A List of the 100 Smartest Dog Breeds
How Was This List Compiled?
This list was compiled by Stanley Coren, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Comlombia, and published in his 1994 book, The Intelligence of Dogs.
The rankings were based on the results of obedience trials conducted by the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club. In his book, Coren theorized that there were three aspects of intelligence: instinctive, adaptive, and working and obedience. Instinctive intelligence is a dog's ability to perform what it was bred to do (hunt, retrieve, herd, etc.). Adaptive intelligence refers to a dog's ability to learn new things on its own, and working and obedience intelligence is a dog's ability to learn from humans.
- The judges only tested working and obedience intelligence, which favors some breeds over others.
- The dogs that were tested were all show ring dogs, so they were likely very experienced in obeying commands.
- The test did not include an evaluation of two of Coren's theories of intelligence: instinctive and adaptive. Again, this means that the list is skewed to favor dogs that are good at obeying repetitive commands and doesn't account for the intelligence of canines that are better at problem solving on their own.
- The evaluation does not include emotional intelligence, language skills, memory skills, and perception.
- Some breeds were left out of the judging.
Top 100 Smartest Dogs
Here is a list of a hundred of the smartest dog breeds in descending order, with the smartest breed at the end.
100. Afghan Hound: This breed has a unique appearance, with silky, flowing hair and a runway-model build. While beautiful, the Afghan Hound can be hard to train because hounds have a reputation of being stubborn and fiercely independent.
99. Basenji: This medium-sized hunting breed, also nicknamed the "barkless dog," is one of only a few breeds that don't bark much. Instead, the Besanji is known for its famous yodel.
98. Bulldog: Their easy-going nature and physical laziness might be mistaken for slow-wittedness, but these dogs are by no means dumb—they're just too lazy to perform tricks or obey silly commands when they can just relax and drool themselves to sleep.
97. Chow Chow: The Chow Chow needed 80 out of 100 attempts to do what it was asked to do. It only took the Border Collie five tries to perform the same task. Many owners, however, believe that the Chow Chow possesses a different type of intelligence—one that is not suitable for obeying repetitive commands. Instead, they are great problem solvers.
96. Russian Wolfhound (Borzoi): Like all hounds, this breed is stubborn and seems to have a mind of its own. Of course, refusing to obey commands does not signal a lack of intelligence. Quite the opposite. To quote Nellie Martin's book The Russian Wolfhound: Its History, Breeding, Exhibiting and Care, "the wolfhound is not a servant but a born aristocrat. He objects to being your servant."1
95. Bloodhound: They have a gifted sense of smell and will follow a scent if they choose to do so, but they may not be too keen on following your commands.
94. Pekingese: A toy dog bred for royalty, the Pekingese is hard to train because it is independent, strong-willed, and stubborn. It may not learn commands, but it certainly does not lack intelligence. This breed has a large sense of self-importance, enjoys being pampered, and doesn't care to be your jester.
93. Mastiff: They are very stubborn and are not easy to train, especially if you use a harsh voice. They have high emotional intelligence and are very in tune with their owners, so if you plan on training them, do so in a gentle and excited voice, and you may get better results.
92. Beagle: This hound breed likes to follow interesting scents, not orders, so don't be surprised if your Beagle ignores your calls. Even though they are hard-headed, they have a very playful and loving nature, and they are among the breeds that get along great with kids and even cats.
91. Basset Hound: This sad-looking dog is extremely stubborn. On a good day, you'll get a measured and contemplative response, but don't expect quick obedience.
90. Chinese Crested: These hairless little buzzards are hard to housetrain, so don't give them any chance to make repeated mistakes. They like routine, so allowing them to routinely potty in the house will make it harder for you to later train them to go anywhere else. Other than that, they are playful, love attention, and do well with big families.
89. Chihuahua: These tiny dogs are fast learners, but they don't often retain what they learn. They aren't people pleasers and are free spirits, so this may explain why obedience is not their strong suit.
88. Chinese Shar-Pei: These wrinkly pups are independent thinkers and are sometimes aloof. They belong in the same group as some of the most excellent medium-sized watchdogs but can be quite aggressive with other people and other dogs, so they must be socialized at an early age.
87. English Bulldog: They're not very fast thinkers or fast movers, but they have a great sense of humor and love to please their owners.
86. Pug: These dogs may be the laughing stock of the Internet world because of their smooshed-in faces and bug eyes, but don't assume that they're dumb—they just like to test your limits. Set boundaries when training, and they will quickly learn what you will and will not tolerate.
