Check out the detailed descriptions of the Top Ten Smartest Dogs in the world here in this article to find the right puppy for your home.
In the 100,000 years since we first invited wolves to share our fires, we have changed the species almost beyond recognition. While genetically wolves are still (surprise!), There are so many modern domestic dog breeds, Canis lupus familiarus, that they’re recognized as the world’s most varied land animal.
We’ve known for decades that wolves are amazingly intelligent and their close canine relatives are no different, although the owner of a lazy chowcound can find it hard to believe.
However, most of us have our fair share of stories of intelligent dogs, which is not surprising: many dogs are about as smart as a two-year-old, and some can understand hundreds of words.
Few rivals the intelligence of chimpanzees and gorillas, widely recognized as the smartest of animals. And they are much smarter than cats. (Sorry, Fluffy.)
But what does it mean to be smart in doggie terms? Stanley Coren, who wrote the groundbreaking The Intelligence of Dogs in 1994, based his assessment on working and obedience intelligence.
As a rule, intelligent breeds were originally created as working dogs: retrievers, guards, hunters and especially shepherds. They can quickly learn new things, sometimes just by watching carefully. The public definition of intelligence also includes friendliness and patronage.
Smart dogs are usually big, but this is not always the case. Your humble writer has fond memories of the Pomeranians who dived into her kennel and deliberately closed the door to avoid the baby’s attention, and the hound who knew exactly to the minute when it was time to go out for his daily walk.
Top Ten Smartest Dogs
Do you want smart dogs? Here’s our take on the Top Ten Smartest Dogs, based on honest scientific research.
Number 10: Golden Retriever
This intelligent breed comes from Scotland, where it was developed by crossing yellow Labs and the local Tweed Water Spaniel, with later additions of Irish Setter and Bloodhound.
Originally developed as gun dogs for retrieving waterfowl and other wild birds, they continue to serve that purpose today. However, they’re more likely to be family pets and show dogs.
Golden Retrievers come in colors ranging from creamy white through blond, gold, and deep mahogany red. They love swimming, and require regular grooming because of their long hair.
They also need regular exercise, because they love to eat. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem if they have children or another dog to play with.
In the official American Kennel Club description, goldens are described as kindly, friendly and confident, ideal family dogs who’ve never met a stranger. They love to work, and will wait patiently for hours until it’s their time to shine.
They’re susceptible to hip dysplasia, especially the lankier American and Canadian variants. Sadly, the most common cause of death among Goldens is cancer.
Famous Goldens include Presidential dogs Liberty (Gerald Ford) and Victory (Ronald Reagan). The famous movie dog “Air Bud” was a Golden, too.
Number 9: Australian Shepherd
Men tend to be 23 inches tall, while women are around 21 inches tall. By weight, males usually weigh about 65 pounds or less and females about 55 pounds or less. The typical lifespan is 10 to 15 years.
The breeds or breeds of Australian Shepherds, in particular, differ depending on whether they are for grazing or for competition. Designed for competition meet the breed standard and do not have short hair. Those that are meant to work have shorter coats and leaner ones. Docked tails are not uncommon.
The Australian Shepherd came to America during the 1800s. The European Basque people brought their sheep and sheepdogs over with them when they settled in Australia.
Many of the shepherds then moved to the United States and brought their dogs and sheep with them. The name Australian Shepherd stuck due to their past residence.
Breed Temperament / Best Owner Type
This breed of dog is loving, smart, bold, alert and has a lot of stamina. They tend to get frustrated and challenging if they are not given tasks to keep their mind stimulated. They also need an owner that can provide them with daily walks and quite a bit of exercise.
Australian Shepherd breeds are good-natured, eager to please and remain puppies as they do in adulthood. Obedience training is recommended. This strong personality requires training to take discipline and become disciplined.
Training without corrections is inappropriate, as the pet needs to know that he is not the leader of the family pack. The owner must use the amendments to impart leadership qualities. Teens will try to challenge their master, and they need to know who is the leader of the pack at home.
With proper training, socialization and exercise, they make obedient and devoted companions. They do well with children over six because of their herding instincts.
Number 8: French Bulldog
The French Bulldog was first referred to as “Toy” Bulldogs and originated in Nottingham, England in the 19th Century. Lace makers decided they wanted to make a smaller version of the English Bulldog. The Industrial Revolution drove the craftsmen to France where they were given their proper name.
Breed Temperament / Best Owner Type
This stocky dog is an easy-going companion. They are an alert and playful breed that is quiet and not yappy. They thrive when they know that the owner is the leader and are willing to follow when instructed. They play well with other animals and strangers. They don’t know how to swim, so you should use proper precautions when around water.
