The 10 Smartest Dog Breeds

If you've ever had a dog find their way into a bag of food or over a fence, you already know they're ranked among the most intelligent species of animals — right up there with chimpanzees, elephants and dolphins. But as any dog owner will tell you, some are definitely smarter than others — and a lot of that may come down to breed.  If having a smart dog is important to you and you're willing to keep them mentally engaged, here are the breeds most willing to put in a hard day of thinking.

10. Australian Cattle Dog

Yes, the Australian cattle dog from Down Under. A working dog that is traditionally occupied with controlling and herding cattle, its qualities are exceptional intelligence, alertness, resourcefulness and a fiercely protective loyalty over its property and people. They are agile, strong, active dogs, both physically and mentally, which revel in new experiences. The flip side is that they bore easily and will unintentionally find trouble while looking for activities to occupy themselves with. The cattle dog is very organized; many are known for putting their own toys away after playing.

At 19-inches tall and 30 to 60 pounds, they aren't huge dogs, but they're not the best choice unless you have plenty of wide-open spaces.

9. Rottweiler

Another herding dog, the rottweiler began in Germany as a true work companion. They are still primarily used for work as guard dogs and as police dogs. They are well-known for their stoicism, keen perception, courage and unflagging loyalty. They make excellent additions to the family.

Ready for a surprise? Even at an average of 100 pounds and as much as 27-inches high, these pooches aren't awful at apartment dwelling so long as you keep them well-exercised.

8. Papillon

This deceptively cute, butterfly-eared dog is smarter, tougher and stronger than it appears (it's like the bionic dog). Often described as a big dog in a little body, it has the athletic stamina to keep up on long walks and the bravura of a canine 10 times its size. The Papillon is a true companion and watchdog. Although they can be ferociously protective over what belongs to them, their keen intelligence makes it possible to take them anywhere. Let's not forget they can be litter-box trained, a big plus.  These sweet pooches are a teensy 10-inches high and weigh only 9 pounds, perfect for those with smaller homes or apartments.

7. Labrador Retriever

Another member of the working class of dogs, Labs are best known for their intelligence, affection, patience and gentility, making them perfect companions for households with kids. They are easily trained and, in fact, are one of the top dogs chosen for search and rescue, assisting the disabled and police work. They are also known to self-train, observing behaviors in humans and repeating them — a great asset in emergency situations.

Despite their size (about 22-inches tall and 65 pounds, though some males can get as big as 100 pounds), they do pretty well in spacious apartments with plenty of exercise or in moderate homes with an average-size backyard.

6. Shetland Sheepdog

Another herding dog, the Shetland takes this ability into the home, showing the same commitment and protectiveness over its human "herd" as the farm-raised version does. Highly intelligent, the Sheltie handles life with great efficiency and diligence, learning new commands with little repetition and making sure that all the family is safe, sound and in place. Shelties show great devotion to their families and are happy to live just about anywhere — while they're pretty active indoors, they're OK without a yard if sufficiently exercised, and despite their collie-like looks, they're pretty petite at a max of 16-inches tall and 27 pounds.

5. Doberman Pinscher

Due to an inborn fearlessness and deep stamina, the Doberman is one of the most popular breeds of guard dogs. Smart and assertive, they can easily be trained for dominance or docility. Because of their past as war and police dogs, they may appear fearsome, but they are actually quite gentle. Their loyalty and acuity make Dobermans great additions to the family.  The average Doberman is about 26-inches high and 66 to 88 pounds, but the kennel clubs have dubbed some much larger Dobes "Warlock Dobermans."

4. Golden Retriever

A very affectionate and popular breed, the golden retriever is highly regarded for its intelligence. They can learn well over 200 commands, making them indispensable companions both in the home and in the workplace. Loyal, loving and patient, with a willingness to please and a love of learning, this is a fabulous companion pet to bring into your family.  These are sturdy dogs that top the scales at 80 pounds, so they need a bit of room but can easily be apartment dogs if they're sufficiently exercised. But they would probably prefer a medium-size backyard.

3. German Shepherd

The shepherd was originally bred specifically for intelligence. Smart, courageous and protective, the German shepherd is one of the most dependable of companions. They learn tasks after only a few repetitions and obey commands nearly always the first time they are given. They are eager to learn new tasks as this gives them direction and purpose — very important for a shepherd. Besides being used for herding animals, they are often used as guard dogs, police dogs and search-and-rescue dogs and have even been trained by the military for parachute jumps.

They're fairly big dogs at 24 inches and 80 pounds, but surprisingly, if they're well-exercised, they're not too shabby at living in a roomy enough apartment, though they much prefer a big yard to romp in.

2. Poodle

Easily trainable, steadfast and sharp-minded, poodles flourish in human company. Even with the froufrou hairdos, poodles are made to endure and can be quite effective as guard dogs, especially the standard-size poodles. In fact, the "poodle clip" was created specifically for the working poodle, so it could swim more effectively while still having fur to protect its organs as it went about the business of hunting and retrieving.

The poodle excels at training and obedience and also loves creative playtime. This is what made them so popular as circus performers. But this can be a drawback as well. If left alone to boredom, poodles can be creative about finding ways to amuse themselves, sometimes finding trouble along the way.

They come in a variety of sizes, from toy to standard, so there's sure to be a version of these fluffy-haired Poindexters for any size house.

1. Border Collie

Because of their extraordinary intelligence and high energy, it is essential to give border collies an occupation or purpose, or you may well find your home wrecked upon your return from a long day at work. They have an intense connection with humans, making border collies ideal work and home companions.  However, keep this in mind: Border collies invariably will not do well unless they are with people who are as high-energy as they are. They do best with humans who can participate in dog sports with them. Also, because of their background as herding dogs, they may be frustrated by small children as their inability to herd the children as they deem fit is confounding for them. For the right human, the border collie is well-behaved, exceptionally good at learning and a true-blue companion.