Facts about the animal kingdom

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: December 11, 2018
15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures

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Not counting the almost unlimited possibilities for mixed breed dogs, there are over 300 officially recognized dog breeds across the world. Each dog within these different breeds is an individual with a personality influenced by many factors. How obedient any dog will be is informed most by their socialization process during their first months and years of life. However, there are some dog breeds which are naturally more inclined to be obedient and, therefore, more easily trainable than others.

From this AnimalWised list of the 15 most obedient dog breeds you will see dogs which are most likely to be easily trainable. In the process, you will learn that we can dispel some myths. One in particular is that small dog breeds are not obedient. In fact, some small breeds are among the easiest dogs to train.

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  1. What makes the most obedient dog breeds?
  2. Border Collie
  3. Poodle
  4. German Shepherd
  5. Golden Retriever
  6. Doberman Pinscher
  7. Shetland Sheepdog
  8. Labrador Retriever
  9. Papillon
  10. Rottweiler
  11. Australian Cattle Dog
  12. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  13. Miniature Schnauzer
  14. English Springer Spaniel
  15. Belgian Tervuren
  16. Belgian Schipperke
See more >>

What makes the most obedient dog breeds?

It is easy to think that the most obedient dogs are simply from the most intelligent breeds. The reasoning is that a clever dog will know that following orders will get them the rewards they crave. However, intelligence can come in many different guises and just because a dog is not obedient, doesn't mean it isn't clever. There are many breeds which show initiative and problem solving skills, yet are stubborn and can prove difficult to train.

Obedient dogs do tend to be more intelligent, but there are different types of intelligence. Perhaps the most significant research carried out in this area is by the canine psychologist Stanley Coren, a professor at the University of British Colombia. His work investigates not only how intelligent certain dog breeds are, but also what type of intelligence they possess. He breaks canine intelligence into the following three categories:

  1. Instinctive intelligence: dogs are breed by humans for specific purposes. While some of these might be sheer aesthetics, the majority of original breeding was for practical purposes. This led to working dogs engaged in hunting, guarding or herding. Dogs naturally most able to carry out these purposes are considered instinctually intelligent.
  2. Adaptive intelligence: dogs are also able to learn from their environment, but some dogs are able to adapt to said environment better than others. This involves problem solving and engaging with their environment in a way which shows natural ingenuity.
  3. Obedience intelligence: Coren's factors in deciding a dog's intelligence in terms of obedience are a breed's ability to understand basic commands or, more specifically, the speed at which they are able to comprehend and respond to them.

This system is perhaps the best way so far of determining what Coren calls a dog's ‘manifest intelligence’. This means the total way in which a dog displays all types of intelligence. However, Coren also understands the limits of his own research. He states that even “in some of the brightest breeds, certain individuals simply show no capacity to learn or perform”[1]. This is why our list of most obedient dog breeds are those which use the statistics available, but it is important to understand that each dog still needs to be taken as an individual.

Another important factor is the amount of care and type of training an owner will give to their dog. This will have a large impact on their ability to process commands. So, if you are looking for one of the most trainable and obedient dogs, remember that your own ability is just as important.

1. Border Collie

Due to the lack of available documentation and sources, it is difficult to determine exactly why any dog breed is more obedient than others. This is especially so with the older dog breeds. However, with the Border Collie, it is fairly reasonable to assume that their obedience intelligence has been encouraged due to their use as working dogs, specifically herding dogs.

Border Collies learn commands very easily and seem particularly willing to follow orders. This allows them to make quite complex moves when it comes to herding animals on farms. They are a mid-sized dog which are very athletic, meaning they require plenty of exercise. If they do not receive sufficient exercise, they will likely develop behavioral problems.

The same can be said for intelligence games with Border Collies. If they do not receive enough mental stimulation, they will become demanding. They can be trained to perform quite amazing tricks which marry their athleticism with their obedience and cleverness. Border Collies are not only one of the most trainable dog breeds in terms of obedience intelligence, but are considered the most intelligent dog breed over all.

