We Wanted to Know the Smartest Dog Breeds to Have as Pets

Many of us like to think that our dog is just smarter than all of the other dogs out there.  For those of you who were wondering just how your pooch stacks up against other breeds…we’ve taken the time to put this list together with the input from the world-renown celebrity animal trainer Brandon McMillan.  You may recognize Brandon from the Ellen Degeneres Show or as the host of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel as well as the host of the TV show, Lucky Dog.  Well the guy obviously knows what he’s talking about as he’s just written a new book called Lucky Dog Lessons. In the book he shares the knowledge he has gained working with thousands of dogs of every breed and personality.

Brandon McMillan training a dog

We asked Brandon for his list of the smartest dogs out there and he explains, “Intelligence all depends on what they’re bred for. Beagles are scholars at scent tracking but terrible at obedience.  This means they’re remarkable at search and rescue but not exactly a well-mannered family pet.”

He goes on to say, “If we’re just talking obedience for the modern day family then here are the usual suspects.”  So take a look at his list of the smartest dog breeds and see if your dog is on there. If you’re thinking about getting a new pooch, this list could certainly help you find the next furry-pawed Einstein!

Border Collie

Border Collie - One of the Smartest Dog Breeds

Originally bred to herd livestock, especially sheep in the Scottish region, studies show that the Border Collie is highly regarded for their keen sense of intelligence and obedience.


Aussie Shepherd

Australian Shepherd - Very Intelligent Dog Breed

These dogs are known for their trainability and their agility. Australian Shepherds have tons of energy, are very obedient and are always eager to please their humans.


German Shepherd

German Shepherd looking brilliant


This breed’s intelligence is so often recognized that they are a very popular choice for service dogs and search-and-rescue dogs around the world today.



Malinois are intelligent working dogs often used in the military

These dogs are so intelligent that the soldiers of the United States military often entrust them with their lives. You may have noticed that the star of the recent Warner Bros. film, Max, was a Malinois.


Standard Poodle

Are poodles smart - yes

Poodles come in all shapes and sizes but not only are they super smart, they have hypoallergenic qualities that make them very popular for the modern family!



Papillons are surprisingly smart

Known as excellent watchdogs for their small size, Papillons are known to be very affectionate in addition to displaying great intelligence.


Labrador Retriever

Labs are smart and friendly

One of the most popular breeds today, the Lab’s intelligence makes them a likely choice as seeing-eye dogs. Their emotional intelligence is also a good reason why many are therapy dogs for those with autism.


Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are Smart Dogs

These active and fun-loving dogs are known for their obedience-command trainability that shows a correlation with intelligence. Add all of this up and you get a prototypical family pet!


Doberman Pinscher

Pinschers are much smarter than people give them credit for.

Known for its high energy, the Doberman consistently ranks near the top in experimental studies and expert evaluations. Dobies are known for their protective instincts over their owner families.



Rotts are strong, loyal and smart.

Originally bred to herd cattle, these strong and loving dogs are known for their protective instincts. Rotts are highly trainable as puppies but may require more patience if training an adult dog.

Bottom Line

Regardless of which breed you end up adopting, good training is essential. So grab a dog training book and get to it!

Also, lists like these always miss something. Tell us which of the smartest dog breeds are missing from the list in the comments below.


Jason Statson

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