As pet parents, we feel incredibly proud when our dogs can do something unique or behave a certain way. Some like it when their doggos are being cute and clumsy, while others enjoy their smart tricks. This article is for all those curious readers. Have you ever wondered which are the most intelligent dogs in the world? Let’s find out.
Now, as a disclaimer, we want to clarify that the dogs on this list are classified as ‘intelligent’ based on Stanley Coren’s tests. He tested dogs mostly on their obedience intelligence, or their ability to grasp new commands. While it is the most accurate documentation we have on canine intelligence; Coren himself admits that the test is flawed. He says:
“Science may never comprehend the full extent of what dogs know about language, problem solving, the past, the future, God, time or philosophy. In the end, we must content ourselves with the fact that dogs know enough to be dogs — which is all that is really required of them.” – Stanley Coren
Every breed was created for different reasons, and some of them are just more independent than others. The Beagle, for instance, was bred to find trails of game animals, especially foxes. They were bred to chase after the animal (without waiting for their human’s command) and hold the prey down till their human comes after them.
We can see right here that this is an intelligent, thinking breed. They have a mind of their own. But if we look at the list of the most intelligent dogs, Beagles are rated at 131st out of 138 tested breeds.
Why is that so? It’s because a large chunk of intelligence is evaluated by their ability to follow commands (obedience tests), and Beagles are some of the most resilient dogs on the planet.
So, while the dogs on the list are brilliant, every dog is smart in their own unique way, and we just don’t know how to measure their intelligence.
Now, with that cleared off, let’s have a look at the Einsteins of the Canine world.
10 Most Intelligent Dogs In The World
Here’s a list of the most intelligent dogs in the world. Be sure to read till the end of the list because we have listed the most intelligent dog at the very end!
10. Australian Cattle Dog
Here’s a medium-sized super-intelligent dog. The Australian Cattle dog is very agile and has a longer lifespan because of its medium size.
The Australian Cattle dog was made by Australian settlers around the late 18th century – early 19th century. They needed a dog that could herd cattle and walk through the rugged terrains for long hours. So they mixed the Blue Merle Aussie and the Australian Dingo.
This dog needed the mind of its own, to keep an eye on straying cattle and immense stamina to guide them through such long distances.
Its ancestors, the Dingo, relied a lot on street smarts to get around and survive. Hence it’s not a surprise how the Australian Cattle Dogs became so intelligent.
Since these dogs are intelligent and agile, they need to be in an environment where they have both physical and mental stimulation.
They usually do well in dog sports as well because they have a lot of energy and they are always eager to learn.
The Australian Cattle Dog is known to be very loyal, so many keep them as companion dogs. But remember, that if you plan to hold an Australian Cattle dog as a companion, you need to give them a lot of physical and mental exertion.
A few walks are not enough, they need to run, and they need a job. A bored Cattle Dog can break your house into pieces when you are not around. So, make sure you teach them a few physically exerting games like the frisbee so that they can run and be active for at least an hour a day.
Apart from physical exercise, they need many puzzles and interactive games that keep their minds fresh and sharp.
The Australian Cattle Dog is not that common in India. Though they are well suited for the Indian weather, they are not built for apartment living.
Rottweilers are very versatile dogs for one main reason – they are very smart! Though we know Rotties as these furious guard dogs, they can be excellent therapy dogs as well!
They are gentle, sweet, but also quick to attack if they sense a threat. This is why training is necessary right from the time they come into your home.
When tested for their intelligence, Coren discovered that Rottweilers could learn commands within the first 5 tries of teaching them something new and they had a 95% success rate in following that command after they learned it.
This is very impressive because the average dog needs at least 25 to 40 tries to learn a new command. Once they learn the command, they are only 50% likely to follow it when they hear it again
Which means that Rotties learn commands 5 times faster than an average dog!
Remember that Rotties are instinctive guardians. They were first bred to protect livestock from wild animals. This means that, if left to their own devices, they can fight any animal or person who seems to threaten their family.
Guarding comes naturally to them; hence, Rottweilers make excellent guard dogs. However, if this skill is not honed correctly, it may develop into an unhealthy guarding instinct where the dog may guard their favourite toy or even person to the extent that it might harm the people around them.
Though training a Rottweiler is not very difficult, it is necessary. Rottweilers are also great companion pets, but they are not the best for first-time owners or those who spend long hours outside the home. Be sure to do your research before bringing home a Rottweiler.
