List of the Top 10 Smartest Dog Breeds and Their Histories

Updated on April 5, 2020
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I am a blogger from Southern Oklahoma who loves to write about nature and animals.

Discover the 10 dog breeds that are considered to be the smartest. The Papillon (shown above) is #8 on the list.
Discover the 10 dog breeds that are considered to be the smartest. The Papillon (shown above) is #8 on the list. | Source

My Dog Is Smarter Than Your Dog

We know that our pooch is definitely the smartest dog in the world; it’s just that not everyone else realizes it. While all dogs are smart, some breeds are inherently better able to learn and learn quicker than others. Generally speaking, the average dog's intelligence is about that of a 2-year-old human, and the smarter dogs (those on my list) are said to have an intelligence equivalent to a 2 ½-year-old child.

Using reports from veterinary professionals and studies on the intelligence of all breeds, my research has revealed that the following 10 breeds are considered the “top dogs."

Top 10 Smartest Dog Breeds

1. Border Collie
2. German Shepherd
3. Poodle
4. Golden Retriever
5. Doberman Pinscher
6. Shetland Sheepdog
7. Labrador Retriever
8. Papillon
9. Rottweiler
10. Australian Cattle Dog
Black and white border collie.
Black and white border collie. | Source

1. The Border Collie

Time and time again, the border collie has ranked as number one. They are hardworking dogs with an excellent work ethic. They were specifically bred to be intelligent and obedient. Originating in the English-Scottish border regions, they are excellent herders. Reportedly, the smartest dog in the world is a border collie by the name of Chaser who can understand more than 1,000 English words. She not only understands nouns and verbs, but also some prepositional phrases.


2. German Shepherd

Originally bred in Karlsruhe, Germany, German shepherds were used for sheep herding due to their intelligence and trainability. Because of the ease of trainability, they are excellent for use as police dogs, guard dogs, and military dogs. They have a very keen sense of smell and can detect underground mines and leaks as far away as 15 feet. Because many German shepherds are trained as guard dogs, they are also found on the list of the most aggressive dog breeds.


3. Poodle

The poodle was standardized in France but actually originated in Germany where it was known as the Pudelhund, which means “water dog." They were bred to retrieve in the water. Due to their special purpose, they have a water-repellant coat. Their curly, dense hair also keeps them warm when they are diving in the cold waters of Germany. Many consider them “sissy” dogs, but poodles have won numerous awards in dog shows and show a high level of intelligence.


4. Golden Retriever

Originally bred in Scotland in the mid-19th century, golden retrievers were designed by crossing water spaniels with already existing retrievers. This created a breed that was excellent in retrieving birds from both land and water. They learn commands quickly and are very obedient. They have what is called a “soft mouth," which means they retrieve fowl without doing damage to the bird.

5. Doberman Pinscher

It is believed that the doberman pinscher originated in Germany around the early 1900s. The origins of this breed may be attributed to a tax collector by the name of Louis Dobermann who needed a guard dog to accompany him as he collected taxes from unwilling tax payers. The doberman is easily trained and quickly remembers what he has learned. They have excellent endurance and speed and have excelled in training as police and guard dogs.

6. Shetland Sheepdog

Affectionately known as the “sheltie," Shetland sheepdogs were bred to herd. The actual origin of the sheltie is a bit unclear, but it is believed they are a descendants of the Scottish collie and the King Charles spaniel. They were used to herd diminutive sheep on the Shetland Island, thus their name. They are highly intelligent, hardworking, and loyal dogs.

My Labrador retriever, Sadie.
My Labrador retriever, Sadie. | Source

7. Labrador Retriever

This highly intelligent breed has been voted as the most popular dog in the U.S., Australia, Canada, the U.K., and New Zealand for several consecutive years. Brought to England in the early 1800s, they were bred primarily as game retrievers for land as well as water. They are quick to learn commands and retain the information quickly. They are very loyal dogs and love to please their owners.

8. Papillon

Papillon is the French word for butterfly. The fringe on the ears are said to resemble the wings of a butterfly, thus its name. The Papillon has an easy time learning tricks and commands. These dogs have a high energy level and are very playful. They are very good with children and enjoy learning and showing off their new tricks. A Papillon named Kirby brought fame and attention to this breed by winning the prestigious “Best in Show” at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in 1998. He also took Best in Show at the World Dog Show in Helsinki, Finland and the Royal Invitational in Canada. The Papillon excels in obedience and agility.

9. Rottweiler

The Rottweiler is one of the descendants of the Roman drover dogs. They get their name from a small town in Germany, Rotweil, where they were known as Rottweiler Metzgerhund, which means Rotweil Butcher’s dog. They were used to pull carts filled with butchered meat to the market. The butchers used to tie their bags of money around the dog’s neck to protect it from thieves. These dogs were also used as herders until the railway became the best way to move cattle. Due to their higher-than-average intelligence, they are used as search and rescue dogs, guide dogs, and police dogs.

