Many tiny dogs were bred to be compact and make wonderful travel companions. However, a small body doesn’t always mean a small brain. Some of the smartest small dogs can outsmart their bigger cousins.
A tiny trained pup can learn around 165 commands on average. A few highly intelligent small dogs can learn up to 250 voice commands and even learn to count.
There are about 90 small dog breeds, but not all dogs are created equal. Each breed of dog has different skill sets and intelligence levels. Even within each breed, there are different types of dogs that differ greatly from each other.
Intelligent canines are great companions and highly trainable. Some people prefer big dogs, while others adore tiny pups.
If you’re looking for an adorable little doggo that fits your personality and needs then you’ve come to the right place. Here are the smartest small-sized dogs, so you don’t have to compromise between a cute pup or an intelligent one.
- 1 How to Measure Canine Intelligence
- 2 17 Smartest Small Dogs
- 2.1 1. Cocker Spaniel
- 2.2 2. Bichon Frise
- 2.3 3. Havanese
- 2.4 4. Poodles
- 2.5 5. Schipperke
- 2.6 6. Papillon
- 2.7 7. Shetland Sheepdog
- 2.8 Corgis
- 2.9 8. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- 2.10 9. Cardigan Welsh Corgi
- 2.11 10. Pomeranian
- 2.12 11. Brussels Griffon
- 2.13 12. Miniature Schnauzer
- 2.14 Terriers
- 2.15 13. Fox Terrier
- 2.16 14. Yorkshire Terrier
- 2.17 15. Boston Terrier
- 2.18 16. Rat Terrier
- 2.19 17. Cairn Terrier
- 3 Why You Should Get a Smart Small Dog
How to Measure Canine Intelligence
In a study, canine researchers found that dogs have the same intellectual capacity as a two-year-old toddler. Yet, humans measure animals’ abilities based on limited terms. Here are three categories to look at when measuring your canine’s intelligence.
1. Instinctive Intelligence
Instinctive intelligence in dogs is their ability to do what they naturally excel in. Some dogs are bred for particular purposes like herding, pointing, and guarding.
For instance, Border Collies are instinctively good at herding, gathering, and protecting livestock. A pointer dog like a German Shorthair Pointer is instinctively good at pointing out small prey, like birds and rabbits, to their owners. They are good all-purpose hunter dogs.
2. Adaptive Intelligence
Adaptive intelligence measures a dog’s ability to problem-solve and adapt to environments. Dogs with high adaptive intelligence can learn tricks easier. These dogs learn from observations and pick up habits and routines from humans.
3. Working and Obedience Intelligence
Working and obedience relate to a dog’s ability to learn commands and rules from its owners. An average dog can learn up to 165 words, whereas dogs with high working intelligence can learn as many as 250 words.
Additionally, canines with high working and obedience intelligence are often found as service dogs.
Here are the smartest small dogs that you’ll love
17 Smartest Small Dogs
Small dogs make great companions because they don’t need a lot of space but usually give a lot of love. Many small dogs are both super smart, loving, and great companions.
You can find some of our favorite bright and tiny pups below.
1. Cocker Spaniel
Both the American and English Cocker Spaniels are highly intelligent dogs. They can learn commands quickly with only a few command repetitions. It is easy to train Cocker Spaniels, and they make good hunting dogs.
They rank high in all three intelligence measuring categories. The English Cocker Spaniel ranks a bit higher than their American counterparts for the working and obedience category.
2. Bichon Frise
Bichon Frise dogs do well with working and obedience intelligence. And they excel in adaptive intelligence. These little white dogs are instinctively good at companionship and will pick up an owner’s needs quickly.
They aren’t difficult to train and love attention. But, keep in mind that harsh training methods won’t yield good results.
The long and silky-haired Havanese pups have an average working and obedience intelligence. They are able to learn new commands with little repetition and can learn them in a few hours.
Havanese dogs excel in adaptive intelligence and can learn from previous behaviors and self-correct.
Out of 138 dog breeds, Poodles are the second smartest breed. They are also one of the best-behaved dogs that you’ll come across. They rank high in all three categories of intelligence markers.
They are gun dogs who are instinctively good water retrievers. Among all water retriever breeds, Poodles have the highest instinctive intelligence.
Their adaptive intelligence and working intelligence are also high. Poodles pick up patterns and routines within the home fairly quickly. They also thrive in problem-solving and love activities that challenge them.
A Schipperke is a highly intelligent dog that needs constant stimulation, or their boredom will manifest in destructive behavior like chewing and barking. This breed has good working and obedience intelligence.
