Golden Retriever leaps over a jump - Dog Agility at it's Best!

15 Highly Intelligent Dogs For Agility Training

Whether you're a seasoned competitor or just starting out in agility training, these breeds are sure to impress you with their quick thinking and athletic abilities.

Stanley Coren, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia, has developed various methods to define which dog breeds are the most intelligent. In his book, “The Intelligence of Dogs,” he introduces a unique rating system for “obedience and working intelligence,” which helps us understand canine cognitive abilities more deeply.

The following dog breeds are highly intelligent and could be your perfect agility partner.

Border Collie

Border Collie looking up at the cameras standing in a pumpkin patch.
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Border Collies are often regarded as the smartest dogs in the world. Their keen instincts, problem-solving abilities, and agility make them exceptional working and agility dogs. It also makes them dogs that need a lot of interaction.

A recent study published in Scientific Reports put over a thousand dogs of various breeds to multiple cognitive tests. In analyzing the data to determine which breed was the smartest, the Border Collie was declared to be at the top of the list. 

Poodle

Portrait of a cute brown toy poodle at home, daytime, indoors.
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Poodles are not just hypoallergenic; they're also highly intelligent. They excel in obedience training and are known for their problem-solving skills.

Despite their elegant appearance and reputation as show dogs, Poodles have a practical and adventurous history. Poodles were once popularly used as water retrievers. Their name “Poodle” is derived from the German word “Pudel,” which means “to splash in water.”

German Shepherd

German Shepherd training (Sit command)
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Renowned for their unwavering loyalty and protective instincts, German Shepherds stand out for their devotion and their exceptional intelligence. They are outstanding working dogs, particularly excelling in demanding roles such as police and service duties.

Golden Retriever

Photo,Of,A,Cute,Golden,Retriever,Running,And,Playing,With
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Golden Retrievers are known for their friendly nature and intelligence. They are quick learners and are often used as therapy and assistance dogs.

Their affable temperament and natural empathy contribute to their effectiveness in providing comfort and companionship in various therapeutic settings. Many Golden Retrievers happily engage in activities like visiting hospitals and nursing homes, spreading joy and warmth to those in need.

Doberman Pinscher

Three Doberman Pincher relaxing in the autumn park
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Dobermans are not just powerful; they're also highly intelligent. Their sharp minds make them excellent candidates for obedience and agility training.

Dobermans were originally bred by a tax collector named Louis Dobermann in Germany during the late 19th century. He aimed to create a breed that would accompany him during his rounds, offering protection and assistance. To achieve this, he selectively bred dogs with qualities like strength, loyalty, and intelligence. The result was the development of the Doberman Pinscher, a versatile and loyal breed that excels not only in protection but also in various roles such as police work, search and rescue, and as loving family companions.

Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland sheepdogs in the meadow.
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Shetland Sheepdogs are known for their agility and intelligence. They excel in herding and obedience activities.

Shetland Sheepdogs, affectionately known as “Shelties,” have a herding instinct that goes beyond just rounding up livestock. Shelties have an inherent tendency to herd their family members, especially children and other pets. This endearing behavior reflects their strong sense of loyalty and protective nature.

Papillon

Portrait of a Papillon Purebreed Dog in a Grass Meadow with Trees Behind
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Papillons are small but incredibly smart dogs. They are quick learners and excel in obedience and agility training.

Papillons' unique look lies in their distinctive butterfly-like ears, which inspired their name. “Papillon” is the French word for butterfly, and these charming little dogs are known for their fringed ears that resemble the delicate wings of a butterfly. 

Australian Cattle Dog

Close portrait puppy of the australian cattle dog
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Australian Cattle Dogs are efficient herders known for their problem-solving abilities. These well-loved companions excel in herding and agility activities due to their intelligence and energy.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog
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Bernese Mountain Dogs are large, gentle dogs that are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and affectionate nature. They are also very good at following commands and can be trained to perform a variety of tasks.

These lovable companions thrive on human interaction and are known to form strong bonds with their families. Bernese Mountain Dogs bring both warmth and joy to the hearts of those lucky enough to have them as furry friends.

English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniel jumping into running motion.
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The English Springer Spaniel has a boundless energy and zest for life. These spirited dogs are known for their joyful and playful nature, making them exceptional companions for families and outdoor enthusiasts.

English Springer Spaniels thrive on activity and are always ready for an adventure. Their enthusiasm and friendly demeanor, coupled with their intelligence and versatility, have made them not only beloved family pets but also skilled working dogs in roles such as search and rescue.

Belgian Shepherd Dog

Belgian Shepherd dog, this one being the Malinois breed, waiting for instruction.
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Known for their intelligence and eagerness to learn, Belgian Shepherds excel in various roles, from police work to search and rescue missions. The breed has four distinct varieties: the Malinois, Tervuren, Groenendael, and Laekenois.

Each variety boasts its own unique coat color and characteristics, but they all share the breed's signature intelligence, agility, and unwavering loyalty.

Schipperke

Little black happy Schipperke dog on see-saw agility challenge.
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Despite their small size, these bold and spirited dogs are known for their confident and fearless nature. Originating in Belgium, Schipperkes were historically used as watchdogs on canal boats, alerting their owners to potential dangers. 

Beyond their vigilant watchdog capabilities, Schipperkes are intelligent and energetic companions. They are delightful pets and fun dogs to work with on agility challenges.

Belgian Sheepdog

Belgian Sheepdog laying on grass outside
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The Belgian Sheepdog is an intelligent and versatile breed from Belgium, known for its exceptional work ethic and sharp instincts. With its striking black coat and strong presence, it is a stunning sight and a dedicated working partner.

Agility and intelligence are hallmark characteristics of the Belgian Sheepdog, whether herding livestock or serving as a vigilant protector.

Collie

Collie laying in shade outside on sunny day
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Immortalized by the famous literary and cinematic character “Lassie,” Collies have become synonymous with devotion and intelligence.

Beyond their iconic appearance, Collies are celebrated for their gentle nature and natural instinct to protect their human family members. Known for their versatility, Collies have excelled in roles ranging from herding livestock to therapy work. 

German Shorthaired Pointer

German Shorthaired Pointer.
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Originating in Germany, these keen-sensed dogs were developed for hunting a variety of game. With their distinctive brown or brown and white coat, floppy ears, and expressive eyes, German Shorthaired Pointers not only make striking companions but also excel in a range of activities.

German Shorthaired Pointers are known for their agility, intelligence, and strong pointing instincts. They are adept hunters, skilled in locating and retrieving game. Beyond the field, their friendly and sociable nature makes them dogs with a perfect blend of athleticism and affection.

Veterinarian Shares Party Foods Dangerous to Dogs

Black and White Border Collie Dog with Wide Eyes Staring at Food on a Red Wooden Picnic Table in Summer Time.
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Your canine friend might be very excited for you to have a party where they might get handed treats by the guests. However, some common party foods are toxic to dogs.

These 10 favorite human foods that are dangerous to dogs.

Author: Corey Turner

Title: Journalist

Expertise: Pets, Nature, Project Management

Corey Turner is a journalist, conservationist, outdoor enthusiast, and passionate pet owner. Corey founded FurBallFun in 2022. He's known for his honest pet product reviews and guidance for navigating pet behavior, health, and nutrition.