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What Are The Cleverest Large Dog Breeds?

Different dogs have different intelligence levels, often markedly so – and this often depends to a great extent on what breed the dog in question is. Whilst every dog is an individual and even within a breed group there will be measurable differences in how clever any two dogs are, on a broader scale, dog breeds can be ranked in an approximate order of canine intelligence.

Back in the 1990s a canine psychologist called Stanley Coren did just this – and he sought to determine a definitive way to rank dog breeds in order based on their intelligence levels, and this is still the benchmark we use today. 

Coren assessed 138 different dog breeds to determine their working ability and so, working intelligence, based on factors such as how many times they needed to hear a command before they learn it, and how many times they need to be asked to do something before they comply.

The dog breeds across the list are a mixture of all sizes, and at both ends of the scale, small, medium and large breeds can be seen together.

However, when it comes to large dog breeds specifically, there are more of these in the top ten list than dogs of any other size!

If you own a large dog breed you might have wondered how your dog’s intelligence compares to other breeds of a similar size, and if your dog is as smart as you think they are – and if you’re looking to buy a dog of a large breed, finding out if they’re really clever is something most people prefer to know in advance!

With this in mind, this article will tell you the five cleverest large dog breeds of all, based on their position within Coren’s canine intelligence rankings. Read on to learn more.

Number 5: The Labrador retriever

The Labrador retriever is a breed that needs no introduction, and these are personable, loving, kind natured and very versatile dogs that are really popular both within working roles and as domestic pets, as well as being common competitors in canine sports too.

The Labrador is in fact the 6th most popular dog breed in the UK overall thanks to both their personalities and good looks – and they’re the 5th most intelligent large dog breed too! 

However, Labs aren’t just smart compared to other large breeds, and they are in fact the 7th most intelligent dog breed overall, out of 138 different breeds of all sizes.

They fall within the top 10 cleverest breeds, which are those with the highest levels of working ability, and which are expected to learn a new command with less than five repetitions, and execute it first time 95% of the time or better.

Number 4: The Dobermann pinscher

The Dobermann pinscher is a handsome black and tan dog breed that is tall and strong, and that some of us over a certain age might remember as historically having docked tails!

The Dobermann is the 44th most popular dog breed in the UK, and the 4th most intelligent large dog breed.

They’re just a touch above the Labrador in the top ten spot across all breeds too, being the 5th most intelligent dog breed in the world overall.

Dobermanns are expected to learn a new command within five attempts to teach it, and follow commands first time better than 95% of the time.


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Number 3: The golden retriever

The golden retriever is a large dog breed that is tall, long and fairly round, and their long coats make them appear even larger again! Another very versatile breed, the golden retriever is a good fit for both working roles and life as a pet, all of which helps to make them the UK’s 24th most popular dog breed.

When it comes to golden retriever intelligence, this is the 3rd most intelligent large dog breed of all – and the 4th most intelligent dog breed across dogs of all types and sizes.

As you can see, the top ten list of the world’s most intelligent dogs has a serious bias for the big guys, and the top ten includes a total of six large breeds, although the large breed’s first place holder in the intelligence stakes overall (more on that shortly) is a breed that comes in a range of size variants.

Number 2: The German shepherd

The German shepherd is a seriously smart and thoughtful dog that can work things out for themselves and that is a highly loyal and very protective pet to have.

German shepherds are the 8th most popular dog breed in the UK, demonstrating how many positive traits the breed has in total.

They are also really intelligent, and are the 2nd most intelligent large dog breed in the world – and the 3rd most intelligent dog breed overall, out of 138 different breeds of all sizes.

Number 1: The poodle (standard)

The most intelligent large dog breed in the world is the standard poodle, which comes as a surprise to many people, who mistakenly assume that the breed is all style and no substance!

The poodle is also the second most intelligent dog breed in the world overall, and this ranking reflects all three of the recognised poodle size variants – miniature, toy and standard, with only the standard poodle being a large dog breed.

The standard poodle is the 64th most popular dog breed in the UK, so not hugely common – but poodles are also one of the most commonly used breeds within hybrid crossings, so there are an awful lot of smart cross-breeds out there with poodle ancestry too!


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