The 20 Smartest Large Dog Breeds

Dogs have been by people’s side for thousands of years, helping us with hunting, raising livestock and even helping us cover long distances in sleds. Our loyal companions have proven to be indispensable, keep us company and also help us with our work.

While most dogs are smart, their intelligence can manifest itself in different ways. Some breeds of dogs are motivated by a desire to please and obey each of our commands, while others are bred to follow their noses to catch bugs.

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

German shepherd dog

These large dogs are intelligent and bond closely with their owners, which makes them wonderful pets. German Shepherds are hard workers, serve in the military, support the police, guide the blind and also guard properties. However, these dogs require plenty of exercise, and early socialization and training are key to good behavior.

A German Shepherd poses at the 2017 Westminster Kennel Club dog show
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Rottweilers are tall and muscular, and have a natural instinct for performing tasks such as guarding and rescuing. These dogs may be tough, but they make great pets when properly trained and trained several hours a day.

Rottweilers are intelligent, hardworking dogs
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Labs are the most popular dog breed in America and charm people with their intelligence and loyalty. Labradors are hunting dogs and were bred to find and retrieve game shot by hunters. They are very trainable and eager to please.

The Labrador Retriever is the most popular breed of dog in the United States
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Golden retriever

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

Golden retriever
Golden Retrievers are affectionate, eager to please, and easy to train
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The Chinook is a type of sled dog that was created in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, United States by the explorer and author Arthur T. Walden. Exceptionally smart, these dogs are active and love walking, playing, and playing.

Chinook dogs are active and love to hike and explore
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Doberman pinscher

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

Doberman pinscher
Doberman Pinschers are agile and loyal
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The Briard, also known as the Berger de Brie, is a French breed of large sheepdogs. Traditionally used for herding and defending sheep, these dogs are intelligent and hardworking.

Briards are herding dogs that are easily recognized by their long hair
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Berger Picard

The Berger Picard is a large, robust herding dog from France. These intelligent dogs need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them from getting bored, which can lead to destructive behavior.

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 smell a smell there is little to get in their way. While these dogs are very smart, they can be stubborn – especially when tracking – and require good training.

Bloodhounds are the ultimate sniffer dogs
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Belgian Tervuren

Belgian Tervurens are large working dogs that rarely get tired. Bred to tend cattle, these dogs are intelligent, mischievous, and eager to handle any task given them.

Tevuran dog
A Belgian Tervuren and her owner at the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2014
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Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois are large, muscular dogs with a strong prey drive that were herd-bred. They are intelligent but have a tendency to chase moving objects, so they should be properly trained to avoid accidents.

Belgian Malinois
Belgian Malinois dogs are used for police and military work
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Azawakh dogs originate from West Africa, particularly Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, and were used as greyhounds and guard dogs. These dogs are tall, lean, and enjoy running, so they need plenty of exercise to stay fit and happy.

Azawakh dog in London 2004
Azawakh dogs are greyhounds and are similar in shape to greyhounds
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Belgian shepherd dog

Originally the Belgian Shepherd Dog was just a herding breed, but these dogs now also work as police dogs. They are vigilant, protective, and loyal, but also sensitive and affectionate.

Belgian shepherd dog
A Belgian Shepherd dog with his junior handler at the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
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The Standard Poodle is a medium to large-sized dog, and while known for their edgy haircuts, they are extremely smart, trainable, and eager to please. They can be trained to track, fetch and also perform well in agility sports.

Poodles are highly intelligent and love to learn tricks and commands
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Border collie

Border collies were designed to gather and control sheep in the area between Scotland and England. These smart, hardworking dogs have endless energies and are still used to tending sheep on farms today.

Border collies
Border Collies are extremely hardworking and intelligent dogs
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German Shorthaired Pointing Dog

German Shorthair Pointing Dogs were bred for hunting in Germany in the 19th century, so they have a very strong prey drive. With good training, these dogs are quick learners and very active, enjoying long walks and games.

German Shorthaired Pointing Dog
German Shorthaired Pointer are hunting 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. Flat coats, however, are sporty, high-energy dogs and are therefore not well suited for sedentary owners.

Flat-Coated Retriever
A flat-coated retriever plays in the water in the Neckar in Ludwigsburg, Germany
THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP via Getty Images


The Weimaraners are known for their silver-colored coats and come from Germany and were used for hunting. The breed, also known as the “Gray Spirit”, was created at the court of Grand Duke Karl August von Weimar, where it was developed as a pointing dog for the nobility in the 19th century.

Weimaraners were originally bred as a hunting dog to treat large game such as deer
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Bernese Mountain Dog

These large, sturdy dogs were bred to work, herd, protect and guard on the farms and pastures of Switzerland. Bernese Mountain Dogs are loving and sensitive and respond well to positive training.

Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dogs are sensitive and affectionate
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Leonbergers are a mix of Newfoundland, St. Bernard, and Great Pyrenees, which means these dogs reach gigantic sizes. Although tall, Leonbergers are affectionate, gentle, and capable of learning, and are sometimes used as working dogs.

Leonbergers can grow up to 150 pounds
Shirlaine Forrest / WireImage / Getty Images

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