These dogs make excellent helpers to humans. As such, they are often guard dogs or search and rescue dogs.
Papillons are a type of spaniel breed that’s also known as Dwarf Spaniels. They get their name from the French word which means “butterfly”. This is because their head and ear shape resemble that of a butterfly.
A papillon has a lot of adaptive intelligence, and they remember demands without practice. This high-energy dog enjoys showing off its tricks and is good around children.
7. Shetland Sheepdog
Shetland Sheepdogs, often nicknamed Shelties, are herder dogs that love having a job to do. They rank high in working and obedience intelligence as well as instinctive intelligence.
Shetland Sheepdogs are often used on farms to guard the flock and watch for intruders. They are highly obedient and enjoy a mentally and physically challenging game that tests their agility.
These small herding dogs are best known for their fluffy bums and fox faces. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi and the Cardigan Welsh Corgi are highly instinctively intelligent dogs. And they will often try to herd their owners by nipping their heels.
8. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is quite fast and agile, making them good farming dogs. Initially, they were used for herding camels and livestock.
Today, they are more commonly used to hunt vermin and guard fowl. They are easy to train but also very independent and dominant. So, don’t expect them to do tricks every time you ask.
9. Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Cardigan Welsh Corgis are very easy to train and eager to please their owners. It only takes about five to 15 repetitions of commands for them to learn a new trick.
These small dogs can quickly grasp what is expected and are good at agility training and sheepdog trials.
Pomeranians are popular small dogs to own and with good reason. They only weigh about three to seven pounds and are good companions. Not only are they cute, but they’re incredibly smart too.
They rank very high for working and obedience intelligence. As such, Pomeranians can easily pick up new tricks. They can also learn and understand many words and voice commands.
Pomeranians can learn a new trick with only five to 15 command repetitions, and they can obey that command with an 85% success rate.
11. Brussels Griffon
Brussels Griffons bond easily with their owners, making them want to please them as much as possible. Their people-pleasing behavior makes them very obedient and easy to train.
They can recall commands without much practice and enjoy solving intricate puzzle game toys.
12. Miniature Schnauzer
The bushy upper-lipped Schnauzer gets its name from the German word “schnauzer” which means mustache. The miniature breed is a mixture of a poodle and a schnauzer and inherits intelligence from both these super-smart breeds.
Miniature schnauzers excel in obedience training and pick up verbal and hand commands quickly. These adorable pups make excellent watchdogs.
The terrier breed comprises small dogs with big brains. Terriers make very good watchdogs and often hunt small animals like vermin or rodents.
13. Fox Terrier
Fox terriers are naturally quite playful and curious dogs. Their instinctive intelligence makes them good watch or hunting dogs.
They’re very observant and are always aware of their surroundings. If they see small rodents like rats and mice, they will surely catch and kill them.
14. Yorkshire Terrier
The Yorkshire Terrier developed in the 19th century. They originate from Yorkshire, England, and that is where they got their name. These fluffy little dogs are highly intelligent, and they don’t shed.
They can learn and remember a new command within a few hours. They are also very socially intelligent dogs that bond well with their owners.
15. Boston Terrier
Boston terriers are quick to adjust to new environments and people. They are adaptively intelligent and were bred for jobs that require decision-making. The most common jobs Boston Terriers were bred for fighting and hunting rodents in factories.
They have a lot of energy and brains that need constant stimulation. Obedience training and interactive treat toys are essential to keep them busy, so they don’t take out their destructive energy on your newly planted flower beds.
16. Rat Terrier
Rat terriers are very stubborn dogs. However, that doesn’t stop them from being trainable and very intelligent in adaptive and problem-solving activities.
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17. Cairn Terrier
This tiny dog is commonly used for catching small rodents and vermin on farms. Not only are they good exterminators, but they’re also very intelligent.
They rank high in instinctive and working and obedience intelligence tests. These little balls of energy are great at agility and obedience activities.
Why You Should Get a Smart Small Dog
What small dogs lack in size, they make up for in big attitudes and brains. There are so many small dogs that are not only highly intelligent but very cute too.
Dogs cannot be measured by one type of intelligence test. Like humans, they each have their own strengths and weaknesses that should be considered when measuring their aptitude.
Dogs that rank high in working and obedience intelligence, like Pomeranians, are good at picking up tricks and voice commands fast. However, their instinctive intelligence isn’t as good as a Fox Terrier’s so they would make good hunting or pointer dogs.
Regardless of your needs and wants in small smart dogs, there is a breed out there for you.
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