because of their ability to learn quickly and their athletic endurance. Talk about brains and brawn! Dobermans are highly trainable and eager to please their people, making them a whip-smart member of our list.

Quick Tip

Smart dogs can get bored easily, so use enrichment games or toys to give your pup a brain workout. They'll appreciate having a "job," and it'll keep them busy for a while (i.e. give you a little break).

4. Golden Retriever

We all know that the Golden Retriever is super friendly, but they also rank 4th in dog intelligence. It's not really surprising since this breed is used for both service work and as therapy dogs. Goldens are obedient to a fault and quick learners, not to mention absolutely stunning.

3. German Shepherd Dog

While they're not at the very top of the list (close, though!), the German Shepherd Dog is top of the class in obedience training. These cuties are commonly employed in police and military K9 units because they perform equally well with families and in professional settings.

2. Poodle

Even though this breed is usually seen as a fashion icon or lap dog, Poodles are also known for being extremely intelligent. They were originally used for hunting and retrieving waterfowl but have also served in other jobs like guard dogs, service dogs, and even circus performers. Some Poodle owners insist their dog understands everything they say.

1. Border Collie

Hands down, the Border Collie is No. 1 on a list of the smartest dog breeds. If a Border Collie puts their mind to something, they'll get it done, and in record time. These dogs were originally bred for herding livestock, and this natural instinct, combined with their superior intellect, makes them the smartest breed around.

Fast Fact

A Border Collie named Chaser is dubbed the "Smartest Dog in the World." Before her passing, she could understand more than 1,000 words.

All Dogs Have Their Strengths

Whether or not your dog's breed made the top 10, know that intelligence always varies from dog to dog. As long as you and your pup share a connection, training shouldn't be too difficult. Just stay consistent and love your dog for all their strengths, smarts, or otherwise.

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Top 10 Smartest Dog Breeds Ranked According to Science