You may find yourself looking at your canine companion and wondering just how much they understand. Well, it turns out some breeds are smarter than others. How we measure the intelligence of a dog varies and a highly intelligent dog from one breed may be a rare exception to the rule, or you may find yourself with a rather daft example of a traditionally intelligent breed.
With this in mind, we've put together a list of the 32 smartest dog breeds. While none of these dogs will be bringing home a degree any time soon, they are generally whip-sharp working breeds who have generations of selective breeding for a particular purpose to thank for their smarts. Terriers and herding breeds in particular feature a lot on this list, but you might find one or two surprises in the mix too.
Read on to see if Fido really is the bright spark you think him to be:
32 smartest dog breeds
1. Boarder Collie
Boarder collies are working dogs with lots of brain power at their disposal. They are excellent sheep dogs and make fantastic companions for those with special needs who may need a dog to complete complex tasks. They require a lot of mental stimulation, so bear this in mind before you bring a Collie pup home with you.
2. Belgian Shepherd Malinois
Frequently used by police and military in K9 units, these dogs are highly trainable, smart and great problem solvers. They are traditionally a herding breed, but can turn their paw to most doggy jobs successfully.
- Related: German Shepherd vs Belgian Malinois
Poodles may look fancy, but there's a lot of brain behind those stylish mops. Traditionally bred to retrieve game from lakes and rivers, their curly coats help them to swim efficiently. They're one of the most popular dog breeds due to their loyalty, cleverness and beautiful coats.
4. German Shepherd
The German Shepherd is a breed you probably expected to find on this list. Similar to the Belgian Malinois, these fiercely intelligent dogs are used by police and military due to their trainability and adaptability.
5. Labrador retriever
Labrador retrievers are darling dogs, with lovely temperaments to go with their quick-thinking brains. There's a reason these dogs are often used as assistance dogs for the blind, as they are keen to please and quick to learn new things. They are very food motivated, making them east to train: give a lab a treat and he'll be your best friend for life.
One of the best hunting dog breeds, the bloodhound is excellent at tracking a scent to its source. They are gentle giants, with big floppy jowls that make them look somewhat comical. They aren't the easiest dogs to train, but are used often by the police and military due to their fantastic tracking abilities.
7. Belgian Tervuren
Another herding breed that wants nothing more than a job to do, these dogs excel far beyond their purpose as herding dogs. They can be found competing in agility contests, tracking and even sledding.
8. Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland Sheepdog, or Sheltie, comes from the Shetland Isles of Scotland. They are one of the smartest dog breeds and love a challenge, excelling at agility and herding. They are smaller than most herding breeds, with a long, silky coat.
9. Siberian Husky
Huskies are undeniably comical dogs, but are fully capable of learning complex tricks, particularly when they can solve a problem. They require lots of physical and mental stimulation to keep them happy.
10. Miniature Schnauzer
The Miniature Schnauzer may look intelligent, with a fantastic beard that makes one think of a wise old man, but are they actually that smart? Thankfully, their brains do match their appearance. Often described as "bright" dogs, they are intelligent and trainable.
11. Australian Cattle Dog
Another fantastic herding breed, the Australian Cattle Dog, or "heeler" is a squat, fast dog known for its tenacity and ability to herd animals much larger than itself. Some say they have the blood of the Australian wild dog, the Dingo, contributing to their heavy dose of smarts and fierceness.
12. Golden Retriever
The Golden Retriever is an athletic breed with lots of intelligence and trainability. They are friendly dogs, sometimes to a fault, and while they don't make great guard dogs they are lovely, loyal family pets.
13. Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd is surprisingly, not all that Australian. Developed in California, these are the ultimate ranch dogs, great for working with large livestock such as cattle and horses, although they were originally bred to work with sheep.
14. Flat-coated Retriever
The Flat-coated Retriever is a tenacious, trainable breed from England. They were bred to retrieve game on land and in the water and their long black or brown coats are reminiscent of their Setter ancestors.
The Rottweiler is a dependable dog, traditionally a herding breed, they also make great guardians as they are loyal and protective. They were used in Germany as butcher's dogs, sometimes pulling carts full of meat to market as well as herding animals to be slaughtered.
