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A Guide to the Smartest Dog Breeds

Different dogs may be smart in different ways: bloodhounds can follow a week-old scent for over 100 miles and border collies are incredibly talented at doing tricks. And even though dogs are not in the top 10 of the smartest creatures on the planet, they still show incredible abilities for social learning, and they understand human language and moods as well.

5-Minute Crafts found out how dogs’ intelligence is measured and which dog breeds are believed to be the smartest.

Criteria to measure dogs’ intelligence

Dogs have 3 types of intelligence:

  • working
  • instinctive
  • adaptive

Working intelligence is the easiest to measure because instinctive intelligence includes the innate skills a certain breed was made for (and they are very different depending on the breed), and adaptive intelligence is what a dog can learn by itself and these skills may also vary within a breed.

The estimation of the working intelligence of dogs was based on 2 criteria:

  • the number of repetitions a dog needed to learn a new command
  • the number of times a dog performs a known command from the first attempt

In other words, if a pet needs fewer repetitions to learn a new command or if a dog performs a known command from the first attempt (or from almost the first attempt) when the owner gives it, this dog is probably in the top 10 of the smartest dog breeds. So, border collies, which are at the top of the list, can learn from 200 to 1022 words.

There are 4 groups of dogs based on their intelligence:

  • average — dogs need 25-40 repetitions to learn something new, a known command is performed from the first attempt in 50% of cases.
  • above average — dogs need 15-20 repetitions to learn something new, a known command is performed from the first attempt in 70% of cases or more.
  • smart — after just 5-15 repetitions the new material is learned, in at least 85% of cases, dogs perform a known command from the first attempt.
  • the smartest — 5 or fewer repetitions are needed to learn a new command, a known command will be performed from the first attempt in more than 95% of cases.

But remember that intelligence tests don’t always give definite results and it might depend on how much a dog is interested in a toy or how bad they want a treat.

Intelligence studies

Scientists believe that there is a connection between breed type and the number of words a dog can memorize. Dogs that undergo special training like, for example, those that are trained for the military, know 1.5 times more words than dogs without this training. And age has no impact on the number of words a dog knows.

An average dog can react to 89 words or phrases while the smartest breeds can react to 200 or more words, which is comparable to the abilities of a 2-year-old child.

Studies show that house dogs, without training, can recognize words and tell known words from unknown ones in around 200 milliseconds. Dogs understand not only the meaning of words but also the intonation, so they can see the true meaning of a phrase.

Most dogs are smart enough to undergo the general training necessary for everyday life. Some breeds that are considered to be not very smart are great at hunting and have other skills. At the same time, more than 90% of dogs easily recognize the 10 most important commands, like their name, “sit,” “come,” “good girl/boy,” “down,” “stay,” “wait,” “no,” “ok,” and “leave it.” So, the most important thing is not a dog’s intelligence but how well a dog suits you. Smart doesn’t mean easy.

Which dogs are the smartest

There’s nothing wrong with a dog that has an average intelligence. It can learn any commands and may even be able to lead a pack, it will just need a bit more time or a more talented trainer. This category includes:

  • 100. Boston Terrier
  • 100. Welsh Terrier
  • 100. Irish Terrier
  • 100. Ibizan Hound
  • 99. Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • 98. Wire Fox Terrier
  • 97. Chinese Shar Pei
  • 96. Whippet
  • 95. Alaskan Malamute
  • 94. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • 93. Shiba Inu
  • 92. Daschund
  • 91. Great Dane
  • 90. Boxer
  • 89. Deerhound
  • 88. West Highland White Terrier
  • 87. Korthals Griffon
  • 86. Greyhound
  • 85. American Foxhound
  • 84. Jack Russell Terrier
  • 83. Otterhound
  • 82. English Foxhound
  • 81. Tibetan Spaniel
  • 80. English Toy Spaniel
  • 79. Havanese
  • 78. Bichon Frise
  • 77. Siberian Husky
  • 76. American Water Spaniel
  • 75. Black and Tan Coonhounds
  • 74. German Wirehaired Pointer
  • 73. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • 72. Pointer
  • 71. Finnish Spitz
  • 70. Saluki
  • 69. Miniature American Shepherd
  • 68. Kuvasz
  • 67. Irish Wolfhound
  • 66. Curly Coated Retriever
  • 65. Smooth Fox Terrier
  • 64. Bedlington Terrier
  • 63. Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier

Above-average intelligence means that a dog is very obedient. This includes:

  • 62. Dalmatian
  • 61. Norwich Terrier
  • 60. Clumber Spaniel
  • 59. Pharaoh Hound
  • 58. English Setter
  • 57. Miniature Pinscher
  • 56. Australian Silky Terrier
  • 55. Affenpinscher
  • 54. Norwegian Elkhound
  • 53. Irish Setter
  • 52. Kelly Blue Terrier
  • 51. Cairn Terrier
  • 50. Bearded Collie
  • 49. Gordon Setter
  • 48. American Staffordshire Terrier
  • 47. Australian Terrier
  • 46. Newfoundland
  • 45. Field Spaniel
  • 44. Samoyed
  • 43. Manchester Terrier
  • 42. Australian Shepherd
  • 41. Welsh Springer Spaniel
  • 40. Briard
  • 39. Border Terrier
  • 38. Bouvier des Flandres
  • 37. Airedale Terrier
  • 36. Portuguese Water Dog
  • 35. Giant Schnauzer
  • 34. Yorkshire Terrier
  • 33. Puli
  • 32. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Smart dogs are not only quick learners but they are also very obedient and responsive. These dogs can learn a new command in just 30 minutes. They include:

  • 31. Cardigan Welsh Corgi
  • 30. Vizsla
  • 29. Irish Water Spaniel
  • 28. Pomeranian
  • 27. Bernese Mountain Dog
  • 26. Malinois
  • 25. Weimaraner
  • 24. American Cocker Spaniel
  • 23. Brittany
  • 22. Standard Schnauzer
  • 21. English Cocker Spaniel
  • 20. Flat-Coated Retriever
  • 19. German Shorthaired Pointer
  • 18. Keeshond
  • 17. Collie
  • 16. Belgian Sheepdog
  • 15. Schipperke
  • 14. Tervuren
  • 13. English Springer Spaniel
  • 12. Miniature Schnauzer
  • 11. Pembroke Corgi

The smartest breeds are also the 10 most popular breeds in the world. These dogs are the easiest to teach and they are the most obedient. The top 10 are:

  • 10. Australian Cattle Dog
  • 9. Rottweiler
  • 8. Papillon
  • 7. Labrador Retriever
  • 6. Shetland Sheepdog
  • 5. Doberman Pinscher
  • 4. Golden Retriever
  • 3. German Shepherd
  • 2. Poodle
  • 1. Border Collie

Is your breed not on the list?

Don’t be sad! It’s probably because it didn’t take part in the studies.

5-Minute Crafts/Animals/A Guide to the Smartest Dog Breeds
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