Working with a good professional trainer who uses positive reinforcement techniques is a good way to train any dog, no matter what the breed. But some dog breeds are indeed easier to train than others. Why is this?
According to dog training and behavior experts, working dog breeds tend to be the easiest to train because they’ve been bred to work closely with humans to perform specific tasks that require focus, intelligence, and an eagerness to please.
Working dogs have historically performed all kinds of jobs, from herding livestock to retrieving game animals to pulling sleds. Today’s working dogs are trained to do many other jobs, like search and rescue, therapy and assistance, and police and military work.
Let’s look at some of the easiest to train dog breeds and what makes them trainable.
The 13 Easiest to Train Dog Breeds:
1. Border Collie
You’ll often see the Border Collie topping all sorts of lists, from trainability to intelligence. It’s a fact, the Border Collie is very smart and highly trainable. That said, if your Border Collie isn’t kept active and busy, you’re likely to see some frustration and destructive behavior.
Why is the Border Collie so easy to train? Border Collies were bred to be active and hard-working livestock herding dogs. Their jobs require stamina and focus. Many Border Collies are still hard at work on farms, and many also participate in competitive sheepdog trials.
If you don’t have sheep for your Border Collie to herd, it’s still very important for your dog to have a job to keep it occupied. Many Border Collies are stars in the canine obedience and agility training world. Lots of interactive play sessions are key to keeping your Border Collie happy.
2. Australian Cattle Dog
Like the Border Collie, the Australian Cattle Dog (ACD) is also a very intelligent herding dog breed that is easy to train. The ACD (often also called a Heeler) will also quickly become bored and frustrated without a job or stimulating activities to do.
For potential owners, this means that your dog will not do well if left alone for many hours during the day. The ACD is a high-energy dog that requires lots of physical activity and mental stimulation to thrive.
Like the Border Collie, the ACD does very well in obedience and agility training. The more complex the activity, the better, as a simple game of fetch in the backyard probably won’t be enough for this alert and energetic dog.
3. German Shepherd
What list of most trainable dog breeds would be complete without the German Shepherd? The German Shepherd has a well-deserved reputation for being trainable, intelligent, loyal, and dependable. They form very close bonds with their human family and their eagerness to please makes them highly trainable.
German Shepherds thrive on the one-on-one interaction with their owners that is such a large part of training. While not as driven to work as some of the herding dog breeds, German Shepherds still appreciate interacting with their people during play or other physical activities.
Because German Shepherds can be wary of strange dogs and people, socialization is a big component of training, especially when they’re puppies. Organized group activities like puppy kindergarten classes can be helpful during their early stages of development.
Are there any small dogs that are smart and trainable? The Toy and Miniature Poodle breeds can be an excellent choice if you’re looking for a small dog that’s easy to train. The large Standard Poodle was originally bred to be a hunting dog, and the sized-down Poodles retain the Standard’s trainability and intelligence.
Smaller Poodles can be livelier and more active than other small dogs bred to be companion lap dogs. This means that your pint-sized Poodle will enjoy training as well as canine activities like obedience and agility.
Poodles were used as water retriever dogs in the past, and many still retain a love of water and can be trained to retrieve toys in the water as a form of play. Poodles also have the extra benefit of being low-shedding and allergy-friendly.
5. Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland Sheepdog (or Sheltie) is a small to medium-sized herding dog that is smart and easy to train, like its cousin the Border Collie. Shelties are known for their enthusiastic and cheerful temperaments, which makes them easy to train.
Training is important for Shelties, starting at an early age. Some Shelties can bark a good amount, and some will have a strong urge to chase small animals like squirrels. Their intelligence and eagerness to please make them good candidates for organized activities like obedience and agility.
Keep in mind that the Sheltie’s beautiful thick coat does shed and will require regular grooming—at least once a week—but more frequently when the dog is actively shedding.
6. Doberman Pinscher
The Doberman’s origins can be traced to the 19th century when the breed was created to be a guardian and protection dog. The Doberman has since gone on to become one of the most dependable working dog breeds; it is both highly intelligent and trainable.
Dobermans are known for their alertness and bravery. They are easy to train because they are fast learners and they are highly responsive to commands. On the other hand, some Dobermans can be strong-willed, so firm training is a must.
This is an active and athletic dog breed that develops a strong attachment to its humans. Your Doberman will do best mentally and physically when participating in interactive play and exercise sessions together with you.
The Labradoodle is a designer mixed-breed dog that combines the intelligence of the Poodle with the cheerful personality of the Labrador Retriever. This combination of smarts and an eagerness to please make the Labradoodle an easy-to-train dog.
