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The 10 Smartest Dog Breeds That Would Ace Any IQ Test

While all dogs make for best friends, some are, um, more lovably clueless than others. But when it comes to working intelligence (i.e. following commands), certain dog breeds stand out from the pack. After surveying almost 200 dog-obedience judges, psychologist Stanley Coren named these breeds as the most intelligent of the bunch in his book The Intelligence of Dogs. The book was published in 1994 and updated in 2006, and remains the landmark piece of literature on the subject.

And, if you’re curious, we’ve answered some FAQs about dogs’ IQs that may blow your mind. For example, have you ever wondered if big dog breeds are smarter than small dog breeds? Or how you even determine a dog’s IQ in the first place? All of that is important to know when it comes to ranking the most intelligent dogs. And remember: smarts aren’t everything. We’ve also ranked the best family dogs, the best apartment dogs, and the healthiest dogs. It all comes down to which breed best suits your family and your needs.

What makes a dog “smart?”

Coren evaluated breeds’ levels of intelligence based on instincts, obedience, and ability to adapt. But pet behavior specialist Sarah Hodgson says it’s all relative. “Some are social and emotionally dependent on people, so they are easier to train and far more receptive to our vision of what they should do,” she says. “But they have little intuitive smarts.”

One example is a hound, because although they’re not receptive, they have superior senses of sight and smell. Similarly, terriers might not take direction well, but they have excellent hearing.

Do dogs have an IQ?

Not exactly. Like Hodgson explained, “IQ” really depends on the quality you’re observing. In Coren’s book, you can have your dog take an IQ test he created based on his analyses. For example, if your dog can learn a new command in fewer than five repetitions, you can consider him among the Einsteins of pups.

Are bigger dogs smarter than small dogs?

It hasn’t been confirmed as a fact, but research suggests that bigger dogs could be smarter. If you look at this list, you’ll find that the only tiny pup is the papillon. Coren recently posed this question in a post for Psychology Today, aptly titled “Are Big Dogs Smarter Than Small Dogs?

Looking at a study from earlier this year, Coren shared, “Data were obtained from 1,888 dogs, and the results were unambiguous. There was a clear trend indicating that larger dogs were able to accurately remember over a longer period of time than were their smaller counterparts.”

Keep in mind, however, that some companion dogs were bred to have particular traits, like being calm and non-confrontational. Hodgson adds that many small breeds are bred down from larger breeds, and thus have similar drives, instincts, and yes, smarts.

Now, let’s talk about our BFFs. These are the smartest dog breeds, according to Coren. Want to a new pup to your pack? Check out these unique dog names.

border collie

Border Collie

The valedictorians of the dog world, these herders took the top spot in Stanley Coren’s intelligence rankings, meaning most can learn a new command in under five repetitions and follow it at least 95% of the time.

poodle

Poodle

Nowadays you can adopt cockapoos, whoodles and goldendoodles, to name a few, but breeders love regular ol’ poodles for more than just their hypoallergenic qualities. The curly coated cuties also took the silver medal for working intelligence in Coren’s survey.

 
german shepherd

German Shepherd

German Shepherds happily serve as police dogs, seeing eye dogs, medical assistance dogs, and therapy dogs, so it’s no surprise that consistent obedience comes standard with this breed.

 
golden retriever

Golden Retriever

That’s right. One of the nation’s most beloved family pets also took home straight A’s in this intelligence survey. While the breed originated in hunting, Goldens also enjoy acting like straight-up goofballs once in awhile too.

 
doberman pinscher

Doberman Pinscher

Dobermans got their start in the late 19th century, when a German tax collector named Louis Dobermann wanted a medium-sized pet to act as both a guard dog and companion. Translation: These fearless protectors can hold their own, and hang with kids.

 
shetland sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog

Smaller than collies, these adorable fluffballs hold their own in herding, agility, and obedience trials. Consequently, Shelties do tend to bark, chase, and herd, but their affectionate nature and love for cuddles will erase any hard feelings.

Best Large Dog Breeds

Labrador Retriever

Labs love to please, whether it’s as guide dogs, narcotic detection dogs, or just everyday family pets. Americans have accordingly made them the most popular breed in the country for a whopping 27 years in a row.

papillon

Papillon

The first toy breed to crack the top 10, papillons aren’t your average lap dogs. The 5-pound wonders often take home top prizes at competitive agility trials, according to the American Kennel Club. Their name — French for “butterfly” — alludes to their tall, pointed ears.

rottweiler

Rottweiler

Rottweilers likely descended from drover dogs in Ancient Rome, with the rugged, dependable temperament to boot. An engaged Rottweiler owner will take care to train and exercise their pooch thoroughly – with the reward of a loving and loyal friend.

 
australian cattle dog

Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog sits outside of the top 50 in AKC’s popularity rankings, but don’t miss out on this smart breed. Alert, curious and pleasant, the high-energy herders do best with a job.