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Instinctive, Adaptive, Working & Obedience Intelligence
Every breed of dog has their own strengths and intelligence, depending on why and how they were bred. In 1994, Dr. Stanley Coren, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia VA, published a book aptly called “The Intelligence Of Dogs” that would rank 133 breeds of dog in order of intelligence. He did this by defining three sections of dog intelligence to test individually. The three categories were instinctive intelligence: the tasks the dog was originally bred for, whether that be herding, fetching, guarding or pointing. Adaptive intelligence: the dogs problem-solving ability. Working and Obedience intelligence, the ability for a dog to learn from humans. He designed tests for each category and then added the results together. The dogs that got into the top 10 of Coren’s list were able to quickly learn new commands and perform them 95 percent or more of the time. Whether or not your dog passes the tests above, many scientists do think intelligence and breed are closely related. Here we look at Doctor Coren’s top 10 most intelligent dogs in the world
10) Australian Cattle Dog
Due to their intelligence, this breed is determined in his actions and this can make him a little stubborn too. For this reason, he works best under a leader who can keep up with the challenge of training him. This dog is super adventurous and loves exploring and figuring out what’s around him. Well trained, he’ll learn anything you throw at him, whether that’s agility and obedience, training, tracking or hunting, this clever canine can do it all. Because of this, Australian Cattle dogs have been used in movies such as Mad Max. They are natural superstars that are easy to train for action movies.
These brawny, bulky dogs come in ninth place. Their stature comes from their original purpose to herd cattle and pull carts. These dogs are natural leaders and they were among the first dogs to serve with honor in the military. Due to their intelligence and body strength, the only reason this breed isn’t higher in our list is because this canine has a thin line between protectiveness and aggression and requires plenty of firm training and socialization early on to make sure he respects and obeys people. Did you know Rottweilers played an important role in history- they marched with the Romans and helped them conquer Europe. They were trusted with the job of guarding herds of cattle due to their intelligence and strength.
When you look at the ears of this funny little dog, you can see they fan out like wings and is the reason they’re called Papillons, which means Butterfly in French. He’s highly active and is very obedient with a great memory and learns commands very quickly. It’s for this reason he was popular with regal lords and ladies of the past. In fact, Marie Antoinette’s favorite dog was a Papillon called Coco. He was with her when she was arrested, and provided comfort to her in her final days. It’s even said she carried him with her to the guillotine. Although his owner was killed, Coco managed to survive the French Revolution and lived until the grand old age of 22, ending his days back in Paris. Although he looks like a lap dog, if you’re looking for a furry friend to chill out with you on the sofa, this guy will not be the best option. He’s far too inquisitive for that- he’ll be flitting about finding something to do. This breed is a fantastic choice to train for agility and obedience competitions, anything that’s a challenge. Saying that, if you have other dogs be careful, the Papillon may try and boss them around, even if they’re much bigger than him.
7) Labrador Retriever
The placid, friendly Labrador is probably best known for one job- being a guide dog. Of course, only a really intelligent dog could be trusted with the person’s life day-in day-out. Where an average dog can learn around 165 commands, a Labrador can learn around 250, alongside memorizing life-saving rituals like waiting at a set of traffic lights. They are also unbelievable problem solvers. Take Orlando the guide dog as an example, when his owner Cecil fainted and fell out some train tracks, Orlando knew that this was dangerous and jumped down to stand next to his owner. While barking frantically looking for someone to help, because of his knowledge of what to do in a dangerous situation, both Cecil and Orlando were fine.
6) Shetland Sheepdog
As the name suggests, number 6 comes from a small island called Shetland in the north of Scotland. They were originally bred to herd sheep for farmers as well as guard the land from pesky vermin like birds or rats because they could memorize their owners different whistles and know exactly what their human wanted from them. Nowadays they are dog sport superstars and well known for their ability to learn tricks. In fact, Shetland Sheepdogs are often a little too smart. You might find them trying to herd squirrels rabbits and children, but this should not be encouraged!