85. Pomeranian: Poms are very clever dogs, but they display princess-like behavior and will not listen if they feel inconvenienced. This applies especially to potty-training. They may not go outside to potty if it is cold or raining, so provide them with potty mats if needed.
84. Maltese: These regal pooches are smart, loyal, and love to please. It also helps that they are hypoallergenic and are one of the breeds that don't shed.
83. Boston Terrier: These black and white pups are extremely intelligent and quickly pick up on emotional and verbal queues but are know to be stubborn at times.
82. American Pitbull Terrier: Highly devoted to their families, these often misunderstood dogs will defend their owners to the death. They are also extremely intelligent and love learning tricks.
81. Mini Schnauzer: These little guys were originally bred to guard. They are very smart and have proven that, on average, they can understand new commands after five to fifteen repetitions and obey a command 85% of the time. They are also very good to have around if you are looking for dogs that are good at catching rats.
80. Shih Tzu: This toy breed is loved for its playfulness and propensity for humor, but can be hard to housebreak. Consistency is key when training because Shih Tzus prefer play over obedience lessons. However, once trained, they are very well-behaved. They also don't shed and are great dogs for seniors.
79. Lhasa Apso: Originally bred to be guard dogs for Tibetan monks, these dogs have a keen sense of hearing. They love play and get along with children and seniors. They can live up to 16 years, making them one of the breeds with the longest life expectancies.
78. Rat Terrier: These feisty pups crave attention and are known to have a stubborn streak. They are great rat catchers, if you haven't guessed that already. They will chase away all mice and vermin with fearless aplomb.
77. Bull Terrier: Most recognized as the face of Target, this dog is described as protective, playful, and sweet-tempered. It is also trainable.
76. Tibetan Mastiff: This large and competent defender is highly intelligent, but extremely independent, so they don't do well with obedience. As one owner puts it, "Tibetan Mastiffs want to be with you, but they think that if they are in the same country as you, they are with you."
75. French Bulldog: Once the favorite pets of French "belles de nuit" (a.k.a. prostitutes), these bat-eared dogs are a great breed for people who work all day because they don't require a lot of exercise. They like nothing better than to stay inside with you and nap while you slave away at your desk.
74. Skye Terrier: Despite his small size, the Skye Terrier is a fearless and self-assured dog. Skye Terriers are playful and affectionate with people, but can be stubborn.
73. Silky Terrier: As a hunter of small prey, this terrier breed is assertive and confident. These silky dogs companion dogs learn commands quickly, but don't expect them to always be obedient. They enjoy participating in the occasional mischievous antic—they are hunters, after all.
72. Keeshond: Sociable, outgoing, and affectionate are just some of the qualities attributed to this all-around friendly dog. The Keeshond does well with strangers, children, and other animals. Although this dog is smart enough to outsmart you, it is not a fan of repetition, so keep training sessions short and dynamic.
71. American Hairless Terrier: This breed loves human companionship and is easy to train. The breed also gets along well with cats.
70. Manchester Terrier: This feisty dog possesses wit and keen intelligence, but, like all terriers, can be hard-headed. Along with the other terriers on this list, the Manchester Terrier is a great catcher of vermin.
69. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Classed as a sporting toy breed, the King Charles Spaniel has the energy of a sporting dog and the cuddly affection of a toy breed. They love to please their humans, so training will be a breeze. They thrive on human companionship and are among the breeds of dogs that are the most affectionate. In fact, they will suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for too long.
68. Dandie Dinmont Terrier: These dogs are affectionate with their families but can be reserved with strangers. They will also bark their lungs away at anything they deem strange or suspicious. Train them with consistency and socialize them at an early age.
67. Redbone Coonhound: These attractive hunting dogs have striking auburn-colored coats and use a lot of thinking power to trap prey for their masters.
66. Italian Greyhound: A fast thinker and a fast runner, this clever and athletic dog does well in obedience training and rally. They may struggle with housetraining, but if you potty train them correctly when they are puppies, you will not need to worry about accidents.
65. Samoyed: These "smiling" dogs are joyful, alert, intelligent, and affectionate, but they are a talkative breed. They love expressing their likes and dislikes with howls, yelps, barks, and every imaginable noise in between.
64. Greyhound: Quick-witted and fast-moving, this slender racing breed prefers quiet and peace. The Greyhound is also easy to train and doesn't bark much.
63. Whippet: These dogs are great athletes and do well in obedience training, agility, flyball, and lure coursing. They are also great therapy dogs because they are gentle and affectionate with people. But, if you have smaller pets, like cats or rabbits, don't get a Whippet. They love hunting small prey and your small pets will not be safe.