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures - 1. Border Collie

2. Poodle

The Poodle is one of the best examples of showing why you can't judge on appearance alone. Their curly haired coat which is often stylized into various cuts leads many to think of them as a show dog with little to offer practically. In reality, according to intelligence tests, this dog breed is one of the most intelligent and trainable.

Both the Standard Poodle and Toy Poodle are very intelligent and obedient dogs which can respond very well to training. However, Standard Poodles are slightly more reserved and Toy Poodles can be a little more mischievous. While they both may be just as intelligent, it does mean Standard Poodles are a little easier to train and may be considered more obedient in general.

Toy Poodles go a long way to prove that size is not seemingly an important factor in terms of obedience. There are many large dog breeds which are generally stubborn and very hard to train. The Toy Poodle is definitely one of the easiest small dog breeds to train.

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures - 2. Poodle

3. German Shepherd

Another dog breed where their history is so linked to their obedience levels, German Shepherds have been used as war dogs, guide dogs, police dogs and search and rescue dogs. For all of these roles, obedience and training is essential. German Shepherds are very loyal which means they can be equally defensive of their family, leading in part to their perception as aggressive dogs. However, as with all dogs, it is down to their training and care which determines if they are aggressive.

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures - 3. German Shepherd

4. Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is a breed originating in Scotland. They are well known for their use as therapy and assistance dogs for people with a variety of health conditions. Their most common employment as assistance dogs is perhaps as being seeing eye dogs for the visibly impaired. To become a seeing eye dog, Golden Retrievers need to be tested before they can even begin training. Some dogs might not have the right temperament in terms of obedience, reinforcing the idea there is variation within a given breed.

German Shepherds were originally the breed most employed as seeing eye dogs. However, after testing it was found that Golden Retrievers were more suitable. This is due to their sweet nature, affectionate temperament and balanced character.

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures - 4. Golden Retriever

5. Doberman Pinscher

You will see there are some dogs on this list which many think of as aggressive before they might think of as obedient. The Doberman Pinscher, but it is exactly their obedience and trainability which leads to this reputation. Doberman Pinschers are very loyal and protective dogs. They are also very clever and respond well to training. This has lead to their use as both guard dogs and protection dogs.

Doberman's will only be aggressive if they are not provided the right socialization and care. In saying this, they need to have the right kind of owner who can show the appropriate kind of dominance and ensure their loving and playful side is brought out, rather than aggression.

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures - 5. Doberman Pinscher

6. Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland is a group of islands in the North of Scotland which can have harsh conditions throughout the year. The Shetland Sheepdog is a loyal, intelligent and brave dog which managed to thrive in this environment. They are one of the most loyal dog breeds and, as a result, are often described as ‘shadow dogs’. This loyalty feeds in to their obedience and willingness to follow orders.

While the Sheltie resembles the Border Collie in looks, they are not considered related breeds. While employed on the farm as a trainable working and herding dog, they are another one of the most obedient small dog breeds to appear in this list.

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures - 6. Shetland Sheepdog

7. Labrador Retriever

Similar to the Golden Retriever, the Labrador is one of the most loyal and obedient dog breeds. They are a medium to large sized dog which are also employed as assistance dogs. Their calm, sweet and obedient nature means they are particularly good with children and can be used as assistance dogs for people with autism.

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures - 7. Labrador Retriever

8. Papillon

Another one of the most obedient small dog breeds, the Papillon is a beautiful toy dog which also happens to respond very well to training, They are seen as lap dogs, but are actually very playful and need to have lots of engagement to avoid behavioral problems. They can learn new tricks easily and are very loving and loyal to their owners.

Papillons need plenty of walks and their obedience is seen in their innate desire to perform for their owners. With positive reinforcement and patience, they can be trained to perform lots of tricks.