10. Australian Cattle Dog

This dog is a breed of herding dogs that originated in Australia to herd cattle through rugged terrain. They herd by nipping at the heels of the cattle and were, therefore, nicknamed “heelers." They are very energetic and intelligent and respond well to challenging training, so they excel in obedience competitions. They are also very agile dogs and do well in obstacle courses.

Training and Treatment Matter, Too

A dog’s training and treatment are important factors, but these 10 breeds are among the most easily trained. If you already have one of these dogs, you can safely brag that he/she is one of the smartest dogs in the world!

If you were looking for a highly intelligent dog, which one of these dogs would be your choice?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Sheila Brown


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      • profile image


        13 months ago

        Oooh. Your question is harder than one might think at first!

        So for cuteness, the smart little papillon takes the cake. You just want to reach in the picture and scoop that one up!

        But I love the Rottweiler history. Tying the bags of money around their necks surely did the trick every time, and if I really could feel safe around them, well, for safety I would go for the brawn!

        Have always love the friendly look of border collies, but the coloring of the Aussie cattle dog is very appealing. All in all, they are all delightful creatures and your article is a neat read. Thanks!

      • profile image


        19 months ago

        You always forget the Australian Kelpie, which is actually ranked number one with the border Collie, if not smarter than the border collie, as they actually solve problems. Do your research on them, best dogs ever also one of the most agile dogs you will ever see, watch you tube videos of the Kelpie Muster, Casterton, Victoria, Australia.

      • profile image


        22 months ago

        They are all beautiful dogs. I especially like Border Collies and Golden retrievers. I had a Doberman a long time ago, and he was a smart dog, plus grea with the kids. I truly enjoyed this article. Thanks.

      • profile image


        2 years ago

        Great Danes are probably number 5 in top ten smartest dogs

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        for me rottweiler is the best dog ever

      • profile image

        Michael Horsey 

        3 years ago

        One disagreement with your list. Jack Russell Terriers should rank in the Top 10 most intelligent dogs on any list. Some lists do include them often at #2, but others exclude them entirely. This is not due to intelligence factor, but their stubbornness. They learn very fast, a clear sign of their intelligence, and the reason they often appear in dog shows. But like a 3 year old child, they are alert to learn what you don't want them to... like one of my boys learning how to open the dishwasher so he can lick dirty plates. And while they almost always know what you want them to do, their stubbornness overrides their obedience and they opt to do what they want to do... like my 13 year old girl who will always refuse to go outside when its raining. If intelligence ranking is based on learning ability, then JRTs are #2. If it's based on willingness to promptly respond to a command, then the list is really about... willingness to promptly respond to a command, and JRTs stubbornness will keep them off the list.

      • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

        Sheila Brown 

        3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

        We don't have to tell him he was right! LOL I don't know where the Great Dane fits in, but I have heard that they are very intelligent dogs.

        I've almost always had dogs and cats, but my last dog didn't like cats so when my last kitty died, I didn't get another one.

        Yes I do think the Australia Cattle dog looks a lot like a fox. I think it is that narrow muzzle.

        Thank you for stopping by! I hope all is well with you and yours! :)

      • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

        Sheila Brown 

        3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

        Thank you, Patricica! I have heard some of those "fish stories" about someone's pup and yes, you do have to wonder! Heinz 57 pups are really some of the best dogs ever. I know our lab has us trained and she is soooo spoiled! Thank you so much for stopping by once again and I always appreciate your "angels"! I hope you and yours have a wonderful summer! :)

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        3 years ago from Central Florida

        Interesting article, Sheila. My ex-husband says Border Collies are the greatest and smartest dogs in the world. Although I got sick of hearing him go on about them, I guess he was right.

        I wonder where Great Danes rank on this list? I had one in high school and loved him to death. Best dog I've ever known. (As a grown up I've always had cats and still do.)

        The Australian Cattle dog looks very much like a fox, don't you think?

      • pstraubie48 profile image

        Patricia Scott 

        3 years ago from North Central Florida

        I love the heading you have 'my dog is smarter than your dog.' How clever. Some do get into those bragging matches ...and then proceed to tell some of those stories usual relegated to the 'fish story' category.

        You certainly shared some interesting facts about these lovely creatures. I have a Heinz 57 variety pup and adore her. And she is very S-M-A-R-T!!!

        She has ME trained.

        Take care of you


        Angels are on the way another time this day to you ps

      • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

        Sheila Brown 

        3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

        Thank you, Deb! I appreciate you stopping by! I hope you are having a good spring! :)

      • aviannovice profile image

        Deb Hirt 

        3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

        Great info that was quite to the point. I have been acquainted with several dogs in these breeds and was impressed with their insight.

      • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

        Sheila Brown 

        4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

        Hello, Audrey. I'm sure she is very smart, but I know she has an excellent nose. Both these dog breeds are known for having an extremely keen sense of smell. :)

      • AudreyHowitt profile image

        Audrey Howitt 

        4 years ago from California

        So interesting! I have a mixed breed--shepherd and hound--I think she managed to get the best of both breeds--she is as smart as a whip--but then I am biased

      • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

        Sheila Brown 

        4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

        Thank you, norlawrence. Dogs area one of my favorite topics, they are truly "mans best friend". I appreciate your kind comment. HubPages is a bit different than most writing venues but I believe it is the best.

      • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

        Sheila Brown 

        4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

        Hello, Linda. Thank you so much for your very kind comment. It is nice to meet you as well! :)

      • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

        Sheila Brown 

        4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

        I'm glad to see that your favorite breed is on the list! German shepherds are such good dogs! Thank you for stopping by and commenting! Have a great day! :)

      • DDE profile image

        Devika Primić 

        4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

        I like to have a German Shepherd they are smart and know how to safeguard a home. My neighbor has one.

      • norlawrence profile image

        Norma Lawrence 

        4 years ago from California

        Great article. I love articles about dogs. I have submitted a few to Hub Pages but they are not as great as your. I am still trying to find my way around this site. It is a lot different than most. Keep up the good work.

      • Linda Robinson60 profile image

        Linda Robinson 

        4 years ago from Cicero, New York

        Hello Sheila loved your hub on dogs. It was packed with an abundance of helpful information for any one interested and fascinated with the top most intelligent breeds. You thoroughly covered the topic. So nice meeting you. Linda

      • Sam Shepards profile image

        Sam Shepards 

        4 years ago from Europe

        Nice to see my favorite breed the german shepherd in the list! And yes indeed border collies are insanely smart. I've also seen my shepherd do some amazing feeds during the years. Tracking, finding home again via a route they've never been before etc.

      • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

        Sheila Brown 

        4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

        I have always had both cats and dogs. My last two dogs would not let a cat come around. I have really missed having a cat. We recently lost our Siberian husky, Meisha, to canine diabetes and old age. Our yellow lab is getting older too. I think I am going "pet free" for a while. I can't take the heart break! Thank you for stopping by! :)

      • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

        Sheila Brown 

        4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

        LOL, Bill! I would know that even if you hadn't told me. I enjoy your sense of humor. Thank you for stopping by! :)

      • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

        Sheila Brown 

        4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

        Thank you, Faith Reaper! I am also partial to labs. We have had our yellow lab, Sadie, for about 12 years now and have always thought she was a very smart dog.

      • fpherj48 profile image


        4 years ago from UpstateWestern,New York

        Shelia.....Great Hub!! As I clicked on to read, my thought was, "If shelia has listed the Border Collie as No. 1, I know she's an expert who knows what she's talking about !!"

        My first experience with BC's was several years ago when I brought a pedigree BC home as my baby. I had educated myself on the breed and believed I was all set. Huge mistake! Border Collies are absolutely wonderful OVERLY intelligent, loving and quite active dogs.

        I fell in love with my "Taz," and he blew my mind day after day. I am not exaggerating when I say that "he" was like living with another human (only smarter!) No matter what people can read or be told about border collies, they really can't grasp the big picture all about this breed until they own one....(well excuse me, that's wrong....."until one owns you!) LOL.

        I was his Mommy for 7 years when quite sadly & unexpectedly I was forced to find my baby a new family. It was a situation at the time beyond my control. I found him a "perfect" family and ideal home. I know he is happy & healthy and being a good boy. The couple who have him knew that I was devastated & have been so thoughtful, sending me notes & photos of my baby a very handsome grown up. I even received a picture of him visiting Santa!! I miss him terribly and know for sure that a visit would be a very foolish thing to I just have to deal with it.

        I love your entire hub, but of course I had to go on and on about my Border Collie. (I did write a hub about BC's)

        I hope that people will learn about this breed fully! BC's are a very unique dog and not for everyone to bring home. I'm tweeting this!


      • FlourishAnyway profile image


        4 years ago from USA

        I've always loved German Shepards and Malamutes because of several good ones I've known (neighbors' pets). One of these days I hope to get a shelter dog. I've always had cats.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        4 years ago from Olympia, WA

        I will conclude from reading this list that our two dogs are stupid. LOL It just confirms my suspicions, so thank you!

        And I'm kidding of course!

      • Faith Reaper profile image

        Faith Reaper 

        4 years ago from southern USA

        What an interesting hub! I am partial to Labs because they are the dog breed I've had throughout my life, and I do know they are highly intelligent.

        Thank you for sharing this list. Dogs are amazing creatures ...we can learn a lot from them no doubt.


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