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Dog Show Image from 2020 AKC Rally National Championship or 2020 AKC National Obedience Champioship
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Many dog owners will say that their dog is the “smartest.” In flashes of brilliance, your dog lets you know what time it is because they want dinner and runs to the door for a walk when you pick up their leash. Researchers estimate that dogs are as bright as a 2-year-old human. But how brainy is your dog? Do they score at the top of the smart chart?

Measuring Canine Intelligence

Stanley Coren, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, a renowned dog researcher, and the author of “The Intelligence of Dogs: Canine Consciousness and Capabilities,” defines three ways to measure dog intelligence:

  1. Instinct: The nature to perform specific tasks, such as retrieving, guarding, or herding, without any training at a young age.
  2. Adaptive problem-solving: What dogs learn to do themselves and the problems they solve, such as how to open a box, find a way around a barrier, or get a treat out of a tube.
  3. School learning: What dogs learn to do with human instruction, such as understanding human language and learning new tasks and cues.

Ranking the Smartest Breeds

After testing 120 breeds in the early 1990s and again in 2006, Dr. Coren ranks these breeds in the top 20 of intelligence.

1. Border Collie

Paws down, this quick-as-lightning herding breed easily outsmarts other breeds. Ask anyone who owns a Border Collie; they will tell you this highly energetic and athletic breed is an overachiever. At 30 to 55 pounds, this dog is a heavyweight employee who thrives on getting any job done.

2. Poodle

Although this breed’s Toy, Miniature, and Standard varieties may look fancy, always pay attention to these whip-smart, curly-coated cuties. When owners give explicit, consistent instruction, Poodles train quickly. Eager to please, this breed excels with stimulation.


126 16" OTCH Adelheid's Garbanzo UDX4 OM8 GN. PR15671201. Poodle. M. 11/5/2011. Breeder(s): Renate Newcomb. GCH CH MACH Kamann's Silver Surfer MXB MJB THD - CH MACH Palman Adelheids Silverbrocade CD MXB MJB NAP NJP THD. Owner(s): Wendy J Ethier, 147 Sanders Place, Lakeview AR 72642-9117. Handler: Wendy Ethier
Photo by Pix 'n Pages ©American Kennel Club

3. German Shepherd Dog

The German Shepherd Dog is recognized worldwide as a stalwart service dog. This courageous, confident, and highly intelligent herding breed discriminates between friend and foe. The GSD requires regular tasks to remain content.

4. Golden Retriever

A sweetheart in looks and personality, this Sporting Group member is naturally willing to please its owner. The loyal Golden Retriever catches on quickly and is happy to outperform other retrievers in the obedience ring.

5. Doberman Pinscher

This distinctive black and tan breed easily vies for the valedictorian of the Working Group. Named after Louis Dobermann, who developed the breed to act as a fearless protector, the Doberman Pinscher is a highly perceptive and active dog who excels at obedience.

Doberman Pinscher standing stacked in the grass.
©everydoghasastory -

6. Shetland Sheepdog

A brainiac in a 12 to 15-inch package, the Shetland Sheepdog lives to herd anything from sheep to children and loves its people. Fast, agile, and clever, this Collie in miniature outshines canine competitors in dog sports.

7. Labrador Retriever

Friendly, active, and affectionate, the Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular breeds. A high-spirited retriever in the field or around the house, this Sporting Group member is a natural swimmer.

8. Papillon

French for ‘butterfly,’ this breed is the only Toy Group member in this list. Small in size but big in brain power, the Papillon is super fast. This breed is also a top agility scorer.

2023 AKC Agility Premier Cup held on July 8 in Columbus, OH.

9. Rottweiler

With ancient Roman heritage, the Rottweiler is a rugged Working Group member. A confident guardian of imposing strength and a big thinker, the Rottie accepts consistent, firm training.

10. Australian Cattle Dog

Known as a Blue, Red, or Queensland Heeler, the Australian Cattle Dog is related to the Australian wild Dingo dog. A tenacious herding breed with boundless energy, this dog relies on constant challenges.

11. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

The smallest of the Herding Group, the long and low Corgi is an affectionate companion. An independent thinker, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi thrives on activity, organization, and training.

12. Miniature Schnauzer

The only member of the Terrier Group on this list and the smallest of the three Schnauzer breeds, the Miniature Schnauzer is a family and all-around farm dog and ratter.

Miniature Schnauzer laying down outdoors.
©katamount -

13. English Springer Spaniel

The English Springer Spaniel is an eager and reliable bird hunter in the field. This Sporting Group member is friendly, playful, and responds well to training at home

14. Belgian Tervuren

Self-assured, elegant, and agile, the Belgian Tervuren has a high activity level and the ability to master challenging work and play. Tervs are affectionate, alert, and courageous dogs that can outsmart their owners.

15. Schipperke

The Schipperke is a fearless watchdog on Belgian barges. Its name means “little captain” in Flemish. A Non-Sporting breed, this little black dog is highly alert and eager to learn.

16. Belgian Sheepdog

An eager workaholic member of the Herding Group, this medium-sized, muscular black dog follows directions well. The Belgian Sheepdog proves its protective and vigilant nature and is affectionate with its owners.

Belgian Sheepdog running in a field.
©Dogs -

17. Collie

The graceful Collie “Lassie” is a famous television star known for its loyalty and good-natured personality. Both the full-coated ‘rough’ and sleek-coated ‘smooth’ Collie varieties are impressive herders.

18. Keeshond

As a guard and companion on Dutch canal barges, the Keeshond is lively, affectionate, and amiable. Distinctive facial spectacles are the hallmark of this medium-sized, agile breed.

19. German Shorthaired Pointer

A versatile hunting breed in the Sporting Group, this agile dog possesses power, speed, and endurance. Bondingintel well with its family, the German Shorthaired Pointer does best when participating in various outdoor exercises.

German Shorthaired Pointer puppy laying down in the grass.

20. Flat-Coated Retriever

The Flat-Coated Retriever is wise dog that sports a kindly expression. A happy-go-lucky personality distinguishes it from other retrievers in the Sporting Group. Highly energetic, the breed works well with owners and has an affinity for water.