What Is the Average Dog IQ? Which Breed Has the Highest?

Written by Katelynn Sobus
Updated: July 3, 2023
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Key Points

  • Dogs and humans have an average IQ of 100.
  • Dogs can understand over 150 words, and possibly up to around 200.
  • Border Collies have the highest IQ of any breed.

The average dog’s IQ is about 100. Your average dog is as smart as a two-year-old human! The dog breed with the highest IQ is the Border Collie, followed by other smart pups like the Belgian Malinois, Poodle, and German Shepherd.

Dogs showcase several types of intelligence including instinctual intelligence, obedience, emotional intelligence, and the ability to problem-solve. As research continues into dogs and their brains, we might learn even more about how they think and what they know.

In this article, we’ll discuss the average dog’s IQ, how they compare to humans, and which dog breed has the highest IQ.

German Malinois on a bed

The average dog is as intelligent as a two-year-old child.

©Anna Hoychuk/Shutterstock.com

What is a Dog’s IQ Compared to a Human’s?

Dogs have an average IQ of 100, and so do humans–how does that work?

Well, it turns out 100 is used to showcase the average IQ of each species. So if you score 100 on an IQ test, you’re about as smart as the average person. If a dog scores 100, they’re as smart as your average dog–and about as smart as a two-year-old person.

A score of under 100 is a below-average score, while dogs or people who score higher than 100 are considered more intelligent than average.

Do Dogs Understand Language?

Dogs can understand over 150 words, and possibly up to around 200. They were selectively bred to communicate with humans, and it shows!

Some people argue that dogs don’t understand language per se but instead memorize words that are important to them, like “treat” or “walk.” However, I do think our canine companions have a vested interest in communicating with us.

Border Collie with Kong toy

Border Collies have the highest IQ of any dog breed.

©Tepepa79/Shutterstock.com

Which Breed Has the Highest IQ?

Border Collies have the highest IQ of any breed. These dogs have strong herding instincts and are smart enough to round up livestock. They learn commands quickly and are great problem solvers.

Border Collies can learn a new command in minutes, with less than five repetitions. They also obey already-known commands at least 95% of the time.

Other dogs with high IQ scores include the Belgian Malinois, Poodle, and German Shepherd.

Is it Better to Have a Smart Dog?

Personally, I prefer smart dogs! But, they’re often more difficult to handle, and some very smart breeds aren’t for first-time dog owners (such as a Border Collie or Belgian Malinois).

Smart dogs need a lot of mental stimulation to keep them from becoming bored. A bored dog is bound to misbehave and will showcase problem behaviors like excessive barking, destruction, and more.

They are sometimes more difficult to train, especially for those without experience, because they have minds of their own. Smart dogs can also become bored easily by repetition. (They don’t want to be told to sit twenty times!)

Intelligent dogs are also prone to anxiety, especially when their minds aren’t put to good use. Mental stimulation for dogs includes sniff games, puzzle toys, herding games, and more. Think about what your dog was bred to do and mimic that as closely as possible–they’re going to love it as a way to work their mind!

German Shepherd GSD

Dogs possess many types of intelligence, including problem-solving and emotional intelligence.

©iStock.com/VictorRicoFoto

Types of Dog Intelligence

Even the IQ scale for humans is highly controversial! When we try to apply our idea of intelligence to animals, it can also be inaccurate, as anything man-made will favor humans and what we value.

It can also be difficult to test a dog’s intelligence, so studies involve things that can be most easily tracked through data.

To be specific, they mostly test for obedience and the ability to learn new commands when measuring dog intelligence. However, it’s important to keep in mind that dogs have various types of intelligence, and they’re all quite valuable! They include:

Problem-Solving

When your dog is presented with a problem, how quickly do they solve it? Do they work hard to find a solution or quickly give up?

A dog’s problem-solving abilities come into play when they want a treat and have to figure out how to get it for you. They can also aid in hunting, dog sports, puzzle toys, and other activities where dogs are forced to use their brains to succeed.

Instinct

All dogs have some amount of instincts left over from their wolf ancestors. If they were hungry on the streets, they’d search for food. They typically have a great sense of direction and can find their way home, even from far away.

Some breeds have other instincts like guarding, hunting, and herding livestock. These were bred into them by humans over the thousands of years we’ve been keeping them as pets.

If you think your German Shepherd is smarter than your pug, you’re likely looking, at least in part, at their instinctual intelligence.

Shepherds are working dogs that have been bred to guard livestock. They’ve also worked closely with people as police dogs, military dogs, service dogs for the blind, and more.

Meanwhile, pugs have been bred as lap dogs and for their appearances rather than their working abilities.

Obedience

Obedience, or the ability to follow commands, is what most humans think of when considering the intelligence of their dogs. But, many smart breeds are a challenge to train.

The more intelligent a dog is, the more likely they are to think for themselves rather than blindly follow commands. In my book, that’s excellent! But many people don’t have the patience for these breeds.

When you add independence into it, you can get a pretty stubborn dog who needs the right motivation if they’re going to listen. People-pleasing dogs who are smart will excel more at obedience because they have the desire to do so.

Emotional Intelligence

There’s also emotional intelligence, which is what allows a dog to read the emotions of other animals or people. Dogs tend to have high emotional intelligence because they’re social creatures.

They were also bred to be at our side, so they tend to read human body language very well. After all, they’re domestic animals that depend on us for everything, including their safety!

Some breeds, like those in the sighthound group, have higher than average emotional intelligence. They’re empathetic and do better in peaceful homes than they do in more chaotic, emotionally-messy situations.

Thank you for reading! If you have feedback on this post, please contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Ermolaev Alexander/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Katelynn Sobus is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on pets including dogs, cats, and exotics. She has been writing about pet care for over five years. Katelynn currently lives in Michigan with her seven senior rescue cats.

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