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17 Smartest Small Dogs – Find Your Favourite Intelligent Pup

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.

brown poodle

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.

border collie
border collie

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.

Cocker Spaniel smartest small dogs
Cocker Spaniel

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.

Cocker Spaniel
Cocker Spaniel

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.

classic bichon frise
classic bichon frise

They aren’t difficult to train and love attention. But, keep in mind that harsh training methods won’t yield good results.

Bichon Frise
Bichon Frise

3. Havanese

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 black
Havanese black

Havanese dogs excel in adaptive intelligence and can learn from previous behaviors and self-correct.

Havanese white
Havanese white

4. Poodles

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.

standard poodle white
standard poodle white

They are gun dogs who are instinctively good water retrievers. Among all water retriever breeds, Poodles have the highest instinctive intelligence.

standard poodle brown
standard poodle

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.

5. Schipperke

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.

Schipperke jumping
Schipperke jumping

These dogs make excellent helpers to humans. As such, they are often guard dogs or search and rescue dogs.

Schipperke
Schipperke

6. Papillon

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.

Papillon
Papillon

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 Sheepdog
Shetland Sheepdog

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.

Shetland Sheepdog
Shetland Sheepdog

Corgis

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.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Pembroke Welsh Corgi

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.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Pembroke Welsh Corgi

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.

Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Cardigan Welsh Corgi

These small dogs can quickly grasp what is expected and are good at agility training and sheepdog trials.

Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Cardigan Welsh Corgi

10. Pomeranian

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.

ginger pomeranian dog high fiber dog food

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.

Pomeranian
Pomeranian

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.

Brussels Griffon with tulips
Brussels Griffon

They can recall commands without much practice and enjoy solving intricate puzzle game toys.

Brussels Griffon
Brussels Griffon

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 Schnauzer
Miniature Schnauzer

Miniature schnauzers excel in obedience training and pick up verbal and hand commands quickly. These adorable pups make excellent watchdogs.

Miniature Schnauzer
Miniature Schnauzer

Terriers

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.

fox terrier
fox terrier

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.

Yorkshire Terrier
Yorkshire Terrier

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.

boston terrier
boston terrier

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.

rat terrier
rat terrier

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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.

Cairn Terrier
Cairn Terrier

They rank high in instinctive and working and obedience intelligence tests. These little balls of energy are great at agility and obedience activities.

Cairn Terrier
Cairn Terrier

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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.

corgi dog
corgi dog

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