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Most Intelligent Canine Breeds

Looking for a dog that is intelligent?  Exactly what defines intelligence is mostly subjective, as there can be many metrics to measure a breed’s mental abilities.  In some cases, a dog that is highly trainable might be said to more intelligent, whereas a dog that can readily read their owner’s emotional state would be the preferable indicator for an intuition-based intelligence test.  Regardless of how you might measure a breed’s intelligence, a recent survey of veterinarians provides a professional slant on which breeds make the top 5 list of intelligent dogs.

5 – Golden Retriever

The fact that the Golden Retriever makes the list is rather comforting.  According to the AKC, the Golden is the fourth most popular breed in the U.S.  Originally bred as Scottish retrievers to aid in the hunting of water fowl, most Goldens will not shy away from the water.  They are a very well rounded breed, in that they are good with families and children, in addition to being highly trainable as service and agility dogs.  They’re also not always golden, as a platinum or white variation of their color has become quite popular.

4 – Australian Shepherd

merleThe Australian Shepherd hails from down under… just kidding.  Although named after the formally mentioned continent/country, they actually hail from the western United States.  This brainy breed also boasts a brawny side, as they serve a wide range of service and rescue functions in addition to being great with Frisbees and agility courses.  They are most recognizable because of their heterochromia (two differently colored eyes) and merle color patterns.

3 – Poodle

Poodles are known by many to be very smart, so it’s not a big surprise that they are number 3 on this list.  To some, their appearance can present an image of high society and dirt-avoidant behavior.  However, poodles are as active as any other breed on this list.  With three varieties mostly marked by size differences, almost all poodles love the water and sporting activities.  They are also a favorite at confirmation shows, winning best in show on several occasions with the AKC, Crufts, and the World Dog Show.

2 – German Shepherd Dog

gsdThere’s probably a reason that most U.S. police dogs are the same breed: the German Shepherd.  These dogs are highly obedient and protective of their handlers.  Beyond their measure of intelligence, they also have a formidable strength and appearance, perhaps due in part to their breeding heritage.  In 1899, Max von Stephanitz began realizing his vision of the German Shepherd Dog as a working breed, selecting not only for appearance but mostly for temperament and working ability.  Today, GSDs have physical issues, such as hip dysplasia, that many be attributed to confirmation-specific selection.  The right GSD has strength, athleticism, and a highly trainable disposition.

1 – Border Collie

The breed chosen to help tell Father that Timmy’s trapped in the well was well cast.  Actually, there’s some disagreement among Collie fanciers as to the specific breed of Lassie.  The AKC has designations for both Smooth and Rough Collies, the latter of which most dog breeders believe to have been Lassie’s breed.  Regardless, the Border Collie is a high energy, high performance, and highly intelligent breed intended for herding and guarding sheep.  For such an amazing breed, the AKC has only recently recognized the Border Collie (1994), after keeping it in the miscellaneous class for decades.  As with the German Shepherd Dogs, there is contention right now between AKC breeders and ABCA (American Border Collie Association) breeders as to what’s more important: looks or ability.


Regardless of what this list says, many dog owners will claim that their mixed breed is smarter than any other dog of which they know.  They might not be wrong in this assessment.  In order to preserve distinct breed characteristics, breeders MUST inbreed on occasion in order to refine desirable traits that make a breed distinguishable.  On the other hand, excessive inbreeding and selecting for the wrong traits can lead to a multitude of health problems.  We tend to believe that there’s a place for both (purebreds and mutts), and anyone considering getting their family’s first dog would do well to select one from the SPCA or a local shelter.  Not only will you be acquiring a sturdy mixed breed with mixed genetic material that prevents inbred health issues, but you’ll also be saving the life of a devoted, future companion.  That is a truly intelligent choice.