When we look at a dog’s intelligence, we usually think about how obedient or trainable he is. Although being intelligent affects how a dog learns, genetics of any breed can determine personality and how likely the dog is to obey its owner.
Some working breeds are notoriously obedient, like the border collie. Other types of dogs, such as terriers or dogs, have been bred to be independent and may therefore be less likely to listen to commands.
Here are some of the smaller obedient dog breeds, according to the American Kennel Club and canine psychologist Stanley Coren, who studied obedience in his book The Intelligence of Dogs.
As our list shows, when you’re looking for an obedient little dog and aren’t sure where to turn to, look no further than a terrier. Check out the full list below.
Poodles may look haughty, but this breed is smart, hardworking, and willing, according to the AKC. Toy and miniature poodles enjoy learning to obey orders.
The poodle ranks 7th in the AKC’s ranking of the most popular breeds.
Named for their butterfly-like ears, this toy breed is alert, intelligent, and like poodles eager to please their owners. These small, active dogs are curious and love to learn new things.
A Papillon from Belgium poses at the Crufts dog show in Birmingham, UK on March 10, 2019.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
According to Cohen, Pembroke Welsh Corgis are good working dogs and learn a command in five to 15 exposures. Small but powerful, these dogs obey at least 85 percent of the time, according to Cohen.
Miniature Schnauzers are terriers that are not known for their obedience. However, these dogs are friendly and learn quickly as long as the training is fun and interesting. According to the AKC, these dogs can perform well in a number of “sports” for dogs, including agility, obedience, rallying, and earthdog events.
A Miniature Schnauzer in Madison Square Garden on February 16, 2016 in New York City.
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These tiny balls of fluff come from large, working sled dogs. Poms are generally good at learning tricks, but owners need to be consistent and firm in training to avoid becoming bossy.
Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Cardigan Welsh Corgis are known for their loyalty and kindness, but they are also smart and willing to listen to their owners if well trained. Originally bred to work on farms, these dogs have short legs so they could choke stubborn cattle to move before quickly moving out of the way.
A cardigan Welsh Corgi at a dog show in New York City in 2014
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According to Cohen, Yorkies learn a new trick in 15 to 25 repetitions and obey at least 70 percent of the time. Bred at Yorkshire’s mills, these dogs are on a heavy hunt that sometimes overrides their hearing abilities.
Border Terriers are intelligent and eager to please, but they are still independent and herded to hunt prey since they were originally bred to work underground rats and foxes. These dogs love people and with the right training can make good therapy dogs.
The Border Terrier is known as a gentle breed of dog
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Australian Terriers descend from the coarse-coated terriers that were brought to Australia from Great Britain in the early 19th century, such as Yorkshire and Cairn Terriers. Aussies take 34th place in Coren’s “The Intelligence of Dogs” and are above average for “Working and Obedience” intelligence, which indicates good training ability.
Cairn Terriers are small working terriers that were developed on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Farmers used them to rid their land of mice, rats and other vermin. To do this, they needed a dog with courage, tenacity and intelligence.
Cairn Terriers are loving dogs.
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As a member of the AKC’s toy group, Silky Terriers are closely related to Yorkshire Terriers. Like most terriers, these dogs have a powerful predecessor but are intelligent. So train well.
The AKC describes the Bichon Frize as a “personality dog” who loves to perform tricks and learn new ones quickly. They respond best to positive training, not harsh commands.
Bichon Frize, small white dogs with soft corkscrew curls, come from the Mediterranean region.
Recognized as a breed in Britain in the 1930s, these dogs are hardworking, loyal companions. These dogs are quite rare because they have small litters and usually require caesarean sections to give birth.
A Norwich Terrier at the Westminster Kennel Club’s 140th Annual Dog Show in New York City.
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Bedlingtons have a lamb-like appearance and are average working dogs who have a tendency to learn a new trick in 25 to 40 repetitions. According to Cohen, they obey at least 50 percent of the time.
Smooth-haired fox terrier
The Smooth Fox Terrier was the first variety of Fox Terrier to be recognized as an official breed in the UK, according to the Kennel Club. Puppy training classes with a terrier-savvy trainer are highly recommended.
A Bedlington Terrier getting a trim at the Cruft Dog Show in 2018
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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Toy spaniels can be traced back to at least the 16th century in Great Britain. These dogs are meek, affectionate but smart, easy to train, and eager to please their owners.
Parson Russell Terrier
The Parson Russell Terrier was developed in southern England in the 19th century to track foxes. It is named after the Reverend John Russell, a hunting chaplain.
West Highland White Terrier
These friendly, lively dogs are always happy and ready to play. They are intelligent and want to please their owners, but can be persistent and prey large.
A West Highland White Terrier attends the 7th Annual AKC Meet The Breeds at Pier 92 in New York City on February 13, 2016.
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These small, fluffy dogs make excellent guard dogs and take the job seriously, but usually keep barking to a minimum if properly trained.
Dachshunds are scented dogs originally bred to hunt badgers and other tunnel animals such as rabbits and foxes. Originally from Germany, these little dogs were even used to chase wild boars.
A miniature Dachshund dog on the first day of the 2017 Crufts Dog Show.
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Wirehaired Fox Terrier
These cheerful little dogs are intelligent, but also quite independent and get bored easily. Therefore, the training sessions must be kept entertaining and interesting. With patience and consistent training, these dogs can be obedient.
Originally from the United States, the Boston Terrier is the result of a cross between an English Bulldog and a White English Terrier. Originally bred to be attack dogs, these intelligent little dogs are happiest when they are at home with their owners.
Today’s Boston Terriers are smart, gentle, and loving companions
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Hailing from the Isle of Skye in Scotland, these unusual dogs are one of the UK’s most endangered native dog breeds. They are happiest indoors and enjoy relaxing with their owners.
These little terriers are a small dog in the body of a large dog and can be identified by their ears folded over their ears. Like other terriers, they are keen on hunting prey and can be strong-willed, but are smart and obey orders with good training.
The name Sealyham Terrier is named after the Sealy Ham estate on the Seal River in Wales, where this “tough and confident” terrier was bred, according to the AKC. As one of the least obedient dogs on this list, these dogs require a firm, but not harsh, training technique.
A moderately shaggy Sealyham Terrier dog. The breed ranks 164th on the AKC’s popularity ratings.