62. Welsh Terrier: These bright dogs are inquisitive and persistent, which means they can get themselves into mischief even when they are told not to do something. Train them with confidence and consistency so that they learn from the get-go that you will not tolerate non-sense.
61. Plott Hound: These big-game hunting dogs are confident and crafty. Leashes and fences are a must with Plott Hounds because they will relentlessly pursue interesting smells and/or prey. Because they have such high hunting drives, they need plenty of exercise and opportunities for exploration, otherwise they may develop anxiety and even depression.
60. Pharaoh Hound: Existing for 5,000 years, this ancient and royal Egyptian breed is smart enough to outlast the Pharaohs. This hound is now the national dog of Malta and embodies the typical characteristics of a hound: intelligent, keen hunter, and stubborn.
59. Miniature Pinscher: This elegant toy breed is convinced that it is bigger than it actually is. This dog is also a ball of energy—always moving and always barking. The breed is trainable, but requires someone with just as much energy to keep up with it.
58. Patterdale Terrier: These active guys are highly intelligent and love to please their owners—the perfect formula for trainability.
57. Kerry Blue Terrier: This breed is not actually blue but is actually smart. The Kerry Blue Terrier is a highly adaptable multi-tasker and was originally bred to hunt, herd, and do chores around the house.
56. Harrier: This hound breed will follow scents so intensely that no amount of calling will get it to come back. Other than that, the Harrier is extremely smart, and training should come easy if you use positive reinforcement and lots of treats.
55. Bedlington Terrier: This dog looks like a lamb but sure doesn't act like one. The Bedlington Terrier takes his job as a watchdog very seriously, so barking can become a nuisance if left unchecked.
54. American Bulldog: Larger and leaner than the English Bulldog, the American Bulldog loves socializing and outdoor activities with its human companions. The breed is born to please and also loves to be pleased, so training with treats and praises is best.
53. West Highland White Terrier: These cute little dogs may look like lap dogs, but they prefer digging, chasing, and hunting to lounging around all day. They need plenty of training to eradicate excessive barking, digging, and destructive behavior. Exercise and endless activities will keep the energetic "Westie" obedient and mild-mannered.
52. Havenese: This is a quick-witted dog that enjoys pleasing people. He is a pleasure to be around and is easy to train.
51. Cairn Terrier: These dogs are very smart and highly independent, and no amount of training can rid of their natural hunting instincts. Be sure to keep the Cairn Terrier on a leash to help him resist the urge to follow smells and other animals.
50. Dachshund: Journalist H. L. Mencken might have joking called the Dachshund, "half a dog high and a dog and a half long" but don't let this breed's comical build fool you. The Dachshund is tough, confident, and extremely cunning.
49. Yorkshire Terrier: Smart, easy to train, and adaptable, this cute toy breed learns commands quickly and is willing to please.
48. Irish Red & White Setter: This beautiful hunting dog is playful and boisterous but is also emotionally sensitive. When training, be kind. This breed has an excellent memory, so whatever you train it to do, it will remember for a lifetime.
47. Boxer: These dogs are known as the Peter Pan of the dog world because they are playful and mischievous. The Boxer doesn't fully mature until age three, so it has one of the longest puppyhoods among dog breeds. Despite the Boxer's childlike innocence, it is very alert and obedient.
46. Airedale Terrier: This is the largest terrier breed. Airedale Terriers are hardy, water-loving dogs that are extremely witty and inquisitive. They make great family dogs so long as they get enough exercise.
45. Belgiun Shepherd: These German Shepherd lookalikes are extremely intelligent working dogs that excel at many tasks. They often do well in police work, search and rescue missions, and agility. These active canines need room to run and plenty of activities to exercise their brains.
43. Lakeland Terrier: These scruffy canines were bred to hunt and kill foxes that preyed on sheep. They are smart, but hard to train. Like all terriers, they are stubborn. Lakeland terriers are also fond of barking, digging, and guarding their possesions.
42. Elkhound: Despite the Elkhound's small size, this dog loves playing the dominant role. This breed is smart as a whip, full of energy, and endlessly loyal. If you are willing to be stern, then the Elkhound will serve you well as a faithful and protective companion.
41. Cocker Spaniel: This adorable floppy-eared dog is exceptionally affectionate and also keenly intelligent. Although the Cocker Spaniel was originally bred as a gun dog, it does not require too much exercise and does well snuggling on the couch with the family.
40. Shiba Inu: Described as almost cat-like, this dog is quiet, clean, alert, and highly intelligent, but he will not do what you want him to do. Like a cat, he is an independent free-thinker. He is also possessive and reserved, so he must be socialized at an early age and taught how to properly act around strangers and dogs. Luckily, he is one of the few dogs that are easy to housetrain.
