Most dog trainers agree that every dog can learn the basics of good manners, but behind closed doors they’ll admit that some breeds are easier to train than others. Whether it’s due to an insatiable drive to work or an unbreakable focus on their handler, certain breeds rate higher on the trainability scale.
That said, it’s important to note that some easy-to-train dogs aren’t necessarily easy to live with. The more a dog wants to work, the harder the pet parent has to work to keep the dog happily employed and out of mischief!
Canine intelligence can be measured in more than just good training manners, but when it comes to being the best behaved dogs, the pups on the following list are usually at the top of the class.
Dog Training: Beneficial Characteristics to Look For
The specifics of canine trainability vary, meaning a dog’s ability to learn new skills encompasses a full spectrum of considerations including genetics, early socialization, the dog’s age, and even the handler’s abilities.
However, the easiest dogs to train usually share the following characteristics:
The ability to quickly pick up new training behaviors is an obvious indicator of canine intelligence, but easy-to-train breeds also have less quantifiable “soft skills” like emotional intelligence and memory.
Focus and Motivation
Dogs that are willing to work for food, play, or toys are typically easier to train. This drive helps to keep dogs interested in training tasks.
Easily trained dogs are self-assured, have steady nerves, and aren’t shy.
While nearly every pet parent considers their dog devoted, the easiest dog breeds to train seem to have next level loyalty to their handlers.
Keep in mind that the dog breeds on the following list aren’t necessarily the best fit for every household. Highly intelligent dogs have hardworking minds that need the right kind of stimulation to keep them happy and healthy.
Selecting a dog purely for their perceived trainability doesn’t take other important lifestyle factors into account, like their exercise or grooming requirements. Selecting the right fit means taking the entire scope of a dog’s needs into account.
Finally, don’t despair if your dog doesn’t appear on this list of easy-to-train breeds, as it’s not an exhaustive compilation of the best behaved dogs. There are many other highly intelligent and trainable breeds to choose from, including mixed breed dogs with unknown lineage.
Plus, with care, patience, and gentle methods any dog is trainable, even breeds that are typically considered stubborn or aloof.
Easiest Dog Breeds to Train
Based on the qualities of intelligence, motivation and focus, temperament, and overall devotion, the following dog breeds generally pick up on training more quickly than their counterparts.
This breed was born to work, and if you don’t provide a steady occupation for a Border Collie he’ll happily find his own job—which might be shredding your couch!
Known for their sheep-herding abilities and other field work, Border Collies are quick, observant students with an innate watchfulness that almost give them a “sixth sense” connection with their handlers. Their intuitive responsiveness makes them hands down one of the most obedient dogs.
Nearly unmatched in their intuition and intelligence, this unflappable breed is a favorite when it comes to high-pressure jobs like search and rescue and detection work. The observant German Shepherd might come across as stoic and aloof around strangers, but it’s merely a matter of being selective about their familiars. They bond quickly to their families and have great loyalty to their household.
Much like Border Collies, GSDs have the unique ability to problem solve and make decisions for themselves rather than relying solely on their handler’s input. Their high intelligence makes them easy to train, but keep in mind that German Shepherds require a dedicated pet parent who understands their needs.
Good looks are only part of the Poodle package. This eye-catching breed might be known for their fancy hairstyles, but they’ve got a depth of intelligence that makes them more than just a pretty face.
This active breed has the soul of an athlete, and like all clever dogs, poodles require the right kind of brain-powered exercise to keep them happy. Poodles excel at canine sports like dock diving and agility with a grace that combines their solid conformation with their natural athletic abilities.
Poodles are attentive to their handlers and are willing to work hard to achieve training goals as a team.
Australian Cattle Dog
The Australian Cattle Dog combines no-nonsense good looks with a brain that never stops. A working dog through and through, this herding breed needs to be on the job to be truly happy.
Their intelligence and intense focus are assets during the training process, but these same qualities can make the breed challenging for handlers who don’t understand their drive (and potential stubbornness). Their legendary endurance means that they’re best suited in households that can provide ample opportunities to exercise their busy brains and powerful bodies.
There’s a reason why Labrador Retrievers have been the most popular dog breed for 22 years in a row! Labs rank as America’s favorite dog breed because they’re reliable, easy-to-train family dogs that combine good looks with dependably sweet dispositions.
Labs are energetic dogs that master training quickly and are willing to work hard with their handlers. This dependable breed is well-suited for work as assistance dogs and guide dogs. Gentle, hardworking, adaptable and even-tempered, Labs check all of the boxes as the ultimate family dog.
Little dogs get more attention for being cute rather than being intelligent, but the clever Papillion wants to set the record straight. This independent breed has standout “butterfly ears” but it’s the brain below them that secures their spot on the “easy to train” list.
Hardier than they appear, the cheerful Papillon excels at learning new skills. More eager to be on-the-go than snuggled up, Papillons are a fit in households that recognize the breed’s quick, eager minds and are prepared to give these agility standouts the mental and physical exercise they crave.
Another easy-to-train standout breed, the Golden Retriever combines a stable temperament with a natural working ability. These sweet-natured dogs are known for having happy, outgoing personalities and a puppy-like friendliness that lasts well into adulthood.
Powerful and athletic, Goldens are more than willing to work as hard as they play. Their devotion, intelligence and stable temperament have earned them a well-deserved place as one of the AKC’s most popular breeds.