Dr. Stanley Coren, neuropsychologist and dog-training expert believes there are three kinds of canine intelligence; adaptive or problem-solving, instinctive and working or obedience intelligence. The first two are specific to the individual dog, while the third is dependent upon breed. “Smart dog” rankings reflect percentages of each kind of intelligence, combined within a single breed. However, it is important to note that smart doesn't necessarily mean trouble-free.
Border collies, robust, medium-sized dogs originating on the border between Scotland and England, were bred to herd sheep over rugged terrain. They are athletic, tenacious and capable of doing their jobs with little guidance from humans. Exceptionally trainable, they need plenty of space and a job to prevent boredom or destructive behavior. This is not a dog for apartment dwellers.
The poodle comes in standard, miniature and toy forms, however, regardless of stature, all are big on brains. Historically hunting dogs, they are among the most trainable of breeds. Though somewhat high-maintenance in the grooming department, poodles are more than stereotypical glamour hounds, but prove energetic and intelligent companions with few health issues.
German Shepherd Dog
German shepherds combine high intelligence with a powerful body designed for specialized work -- often as military and police dogs. German shepherds are loyal and affectionate family pets, but as the No. 1 dog on the infamous biter list, need early training to discourage this behavior.
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For versatility and obedience, the “Golden” scores top marks and remains a preferred breed for service dog training. Goldens may bite if not properly trained, however since they are easy to teach and eager to please, this is usually no difficulty. Generally healthy, they are sometimes prone to hip dysplasia and certain cancers. They love water and running, but can live almost anywhere if regularly exercised. Frequent grooming is a must.
Originally bred to guard, the Doberman with his sleek, powerful body, designed for speed and endurance gives pause to unwanted visitors. However, with modern breeding trending away from aggression; combined with proper training and early socialization, Dobermans make fantastic family pets. Due to low body fat, Dobies thrive best in warmer climates or with protection from cold. They can have serious inherited health issues, so adopt from a reputable breeder.
Not merely a tiny collie, this sheepdog earns her name. Obedient, imminently trainable and eager, this compact dog will do her best for you as a worker or cherished pet. With daily activity to keep her happy and in peak condition, she will make a long-lived and lively companion. The Sheltie's coat needs regular brushing, but her small size makes grooming chores manageable.
Drip-dry coat, paddle-like tail and webbed feet, make the water-loving Labrador seem more duck than dog. As hunters, they have “soft” mouths for retrieving game undamaged, and can carry an egg without breaking it. They need plenty of space for running and early training to prevent a tendency to bite. Though prone to hip, knee, elbow and eye problems, they are generally healthy. Labs are ideal family companions with low grooming needs.
With butterfly ears, alert, expressive eyes and house-cat-sized body, this tiny Einstein is not likely to intimidate intruders though she is sturdier than she looks. Papillons are extremely eager to please, and essentially healthy and carefree. Despite their long hair, they require only a quick daily brushing to maintain a tangle-free coat. Due to their size, they fare best with older children and adults.
Smart, superbly trainable and with a pedigree reaching back to Roman times, the “Rottie” originally earned his keep as a butcher's or drover's dog, with versatility and reputation for fierceness well-documented. Though fitting easily into family life, early training and socialization are absolute requirements to prevent unwanted aggression. He is not for inexperienced handlers. Rottweilers are prone to weak bones, especially hip dysplasia and shoulder problems.
Australian Cattle Dog
Combining the best of the collie and the dingo, the Australian cattle dog is the ultimate cattle dog. This brave, medium-sized dog is extremely active and needs a job to prevent potential destructive behavior. A healthy, long-lived breed, she requires lots of room to move and makes an excellent choice for active, rural pet parents.