What are the cleverest small dog breeds?

What are the cleverest small dog breeds?

Breed Facts

Most dog owners would probably tell you that their dogs are smart, and most of us have a reasonable level of bias in this respect, just as most people think their baby is the most beautiful one in the world!

Whilst it can be very difficult to measure the intelligence of other species of animals like dogs, there is a widely accepted ranking of 138 different dog breeds that is commonly used as a point of comparison, and this is known as the Coren scale, or Stanley Coren’s “Intelligence of Dogs” listing.

This list was drawn up by canine psychology professor Stanley Coren in 1994 and further developed in later years, and involved assessing and ranking a huge number of different dog breeds based on their ability to learn commands, execute them reliably, and follow them promptly without needing multiple repetitions.

Ultimately, the ranking is designed to provide a useful and meaningful comparison of canine intelligence by breed, identifying which breeds are the cleverest for working applications – and had the list been designed to find out which dogs were the smartest at convincing people to give them a treat or at finding dropped food in the park, it might have rather different!

There is no correlation between the physical size of a dog’s brain and how smart they are either, and several of the dog breed in the top twenty or so positions on the Coren scale are small dog breeds – and some of them may come as a surprise to you!

If you own a small dog breed and are wondering how smart they really are, or if you’re looking to buy a small dog and want to know which ones are the most intelligent, this article will share the five most intelligent small dog breeds, in reverse order. Read on to learn more.

Number 5: The Miniature Schnauzer

The miniature Schnauzer is the 5th most intelligent small dog breed within Stanley Coren’s ranking, and the 12th most intelligent dog breed on the list overall – which gives an early indication of how many small breeds are in the top positions in total!

Miniature schnauzers fall within the grouping on Stanley Coren’s list that are widely expected to be able to learn and understand a brand new command within a total number of five to fifteen individual repetitions or attempts to teach it, and that will follow commands that they do know the first time they are asked to more than 85% of the time.

This places the Miniature Schnauzer in the intelligence grouping that is second from highest, just outside of the top ten list, reserved for dogs that are considered to have “excellent working intelligence.”

Number 4: The Pembroke Welsh corgi

The Pembroke Welsh corgi is the 4th most intelligent small breed within the ranking, and the 11th most intelligent ranked dog breed overall, so just a touch ahead of the 5th-placed miniature schnauzer.

This places the Pembroke Welsh corgi in the same intelligence group as the miniature schnauzer – those considered to have “excellent” working abilities, and just a hair outside of the top ten list itself.

The Pembroke Welsh corgi was historically used as a cattle herding dog in their native Wales.

Number 3: The Papillon

The Papillon is a dog breed whose high intelligence surprises a great many dog lovers, largely due to the fact that the Papillon is a toy dog breed, and not one with a well-known working history. Generally, highly intelligent dogs and working roles go hand in hand – but not in this case!

The Papillon is the 3rd most intelligent ranked small dog breed, and the 8th most intelligent ranked dog breed overall. They’re inside of the top ten overall ranking list as a result of this, which is reserved for dogs considered to be the very brightest dog breeds of all, and they are the only breed in the top ten without a well-known working history.

The brightest dog breeds like the Papillon are commonly expected to learn a brand-new command in just five or fewer repetitions, and follow a command the first time it is asked of them 95% of the time or better.

Number 2: The Shetland sheepdog

The Shetland sheepdog is a dog breed with a well-known working history, and these small and very hairy dogs are the 2nd most intelligent small dog breed of all. They fall in 6th place overall on the intelligence list, and like the Papillon, are considered amongst the brightest of dogs.

They too are expected to learn new commands in less than five repetitions, and execute them reliably first time the vast majority of the time!

Number 1: The (toy or miniature) Poodle

The poodle breed is split into three size rankings, and two of these are small – the toy and miniature poodles respectively. However, for the purposes of intelligence ranking, all three poodle variants are grouped together, and they fall in 2nd place overall out of the 138 different dog breeds ranked, and ergo, joint first place in terms of small dogs ranked by intelligence.

Toy and miniature poodles are both hugely intelligent and versatile dog breeds, as are their standard-sized cousins, and this means that the second most intelligent dog breed in the world actually has small variants within the breed.

Size isn’t everything when it comes to smarts – and our top five most intelligent dog breeds and how they rank compared to their larger peers just goes to prove it!



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