Even if you could define “smartest” I am not sure you would get a consensus on which is the smartest breed of dog. Does smartest mean problem solving, learning, obeying commands, or dog IQ testing? (Yes there is an IQ test for dogs). Some dogs are street smart and some are book smart just like people.
Is a dog that gets their food brought to them smarter than one who works or sits for their meal? Certain breeds of dogs learn and follow commands much quicker and easier than others such as the herding and sporting breeds. These dogs were developed to follow human direction and typically come from the same AKC breed “Group”.
If you want to check your dog’s IQ just Google “The Animal Attraction Dog IQ Test” by Stanley Coren. This is one of several different formats that will rate your dog’s intelligence. Coren’s IQ tests check your dog’s problem solving ability, cleverness, and language comprehension. It takes just a few minutes to perform all six tests and you can add up the scores to see if your dog is an Einstein or just wags his tail for no reason. Stanley Coren also has a more detailed 12 step test if you want to really see if you have a canine genius.
AKC has put all of the dog breeds into seven different groups: Toy, Terrier, Working, Hound, Sporting, Non-Sporting, and Herding. (A Miscellaneous group is for the new up and coming breeds). These groupings have breeds in them that have similar traits, characteristics and/or jobs. In honor of March Madness and the upcoming college basketball tournaments I may receive a technical foul for stepping out of bounds and severely reaching on this one, but here goes:
The Herding Group are breeds like the Border Collie, German Shepherd, Australian Shepherd, and Sheltie. They are considered extremely intelligent and athletic. They have a job to do, are strict, and need some, but minimal human direction. If your Border Collie scores over 25 on the dog IQ test, is dolichocephalic (long nose) then Notre Dame and the Big East is your college of choice.
Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Weimaraners, pointers and spaniels are all part of the Sporting Group. They are also intelligent and very athletic, but may need more human direction and intervention. Your lab will have to score well on the IQ test and play multiple roles and sports and be good at all of them like the ACC.
Working Group breeds are the Boxers, Mastiffs, Rottweilers, Giant Schnauzers etc. They are big, burly, down and dirty but still pretty smart. They like to push and shove and mix it up once in a while like the Big Ten. They definitely require more hands on training and control. Without question, if your working pooch needs very calm, soft, positive reinforcement training, then my alma mater’s MSU’s coach Izzo is for you.
Lap dogs love to be primped and catered to and think they can run with the big dogs. These Toy Group Breeds, such as Pomeranians, Shih Tzus, Maltese, Pugs, would rather be carried and have perfect hair just like the “Hollywood” PAC 12 teams. They won’t score well with the human or dog IQ test but their owners, publicists, coaches and they themselves, think they are the best in the world.
The Hound Group was actually bred to disregard everything around them and to do one thing and that is to track. They refuse to take an IQ test and will pay someone else to take it for them. Though they are incredibly athletic, they are also impossible to train. If your Beagle doesn’t care about any rules or regulations then there is only one conference that will let you in, so definitely send him to an SEC school. (They won’t even ask for his IQ results but “donations” are accepted).
Breeds of the Terrier Group like the Cairn, Jack Russell, Airedale, Staffordshire etc. are feisty, energetic, and less social with other dogs. Like their sizes, their dog IQ’s have quite a range. Like the Atlantic 10 conference they can’t get along with others, they love to play ball but when it comes to football they got nothin.
When you have no place to call home and no one else will take you, try the “Old Big East” conference. This is the Group of Non-Sporting Breeds and is made up of an eclectic bunch like the Bulldog, Dalmatian, Lhasa Apso, Chow Chow, Boston Terrier etc. They are generally considered slow on firing of the one neuron in their brain and I am being polite because I have a Bulldog. No one knows for sure what breeds will be allowed to play in this conference. In reality no one really cares either.
The Herding and Sporting Groups are home to most of the breeds that are considered the top ten in “intelligence” but just like the NCAA it depends on if you believe the AP, Coaches, or ESPN poll. So here are the most generally accepted Big Ten rankings of the Smartest Breeds in order: 1. Border Collie, 2. Labrador Retriever, 3. German Shepherd, 4. Poodle, 5. Golden Retriever, 6. Doberman Pinscher, 7. Australian Cattle Dog, 8. Rottweiler, 9. Papillion, 10. Shetland Sheepdog. These are not my rankings so don’t yell at me. None of my dogs even show up in the top 60 breeds. In fact, Remi our Bulldog, is the second least intelligent breed just above the Afghan Hound.
So here is the big caveat. Smart does not mean easiest to train or the best behaved. It can mean that they may attempt to train you. There is something to be said for ignorant bliss and happiness. For those breeds in “Big Ten Canine Conference”, if you don’t provide both mental and physical stimulation to keep them occupied, they will find chores of their own which we in the profession call “remodeling and landscaping”; but like any good contractor they never come back and finish their work. These top ten breeds need to play, run, search, and work “it” off. I had a wonderful yellow Lab who on his first trial at home alone, ate through the drywall, turned a 100 foot garden hose into 12 inch pieces, and dragged a black muck dirt, potted plant around 3 floors. Watch the movie “Marley and Me” to see exactly what Lab owners go through (bring a Kleenex).
I tested Remi’s Dog IQ and I was very proud of him when he got the towel off his head in 2 seconds. He scored a whopping 21 points total which is like Ivy League genius for a Bulldog. Who knows maybe we will get an NIT bid.
(A special thanks to WSBT Sports Director Pete Byrne who I also IQ tested after Remi. He scored a 19 because he took longer to get the towel off his head and didn’t respond to his name when called. Though his hair is very well kept I am not sure he would do well in the PAC 12, he may be more of an SEC or “Old Big East” kind of guy. )