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 dog breeds 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 most intelligent small dogs so you don’t have to compromise between a cute pup or an intelligent one.
- 1 How to Measure Canine Intelligence
- 2 29 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
- 2.20 18. Toy Manchester Terrier
- 2.21 19. Miniature American Shepherd
- 2.22 20. Italian Greyhound
- 2.23 21. Norwich Terrier
- 2.24 22. Silky Terrier
- 2.25 23. Australian Terrier
- 2.26 24. Border Terrier
- 2.27 25. West Highland White Terrier
- 2.28 26. Japanese Chin
- 2.29 27. Lhasa Apso
- 2.30 28. Dachsund
- 2.31 29. Englisher Springer Spaniel
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions about Smart Small Dog Breeds
- 4 Smartest Small Breed Dogs In Conclusion
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 to their owners, like birds and rabbits. 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 top smart small dog breeds that you’ll love
29 Smartest Small Dogs
Small intelligent 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 the most intelligent small dog breeds 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 quickly pick up an owner’s needs.
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 average working and obedience intelligence. They can 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 most intelligent 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. This makes them one of the most intelligent small dogs.
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 small smart 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 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, both of which are known as small intelligent dog breeds.
Miniature schnauzers excel in obedience training and quickly pick up verbal and hand commands. 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.
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.
This small intelligent dog ranks high in instinctive and working and obedience intelligence tests. These little balls of energy are great at agility and obedience activities.
18. Toy Manchester Terrier
Known for its sleek black-and-tan coat, the Toy Manchester Terrier is as sharp as it looks. Historically a rat hunter, this breed combines agility with an alert mind. Quick to learn and eager to please, they’re often a top pick for agility courses.
19. Miniature American Shepherd
A smaller version of the American Shepherd, this breed boasts intelligence and agility. With herding roots, they’re quick thinkers and excellent problem solvers. Their loyalty and eagerness to work make them a favorite in obedience and herding events.
20. Italian Greyhound
Besides being known for their graceful stature and speed, the Italian Greyhound is an astute companion. They’re quick learners and can be quite playful. With a sensitive disposition, they respond best to gentle training techniques.
21. Norwich Terrier
Brave and enthusiastic, the Norwich Terrier is a bundle of energy and smarts. Originating from the UK, they were once avid hunters of barnyard pests. Today, their alert nature and keen senses make them excellent watchdogs.
22. Silky Terrier
A native of Australia, the Silky Terrier is both lively and intelligent. They have a natural curiosity that drives them to explore and learn. Their silky coats and sharp minds make them stand out in dog sports and as companions.
23. Australian Terrier
This breed combines the spirit of a terrier with the intelligence of a herding dog. Originally bred to handle snakes and rodents, their alertness is unparalleled. Their rugged coat and bright eyes reflect their energetic nature and keen intellect.
24. Border Terrier
These dogs are hardworking, intelligent, and were once used to assist in foxhunts. Their determination is reflected in their approach to tasks, making them quick learners. Their affectionate nature paired with their brains makes them ideal family dogs.
25. West Highland White Terrier
Known affectionately as “Westies,” these dogs are as sharp as they are adorable. Originally bred for hunting, they possess keen senses and an alert demeanor. Their intelligence, combined with their friendly nature, makes them popular among dog owners.
26. Japanese Chin
Contrary to their name, the Japanese Chin traces its origins to China. They’re known for their elegant appearance and surprising smarts. Often described as cat-like, they’re agile jumpers and climbers with an ability to quickly pick up tricks.
27. Lhasa Apso
With roots in Tibet, the Lhasa Apso was once a sentinel in palaces and monasteries. Their sharp bark and alert nature are testimonies to their intelligence. While they can be independent, their loyalty and wit have endeared them to many.
These “sausage dogs” are more than just their unique appearance. Originally bred for hunting badgers, they’re brave and smart. Their stubborn nature is a testament to their intelligence, but it also means they benefit from patient training.
29. Englisher Springer Spaniel
While larger than the others on this list, their intelligence cannot be overlooked. Known for their keen sense of smell and tracking abilities, they’re often used in detection roles. Their gentle nature, combined with their smarts, makes them a favorite among families and professionals alike.
Frequently Asked Questions about Smart Small Dog Breeds
Which small dog is the most intelligent?
The Papillon is believed to be the smartest small dog breed. This is attributed to their love of learning.
Which dog has the highest IQ?
The Border Collie, according to The Intelligence of Dogs.
What is the easiest small dog to train?
The miniature or toy poodle is considered to be the easiest small dog to train.
How do you measure a small dog’s intelligence?
Canine intelligence is measured in various ways. One common method is through adaptive intelligence, which refers to a dog’s ability to learn and solve problems. Dogs that can quickly grasp new commands, remember past training, and use their problem-solving skills are considered highly intelligent. Additionally, social intelligence, which includes understanding human cues and emotions, is also a factor in assessing a dog’s intelligence.
Which smart small dog breeds are good with children?
Several intelligent small dog breeds are also great companions for children. The Miniature Schnauzer is known for its playful and affectionate nature with kids. Poodles, especially the Miniature and Toy varieties, are gentle and friendly with children when properly socialized. The Shetland Sheepdog is another intelligent breed that tends to get along well with kids due to its gentle and protective instincts.
How can I keep my smart small dog mentally stimulated?
Keeping a smart small dog mentally stimulated is essential to prevent boredom and undesirable behaviors. Engage in regular training sessions, teaching new tricks and commands to challenge their minds. Interactive puzzle toys and games provide mental stimulation, as well as incorporating scent-based activities like hiding treats for them to find. Additionally, varying their exercise routines and walks can keep them mentally engaged.
Smartest Small Breed Dogs In Conclusion
What small dogs lack in size, they make up for in big attitudes and brains. There are so many small smart dog breeds 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.