16. German Shorthaired Pointer
Another fantastic hunting breed, the German shorthaired pointer is a versatile gun dog. Not only are they talented at finding game (and pointing at it), they are good at retrieval and have a high prey drive, making them a great companion for hunting or shooting.
Though small, the Papillion is a clever pup and you shouldn't be surprised if you see them cleaning up at an agility event. They are trainable and eager to please, with beautiful butterfly-like ears atop their heads.
18. Welsh Corgi
The Welsh Corgi is another herding dog with oodles of intelligence. They are a feisty, stubborn breed known for being beloved by the late Queen Elizabeth II of England. Despite their stubbornness, they are very food motivated and therefore quite easy to train.
19. Jack Russell Terrier
The Jack Russell Terrier is a fantastic breed for country living, traditionally used to hunt foxes, they were also used as ratters due to their persistent natures. They love to chase and run, making them a bit of a handful to train, but can be great pets with the right tools. Remember that although they are small, terriers are working dogs and need a job to do (even if that job is bring you a ball).
Dobermanns are a guardian and companion breed that will want to be involved with whatever you're doing. They are rewarding dogs to train, as they are eager to please and love a new challenge.
21. English Springer Spaniel
The English Springer Spaniel is a gundog breed with seemingly endless energy. This breed is a great multitasker that tends to thrive with a job, making them great candidates for agility competitions and working homes.
22. Yorkshire terrier
A small package full of brains, the Yorkshire Terrier is a toy breed and popular lap dog. They are descended from rat catchers and you may find yours barking at sounds and intruders like a guard dog, despite their tiny size.
23. Welsh Terrier
The Welsh Terrier looks like an Airedale that has been shrunk in the wash. They are, however, their own distinct breed, traditionally used as hunting dogs to go after foxes, badgers and rodents. They are typical terriers, stubborn but trainable if you have the right incentive.
24. Old English Sheepdog
While the Old English Sheepdog may look like a fluffy house dog, more suited to life by the fire than out on the hills, under all that hair you will find a smart herding breed. They are active dogs who need lots of exercise and mental stimulation.
The Airedale is the largest Terrier from the British Isles. It is an excellent hunting dog and can also be used for herding, if properly trained.
26. Skye Terrier
The Skye Terrier is an endangered breed from the Isle of Skye in Scotland. They were originally bred to go down animal holes, hunting creatures such as badgers, otters and foxes. While they are small and slightly comical in appearance with their long sweeping bangs, they are true terriers who haven't forgotten their roots as a hunter of hunters. They can be quite shy, but will open up with love, time and play.
27. Boston Terrier
The Boston Terrier is a clever little chap who made it onto our list of the best behaved dog breeds. They are lovely, empathetic dogs who make great companions, although like any terrier, they can be stubborn.
28. Norwich Terrier
The Norwich Terrier is a curious dog with a history of hunting small rodents. They are short in stature, making them good family pets, although their terrier temperament can be a little bossy. Not to be confused with the floppy-eared Norfolk Terrier, the Norwich Terrier has pointy, erect ears.
29. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Staffies have an undeniably bad reputation, and we'd argue it is undeserved. These loyal dogs learn quickly and are eager to please, although they often have the stubborn streak of a proper terrier.
Weimaraners are incredibly obedient dogs and fast learners, possibly owing to their history as hunting dogs. They are some of the best dogs for runners due to their boundless energy, but are happy to curl up at home with their person too.
The Pomeranian is often described as "inquisitive" due to their curious and intelligent nature. They can be a bit too smart for their own good, as they are stubborn and difficult to train, but persistence pays off with these fluffballs and once a command is learned, it won't be forgotten.
32. English Cocker Spaniel
Finally, we have the English Cocker Spaniel, one of the most affectionate dog breeds. They have a similar history to the English Springer Spaniel, used historically as gun dogs, but are split into two lines: the show cocker and the working cocker. Both are intelligent, but the working cocker is the more athletic of the two.
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Lou is an experienced writer and keen dog lover who works at PetRadar's sister site, LiveScience. When Lou isn't covering health and fitness, she's busy spending time with her family dogs or growing all kinds of veggies and flowers on her allotment.