December 1, 2021

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The 20 Smartest Large Dog Breeds

Dogs have been by humans’ sides for thousands of years, helping us hunt, raise livestock and even helping us travel long distances by sled. Our loyal companions have proved themselves to be indispensable, keeping us company and helping us work too.

Although most dogs are smart, their intelligence can manifest in different ways. Some dog breeds are motivated by a desire to please and follow our every command, while others are bred to follow their noses to catch vermin.

Here are some of the most intelligent large dog breeds, according to the American Kennel Club.

German Shepherd

These large dogs are intelligent and form close bonds with their owners, making them wonderful pets. German Shepherds are hard workers, serving in the military, assisting the police, leading the blind and guarding properties too. However, these dogs require a lot of exercise and early socialisation and training are key to ensure good behaviour.

A German Shepherd poses at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2017
Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Getty


Rottweilers are large and muscular and have a natural instinct to perform tasks such as guarding and rescuing. These dogs might be tough, but they make great pets if trained properly and exercised for several hours a day.

Rottweilers are intelligent, hard-working dogs
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Labs are the most popular breed of dog in America, charming people with their intelligence and loyalty. Labradors are gundogs and were bred to locate and retrieve game shot down by hunters. They are very trainable and eager to please.

The Labrador Retrievers is the most popular dog breed in the U.S
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images/Getty

Golden Retriever

The epitome of the family pet, Golden Retrievers love to spend time with their owners. These dogs are happy, trainable and obedient.

Golden Retriever
Golden Retrievers are affectionate, eager to please and easily trained


The Chinook is a type of sled dog created in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the U.S by the explorer and author Arthur T. Walden. Exceptionally smart, these dogs are active and love hiking, playing and games.

Chinook dogs are active and love hiking and exploring
Desiree Navarro/Getty Images

Doberman Pinscher

Doberman Pinschers originated in Germany during the late 19th century, mostly bred as guard dogs. Although people assume these dogs are fierce, they can be loving, loyal pets who want to protect their owners.

Doberman Pinscher
Doberman Pinschers are agile and loyal
Andrew Burton/Getty Images/Getty


The Briard, also known as the Berger de Brie, is a French breed of large shepherd dog. Traditionally used for herding sheep and to defend them, these dogs are smart and hard-working.

Briards are herding dogs that are easily recognisable by their long hair
Matthew Eisman/Getty Images

Berger Picard

The Berger Picard is a tall, sturdy herding dog originating from France. These intelligent canines require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to prevent them from getting bored, which can lead to destructive behaviour.

Briards were first shown at the Paris dog show in 1863
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These famous sniffer dogs have super sensitive noses designed to find people and once they detect a scent, there is little that will get in their way. Although these dogs are very smart, they can be stubborn—especially when tracking—and require good training.

Bloodhounds are the ultimate sniffer dogs
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Belgian Tervuren

Belgian Tervurens are large working dogs that rarely get tired. Bred to herd livestock, these dogs are intelligent, mischievous and enjoy mastering any task they are given.

Tevuran dog
A Belgian Tervuren and her owner at the Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2014
TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP via Getty Images/Getty

Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois are large, muscular dogs with a strong prey drive that were bred to herd. They are intelligent but prone to chasing after moving objects, so should be trained properly to avoid accidents.

Belgian Malinois
Belgian Malinois dogs are used for police and military work
WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images


Azawakh dogs come from West Africa, specifically Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, and were used as sighthounds and guard dogs. These dogs are tall, slim and enjoy running, so they require plenty of exercise to stay fit and happy.

Azawakh dog in London 2004
Azawakh dogs are sighthounds and are a similar shape to greyhounds
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Belgian Sheepdog

Originally the Belgian Sheepdog was just a herding dog breed, but these dogs now work as police dogs too. They are alert, protective and loyal, but also sensitive and affectionate.

Belgian Sheepdog
A Belgian Sheepdog with its junior handler at the Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
Chris McGrath/Getty Images


The Standard Poodle is a medium to large-sized dog and although they are known for their fancy haircuts, they are extremely smart, trainable and eager to please. They can be trained to track, retrieve and also perform well in agility sports.

Poodles are highly intelligent and love to learn tricks and commands
ANDREW YATES/AFP via Getty Images

Border Collie

Border Collies were developed to gather and control sheep in the area between Scotland and England. These smart, hard-working dogs have endless energy and are still used to herd sheep on farms today.

Border collies
Border collies are extremely hard-working and intelligent dogs
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German Shorthaired Pointer

German Shorthaired Pointers were bred for hunting in Germany in the 19th century, so have a very strong prey drive. These dogs learn quickly with good training and are very active, enjoying long walks and games.

German Shorthaired Pointer
German Shorthaired Pointers are gun dogs and have webbed feet for swimming
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Flat-Coated Retriever

Flat-Coated Retrievers are intelligent and eager to please, so they are generally easy to train. However, flat-coats are sporting dogs with high energy, so aren’t well-suited to sedentary owners.

Flat-Coated Retriever
A Flat-Coated Retriever plays in the water in the Neckar river in Ludwigsburg, Germany


Known for their silver-colored coats, Weimaraners come from Germany and were used to hunt. Also referred to as the “Grey Ghost”, the breed was created at the Court of Grand Duke Karl August of Weimar where it was developed as a pointing dog for the nobility in the 19th century.

Weimaraners were originally bred as a gundog to handle big game like deer
Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

Bernese Mountain Dog

These large, sturdy dogs were bred to work on the farms and pastures of Switzerland, herding, protecting and guarding. Bernese Mountain Dogs are affectionate and sensitive, responding well to positive training.

Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dogs are sensitive and affectionate
Mark Makela/Getty Images


Leonbergers are a mix of Newfoundlands, Saint Bernards, and Great Pyrenees, meaning these dogs grow to a gigantic size. Although they are large, Leonbergers are affectionate, gentle and trainable and are sometimes used as working dogs too.

Leonbergers can grow up to 150 pounds
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