The 15 Smartest Dog Breeds May Actually Be Perfect for You

Updated 05/05/19
Smartest Dog Breeds —
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Dogs are perfect. Well, they seem perfect, with their adorable, furry faces and wagging tails. Sometimes, it can feel like raising another child that never grows up, and that goes double for how much we love them. The family portrait wouldn’t be the same without that wet nose in the frame.

If you’re considering adopting, we highly recommend it. There are so many pets that need homes, and most shelters will throw in the vaccinations, chip, or other necessities for free. The only fathomable drawback is the uncertainty of your new pal’s exact background. Knowing your dog’s breed can indicate many things about what to expect or how to react to their behavior; not all breeds are created equal.

Dogs have been bred for millennia for varying reasons—almost all of which had to do with aiding humans in some way. As it turns out, working dogs have always been considered the smartest of their species. That doesn’t always mean that they are perfect for families—that depends on your lifestyle. Hunting breeds need to be active or they may become too mischievous for their own good.

We rounded up the 15 smartest dog breeds according to The Intelligence of Dogs author Stanley Coren. Read more below and be sure to do your own research in order to find the perfect pooch for your family.

Smartest Dog Breeds — Border Collie
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Border Collie

Bred to be a sheepherder, the border collie earned the honor of number one smartest dog breed. They love to work and always have a lot of energy, so it is best not to keep them cooped up for long hours.

Smartest Dog Breeds — Poodle
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Poodle

We know poodles for their extravagant coats, but they are more than just a gorgeous purr of fur. They are skilled at retrieving things from the water, making them another active group.

Smartest Dog Breeds — German Shepherd
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German Shepherd

German shepherds are known to be great family dogs, especially with children, due to their gentility. That said, they are also frequently trained to accompany law enforcement and military, proving their discipline.

Smartest Dog Breeds — Golden Retriever
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Golden Retriever

Golden retrievers were originally meant to be hunting companions, and today are used frequently in search-and-rescue operations and as guide dogs for people with blindness or other illnesses. They are very obedient and therefore are relatively easy to train.

Smartest Dog Breeds — Doberman Pinscher
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Doberman Pinscher

Dobermans have been trying to lose their reputation as vicious animals, even though they have been historically bred to be guardians and protectors. Modern iterations of the breed are intensely loyal and far less aggressive than originally thought.

Smartest Dog Breeds — Shetland Sheepdog
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Shetland Sheepdog

Historically the Shetland sheepdog and border collie are very similar, both having been bred for herding. The principal difference between them is size, where the Shetland could be called pocket-sized.

Smartest Dog Breeds — Labrador Retriever
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Labrador Retriever

The Labrador retriever is a gentle dog whose intelligence has been honed to do jobs such as therapy work, canine water rescue, and assistance dog training, to name a few. It is known as a family-friendly breed, which may be why it also is the most popular dog breed in the country.

Smartest Dog Breeds — Belgian Shepherd Dog
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Belgian Shepherd Dog

The Tervuren, also known as a Belgian shepherd dog, is a whip-smart workaholic. Sometimes those factors don’t mesh well, as they can be prone to tricking their owners if they are bored.

Smartest Dog Breeds — Papillon
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Papillon

Toy breeds are not typically known for their smarts, but the Papillon is different. This tiny pooch loves physical activity, especially in the form of dog sports such as agility courses.

Smartest Dog Breeds — Rottweiler
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Rottweiler

Rottweilers also suffer from bad reputations, more recently in the media as the hounds of Game of Thrones baddie, Ramsay Bolton. But all they really want is to be useful; you may have seen them in roles such as police dog, herder, or service dog.

Smartest Dog Breeds — Australian Cattle Dog
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Australian Cattle Dog

Another herder, the Australian cattle dog might have more energy than any other sporting dog on this list. It is excellent with obedience tests and other kinds of intensive sports.

Smartest Dog Breeds — Pembroke Welsh Corgi
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Pembroke Welsh Corgi

The corgi was believed to be the dog that accompanied Vikings when they settled in Wales, and since then, it became associated with the UK’s westernmost nation. They would excel at tasks like clearing grazing areas for cattle, given their keen attention to detail.

Smartest Dog Breeds — Miniature Schnauzer
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Miniature Schnauzer

It may have a diminutive descriptor in its name, but the miniature schnauzer is a surprisingly tough breed. They were bred to be farm dogs, particularly to fend off and kill rats with their powerful jaws. Today, they are tiny, fluffy, and friendly.

Smartest Dog Breeds — English Springer Spaniel
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English Springer Spaniel

This highly intelligent breed of hunting dogs is one of the more muscular of its type. Training a springer spaniel has a quick payoff because they are attentive and love to please.

Smartest Dog Breeds — Schipperke
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Schipperke

The Schipperke is another small breed, but unlike the toys, these pups were bred for hard labor. They are observant guards and, like the miniature schnauzer, it has been known to eliminate rats, should you have any.

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