10 Most Trainable Dog Breeds…Where Does Your Dog Rank?

Most trainable dog breeds
View the list of most trainable dogs….

Dogs are clearly intelligent…. they have advanced memory capabilities, and can interpret and react to human body language and voice commands. From a quick finger point to a loud verbal instruction…dogs readily respond to our requests.  I’ve seen this in my own experience and training efforts. My dog responds to both verbal and hand signals, especially when a treat is the motivation.

How smart is your dog?
Have you ever wondered how smart your dog is in comparison to other breeds? The first intelligence test for dogs was developed 43 years ago. The test was given to 100 dogs and standardized, and breed definitions were developed.

More recent research….
Since then, Stanley Coren, a professor of canine psychology and University of British Columbia Professor has surveyed 200 dog-obedience judges to find the smartest breeds. He published the results in 2006 in his book entitled The Intelligence of Dogs. According to Professor Coren, 51% of a dog’s intelligence stems from its genes while 49% is based on environmental circumstances.

Research method
Coren’s ranking focuses on working and obedience intelligence which refers to a dog’s ability to learn from humans.  He sent evaluation requests to obedience trial judges at the American Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club. He requested that the judges rank breeds based on performance. Coren received 199 responses which was about half of the obedience judges working in North America at the time.

The evaluations were limited to breeds receiving at least 100 judge survey responses. In addition, breeds that are not recognized by the American Kennel Club or Canadian Kennel Club were not included in the rankings.

Drumroll please…Smartest Dog Rankings
In terms of the results, Coren discovered significant agreement in the judges’ rankings of obedience intelligence.  The testing for the dogs included obeying the first command 95% of the time or better and listening to the first command 95% of the time or more. The highest ranked dogs in this category were Border collies, Poodles, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Doberman Pinschers.

  1. Border Collie – a working and herding dog bred in the Scottish borders for herding livestock, especially sheep.  Border Collie’s  are well known for their intelligence and obedience.
  2. Poodle – one of the smartest and most trainable dogs, which combines a playful exuberance and an adventurous spirit.
  3. German Shepherd Dog – this clever working dog with origins from Germany is the second-most popular dog breed by registrations worldwide.
  4. Golden Retriever – this sharp dog was bred for hunting because of its ability to retrieve prey without damaging it.
  5. Doberman Pinscher – a high energy and intelligent dog, well suited for guard dog duties, canine sports and a favorite of law enforcement.
  6. Shetland Sheepdog – this is a hard working herding dog that comes from the Shetland Islands of Scotland.  The breed is smart, vocal, and highly trainable.
  7. Labrador Retriever – is not only an ideal family dog, but a great hunting companion. Also the most popular dog breed by registrations worldwide.
  8. Papillon – this lovable dog gets its name from its butterfly-like look of the long and fringed hair on the ears. The breed is very clever and highly trainable.
  9. Rottweiler – this is one of the oldest of herding breeds. The Rottweiler is currently the ninth most popular dog in the United States. The dogs are easily trained and are great protectors of the family.
  10. Australian Cattle Dog – this dog originates from Australia and has its roots as a herding dog for cattle.  The breed is high energy,  smart and has an independent streak.

Does the research hold up?
There hasn’t always been agreement on Coren’s rankings, especially when the results were first published.  Some argue the results show which dogs are highly trainable, but not necessarily intelligent.  They argue the judges are really evaluating a dog’s ability to be trained rather than their intelligence. For example, some dogs get bored with training and look for more engaging options, but are very bright.

Over time these rankings have been widely published and adopted. It is important to view these rankings in terms of intelligence of dog breeds when it comes to trainability and not just as a barometer of intelligence as a whole.

Did your dog breed not make the list?
This post only covers the top ten. Here is the list for over 100 breeds where you may find your dog on the list. If your dog isn’t on this list, it may be outside the top 100. According to the American Kennel Club there are currently 193 recognized dog breeds. This means nearly half of all recognized dog breeds fall outside this top 100 list!

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