The word ‘Papillon’ comes from the French word ‘Papillon’ meaning butterfly. This dog is named after their cute butterfly ears.
Papillons have always been quite popular as companion dogs right from the British rule but what many don’t know about these cute pocket-sized dogs is that they are very intelligent.
These dogs do have a few properties of a companion dog. They will follow you wherever you go. They are very dependant and quite sensitive.
However, this does not mean that Papillons are ‘lap dogs’ because they are not. Since they are smart dogs, they need something to do. You must find ways to exert them mentally. Puzzles and indoor games that challenge them mentally are like treats for a Papillon.
They also enjoy long walks and are not the best for those who stay out and work for long hours.
Papillons are not particularly common in India primarily because of their coat and their sensitive nature. They will not do well in the peak summers and extreme temperatures.
They are also not the best to have with big dogs and young children, mostly because they are fragile and can quickly get hurt. But don’t underestimate them because of their small size. With the right kind of training and persistence, you can turn them into a trick dog sensation.
Remember that if a Papillon is not given enough mental exertion, they can develop small dog syndrome. So be sure to treat them well and make sure they have the training they need to become perfect little canine citizens.
Ah, the lovely Labradors. They make it in all our lists. Labradors are very popular in India and the rest of the world. Anywhere we go, we always find a Lab. But did you know that these goofy, ball chasing, people-loving dogs are intelligent? Not just intelligent, brilliant!
According to Dr Coren’s test, an average Labrador can learn 250 words! That’s 85 more words than an ordinary dog!
The Labrador’s early ancestry, the St John’s dog, was bred to assist fishers by catching fish that swam out of fishnets. But by spending time with the Labs, people got to see their gentle side. Labs were so sweet; they helped the fishermen hunt the fish and haul them up on the boat.
Later, these dogs also had enough energy to play with the kids. Over time we discovered the gentle touch that these dogs have, and they were then used to retrieve game meat. Their handlers realised that their touch was so gentle that there was, not a single puncture wound on the hunted animal.
Seeing all these accounts in history, we can tell that the Labrador has a mind of their own. This is a very intelligent dog that is meant to retrieve. Their nature to please their humans is a bonus to their personality.
Labradors today are mostly spending their time inside the house, pleasing their humans. Most Indian families keep Labradors as companion pets, and now because of overbreeding, Labs in India have become slightly more obese and inactive.
Having a Labrador as a companion pet is not a problem as long as you make sure that you give them enough physical and mental exercise. Also, you can’t have a Labrador and not teach them a good game of fetch!
6. Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland Sheepdog looks like a miniature Collie, but they are a separate breed altogether. They are small, cute and furry, but what stands out about them is that they are the 6th most intelligent dog in the world.
The Shetland Sheepdog was bred in the tiny Shetland Island in Scotland during the 1700s. Though they were bred to herd sheep, many believe that they also protected little sheep from birds of prey.
This is why Shetland Sheepdogs tend to chase birds. Some even run after airplanes and helicopters in the sky.
Protecting and herding require an intelligent mind. No wonder Shelties are intelligent! Naturally, they topped Coren’s test and learned many commands within 5 repetitions.
Modern-day Shelties are workaholics. Don’t go by their tiny size. They are very vocal and will herd just about anything. You name it – ducks, children, people – anything!
They also have a lot of energy. So, if you bring home a Sheltie, you need to give them something to do. With enough mental and physical stimulation, they tend to be excellent with kids and are the perfect family dogs.
They aren’t the most friendly with strangers, so, if you need a dog that would alert you in case of a stranger, the Shetland Sheepdog is the dog for you.
That being said, while Shelties are famous all over the world, they aren’t particularly popular in India. They are primarily winter dogs, so if you live in colder parts of the country, you can get a Sheltie – only if you have enough stamina because these little doggos will keep you on your toes!
They are also not the best dogs for those who spend most of their time at work. They love to be around their favourite people, and a bored Sheltie is no fun to come home to!
If you live long hours away from home, there are other dogs for you; a Sheltie just won’t fit the bill.
5. Doberman Pinscher
Out of all the other dogs on the list, the Doberman is relatively recent. They were first bred by a tax collector Louis Doberman in the late 1800s in Germany. Louis Doberman lived in the suburbs and had to go to some sketchy parts of the town.
He wanted a dog that was big and scary looking and was also ready to fight in case someone tried to steal his money. Thus he slowly started developing the Doberman. The Doberman is a mix of many breeds, but they were bred for one reason – guarding.