Health Problems & Life Expectancy
The French Bulldog is a perfect apartment breed of dog and plays well indoors. Their average life span is around 10 to 12 years. They are prone to heart defects, spinal disorders, joint disease and eye problems. They are also susceptible to respiratory problems and heat stroke. Keep them at a proper weight range to avoid breathing issues.
Number 7: Shetland Sheepdog
Shetland Sheepdogs, look like smaller versions of Lassie. They are descended from an unusual mix of small Scottish rough collies, King Charles Spaniels and Pomeranians. They come in a variety of color schemes, but tend to be easily recognizable.
These medium-sized, energetic dogs are vociferous, loving and eager to please. Although originally bred as working shepherd dogs, they are now most commonly accepted as pets and farm dogs. They love to play and hang out with their families, but don’t trust strangers.
Given that and their excitable nature, they make excellent watchdogs. They also love to chase ducks, cats, squirrels, kids, and just about anything else that catches their eyes.
Although Shelties tend to be robust, like their collie relatives they have a tendency toward eye diseases. Epilepsy, hyperthyroidism, skin allergies, and bladder cancer also occur in some lines, though these illnesses aren’t common.
Famous Shelties include Mickey of Mickey’s Farm, a Canadian TV series; Reveille II, a former mascot of Texas A&M University; and Badenock Rose, the first Shetland Sheepdog registered with the English Kennel Club.
Number 6: Doberman Pinscher
Dobermans are the iconic guard dog. They’re smart, fiercely loyal, and very alert-an impression increased by their sharply pointed ears. Interestingly, at birth Dobermans have floppy ears and long tails; in countries where it’s still legal, their tails and ears are cropped during puppyhood to help them hear better and keep their tails out of the way while they work.
Dobermans were developed from Weimaraners, American Pit Bulls, Greyhounds, Great Danes, and several other large breeds. The breed is named for the man who developed it about 1890, Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann.
Though generally viewed as dangerous, Doberman aggression tends to be directed at strangers, which makes them safe for most families.
Some studies indicate they’re much less likely to bite than many breeds that have no reputations for biting. Males are susceptible to prostate disease, though the likelihood is greatly reduced by neutering.
However, they suffer from dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart disease, more often than any other breed.
Famous Dobies include the very first registered Doberman, 1898’s Graf Belling v. Grönland; Zeus and Apollo from Tom Selleck’s Magnum, P.I. TV series; and Doby Doberman, a cartoon dog on the Israeli kid’s TV show Good Guy Doberman.
Number 5: Labrador Retriever
Sometimes called “Labradorks” because of their goofy nature, Labs come in three accepted coat colors: black, chocolate, and yellow. They’re probably the most popular dog breed in the world. They’re fairly large dogs, achieving a maximum of about 80 pounds. Most modern Labs are descended from a British male named Buccleuch Avon who lived in the 1880s.
Originally, they were bred in Newfoundland as water dogs, retrieving fishing nets and carrying ropes between boats at sea. These days, they’re top gun dogs, excellent at retrieving wild fowl brought down by hunters.
Labradors make ideal family and service dogs, and tend to be careful and gentle around children. They do require regular exercise to keep from gaining weight, so they’re not ideal for sedentary people, but with their sleek waterproof hair, they don’t need much grooming.
Famous Labs include the cartoon dog Brian from The Family Guy, former President Clinton’s Buddy and Seamus, and Endal, a highly decorated service/rescue dog famous for his initiative, self-direction-and his ability to use an ATM card.
Number 4: Skye Terrier
The oldest of the Terrier breed, the Skye Terrier was a breed of dog that originated as a result of a Spanish shipwreck sometime around 1520. The ship carrying a Maltese dog wrecked into the Scottish island of Skye. The Maltese mated with the local Terrier creating this loving breed of Terrier.
Breed Temperament / Best Owner Type
The Skye was originally used to hunt down pests such as Rat, Fox and even Badgers that would prey on young livestock, ducks, and chickens of Scottish farmers. They Sky is a brave dog that is very loyal. This dog is well suited for apartment living and does not have to have a backyard to play.
Though as with all dogs’ walks are needed. As is the case with many small dogs they need an owner that will play the part of pack leader, else he can become over protective and not interact well with strangers.
Health Problems & Life Expectancy
They Skye has no hereditary medical conditions and are a healthier breed of dog. They live on average between 12 and 15 years. They do shed and will need to be brushed often to keep the fur from becoming matted.
Number 3: German Shepherd
When many people see a German Shepherd, they automatically think “police dog,” and it’s true that Shepherds do make excellent police and military “personnel.” Also known as the Alsatian, this alert, highly intelligent breed was first developed, unsurprisingly, in Germany.