39. Bichon Frise: This cotton ball of a lap dog is both highly energetic and intelligent. The Bichon Frise is a great all-around family dog and is as eager for playtime as it is snuggle time.
38. Parson Russell Terrier: These energetic and intelligent canines love the hunt and still retain strong hunting instincts. This breed requires constant socialization and training, otherwise it may develop "small dog syndrome."
37. Gordon Setter: This highly intelligent and sociable dog must have adequate physical and mental activities if destructive behavior is to be avoided. They are great family dogs and can develop separation anxiety and depression if they are kept away from the people they love.
36. Field Spaniel: These docile dogs are very hardworking and alert. They are not as excitable as the Cocker Spaniel, but are still playful and loving. He's a quick learner and loves to please his human, so training should be a breeze.
35. Newfoundland: These big teddy bear dogs are strongly protective, yet sweet-natured and loving. The Newfoundland is versatile in the field and can be a great babysitter as he loves children. This breed learns quickly, and there is little that they can't do.
34. Pointer: The Pointer is a highly active hunting dog that excels on the field, in show rings, and in obedience training. He is great for active families, loves playing with children, and can be an excellent watchdog.
33. English Shepherd: This working dog is highly trainable and learns quickly. He needs a lot of physical exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy. The English Shepherd excels in agility and advanced obedience.
32. Rhodesian Ridgeback: This is a powerful big-prey hunting dog that craves the outdoors, but he also loves relaxing on the couch. These qualities make the Rhodesian Ridgeback a great hiking companion and an even better snuggling buddy.
31. Bernese Mountain Dog: These are massive dogs with massive brains. They are also affectionate and are well suited for obedience, tracking, herding, and carting competitions.
30. Old English Sheepdog: It's always a mystery how this dog can see with so much hair covering his eyes, but he proves to be an exceptionally great watchdog time and time again. The Old English Sheepdog is devoted and hardworking but is also an independent thinker, only responding to tasks that "make sense." Be sure to use reward-based training to give him something to work for.
29. Bearded Collie: This quick-witted and lively shepherding breed craves attention and activity. Left with nothing to do, the Bearded Collie will dig, chew, and bark to entertain himself.
28. Jack Russell Terrier: This feisty dog's energy gets him into a lot of trouble, but he is always witty enough to avoid detection and is so affectionate that he is almost always spared from scolding.
27. Weimeraner: With hunting instincts running through its blood, this elegant breed will not disappoint an active outdoorsman. This dog requires daily physical and mental stimulation in order to thrive and must be trained well to keep it from chasing after scents and other animals.
26. English Springer Spaniel: Another smart hunting dog that needs plenty of exercise. The English Springer Spaniel excels in agility, obedience training, flyball, and tracking. This breed is very sociable and should never be left alone.
25. Pembroke Welsh Corgi: These brainy dogs can be extremely stubborn and manipulative. Although they are small, they require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation, otherwise they might resort to destructive behavior to keep themselves entertained.
24. Irish Setter: This breed is the perfect marriage of beauty and brains. The Irish Setter is known for its clownish personality and loving nature. He thrives as a member of an active family and excels in obedience, rally, tracking, and agility competition.
23. German Shorthaired Pointer: In 1929, C.R. Thornton wrote, “As a breed, the German all-purpose dog will do it all and do it well.” This eager-to-please hunting breed is well-suited for pointing, flushing, and retrieving, but also makes an excellent family pet because of its affectionate disposition towards children.
21. Alaskan Husky: This is the breed that is typically used in sled racing. They are playful, strong, and do great in obedience training.
20. Siberian Husky: The Siberian Husky is a pack breed that responds well to leadership. Although friendly and well-mannered, the Siberian Husky can be quite mischievous and is known to be a great escape artist, sometimes digging its way out the yard to wander the neighborhood.
19. Alaskan Malamute: Like its cousins above, the Malamute excels at sports and is an A student when it comes to obedience. Activities that this breed enjoys include weight pulling, skijoring, backpacking, and recreational sledding, but he will also be just as happy living with an active family.
18. Collie: In 1943, Lassie made this breed famous. In addition to the breed's beauty and obedience, the Collie is also known for being able to foresee its owner's needs. Because of this rare mix of mental and emotional intelligence, the Collie excels as an assistance or therapy dog.
17. Chesapeake Bay Retriever: This breed learns quickly and has a high hunting drive. Chessies need experienced owners who are willing to be strong leaders and who can give them plenty of room to run and play.
