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Are Australian Shepherds Smart? Dog Breed Intelligence Comparison

Written by: Kit Copson

Last Updated on April 26, 2024 by Dogster Team

Australian Shepherd

Are Australian Shepherds Smart? Dog Breed Intelligence Comparison

Australian Shepherds have got it all—beauty, personality, and brains. According to the American Kennel Club, the Australian Shepherd is a highly intelligent breed. Australian Shepherds come from a line of herding dogs and have been working on ranches and farms since the 19th century, and, as such, have adapted well to following commands and learning new tricks. In this post, we’ll explore how intelligent and trainable Australian Shepherds are.

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Are Australian Shepherds Smarter Than Most Breeds?

If we’re talking generally, Australian Shepherds are pretty sharp—sharp enough to appear on the American Kennel Club’s website under “smartest breeds of dog”. Despite the generalization that Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent, however, it’s hard to assess intelligence on an individual basis as every dog is unique.

In addition, there are several dog breeds considered to be highly intelligent that beat out the Australian Shepherd in several lists ranking breed intelligence. The Border Collie, Poodle, and German Shepherd consistently top rankings as the three smartest dog breeds.

Dr. Stanley Coren, a canine psychologist, placed Australian Shepherds in 42nd place on his list of most intelligent dogs. The Kuvasz was listed alongside the Australian Shepherd at number 42.

Which Dog Breeds Are the Smartest?

According to Dr. Coren’s ranking, the top 10 smartest dog breeds are as follows:

  1. Border Collie
  2. Poodle
  3. German Shepherd
  4. Golden Retriever
  5. Doberman Pinscher
  6. Shetland Sheepdog
  7. Labrador Retriever
  8. Papillon
  9. Rottweiler
  10. Australian Cattle Dog


Toy Australian Shepherd sitting by the window
Image Credit: Fluff Media, Shutterstock

Which Dog Breeds Are the Least Intelligent?

Dr. Coren’s ranking places these dogs at the bottom of the list. Just remember to bear in mind, however, that just because a breed is at the bottom of the list doesn’t make them stupid—these breeds may simply not be the most effective working dogs but are intelligent in other ways.

For example, Afghan Hounds, which are right at the bottom of Cohen’s intelligence ranking, are sighthounds, which means they’re capable of hunting by sight. They’re also a bit rebellious when it comes to obedience training and is known for being somewhat aloof, which may have contributed to their reputation for being unintelligent.

This list begins with the “least intelligent” breed according to Coren’s ranking.

  1. Afghan Hound
  2. Basenji
  3. Bulldog
  4. Chow Chow
  5. Borzoi
  6. Bloodhound
  7. Pekingese
  8. Mastiff & Beagle
  9. Basset Hound
  10. Shih Tzu

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Are Australian Shepherds Hard to Train?

Australian Shepherds are highly trainable dogs. Their history as herding dogs and watchdogs makes them alert, energetic, and, above all, eager to please. They also have an insatiable desire to be active and kept busy much of the time, so training is a great way to get Australian Shepherds to use that fine brain they have to learn new skills and tricks.

If not mentally and physically stimulated enough, Australian Shepherds can grow to be destructive, so setting boundaries and exercising them regularly is crucial to your Aussie’s wellbeing—and that of your couch.

What Should I Train My Australian Shepherd to Do?

The core skills that Australian Shepherds need to learn—ideally from as early as possible—are as follows:

  • Early socialization with humans and other pets
  • Basic house rules you want them to follow (example: the couch is out of bounds)
  • How to walk well on a leash
  • Basic grooming routines like claw clipping, brushing, and teeth brushing
  • Sitting still while being groomed
  • Simple commands like “sit”, “stay”, “drop it”, and “come”
  • How and where to use the bathroom

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Final Thoughts

When it comes to canine intelligence, we can only make generalizations. Dogs were bred for different purposes—working, hunting, guardianship, companionship, etc.—so, naturally, each breed has strengths and weaknesses in different areas. When it comes to Australian Shepherds, they’re considered to be a highly intelligent breed due to their alertness, willingness to please, and how well they respond to training.

Featured Image Credit: Petra Heike Laicher, Pixabay

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