Trainability is a huge deal if you’re a dog owner or soon-to-be pet parent. How well your dog responds to your commands can be the difference between a well-mannered pet and Stephen King’s Cujo (ok, maybe not that bad, but you get the idea). Do some dogs have an inherent knack for following directions? The short answer is yes. Here, we list the easiest dogs to train, and we also throw a little shade on breeds that are known to be the least trainable dog breeds.
What is Trainability, Anyway?
When it comes to dogs, trainability refers to their ability to learn quickly and repeat desired behaviors (and quell unfavorable ones). So, some canine experts define dog trainability as the ability of a dog to learn and repeat commands or tricks. The fewer repetitions a dog needs, the more trainable it is.
Does intelligence have anything to do with a dog’s trainability? Yes and no, and probably not in the way you think. A critical component to a dog’s ability to learn is their intelligence, but it’s also their ability or willingness to be people-pleasers. Intelligence alone doesn’t define a dog’s trainability. In fact, some very intelligent dogs can be equally stubborn (hello, Siberian husky) and require a lot of patience when it comes to training.
Don’t worry: Your pet doesn’t have to be Mensa material to gain value from training. Other factors that can influence your pet’s trainability include a breed’s genetic heritage, personality, and instinctive drives. In addition, distractibility and the training methods you use play a role.
What Are the Most Trainable and Obedient Dog Breeds?
Studies indicate breeds that belong to the AKC herding, working, and sporting groups tend to low maintenance dog breeds, more so than those that belong to the non-sporting and toy dog groups. According to studies conducted by the well-renown professor, researcher and canine psychologist, Stanley Coren, the following 10 breeds are the “smartest dog breeds in the world, that can learn a new command in less than five exposures and obey about 95% of the time.”
- Border collie
- German shepherd
- Golden retriever
- Doberman pinscher
- Shetland sheepdog
- Labrador retriever
- Australian cattle dog
Least Trainable Dog Breeds
No offense to these lovable and adorable breeds, but some have reputations for being on the stubborn side. That doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent (quite the contrary) or don’t make good pets. It just means that you’ll need to practice patience and repetition to get through to these little brains.
These are the 10 least trainable dog breeds, which are those that obey about 30% of the time and require more than 100 repetitions to learn a trick:
- Afghan hound
- Chow chow
- Beagle & Mastiff (tie)
- Basset hound
- Shih tzu
While these dogs found their place at the bottom of Dr. Coren’s list, the researcher pointed out that there are always exceptions. With that said, BarxBuddy has a guide to dog training that will make a difference in your training outcomes.
Most Obedient Small Dog Breeds
Small dogs tend to have a bad reputation for un-trainability — some well-deserved. It’s as if they know their cuteness lets them get away with misbehaving! However, some small dog breeds are easier to train and tend to require fewer repetitions in order to repeat trained behaviors.
Here’s the list of small breeds (15 pounds or less) that are most trainable:*
- Border terrier
- Manchester terrier (standard and toy)
- Rat terrier
*Taken from Stanley Coren’s ranking list of dogs for obedience and working intelligence, as well as the AKC’s list of small dogs that are easy to train.