Border Collie head tilt.

The 13 Easiest Dog Breeds to Train

Written By Vedrana Nikolic | Canine Coach, B.A Ethnology & Anthropology, M.A Semiotics.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 9th January 2024

Dogs are incredibly clever creatures and training them is a big part of being a pet parent. But, not all dogs are alike and they can have wildly different characters. Some are obedient and eager to learn while others are stubborn and much prefer their own plans to what you have in mind. 

So which is the easiest dog to train? Let’s see!


The Easiest Dog Breeds To Train

Some breeds will learn a new command after the 40th try, while others might only need a handful. Many of them are working breeds, as these dogs are more inclined to listen to their owners. Let’s see what those dog breeds are.

Border Collie

Border Collie head tilt.

These medium-sized English dogs are believed to be the most intelligent dog breed in the world. According to research done by Two Wofford College, a Border Collie named Chaser learned more than 3,000 words, which is equivalent to the vocabulary of a 3-year-old child (1). So naturally, they quickly pick up on new tricks.

But at the same time, that also means that a Border Collie can also get bored rather easily. This dog has a very demanding personality, so mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. Without that, this dog can quickly get, well, problematic.

On the bright side, this breed loves to please, quickly learns new behaviour and applies it to similar situations. So as long as you keep a Border Collie busy, you’ll have a happy dog. Performing tricks is where this breed shines the most. This dog can learn practically anything from dancing and rolling dead to agility training.

German Shepherd

German Shepherd dog sitting

The German Shepherd was originally bred for herding sheep. But today, you can see one of these dogs working in the police, military, search and rescue, tracking, therapy, service, etc. Is there anything a German Shepherd can’t do? This breed is highly intelligent and can learn pretty much any task you give them. Be it to open the door or solve a puzzle, a German Shepherd is up for it.

Related: Are German Shepherds Good With Kids?

These dogs simply love to work, as that’s what they were bred to do. But that also means that if you don’t give them something to do, they’ll find a job on their own. And that might range from barking at the birds to digging through the entire backyard, depending on how bored they might be. But as long as you provide your pooch with something to do around the house, you won’t have to worry about destructive behaviour. Consistency and reward-based training go a long way with German Shepherds, as these dogs are the happiest when you’re satisfied with how they execute their tasks

Labrador Retriever

Labrador Sitting.

Labrador Retrievers are the real goofballs of the dog world. These dogs are energetic and enthusiastic to the point of acting like clowns to be at the centre of attention. And because of their silly nature, we tend to forget that this is an old working breed. Back in the day, Labrador Retrievers were bred to assist fishermen in carrying ropes and retrieving fishnets, hence the name. Nowadays though they’re more often seen as family pets.

Labrador Retrievers are among the most popular breed choice for a pet, not just because they’re easygoing and good-natured, but also one of the best dogs to train. These dogs are highly motivated and love pleasing their owners, so training them is very easy.

A Lab is very motivated by food, so giving your pooch treats for a job well done is an excellent incentive for training. However, keep in mind that this breed has the highest rate of canine obesity (2). This is due to the gene mutation that causes them to feel constantly hungry. So a Labrador will always be motivated by food, but it’s up to you to limit the number of treats to prevent your canine companion from getting chubby.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever Sitting.

A Golden Retriever is yet another dog commonly used as a service animal. What makes this breed such a great choice for this job is their kind nature, eagerness to please and, above all, trainability. This breed often tops the charts in the obedience championships alongside Border Collies.

The fact that these dogs love to listen is not a surprise, given they were bred to do so. Above all, a Golden Retriever wants to make the owner happy. If that means being a good boy or a girl, so be it. Like their “cousins” Labrador Retrievers, these dogs are also very food-motivated, so positive reinforcement in the form of treats is always welcome.

A Golden Retriever is quick to pick up a new trick. In some cases, a few tries are enough to teach your pooch something new. With that being said, you should know that these dogs are easily distracted, especially when young. So it’s best to train them in shorter sessions throughout the day, rather than long ones.

Poodle

Poodle Sitting.

Did you know that these athletic and energetic dogs rank second in terms of intelligence, just below Border Collies? That means they’re just as fast at learning as they are at running it can take less than five repetitions for this dog to learn a new trick.

In terms of intelligence, there’s absolutely no difference between Toy, Miniature and Standard Poodles (3). The difference in size is merely a result of selective breeding, while their characters remained the same. But being the smallest ones, toy Poodles have less energy than their larger cousins. So among size variants, a Toy Poodle will require the least physical stimulation.

Miniature and Standard Poodles, however, require way more exercise. Without it, these intelligent dogs will easily get bored. When training them, make sure to keep things interesting. Otherwise, they’ll find another way to spend that extra energy. Aside from learning tricks, consider agility training for your Poodle.

Doberman Pinscher

Doberman Pinscher

Back in the 1880s, a man named Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann came up with the idea to create an agile and fierce breed to protect his back. And that’s how Doberman Pinscher was born.

It’s undeniable that this breed has an intimidating appearance and protective instinct, but what makes these dogs great guardians is their intelligence. In fact, they’re ranked as the 5th smartest dog breed in the world. Of course, that would mean nothing for trainability had it not been for their eagerness to please their owner. Doberman Pinschers love to obey commands, and they’re quick to pick up on them as well. Generally, it takes no more than 5 tries for a Doberman to learn a new command.

Being such large and strong dogs, proper training is a must from an early age. A Doberman Pinscher likes having a routine, so you should schedule training sessions for the same time each day.

Rough Collie

Rough Collie sitting.