5) Doberman Pinscher
One of the most trusted guard dogs in the whole world, this breed is one of the youngest at only around 150 years old. Legend has it that the breed was designed and bred by a taxman (Louis Doberman) who, because of his career, often found himself walking through the streets with money, so required a smart refined dog with the ability to protect him too. So they’ve been bred to be especially smart and know what to do in any situation. Dobermans are extremely athletic and intelligent dogs, so no task is out of their league. The list of work that Dobermans do because of their ability to learn is incredible, ranging from police work, search and rescue, to guiding the blind. Tanna the Doberman is so smart she can understand hundreds of commands. She even knows numbers as her owner trained her to distinguish between numbers 1 to 20. When he throws a ball, he will say only fetch when I say 3. He will then list lots of numbers and she won’t budge, only running off to retrieve the ball when he finally says 3.
4) Golden Retriever
Just missing out on the top 3 is the Golden Retriever. This breed is known for their excellent retrieving ability, first being used by hunters to bring back shot down birds. They were able to learn lots of human actions, so they could help even when their owners were being very quiet so as to not disturb their prey. Because of this, they loved games that involve retrieving and are very obedient, which, along with a good temperament and above-average IQ, make them a delight to train. Yogi, The Golden Retriever is an excellent example of the breed’s problem-solving skills. When his owner Paul Horton went over his handlebars and hit his head, Yogi knew exactly what to do. He didn’t want to leave his owner’s side. He went to the main road and alerted people there was a problem by frantically barking. His quick response saved his owner’s life.
3) German Shepherd
A firm favorite with police and army units over the world, the GSD is a natural protector and, as the name suggests, originated in Germany as a herding dog but bred for military work in the 19th century. Due to their super brainpower, not only can a German Shepherd sniff out narcotics, weapons and enemies, but they are also brave and will protect their owners with their life. Not only this but they’re favorable acting dogs, as they can learn a number of commands and are happy to please their owners. Rin-Tin-Tin is the most famous movie star dog of his breed, starring in 27 Hollywood movies. He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!
Poodles are one of the smartest dogs on earth but time and time again they surprise people at just how much of an intelligent canine they are. They were originally bred to retrieve things from the water, their curly thick fur keeping them warm during a long day of jumping in and out of ponds and rivers. They were picked for this job as they learned really quickly and are good at picking up commands and figuring things out for themselves. They are excellent problem solvers, so it’s true that the poodle isn’t just a pretty face and it doesn’t have to be a purebred poodle. As poodle cross Bandit proved, she was being looked after by her neighbors when a fire broke out in the kitchen. Although fire alarms didn’t go off, bandit jumped on the sleeping residents until they awoke and got out of the house. Due to Bandit’s quick thinking, the whole family survived and the house was saved.
1) Border Collie
At No 1 is the super smart Border Collie. This breed originated from the UK, where it is still used today to herd sheep. They are often described as the most intelligent dog in the world due to their ability to train and remember a huge list of words. Border Collies are trained to listen to their owner’s whistles and words, but their super power comes in the form of their massive memory. Typically, dogs can learn on average 165 words, but collies can learn four hundred+. Have you heard of the Border Collie Chaser? She knows over 1,000 words, having memorized the names for hundreds of different animals, balls and toys. She can even understand two basic sentences like commands relating to how she should touch a toy such as the ball “Paw The Tiger”. As you can see, most of these intelligent dogs were bred for jobs that require their own decision-making, concentration and, above all, intelligence.
Dogs aren’t the only animals with an excellent brain. Dolphins are problem-solving whiz kids and even have names for each other in the form of unique squeaks with many that can even understand sign language. Pretty impressive, isn’t it, and you don’t have to be a scientist to measure a dog’s intelligence. There are some simple tests you can do at home to see if your dog is a smart cookie. See if your dog learns commands faster than others. If you have to correct him less than six times, then he has above-average intelligence. A simple game of hide-and-seek can also quickly tell you if you’re dealing with a genius. Show your dog a treat and hide it somewhere in the room, take him out of the room and give him some attention to distract him from the task in hand before leading him back into the room. If he goes straight for the treat, he has excellent spatial awareness and memory skills. If your dog is on this list, do they seem to live up to the intelligent reputation of their breed? Are you shocked at any of these smart breeds? Let us know in the comments below!