How do you measure a dog’s intelligence? And are dogs really smart?
Dogs may not be as smart as humans, but they certainly have their own types and levels of intelligence. So how do you know how smart a particular breed is?
In 1994, a book published by a man named Stanley Coren set out to determine the intelligence levels of different dog breeds. He breaks down intelligence into 3 categories.
The first category is instinctive intelligence. This refers to a dog’s ability to naturally perform the tasks it has been bred to do. This includes things like scenting, herding and guarding, for example.
The second category is called adaptive intelligence. This kind of intelligence is a dog’s ability to solve problems without help.
Finally, the last category is called working and obedience intelligence. This means a dog’s ability to learn from humans.
Coren divided the breeds he studied into several different classes of intelligence, with the most intelligent dogs belonging to the “Brightest Dogs” class. These breeds were able to understand new commands with five or fewer repetitions and obeyed the first command 95% of the time.
10 breeds were shown to be better at learning and performing commands than the rest, thus proving them to be the most intelligent breeds.
1. Border Collie
The Border Collie is the number 1 ranking smartest breed. A healthy Border Collie should weigh 30 to 55 pounds.
These dogs belong to the herding group and were bred to work herding sheep in the Scottish and Welsh highlands. Recognizable against the greenery by their black and white coats, watching a Border work is an eye-opening experience.
There’s a reason they have been ranked as the most intelligent dogs. As herding dogs, they catch onto new commands with ease and execute them to near perfection.
Those not familiar with the Poodle on a firsthand basis my mistake this breed as being “frou-frou” and spoiled. But these are incredibly hardworking dogs, bred for hunting waterfowl.
The Poodle comes in 3 distinct sizes. The Standard Poodle weighs between 40 to 70 pounds, the Miniature Poodle between 10 to 15 pounds, and the Toy Poodle 4 to 6 pounds.
Poodles of every size are known for being extremely smart dogs. As the second most intelligent breed, they are easily and quickly trained, and happy to perform any command requested of them.
3. German Shepherd
German Shepherds are ranked as the third most intelligent breed. These are large dogs, weighing between 50 to 90 pounds.
The German Shepherd was originally bred as a herding dog. But his incredibly high levels of intelligence make him a great working dog in other fields. Just as happy herding livestock as he is tracking down a scent, this breed’s versatility is one of the things that makes him such a desirable dog.
Because of his high intelligence levels and stamina, the German Shepherd can be found in many police and military organizations around the world.
4. Golden Retriever
The Golden Retriever is one of the most popular breeds in the world. These beautiful, blond dogs weigh between 55 to 75 pounds and can be found as active parts of various households everywhere.
Originally bred to be a gundog, the Golden Retriever was developed between the years 1840 to 1890 by a man named Dudley Majoribanks at his estate in Inverness-Shire, Scotland.
As a gundog, the Golden Retriever needed to be able to understand commands quickly and perform them well. This ability is what earns him the rank of the fourth most intelligent dog breed.
5. Doberman Pinscher
The first time you see a Doberman Pinscher, you may find yourself staring in awe. These large, muscular, and powerful dogs weigh a hefty 60 to 100 pounds and exude nobility and strength.
The Doberman Pinscher was bred to serve first and foremost as a guardian. Tax collector and dog breeder Louis Dobermann set out to breed a dog that would accompany him on his tax collection duties and serve as a protector against those who may not be too fond of the taxman.
As a guardian, the Doberman Pinscher was required to be both extremely loyal and intelligent, two traits that the breed retains today.
6. Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland Sheepdog earns its name from the place where it was conceived, the Shetland Islands in the northernmost region of the United Kingdom. Weighing 15 to 25 pounds, these small dogs are known for their agility, brains, and obedience.
The Shetland Sheepdog, or Sheltie, was born to herd sheep, poultry, and ponies. Their diminutive size served an important purpose. Because they lived in an area where resources could be scarce, a small dog that didn’t require as much food was ideal.
As with most herding breeds, the Sheltie required high levels of intelligence to perform commands quickly and effectively.
7. Labrador Retriever
These big dogs are known for their super friendly and active natures. The Labrador Retriever weighs between 55 to 80 pounds and offers loving companionship to owners around the world.
Labrador Retrievers were bred in Newfoundland, Canada. Specifically, they were bred to be able to retrieve downed waterfowl from the cold, coastal waters. One of the Lab’s recognizable traits is his thick rudder-like tail, which served to propel him through the water.
Labs were required to have high levels of intelligence because they needed to be sharp-witted and follow commands closely as part of their job as retrievers.
The Papillon is a unique-looking dog, with long flowing fur around his ears that give him a butterfly-like look. The word “Papillon” is French for butterfly, making it a fitting name for this breed. Papillons are toy dogs, weighing just 5 to 10 pounds.
Papillon dogs were bred to be primarily companion animals. In Europe’s royal courts, they spent their days on the laps of nobility. You’ll find depictions of this little breed in paintings done by a variety of legendary artists like Rembrandt and Goya.
The Papillon came into existence by crossing various toy breeds with spaniels. The spaniel side of the Papillon is likely what makes this dog such an active, spunky, and smart breed.
The Rottweiler is a tough-looking, sturdy breed weighing an impressive 80 to 135 pounds. This imposing breed is part of the working group.
Rottweilers have over time earned a bit of a bad reputation. While many people who don’t understand the breed fear them for their history as guard dogs and protectors, a properly bred Rottweiler will be courageous without ever being aggressive. If you adopt a Rottweiler, you will get an incredibly loyal and committed dog for life.
You’ll also get an extremely smart dog. Guard dogs need a hearty mix of both loyalty and intelligence to perform their duties as guardians, and the Rottweiler is lacking in neither.
10. Australian Cattle Dog
You’ll recognize these dogs by their thick, stocky bodies and short legs. The Australian Cattle Dog, often shortened to ACD, weighs around 35 to 50 pounds. As with many of the breeds on this list, the Australian Cattle Dog belongs to the herding group.
The goal with the ACD was to create a breed that would be able to work well in the sometimes rough and rugged continent of Australia. A dog that was durable and hardworking was required, and by breeding dogs like Collies with Dingoes, the Australian Cattle Dog was eventually born.
Because it was required to herd cattle on very rough terrain, the ACD needed to be able to keep his wits sharp. This, of course, is why the breed is known as one of the most intelligent.