Originally, they were bred for herding sheep-a task requiring high intelligence-but have now taken on many roles, from policing to bomb-sniffing and search-and-rescue. Like many popular breeds today, the breed wasn’t standardized until the early 20th century.
While they can be quite well-behaved when properly trained, German Shepherds don’t make good family pets. They’re big, confident, and aggressive, and sometimes attack smaller animals. Kennel Club records suggest they bite more than any other breed. They’re very protective, and don’t take well to strangers.
Shepherds are susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia, and predisposed to a neurological disease called degenerative myelopathy. They may also experience a bleeding disorder called Von Willebrand Disease.
Famous German Shepherds include early movie stars Strongheart and Rin Tin Tin, both of whom have their own stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Number 2. Poodle
Tall standard poodles are considered the second smartest dog breed-but in fact, all poodle breeds are pretty sharp. They’re so bright, in fact, that they have a tendency to cause trouble when they get bored, which they often do. You can only watch so many dog food commercials before going in search of a little creative mischief.
Poodles are popular family pets, not just because they’re loving and gentle but also because they’re hypoallergenic. Loose hairs and dander get caught in their curly coats.
Partly for this reason, they’re often the basis of “designer” breeds like Labradoodles, Cockapoos, Goldendoodles, Pekipoos, and Schnoodles.
Poodles were originally developed in Germany as water retrievers, which may be why the Labradoodle is such an effective cross. You’ve probably heard people deliberately mispronounce their name as “Puddle” and thought, “Ha ha, very funny.”
But the name actually derives from the same root as the Low German word for puddle, Pudel-so the original name, Pudelhund, makes sense.
Though puddles-er, poodles-tend be healthy, their greatest health issues include hip dysplasia, Addison’s disease, cancer, and thyroid problems.
Now: Ready for the world’s smartest dog breed? Drum roll, please:
Number 1. Border Collie
Herding is a tough job, and to do it well a dog has to understand a lot more words than just “Sit,” “Fetch,” and “Treat.” Herding sheep is an especially tough job. While intelligence can get you in trouble, nothing causes more trouble than raw stupidity…which is what sheep are mostly made of.
In order to get their traditional job done, Border Collies have to be able to understand hundreds of words, recognize individual sheep, tell left from right, and be aggressive enough to jump in there and nip at a sheep’s heels if it isn’t going the right way.
They also come standard with an intense slope-shouldered stare, known as “the eye,” that they use to intimidate sheep into doing what they want. They were originally developed along the Scottish-English border (hence the name), where sheepherding is still a way of life for many.
Working Border Collies can be found anywhere in the world where sheep are common. They come in a variety of color mixes, though most are some variation of black and white, often with a little brown thrown in.
They’re descended from collies of no specific breed called “landrace collies,” which had naturally adapted to the local environment of the northern U.K. The term “collie,” deriving from an old Celtic word for “useful,” wasn’t applied to the dogs until the end of the 19th century.
The quiet, self-assured style typical of the best working Border Collies derives from an ancestral tricolor stud named Old Hemp, whose responsiveness to sheep was legendary.
The world’s smartest dog as of this writing, Chaser, is a Border Collie. She recognizes nearly 1,200 words, including verbs, making her about as smart as a Kindergartner and many college graduates.
As wonderful as they are, Border Collies are better working dogs than family dogs, though they’re popular with young families due to their energetic nature. But beware! They’re very demanding and may wear you out.
If your family includes small children and other pets, they’ll want to herd them. If not allowed to do so, they’ll get frustrated and start chewing the scenery… literally. Border Collies are well-known for tearing up furniture, chewing holes in walls, and digging hole after hole. Don’t let them get bored!
If you can provide what they need, you’ll find that Border Collies are eager to please, easy to train, and easy to maintain. They may live as long as 17 years, though 12 is the average.
What Do You Think?
Choosing the Top Ten Smartest Dogs breeds was a difficult task, not just because all dogs are reasonably intelligent, but because intelligence is hard to define in the first place. Most breeds have been bred for centuries to do one thing well.
Sometimes this results in a knife-sharp jack-of-all-trades like a Border Collie, but sometimes you end up with a single-minded dog that, by some specifications, wouldn’t be considered brainy.
Consider the Beagle, which comes in at 72 on Coren’s list of 79 rated breeds. Beagles get distracted easily, but they’re relentless hunters who can do an excellent job of clearing your property of small animal pests, from rats to rabbits.
So: these are our favorites on the IQ scale. How are they different from yours? Who have we left out? There are always exceptions to the rule. Tell us about your smartest dogs or breed and show what you mean. And don’t forget to leave a comment below.
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