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures - 8. Papillon

9. Rottweiler

A larger dog than some breeds on our obedient dog breeds list, the Rottweiler has a reputation of being an aggressive and dangerous dog. The only danger is that their noted obedience and protectiveness of family can be used by unscrupulous owners.

Rottweilers are one of the oldest herding dog breeds and, as such, respond very well to training. They are not always the best with strangers, something possibly stemming from their traditional use as guard dogs. With their family, they are incredibly loving and affectionate dogs. They do, however, need discipline otherwise they will assume the role of dominance. These dogs not only respond well to obedience, but they crave it.

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures - 9. Rottweiler

10. Australian Cattle Dog

As the name suggests, the Australian Cattle Dog is another herding dog which is noted for their obedience. This obedience can be harnessed to great affect when working on a farm. They are very loving, active and loyal. Like all the dog breeds on this list, they cannot remain sedentary. If not actively engaged in intelligence games and activities, their well-being will be affected. They are absolutely not good house dogs.

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures - 10. Australian Cattle Dog

11. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Corgis are small dogs well-known for their obedience. They are also known for their mischievous natures and will chase young children if they are in a family. However, they are not aggressive. They simply need proper socialization and healthy interactions.

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures - 11. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

12. Miniature Schnauzer

As with some of the most obedient dogs, the Miniature Schnauzer needs discipline to reign in their boisterous spirit. This does not mean they are aggressive dogs. They are simply intelligent dogs which need to be properly engaged and receive the right training to live a balanced life.

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures - 12. Miniature Schnauzer

13. English Springer Spaniel

While many of the obedient dogs here have been used as herding dogs, hunting dogs are also known for both their intelligence and ability to follow orders. The English Springer Spaniel is one such hunting dog. They are very eager to please their masters and respond well to obedience training. In particular, they are known for choosing one member of the family to bond with the most. However, it is also a generally very sociable breed. They can become destructive if not engaged sufficiently, mainly due to boredom.

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures - 13. English Springer Spaniel

14. Belgian Tervuren

The appearance of Belgian Tervuren on our list is perhaps a little controversial as some don't consider them to be a breed in their own right. Instead, they are thought to be simply a variation of the Belgian Shepherd Dog. However they are classified, this dog is one of the world's most obedient. They are very energetic, strong and quite large. This means they need to be trained outside in large areas where they can expend energy. Not only can they be trained, Tervurens need to be trained otherwise they can develop behavioral problems.

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures - 14. Belgian Tervuren

15. Belgian Schipperke

Commonly known simply as the Schipperke, this dog breed is well known for their headstrong nature and can even be quite stubborn. They respond well to training, but they need to be cared for by experienced trainers, otherwise they will find other ways to expend their energy. They are small, but fiery. One interesting case exploiting their willingness to obey occurred during the Second World War. The Belgian Resistance trained the Schipperke to run messages between their hideouts without the Nazis knowing.

15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures - 15. Belgian Schipperke
Image: flickr.com

If you want to read similar articles to 15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.


1 Coren, Stanley, The Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide to the Thoughts, Emotions, and Inner Lives of Our Canine Companions, Simon and Schuster, London: 2006 http://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/books/The-Intelligence-of-Dogs/Stanley-Coren/9781416502876

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What did you think of this article?
Im surprised by this list actually. Great post thanks for sharing!

Jake @ Charlotte dog trainers
My Doberman is just a dream. Totally part of the familly, always with us.
Best is to be retired to be able to take care properly of such gift of the nature. Love and fidelity, qualities that are an example for man behavor.
Administrador AnimalWised
Thanks for sharing Germain!
Tina Shelby
Are all Chihuahuas so headstrong and stubborn. My Little Chihuahua is 7 weeks old and I have told him to sit for a treat he does that exceptionally well but I have told him a million times to stop chewing on a knick knack or not to go under the dash and he fights me he will go back and go back and go back what do I do I am at my wit's end.
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15 Most Obedient Dog Breeds List - With Pictures