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What is the most intelligent dog breed? What is the smartest dog?

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What is the most intelligent dog breed? What is the smartest dog?

Those of us who love dogs often are in awe of their intelligence. This makes our bond with them strong and evokes feelings of love and admiration. Along with their emotive facial expressions, boundless energy and strong bonds with family members, many wonder which dog breeds harbour the most intelligence. Here is what research has found so far.

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The Top Ten Most Intelligent Dog Breeds

There are many claims listing the smartest dog breeds, most of which look at different factors including ability in training sequences, personality, herding ability, ‘ratting’ instincts, different types of intelligence and various other traits that are seen across a variety of breeds. Intelligence in canines has been researched using parameters like: adaptive intelligence (the ability to figure things out in new situations), working intelligence (ability to follow orders), kinesthetic intelligence (movement smarts), spatial intelligence (ability to process and recall  well-structured visual images). Across these different types intelligence, research in this field has consistently included the following as the smartest dog breeds (in no particular order):

German Shepherd sniffing black backpack at airport

German Shepherd

This breed is historically known for its sharp intelligence, and use as police dogs and service dogs. They are also a popular dog breed for families. This is not just because of their ease in training, but they are also very loyal and courageous when it comes to protecting their loved 

ones, especially children.

Golden Retriever running on green grass with a yellow tennis ball in his mouth

Golden Retriever

Similar in intelligence to German Shepherds, Golden’s don't possess the aloofness that Shepherds tend to have. This breed is known to be ‘friendly’, a loyal companion, gives affection more easily and thus used as therapy, service,search and rescue dogs and have been known to be excellent family dogs. 

Black and white dog jumping over obstacle course

Border Collie

Known to be intelligent and agile, Border Collies are perhaps most well known for agility trials, super dog performances and more recently in language training using buttons. This herding breed is claimed to be ‘the most intelligent’ breed if judged on agility and working intelligence alone. But we all know that intelligence aside, Border Collies love to snuggle and give love to their families.

Black Poodle jumping over obstacle course


Poodles have been used throughout history to hunt, retrieve and track. Always known for their keen smarts, they are also hypoallergenic and make fantastic family dogs. They are great companions with intelligence and looks to boot!

Sheltie walking down ramp

Shetland Sheepdog

Also known as Shelties, they are essentially miniature Collies. Intelligent, compact, floofy, loyal and great with kids, who could ask for more??? A playful herding breed, keen to learn orders and tricks, these little ones are packed full of smarts and personality.

Black dog launching in the air to catch frisbee

Doberman Pinscher

Known to be astute police and war dogs, Dobermans combine their intelligence with speed and long term memory. They have a long history as war dogs as they  are highly trainable and devout. This also translates into wonderful family dogs that protect and provide fun, lovable companionship.

Black dog hanging out on green grass with tennis ball in mouth

Labrador Retriever

This eager to please breed combines their gentle manner with intelligence to hunt, track, guide and learn with ease. Very popular in North America, Lab’s are also a popular family dog and loves to protect, snuggle and can learn many fun tricks. 

Brown and white Papillon dog chewing on purple toy


Known for their ears that resemble butterflies, their name is French for this insect. Outgoing, non-aggressive and easy to train, make Papillon’s a fun, small breed to provide lifelong love. They love to learn new tricks and are agile athletes.

Blood Hound wearing orange search vest resting


This breed dates far back as a keen hunter known for their extraordinary sense of smell. Combined with their intelligence, great memory and somber, friendly faces, Bloodhounds are outstanding hunting dogs. Their distinct deep hound bark is a reminder of their devotion and commitment to their family. 

Rottweiler hanging out with kid in sunset


Along with their size, these intelligent beasts are also incredibly loyal, loving pets. They are confident guard dogs, affable, easily trained and smart. Making them a wonderfully intelligent, protective family member!  

Pack of dogs hanging around lady wearing dress

Don’t see your dog’s breed on the list? Not to worry!

Many lists exist on smartest dog breeds, but it must be remembered that these are usually based on one or two aspects of canine intelligence! It really is a combination of nurturing your dog’s mind, as well as their natural aptitude, despite their breed. Many dog breeds can increase their working, spatial, and adaptive intelligence with some help from their owners. It takes time, patience and lots of training treats! 

There are many courses online for pet parents, like this one from the American Kennel club and in Canada, you can look at the Canadian Kennels Club’s Canine Good Neighbour Program for a start to good behaviour basics. This will give them the first level of obedience training that is needed for more complicated tricks, agility and language lessons. 

Kabo Hearty Turkey fresh dog food

The one consistent thing that comes up in studies of intelligent dogs is that nutrition is a fundamental foundation for their overall mental balance. More and more nutrition science studies are revealing that as dog’s age, optimal nutrition such as that found in fresh cooked foods like Kabo, that use functional food like carrots, salmon, and peas. These and many other of their wholesome ingredients have been found to help slow down cognitive decline and enrich lifelong learning. 

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February 20, 2024
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