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Top 10 most intelligent dog breeds

How smart is your dog? If they are one of the breeds in this list, the chances are that they are amongst the brightest dogs out there. Whilst they may not be able to do mathematics, the dogs in this list all show extraordinary abilities to learn.

It’s not an accident that the breeds in this list are smart- almost all are descended from working dogs. Breeders would select the dogs who performed their jobs best – usually the most intelligent and trainable ones. In doing so, they created breeds with above average intelligence, who thrive with good training and exercise.

Taking on such an intelligent dog requires lots of hard work. You need to make sure you are prepared to keep them from getting bored – that means plenty of mental stimulation like games, training, and challenges alongside their normal exercise routine. Make sure you know exactly how much time your pup spends exercising and playing with a PitPat dog activity monitor.

Border Collie

Border Collies consistently top rankings for intelligence in dogs. They have been bred for herding sheep, a job which many still do today, and that is no easy task. With just a few commands from their handler, they need to be able to make quick decisions to drive the sheep where they need to go, work with other dogs and the shepherd to ensure the sheep end up where they are meant to be. 

Combined with their agility and speed, Border Collies are built for canine sports like agility, obedience, canicross and disc dog, as well as making wonderful companions.

One Border Collie named Chaser could identify and retrieve 1,022 toys by their name in tests, the most any non-human animal has achieved in a study. Chaser also demonstrated an understanding of grammar and an ability to infer the name of a new object by excluding the objects that she already knew – pretty smart if you ask us!


Some people may think that the Poodle is nothing more than a showy dog on the arms of the upper classes – but they’d be wrong. Like many of the other dogs on this list, the Poodle is a gun dog, one that specialises in retrieving game from water. They needed to be able to think on their feet and navigate tricky terrain – their smarts came in handy!

The Poodle can put its paw to many jobs and canine sports – from assistance dogs to agility pros, they excel at all sorts, as well as making wonderful canine companions.

German Shepherd

The noble German Shepherd is famous for its role as a police dog – but it was originally bred to herd sheep and protect them from predators and threats. Like the other herding dogs on this list, owners of working German Shepherds needed them to be intelligent and capable of making independent decisions as well as understanding their handler’s commands. 

Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is not only easily trainable but also makes a fantastic family dog. Their exceptional emotional intelligence makes them pawfect candidate for assistance dogs, even though they were originally bred as gun dogs. They are able to think independently and make quick decisions when working, essential in many of their roles.

Doberman Pinscher

Doberman Pinschers were originally bred as guard dogs, but fans of the breed will know them as intelligent, loyal, energetic companions. They are highly trainable and their instinct to protect means that they have impeccable focus and attention. Modern Dobermans are much less aggressive than their working ancestors and can make wonderful house pets with consistent training.

Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland sheepdog, also known as the Sheltie, is another herding dog, this time bred on the Shetland Islands. Farmers needed Shelties to do all sorts around the farm, including keeping birds out of the field and letting their family know when a stranger was approaching the farm. Their intelligence and agility mean they dominate agility in their size group, and are often top picks for competitors who don’t want to run a Border Collie.

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador is the quintessential family dog, and though they might act goofy at home, these hardy pooches are actually incredibly easy to train and eager to please. Their breeding as a gun dog means they have to be able to think on their paws, judge scenarios and make a quick decision – the same skills needed to be an exceptional assistance dog. 


The Papillon is the smallest pooch on this list, and perhaps a surprise entry to some. However, when you look past their showy ‘butterfly’ ears, you’ll find a dog with exceptional intelligence, charm and drive. Bred from early Spaniels, it’s no surprise that the Papillon has inherited some of their brain power, and owners are often delighted to find that their dogs can excel in sports like agility and obedience.


The Rottweiler is a misunderstood dog who has been used for a plethora of jobs – herding cattle, pulling butcher’s carts and as police and military dogs. These intelligent dogs have shown their ability to adapt to all sorts of roles – including as beloved family companions – and love to have a job. They thrive with firm and consistent leadership, forming close bonds with their owners. 

Australian Cattle Dog

Last, but by no means least, is the plucky Australian Cattle Dog. This sturdy pup was bred to herd cattle over long distances. Dealing with animals much larger than itself requires the Australian Cattle Dog to be tenacious, driven, and quick thinking – qualities that they have in droves. Unique amongst dogs, the Australian Cattle Dog can trace bloodlines back to tamed dingoes, themselves described as showing incredible intelligence.

Choosing an intelligent dog breed can be incredibly rewarding, but you need to be prepared to spend plenty of time with them, keeping them mentally and physically challenged. We recommend plenty of exciting walks, canine sports and playtime! You can measure it all with a PitPat dog activity monitor for just £39.

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