According to Coren, Dobermans are the 5th most intelligent breed in the world. This means that they are naturally smarter than 95% of dogs. But what really puts the Doberman at the top of the list is their instinctive intelligence to guard.
They are not just any guard dog. A Doberman can understand the difference between a friend and a foe because having a powerful dog that is ready to attack anyone is very dangerous. The Doberman is a robust dog, but it chooses to be gentle, and this is what makes them really intelligent.
They can also understand when a friendly discussion has turned to an argument and are always ready to protect their human at all costs.
There’s no doubt that the Doberman is intelligent, but this does not mean you don’t have to train them. You must train them. Training and socialisation are necessary. Teaching them how to interact with other dogs and children will reduce their hypersensitivity and make them better canine citizens.
It is also essential to let them have enough physical and mental stimulation. A Doberman that does not have enough outlet can develop some unwanted behaviours like property guarding or snapping and aggression.
It is always better to teach them good behaviours as a puppy than to get rid of bad habits after they become adult Doberman. Hence, you must start training them from an early age.
4. Golden Retriever
As the name suggests, Goldens were bred to Retrieve. Originally they were bred to bring back dead hunted animals, usually duck, in the water. This is why these dogs love water. In fact, if you check your Golden Retriever’s paws, you’ll find that they have webbed paws. It’s a unique trait – only a few dogs have webbed feet.
Goldens are very similar to Labradors in terms of their physicality, energy level and demeanour. But the Goldens are slightly calmer and more entwined with human emotions. They understand best when their human is sad and find ways to cheer them up.
The Golden’s intelligence and calm demeanour has made them one of the most common service dogs, emotional support animals, and therapy dogs. For starters, their ability to learn more than 250 words, combined with their gentle touch, makes them perfect service dogs for those with disabilities.
But apart from being service dogs, they can also be excellent companion dogs. Since they are so gentle, they are great for families with kids. They just feed off the energy coming from the household.
Since they have a lot of energy, a daily workout is a must along with a lot of mental exercises. They also tend to put on weight, so be very careful with what you feed them. A gradual increase in weight gain can lead to hip dysplasia later on.
With the right care and enough physical and mental stimulation, there’s a Golden for everyone. Unlike other intelligent dogs, Goldens are a pretty good option for first-time pet parents as long as you give them enough physical and mental exercise.
3. German Shepherd
German Shepherds were prevalent dogs during the first and second world wars. Adolf Hitler had a German Shepherd, and these dogs were known as ‘war dogs’. American Soldiers were impressed by their bravery and brought a few of them home.
German Shepherds immediately became famous because of their good looks and intelligence after a few movie appearances; the German Shepherd became a household name.
Most German Shepherds can learn commands within their first try! This makes them the third smartest dog. They have a unique combination of guarding their family and pleasing them that makes them a very versatile dog.
Policemen who have worked with GSDs have said that these dogs will not only chase, trace, and grab hold of suspects but they are capable of letting go on command. This is a unique feature that many other dogs don’t have.
Over the years, because of their popularity, the quality of German Shepherds have deteriorated a bit. Now, many breeders are trying to create ‘show dog’ puppies and are completely overlooking genetic disorders that are passing into this beautiful dog.
If you plan to bring home a German Shepherd, please look for certified breeders who are not only trying to create show dogs, but rather, healthy German Shepherds that will live long fruitful lives with you.
Poodles are much more than what people make them out to be. You may see them in dog shows with a pom-pom (continental clip) hair cut, but if we tell you they are the second most intelligent dog in the world, we’re sure you’d be stunned.
Poodles are the only breeds that come in three different sizes – the full-size standard, the miniature and the toy. They are all equally smart and eager to learn.
Those who are allergic to fur tend to keep Poodles because their hair has very little dander. But since they have a hair coat and not a fur coat, owners have to spend time giving them haircuts.
The Poodle originally descended from herding dogs and water dogs, which means that these dogs are also naturally good at retrieving, and they tend to love the water.
Much like Labradors and Golden Retrievers, these dogs were bred to retrieve ducks. So, Poodles are not just cute and poofy dogs as we make them out to be. They are very intelligent and have a lot of energy.
Poodles are very good at swimming. So if you plan to keep a Poodle, having your swimming pool or being able to take them to a dog pool would be a bonus.
A well trained Poodle is usually gentle and loving and is very fun to be around. But since they have a lot of energy and are always eager to learn new things, they are not the ideal pet for everyone.
