Protecting customers with insurance since 2001

Protecting customers with insurance since 2001

Smart dog breeds

  • 2, May 2023
  • Read time: 11 mins

Learn about the most intelligent dogs depending on their breed, and how this can help you decide what type of dog to bring into your home.

Shetland Sheepdog sitting in the grass

What is dog intelligence?

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and also intelligence levels. From naturally inquisitive to being actively engaged in tasks, there are many ways in which intelligence in dogs can be identified. Some breeds are instinctive, whereas others can be obedient when responding to instruction. 

Not all households will suit a dog who requires a lot of physical or mental stimulation. This guide is here to help you understand the different types of intelligence and help you decide the type of dog to bring into your home.

Which dogs are the smartest?

Whilst not a definitive list, according to many sites, including popular website Spruce Pets, the breeds are varied when it comes to which ones demonstrate particularly high levels of intelligence.

Border Collie

There’s a reason the Border Collie has become famed for its intelligence, due to their ability to listen, problem solve quickly and be trained to an extraordinarily high level. We’re used to seeing them in pastoral situations, such as helping farmers with their flocks of sheep.

Because of their natural instinct to work and play in open spaces, this breed is perfect for anyone who has an active lifestyle. For example, Border Collies are a perfect companion for people who enjoy long walks or running outdoors. As well as being physically active, Border Collies adore being mentally stimulated with toys and puzzles, so be prepared to spend a lot of time with them.

Australian Shepherd

Similar to Border Collies, Australian Shepherds are highly active in nature and easily trained. They often become police or herding dogs. Their loyal nature means their owners will always feel their affection and natural adaptability to surroundings allows for a great daily life routine.

It’s good to be aware these friendly animals can get up to mischief if they’re left alone, so they need lots of attention. But, given the right training and their easy-going nature, they are perfect for families with children.


The Poodle, with its curly fur, round eyes and sleek line, may look like a docile, simple creature. However, if you look past the “pampered pooch” label, you’ll find this breed are full of energy and highly alert.  Extremely social, Poodles may be at risk of allowing their fun-loving personality to get the better of them. But their easy-to-train nature means they’ll soon settle into a routine of puzzle-solving and intelligent play.

Additionally, they don’t frequently shed fur, so they’re a good choice if you or someone in your family suffers from allergies.

Australian Cattle Dog

Don’t be fooled by their stocky frame and sometimes scruffy fur. The Australian Cattle Dog has a sharp mind, strong herding instincts and a highly protective nature, putting them high on the list for intelligence.

If you’re a first-time owner, the cattle dog may be an overwhelming choice, as they need a lot of exercise and are highly territorial.

But if, for example, you live alone and have time on your hands to provide them with attention, you’ll find them a loyal companion. They’re also really easy to groom.

German Shepherd

Also known as an Alsatian, this breed is one of the most popular dog types, both as working dogs and as pets. Their ability to cope in high-pressure environments makes them a natural choice for police work and are extremely dedicated to their owner. They enjoy both physical and mind-led challenges due to their obedient and clever temperament.

Their intelligence, mixed with a calm, lovable personality makes them an ideal choice for any home that can provide them with a garden or access to an outdoor area. They need a lot of space to move their large bodies around and also plenty of exercise.

Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdogs are extremely loving in nature. They were traditionally a working dog due to their ability to learn commands in an incredibly short space of time. They love to please and will demonstrate this by responding well to instruction.

Shelties make for wonderful family pets. They can be prone to separation anxiety due to their extremely loyal nature. But given a few calming techniques you’ll find no better friend who loves to play, will join you for walks and enjoys a good doggy puzzle.


Named from the French word for “butterfly” due to their long, fringed ears, the Papillon is a small, dynamic and energetic little dog. They’re a popular breed amongst the dog competition community as they can take direction extremely well, and at speed. Just watch them fly around an obstacle course with ease!

Obedience training is important with this breed as their tendency to get a little hyper may lead to frustration. However, they are friendly little souls, so will make a happy addition to smaller household.


Rottweilers are a solid and powerful breed, yet also respond extremely well to reward-based training. Confident and calm, their intelligent nature makes them alert and protective of their surroundings. Yet they can also be extremely happy-go-lucky!

Jack Russell Terrier

This bouncy and bright-eyed breed has historically been bred to hunt, due to its inquisitive and agile nature. Put them into a domestic setting and they’ll take pleasure in demonstrating any tricks you’ve taught them. Energy and bags of confidence combine in this little dog. They are happiest when they’re allowed to get curious and explore their surroundings.

If you’re considering a family dog, you can rarely go wrong with a Jack Russell. They’ll love to get you under their “direct gaze” (thinking they’ve outsmarted you!), but as a result will reward you plenty of affection, which is one of the many benefits of owning a dog.


The intelligence of this breed is reflected in its name “retriever”. They were bred for use as hunting dogs who would bring prey back to its owner. Nowadays, they’re trained as guide dogs due to their incredible ability to listen, learn and be protective of their owner.

As well as being clever, retrievers are incredibly kind, demonstrating a high level of loyalty to their owner. They are playful with children and make wonderful pets for both individuals and families alike. They’re happy meeting new people so, if you’re new to owning a dog, retrievers make great choice.

Insuring your dog

Pets may find themselves getting into a spot of trouble from time to time. It’s worth considering insuring your dog so they could be covered if they need treatment or care.

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