16. Australian Shepherd: Strong herding and guardian instincts as well as human-like intelligence makes this breed a versatile working dog. The Australian Shepherd requires hours of exercise and outdoor activity as well as chores to do around the house in order to keep him physically and mentally satisfied.
15. Saint Bernard: Gentle and patient, this large dog was originally bred to guard Switzerland's St. Bernard Hospice and rescue injured travelers. He is now a pampered indoor dog and loves to be close to his family.
14. Akita Inu: This dog is too smart for his own good. He uses his intelligence to serve his own purposes and can be stubborn and domineering. Owners report that the Akita is also opinionated and will often wail or mumble under his breath.
13. English Settler: This easygoing dog is moderately easy to train, is a good watchdog, and loves humans. His perfect day would involve a balanced itinerary of cuddling on the sofa and running around at the park.
12. Great Dane: Known as the "gentle giant" of the dog wold, this breed is sweet, lovable, and easy to train. He does great with kids but can be a klutz due to his gawky size.
11. Brittany: A walk around the block will not be enough for this breed. The Brittany is a bright, high-energy dog that craves attention. If you are sporty and active, then the Brittany will be a great fit. If you are couch potato, you and your dog will suffer the consequences of his destructive behavior.
10. Australian Cattle Dog: This smart and independent breed can be a challenge to train. This dog craves activity and will only be happy if given work to do. You must be a strong leader and be willing to include him in numerous family activities, such as outdoor play or farm work.
9. Rottweiler: This breed is highly intelligent but must be well-trained and given opportunities to use his brain for work or problem solving. Otherwise, he will use his brain to try to escape or cause destruction.
8. Papillon: The papillon's high level of energy and love for physical activity belies his tiny size. He is regarded as the most intelligent and responsive of the toy breeds and does not do well as a lapdog.
7. Labrador Retriever: Built for sport and service, the Labrador Retriever works in search and rescue missions, therapy assistance, and drug detection. Along with his lovable and sweet nature, the Labrador Retriever makes for a well-rounded family pet.
6. Shetland Sheepdog: Grab your frisbee and get ready to see this active and animated dog perform. The Shetland Sheepdog loves showing off new tricks and, according to this intelligence test, he can learn a new command in less than five tries.
5. Doberman Pinscher: If you want a protective and loyal pet, the Doberman Pinscher is the breed for you. But don't be surprised if you find him outsmarting you. He is trainable but can be destructive and naughty if he is not given enough physical and mental stimulation.
4. Golden Retriever: This classic American breed is a well-rounded and capable working dog and family companion. He does well in sports, and he also excels in drug sniffing and therapy. Although the Golden Retriever is a serious worker, he is also playful and sweet. The Golden Retriever retains his puppyish nature well into adulthood.
3. German Shepherd: The police and the military don't let just anyone join, but the German Shepherd passes all tests with flying colors because it possesses strength, endurance, obedience, focus, and keen intelligence. Because the GS works in fields with high-security information, it helps that he is undyingly loyal, too.
2. Poodle: The poodle comes in all different sizes, but they all possess the same level of intelligence. Many wonder how the poodle ended up placing second because this breed, while smart, does not exhibit any exceptional problem-solving skills. It turns out, most of the poodles that were tested were professional show dogs that had already had years of obedience training.
1. Border Collie: According to countless lists, this is the world's smartest dog breed, and they have been widely considered the smartest breed for many decades. They have the ability to herd flocks of sheep into predetermined patterns and are described as having almost human-like intelligence.
In 2006, Coren published a second edition; this time it included survey responses from owners. The results were similar and confirmed that some breeds are more trainable than others. But, again, the survey did not include measures of instinctive and adaptive behavior. Some breeds are born to be more perceptive or more skilled at certain tasks than other breeds, but who is to say that a highly skilled search and rescue dog is dumber than an excitable herding dog or vice versa?
We cannot judge a dog's intelligence solely on its ability to follow commands when it is clear that many breeds that do not do well in obedience instead excel at tasks that are far more useful, such as tracking drugs or sensing and warning others of imminent danger.
- Stanley, Coren, PhD, "Canine Intelligence—Breed Does Matter," Psychology Today. July 15, 2009. Accessed October 31, 2017.
- Nellie Martin, The Russian Wolfhound: Its History, Breeding, Exhibiting and Care. Vintage Dog Books, 2005. Accessed October 3, 2017.
- Gus Lubin, "Here Are the 'Smartest' Dog Breeds, According to a Psychologist," Business Insider. January 26, 2017. Accessed October 31, 2017.
- "The Intelligence of Dogs," Wikipedia. Accessed October 31, 2017.
- "Poodle Intelligence," All Poodle Info. Accessed October 31, 2017.