Their trainability is what makes the Labradoodle such a popular choice, not just for a family pet, but also as a dedicated service and therapy dog. Once trained, Labradoodles make gentle and dependable companions for people with disabilities.
Some Labradoodles can take after their Labrador Retriever parents and be a little rambunctious, but most do very well with consistent training using positive reinforcement techniques.
8. Bernese Mountain Dog
The handsome Bernese Mountain Dog is known for its great temperament. It is gentle, affectionate, and eager to please. Although large, the Bernese Mountain Dog is easy to train because of that good-natured personality.
The Bernese Mountain Dog was originally bred to be a working dog, commonly used as a multi-purpose farm dog, to drive and guard livestock, and pull heavy loads. This working background makes the breed easy to train.
Keep in mind that their sweet temperaments make them very sensitive to harsh words and punishment. This means that positive reinforcement training techniques are essential for this gentle giant.
9. American Eskimo Dog
The American Eskimo Dog combines cute looks with sharp intelligence and an eagerness to please its people. It may look like a little Samoyed, but the breed was developed from the German Spitz, a hard-working small farm dog.
Years ago, the breed’s intelligence, liveliness, and trainability made it a popular performing dog, used in circuses and other traveling shows. These dogs charmed audiences doing all sorts of fancy tricks.
You can still teach your American Eskimo Dog to do tricks! Its eagerness to please and keen intelligence makes it easy for this dog to go beyond the standard obedience commands.
10. German Wirehaired Pointer
The German Wirehaired Pointer (GWP) was bred to be a versatile hunting dog. Rather than specialize in one task, the GWP could be trained to point, retrieve, and perform other jobs alongside hunters. This flexibility makes the GWP among the most trainable dog breeds.
The breed is known for its energy and enthusiasm. That high energy level and need for physical activity mean that while trainable, they also require a lot of exercise and attention. They can be a lot for a novice dog owner to handle.
The German Wirehaired Pointer’s athleticism and eagerness to please their owner make them ideal dogs to train for canine sporting activities like obedience and agility training and—of course—hunting and tracking.
The Barbet is an old French dog breed, developed centuries ago as a waterfowl retrieving dog. While not very well known, its history as a working hunting dog makes the Barbet trainable and eager to please.
The Barbet has a cheerful and affectionate personality. They are known for their intelligence and learning ability which, combined with their agreeable nature, makes them easy to train.
Barbets are true water dogs and love swimming and water activities. They do well when learning and participating in organized canine activities but are especially good at water sports like dock diving and water retrieving.
12. Miniature Schnauzer
The Miniature Schnauzer is among the most trainable of the small dog breeds. They are sized-down Standard Schnauzers and were bred to hunt down rats on farms. While this is traditionally a terrier job, the Miniature Schnauzer is not a true terrier and does not have the terrier’s stubborn personality.
The Mini Schnauzer is obedient, trainable, and eager to please. They love their families and are also friendly with strangers, making them good family pets. Their high intelligence makes them quick learners and they will appreciate learning new tricks to keep things interesting.
Keep in mind that their background as ratters has given them a strong prey drive. This means that you’ll need to keep your dog on a leash or in an enclosed area when outdoors, so it doesn’t run off chasing squirrels.
The Keeshond is a cute spitz-type dog known for its perky personality and fluffy coat. But beneath all that fur is a friendly, intelligent dog that is very easy to train. The Keeshond is originally from the Netherlands, bred to be a guard dog on barges.
This working dog history makes the Keeshond responsive and eager to please when it comes to training. Learning the basic commands is easy for this breed, and you’ll want to keep your Keeshond mentally stimulated and engaged in ongoing learning.
All that fur requires some regular grooming, but not as much as you might think. Their coats can be kept in good condition with weekly brushing and an occasional bath. Shaving is not recommended as it can cause the coat to grow unevenly.
These are just a few of the many dog breeds that are easy to train. Any dog can behave well with good training and socialization that starts from puppyhood, but history and breeding do give some breeds an advantage.
Breeds with working dog ancestry can be among the easiest to train. This can be especially true for herding dog breeds. Some breeds, even ones with a history as working dogs, can be more stubborn and independent than others, making them more challenging to train. Some terriers and hounds have this reputation, but of course, all dogs are individuals.
Whichever breed you choose, consistent training and socialization from puppyhood are key to good behavior. Don’t be afraid to work with a professional dog trainer if you are an inexperienced dog owner.
Featured Image Credit: Debra Anderson, Shutterstock