Dog intelligence is a difficult thing to evaluate. While many dog owners will insist that their pet is “amazingly smart” or openly admit that their pup is “kinda dumb, but tries really hard,” we can’t exactly give dogs IQ tests or ask them to answer a series of riddles. Dogs may not be able to comprehend poetry, but humans can’t recognize each other based on scent alone, so we’re kind of at an impasse, here!
When talking about dog intelligence, trainability and learning speed are two factors that often come into play. And, to be fair, those traits can mean the difference between a smooth transition into a new home or a very rough several months. Here are five dog breeds that tend to “get with the program” a little more easily than their distant cousins:
This breed is practically the gold standard when it comes to canine cleverness! Border collies are frequently considered “the smartest” dog breed known to humankind; they’re quick to learn commands and absolutely excel at creative problem-solving and thinking on their feet. They’re also well-known for their piercing stare, capable of intimidating both animals and people alike.
Unfortunately, the phrase “too smart for their own good” is particularly fitting for these dogs; border collies NEED exercise and mental stimulation to the point where they can become frustrated, neurotic, or destructive if they’re not given outlets for their energy. They’re not above trying to outsmart (or push around) their pet parent if they think they can get away with it.
Overall, border collies are very clever pupils who genuinely enjoy being trained. Thus, they should be “mentored” by willing teachers.
Labrador Retrievers & Golden Retrievers
The stereotypical lab or golden possesses a goofy, fun-loving personality. They’re family dogs through-and-through. This single-minded desire to please their human companions frequently translates to them being eager to learn tricks and skills, even when their teacher is a small child. Edible rewards are not required, but they’re very, very much appreciated!
Due to their cheerful dispositions and innate sense of duty, labs and goldens are very commonly trained to be service animals for humans with special needs. Whether they’re charged with helping blind people navigate the world around them or simply providing steadfast comfort to PTSD-sufferers, these dogs are very quick studies—and they’re able to understand that there’s a time to be a “party animal” and a time to get serious.
While they’re typically very happy to spend their free time snuggling or playing, these dogs do need a decent amount of exercise to stay both physically and emotionally healthy. Fortunately, leash training shouldn’t be terribly difficult.
Hey, you don’t get to be a pageant queen or king by coasting on your good looks alone! Poodles (be they standard or miniature) are excellent at picking up on tricks and commands. So good, in fact, that regular obedience training might not be enough mental stimulation to keep them happy. Like border collies, these fluffy-coated pooches genuinely enjoy high-intensity workouts and complex puzzle-solving. You can teach them to strut their stuff for dog shows or just jump through hoops to impress the neighbors. Either way, poodles aim to please their humans. And if they can look graceful and gorgeous while pulling it off, then so much for the better!
Interestingly enough, poodles don’t shed the way that many other dog breeds do, nor do they produce a significant amount of dander. That doesn’t mean that they don’t require regular brushing or grooming (they definitely do!), but it does mean that they can be a great choice for folks with allergies.
In the realm of dog training, toy breeds don’t exactly have a great reputation; behaviors like jumping, excessive barking, and even snapping are commonly given a free pass when the perpetrator weighs less than 10 pounds. However, papillons are proof that good things can come in small packages! With their bright eyes, big ears, and boundless energy, these dogs are very eager to explore the world around them, and they’re more than happy to learn proper manners from their favorite human(s).
Despite their delicate appearance, papillons are happy to work and gain immense satisfaction from being told that they’ve done a good job. They also have a knack for learning from experience, so it doesn’t take much repetition for them to master a specific trick or command. Just be sure not to let them throw their weight around, as they’re not above “playing dumb” or sulking when they’re ignored or chastised.
If you want the intelligence and trainability of a large dog and the compact size of a toy pooch, consider letting a papillon flutter into your heart!
It’s worth mentioning that no two dogs are exactly alike, and breed is not a guarantee of behavior or temperament. Just as it’s possible to find a bulldog who will hang on your every word and follow commands without hesitation, it’s possible to wind up with a Golden Retriever who’s frustratingly stubborn and strong-willed. You should always do plenty of research before adopting a dog, but understand that you may need to be flexible, too.
The good news is that nearly all dogs can be trained, even if some require a little more practice than others. Most dogs are perfectly happy with their lot in life if they get plenty of exercise, good dog food to eat, and a human companion willing to spend time with them. They’re creatures of simple taste, so let’s show them the patience—and encouragement—that they deserve!