All canines are remarkably intelligent — research shows that the average dog can learn up to 250 words and even count small numbers. With that said, some breeds stand above the rest when it comes to trainability.
But trainability isn’t just about sheer brains, as it also requires plenty of patience and obedience on the dog’s part. Even the smartest dog will make a poor training candidate if they refuse to listen to commands.
Whether you’re looking for a canine companion that will excel at tricks and sports or just want a four-legged friend that’s easy to train, here are 20 breeds that fit the bill:
The 13 Most Trainable Dog Breeds According to the American Kennel Club
1. Border Collie
The Border Collie is famous for its herding and agility talents — many breed enthusiasts consider this dog the best herder in the animal world. Its bi-colored coat most often comes in black and white, but other colors also exist, and with a smooth (short) or rough (long) texture. Because of its high intelligence and never-ending energy, frequent exercise and mental stimulation is a must for this breed.
2. Standard Poodle
|Height||15 inches and up|
The Standard Poodle is well-known for its good looks, but this breed offers both beauty and brains. Along with being incredibly smart, the Poodle is quite athletic underneath all of that fur. Because the breed’s fur is hypoallergenic, many allergy-sufferers prefer the Poodle over others. However, its coat requires plenty of maintenance to remain clean, healthy, and attractive.
3. German Shepherd
The breed most often associated with police and military dogs didn’t earn that reputation for no reason. The German Shepherd is an incredibly intelligent, loyal, and all-around trainable breed that loves having a designated job. Plus, their intimidating stature makes quick work of would-be criminals and intruders. As an everyday family dog, though, the German Shepherd requires consistent training to quell any bad habits.
4. Golden Retriever
While the goofy grin and endearing eyes don’t scream intelligence, the Golden Retriever is a remarkably trainable dog. The breed’s eagerness to please its owners and other loved ones means it’s always ready to answer your call. Since the Golden Retriever thrives on having a strong bond with its owner, obedience training is one of the best ways to connect with this breed.
5. Doberman Pinscher
Known for its guard dog capabilities, the Doberman Pinscher isn’t just built for strength and agility. This versatile breed is also one of the smartest dogs in the world. While pop culture may give this breed a rough reputation, it is loyal, smart, and noble. If you plan to introduce a Doberman to your household, however, ensure you’re able to meet this breed’s incredibly high exercise needs.
6. Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland Sheepdog is a bundle of charm and energy, but it’s also incredibly bright. As the breed’s appearance suggests, it is closely related to the larger Collie. Bred to work farms across Scotland’s Shetland Islands, this herder is intelligent and eager-to-please. As a pet, the Shetland Sheepdog excels at agility and other canine sports.
7. Labrador Retriever
As America’s most popular dog breed, the Labrador Retriever is a household name. While it’s most famous for its unfaltering loyalty and retrieving abilities, the breed is also very receptive to training. Maintaining control over this breed’s outgoing personality can be a challenge, but as long as your Labrador is made to feel like part of the family, it will respond well to obedience training.
The Papillon is a bright-eyed, cheerful toy breed that resembles a cross between a Chihuahua and a Pomeranian. Its bat-like, long-haired ears are a standout trait, made even more dramatic by the breed’s dainty appearance. The Papillon thrives on human companionship and is noticeably receptive to training compared to most other toy breeds.
Like the Doberman Pinscher, the Rottweiler is known more for its build and ability to intimidate than for its brains. While its sheer size and strength make handling an adult Rottweiler quite the challenge for inexperienced dog owners, the breed is quite trainable. Early training and socialization is a must for the Rottweiler, as well as including them in family activities and not leaving them alone for extended periods of time.
10. Australian Cattle Dog
Also known as the Blue Heeler, the Australian Cattle Dog displays the intelligence and resilience of a highly skilled herder. The breed is directly related to the wild Dingo, giving it a serious stubborn streak. While the Australian Cattle Dog won’t always respond well to basic training like “Sit” or “Shake,” the breed excels at farm work and canine sports like agility or herding.
11. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
|Weight||Up to 28-30 pounds|
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi might look like a lap dog, but this breed was actually developed for herding. The Corgi’s short legs allow it to dodge kicks from cattle and other livestock, making it the ideal herding dog. Because of this, the dog is quite athletic and receptive to obedience training. Don’t be fooled by its stature — the Corgi requires lots of exercise to stay happy and healthy.
12. Miniature Schnauzer
Behind the Miniature Schnauzer’s unique appearance is a sharp mind that loves learning new things. The largest training challenge with Schnauzers is their tendency to grow bored of repetition and tasks they deem “too easy.” Enrolling in different obedience and canine sports classes is a great way to keep things interesting for your dog, along with varying at-home training sessions to keep things fresh.
13. English Springer Spaniel
As a bird-hunting dog, the English Springer Spaniel was specifically bred to work and bond closely with humans. It trains easily with little guidance, though spending too much time alone can trigger the development of negative behaviors. The breed loves exploring new and exciting environments, so adventuring out to local parks and hiking trails is an excellent way to keep your dog engaged while improving your bond.
Another 7 Extremely Trainable Dog Breeds
While these 13 dog breeds might be at the top of the AKC’s list when it comes to trainability, there are numerous other breeds that make excellent obedience, agility, or herding partners.
If you’re looking for a dog that’s receptive to training and highly intelligent, check out these breeds as well:
- Belgian Malinois
- American Eskimo Dog
- Australian Shepherd
- Cardigan Welsh Corgi
- Bernese Mountain Dog
Choosing a breed that’s highly trainable isn’t just important for those who want to participate in obedience or other canine sports. Trainability can also determine whether or not a dog breed fits into your household and overall lifestyle.
At the same time, every single dog is a unique individual. While a particular breed might be highly trainable, some members of that breed may be more stubborn or even less intelligent than their counterparts. It’s important to keep an open mind when bringing home any pet, even if it’s a purebred dog.
Plus, whether you own a “highly trainable” breed or not, never discount the impact professional training can have on your dog’s behavior and overall obedience. Even incredibly smart dogs can benefit from an expert’s advice!
Have you ever owned one of these trainable breeds? Do you know a remarkably smart do that’s not one of these breeds? Let us know in the comments below!
Emily started this blog out of pure passion. She LOVES her 3 dogs; Chew Barka, Cooper & Nelson, and spends countless hours every day playing with them.
When she’s not nerding out on dogs, you’ll find her on a snowboard or in the kitchen baking chocolate brownies.
She’s been featured in PetAware, Dogtime, and ModernDog.
- The 13 Most Trainable Dog Breeds According to the American Kennel Club
- 1. Border Collie
- 2. Standard Poodle
- 3. German Shepherd
- 4. Golden Retriever
- 5. Doberman Pinscher
- 6. Shetland Sheepdog
- 7. Labrador Retriever
- 8. Papillon
- 9. Rottweiler
- 10. Australian Cattle Dog
- 11. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- 12. Miniature Schnauzer
- 13. English Springer Spaniel
- Another 7 Extremely Trainable Dog Breeds