The 5 Smartest Dog Breeds You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
German shepherds make great police dogs. Labradors have the stuff it takes to be a stellar service dog. A beagle’s nose makes it a prime candidate to be a sniffer dog at the airport.
There are certain dog breeds we know and love for being smart—but some other, lesser-known breeds deserve some recognition, too!
Before we dive into these brainy breeds, let’s explore a key question: what really makes a dog smart? A doggie IQ test doesn’t exist and even if it did, it probably wouldn’t do a great job at pinpointing the most intelligent breeds. That’s because different breeds have different strengths, and there are a lot of ways that a dog can be considered “smart”.
Some dogs are highly trainable; others are so smart that they’ll just laugh in your face (not quite literally) when you try to tell them what to do. Some dogs have a nose that knows, while others are tenacious trackers who will keep going and going and going. All of these—and more—are traits that no doubt make for a smart dog, but it is tough to say absolutely that one breed is smarter than another.
Having said that, these five unique breeds have special skills that surely set them apart.
The Cane Corso
This big breed (weighing up to 110 pounds) might be a little intimidating at first encounter, but Cane Corsos are equal parts brawn and brain. Its imposing stature is part of the reason it makes for a great guard dog, but there is more than meets the eye. Strong and highly trainable, Cane Corsos are also known for being valuable big game hunting companions. They’re very loyal and affectionate towards their owners.
Though they are relatively little guys (clocking in around 25 pounds), Mudis are busybodies that are super smart and eager to work. Hailing from Hungary, they’re used to working around farms, taking care of chores like driving flocks of up to 500 sheep, exterminating mice and other pesky critters, and guarding the property. This sporty little breed has also been known to make a fine search and rescue dog.
The Canaan Dog
Is there anything the Canaan Dog can’t do?
Thousands of years ago, the Canaan Dog was known for making an excellent guard dog and for its superior herding skills in its home country of Israel. The breed eventually became undomesticated, they were introduced to specialized training programs that taught them to fill many roles in wars—from mine detectors to messengers to first-aid assistants.
Nowadays, the Canaan Dog has been developed to be guide dogs for the blind in Israel. Make no bones about it—the multi-skilled Canaan Dog is the real deal, acing agility, conformation, and obedience competitions.
As the name suggests, the shaggy Otterhound was initially bred by British fisherman for keeping pesky otters from their fish. Their webbed feet paired with high stamina means that they can stay in the water for hours on end. For a time in the ‘70s, the Otterhound became a protected species.
These days, there are only around 600 Otterhounds around the world, but these dogs—known for their super sensitive snouts—have been used to help hunt. They are loving and enthusiastic, but need a lot of exercise (of course, swimming is their activity of choice!)
The Bedlington Terrier
You’d be forgiven for mistaking the Bedlington Terrier for a sheep, but do not underestimate this speedy, sharp breed. The energetic Bedlington Terrier is a jack-of-all-trades: it can outrun a rabbit, outsmart a badger, swim down an otter, and take care of vermin issues.
This dog is so smart that it isn’t always easy to train. Beware of its stubborn streak: patience, positive reinforcement, and consistency are the keys to proper pup behavior. Mental stimulation is just as key as physical stimulation—the Bedlington doesn’t like to be bored.
These days, you’re more likely to encounter the Bedlington Terrier curled up on a couch in a family home than out in a field—but you can bet on the fact that the Bedlington Terrier will ensure that house is kept free of mice.