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The Most Intelligent Dog Breeds and How to Train Them

Dog intelligence is a complex subject. Various breeds exhibit diverse types of intelligence, with some dogs being more trainable, some showing excellent problem-solving abilities, and others demonstrating remarkable instinctual intelligence. This article will focus on some of the most commonly recognized intelligent dog breeds and offer insights on how best to train them.

Understanding Dog Intelligence

Dr. Stanley Coren, a professor of canine psychology, identifies three types of dog intelligence in his book “The Intelligence of Dogs.” These are:

  1. Instinctive Intelligence: This refers to the skills that a breed was developed for, such as herding, retrieving, tracking, or guarding.
  2. Adaptive Intelligence: This involves a dog’s ability to solve problems on their own.
  3. Working and Obedience Intelligence: This refers to a dog’s ability to learn from humans, which is often the factor that most people consider when they think about intelligent dogs.

The Most Intelligent Dog Breeds

While there is considerable variability even within a breed, some breeds are widely recognized as being among the most intelligent.

  1. Border Collie: Known for their working and obedience intelligence, Border Collies are incredibly trainable and are famous for their problem-solving skills.
  2. Poodle: Poodles are not only highly trainable but are also known for their adaptive intelligence. They’re excellent problem solvers.
  3. German Shepherd: German Shepherds are known for their versatility, excelling in most things they’re trained to do. They’re widely used as service and police dogs.
  4. Golden Retriever: Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular family dogs. They’re known for their trainability and their eagerness to please.
  5. Doberman Pinscher: Dobermans are known for their protective nature. They are incredibly fast learners and have a high working intelligence.

Training Intelligent Dogs

While intelligent dogs can be more responsive to training, they can also be a challenge. They often require more mental stimulation and can get bored easily. Here are some training tips:

  1. Start Early: Begin training when your dog is still a puppy. This helps to instill good habits early on and can make the training process easier.
  2. Use Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement methods are the most effective and humane ways to train dogs. This involves rewarding the behaviors you want your dog to repeat.
  3. Keep Training Sessions Short: Dogs, especially puppies, have short attention spans. Keeping sessions short and fun can make training more effective.
  4. Provide Mental Stimulation: Intelligent dogs need mental stimulation as much as they need physical exercise. Puzzle toys, advanced obedience training, dog sports, and regular socialization can help keep their minds sharp.
  5. Be Consistent: Consistency is key in dog training. Ensure all family members are on board and are using the same commands and rules.
  6. Seek Professional Help if Needed: If you’re struggling with training your dog, don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional dog trainer.


When it comes to dog intelligence, it’s important to remember that intelligence doesn’t necessarily make a dog easier to live with. It often means they need more mental stimulation and can be more challenging to train. Regardless of breed, each dog is an individual with their own strengths and weaknesses. Understanding and respecting their individuality will lead to a more fulfilling relationship with your canine companion.