Study Proposes Smartest Dog Breed And You May Be Surprised

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis

Dogs are smart, that’s for sure. But some breeds are thought to be more intelligent than others. While many might put Border Collies, Poodles or German Shepherds at the head of the smarty-pants list, a new study finds the Belgian Malinois to be the top dog.

Best dog photo/Shutterstock

A new study has found that the Belgian Malinois sits at the top of the intelligent pack when it comes to dog breeds.


Researchers from The University of Helsinki assessed 1,000 dogs of 13 various breeds. They assigned seven cognitive and three behavioral tasks to the dogs. The tasks assessed everything from independence, quickness to head to a human for help, ability to read human gestures, and problem-solving to get food rewards. 

There were a total of 39 points available on the ranking scale and the Belgian Malinois had the highest score of 35. The Belgian Malinois is often used for protection, guarding and investigation, and it’s no wonder with their scores.

Coming in second place were Border Collies with 26 points. Not surprisingly, as Border Collies are a breed many think are ‘too smart for their own good,’ Hovawart, an old German working breed, came in third place with 25 points. Interestingly, family favorites like the Golden and Labrador Retrievers were in 13th and 19th places, respectively, as they scored highly on gesture recognition but poorly on others. 

Dr. Katriina Tiira is one of the study's co-authors. In an article in The Sunday Telegraph said that the Belgian Malinois stood out in many cognitive tasks and had very good results in the majority of the tests. Dr. Saara Junttila is a co-author of the study and said that most breeds had strengths and weaknesses with each of the tasks. For instance, Labrador Retrievers were good at reading human gestures but not as good at spatial problem-solving. 

The Shetland sheepdog scored pretty evenly in all the tests, as did several other breeds. The breed choices were based on their general interest in working for food and their lack of aggression toward people. The dogs were between a year and eight years old to compensate for youthful and elderly cognitive function. 

The research was done as part of the smartDOG testing between March 2016 and February 2022. There are over 5000 dogs in the smartDog database and more testing can help give breed-specific information that helps in selecting the best breeds for your needs and wants. 

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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