1. Border Collie
And finally, the dog that takes the trophy is the Border Collie. This is probably a no brainer for many of you. The most established celebrity dog trainers have Border Collies. Sarah Carson has a Border Collie named Hero, and Zach Goerge recently got his Border Collie Inertia.
Most shows have Border Collies winning. They excel in most sports and are always eager to learn. This all for one main reason – Border Collies are incredibly smart.
Border Collies have always been famous throughout history as a herding dog. They would stay outside with cattle for long hours and keep an eye on straying cattle, sheep, livestock etc.
This is why they have a lot of energy, and since they are very smart, they are not everyone’s cup of tea. If you can’t give them a lot of physical and mental stimulation, they will be challenging to handle.
Remember that an average Border Collie needs at least 2 hours of exercise every day. Since they are very smart, physical activity is just not enough. They need some form of mental stimulation too.
These dogs are very driven. While most dogs are food motivated (can be trained with good quality treats), Border Collies are mostly play motivated (can be trained with their favourite game as a reward). With dogs like these, you can teach them to do just about anything.
Border Collies are pretty rare in India, and honestly, they are not suited for metropolitan lifestyles. They are ideal for those with large farmlands and lawns, where they can herd livestock.
As a companion dog, they are excellent pets only if they get at least 2 hours of intense workout every single day. Of course, the more, the merrier for them. If you don’t have open space or an active lifestyle, you should not get a Border Collie.
How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Smart?
Stanley Coren, the writer of ‘Dog Behaviour and the Human Canine Bond’, tells us that if your dog learns a command within 5 tries, they are probably the Einsteins of the lot.
Of course, a lot goes into this observation. The dog will only try if you give them the right currency. Some dogs are food motivated, while others are play motivated.
So, if you give them the wrong treat or expect them to follow a command without any reward, you might not get them to do much.
So, while obedience training is one way, observing how they solve problems in real-life situations, whether they remember bad/good experiences are also ways to determine if they are smart.
How Smart Is Your Dog?
There are three kinds of intelligence, namely:
- Instinctive intelligence – Every dog has instinctive intelligence towards something, like Labradors and Goldens are natural retrievers, Border Collies are instinctive herders, hounds are instinctive trackers and sniffers Dobermans are instinctive guard dogs, etc.
- Adaptive Intelligence – This refers to a dog’s problem-solving skills and how they learn to work around things. For instance, our dog learned how to open a door if a towel is hanging from the top. She would pull on the towel and open the door. If the towel is not on top, she will search for it. This is adaptive intelligence because no one really taught her to open the door like that. She solved the problem based on what was given to her.
- Obedience Intelligence – This refers to what dogs pick up in obedience training. A smart dog learns quickly and can retain more information. Stanley Coren’s test was mostly based on a dog’s obedience intelligence.
There are a few dog IQ tests that you can do with your dog to find out how intelligent they are.
Do You Really Want A Smart Dog?
We have already established that some dogs are brilliant. But do you want a smart dog? Do you need one?
Those who have intelligent dogs tell us that they are also the most difficult to keep under control. It’s a lot like how teachers have to think of new and exciting ways to keep intelligent children under control so that they don’t disturb the other children in the class.
With dogs that are intelligent and agile, you continuously need to find new and interesting ways to keep them occupied. An average life with a Border Collie involves a lot of running, a lot of herding and a lot of mental stimulation. If you are not up for that you may have a very stubborn dog that breaks things, rips things apart and does not listen to you.
If time is not in your hands, having an intelligent dog will not be the best choice for you (and you won’t be the best choice for them). Smart dogs that don’t get enough stimulation can make a huge mess or worse, bite someone. In this case, you should get a dog that can stay home alone for long hours.
Most intelligent dogs are workaholics. They need to do something around the house. Border Collies and Australian Cattle Dog, for instance, are impeccable herders, but if they don’t get the chance to herd, they may start herding their toys or kids.
Similarly, a Doberman protects, but if you don’t let them guard or give them nothing to do throughout the day, they may get agitated and pick up unhealthy resource guarding habits. It may become dangerous if they start attacking other people, kids or dogs.
If you feel you just don’t have the time to exert your dog, physically and mentally, you should consider getting a less demanding dog. Remember that a dog’s intelligence should never be the criteria for getting a dog. The bond that you share with them always outsmarts their intelligence.
All dogs are capable of basic obedience training and life skills. That’s really all they need to be model canine citizens and ideal family dogs.
We hope you found this article helpful. How intelligent is your dog? Let us know in the comment section below.