This long-haired breed has been used for herding sheep in Scotland for centuries. As such, these dogs have all the qualities of a herding dog. They’re agile, adaptable, loyal, intelligent and, above all, among the easiest dog breeds to train.

Rough Collies are very social and love people. Their owners are their priority, so they’ll do anything to please them. This means they’ll happily oblige to the commands as well as learn them. Given their guarding background, these dogs can easily be taught to walk off-leash. They have a natural instinct to roam, but will quickly return to you when recalled.

Furthermore, these dogs are natural performers. So if you enrol them in agility training or lure coursing, they’ll be glad to show off their great skills. That’s a great way to keep them both physically and mentally engaged. Remember, a happy dog is an obedient dog.

Miniature Schnauzer

Miniature Schnauzer sitting.

Miniature Schnauzers are known for being insanely energetic. One second they’re chasing the cat and the next you see them digging up a 2-meter hole. But just because they can be a bit “wild,” that doesn’t mean they’re disobedient. You can easily teach this dog to respond to all of your commands.

A Miniature Schnauzer loves being around you and doing things with you. That also means training sessions, as long as they’re interesting. Luckily, these little dogs can learn quite a lot in a short amount of time. This allows you to keep the sessions brief but effective.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese mountain dog

Back in the day, Bernese Mountain Dog was used as a farm dog. These dogs can do anything from transporting carts of milk and cheese to drafting animals. Whatever their task would be, they would always be in the company of people. And to this day, these dogs live to spend time with their owners.

Naturally, that also means that they love to please. They might not be the best performers at agility training in terms of speed and execution, but they’ll surely try. These dogs love being challenged, both mentally and physically. So they’ll gladly show off by executing learned commands every single time.

Havanese

Havanese dog sitting down.

Given they’re more excitable and pugnacious, smaller breeds are generally not known for being as obedient as larger ones (4). However, that’s not the case with Havanese.

This Cuban dog is considered to be a toy dog. But just because there’s no working background, that doesn’t mean that Havanese is tough to train. In fact, these dogs were bred to be human companions, so it’s no wonder they love pleasing their owners.

Havanese love being at the centre of attention. Therefore, these dogs love being good boys or girls for learning new commands. Given how Havanese are rather sensitive, you don’t want to be too harsh on punishment. But since they respond well to positive reinforcement, there is no need for such actions anyways.

Boxer

During World War I, Boxers were used as anything from messenger dogs and pack carriers to guardian and attack dogs. Today, they’re a very popular canine companion.

Throughout the years, Boxers have earned a slight reputation for being "headstrong", but that’s mainly groundless. These dogs indeed love being challenged, both mentally and physically. And when they get bored, they will search for something to keep them entertained.

Boxers are very faithful to their owners and love to listen. They pick up on new things pretty quickly, and they have great problem-solving abilities. These dogs enjoy obedience and agility training, as well as tracking basic hunt and dock diving competitions.

Australian Shepherd

While there’s no official consensus as to which breeds are the ancestors of the Australian Shepherd, it’s believed that this dog is related to Collies. And given how highly intelligent both breeds are, that wouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Given this is a herding breed, it’s no surprise that these dogs are loyal, protective, adaptive and easy to train. Ready to work, Australian Shepherd is happy to obey your commands and learn them with you.

Like their alleged cousins, Collies, Australian Shepherds are very active and agile dogs, which need tons of exercise. Without it, daily life can appear to be pretty bland and boring. And as you know, a bored pooch will easily find something to do, be it chewing on a shoe or barking at the passengers. But as long as you keep them physically and mentally engaged, these dogs will be happy to listen to you.

Papillon

Papillon is one of the oldest toy dog breeds. Back in the day, they were quite popular choices for courts, and even Marie Antoinette was a proud dog parent of a Papillon.

But even though they have a history of living a royalty life, that doesn’t mean these little guys don’t like to get dirty. Papillons are very lively and playful, and they quite enjoy the company of people. They love to learn new commands and especially enjoy performing tricks.

Papillon ranks 8th on the list of the brightest dogs, so they’re quick learners. Given they’re delicate, these dogs respond much better to positive reinforcement. To bring out the best in your dog, regular training paired with praises and treats is the way to go.


My Final Thoughts

Every dog can be trained, but some breeds take more time than others. These 13 breeds are said to be the quickest to pick up on new commands and the most willing to obey them. With that being said, you should keep in mind that many of these dogs are also easily bored when not doing “anything.” And in that situation, even a good boy or girl can become defiant.

Any of the easy-to-train dogs from this list caught your eye? Don’t search for the breeder just yet. You could also consider adopting, as a dog shelter might have a pooch for you. Browse the national adopting platform or check any of the rescue groups across Australia.

References

  1. Peralta, E. January 11, 2011. “Good Dog: Border Collie Learns More Than 1,000 Words” NPR. Retrieved October 29, 2022. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2011/01/11/132839704/good-dog-border-collie-learns-more-than-1-000-words
  2. Bates, A. June 4, 2016. “Why are so many Labradors fat?” NewScientist. Retrieved October 29, 2022. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2086840-why-are-so-many-labradors-fat/
  3. Collins, D. “Are Miniature Poodles As Smart As Standard Poodles?” DoodleProud. Retrieved October 29, 2022. https://www.doodleproud.com/are-miniature-poodles-as-smart-as-standard-poodles/
  4. Coren, S. April 27, 2021. “Why Small Dogs Behave Differently Than Large Dogs” American Kennel Club. Retrieved October 29, 2022. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/why-small-dogs-behave-differently-than-large-dogs/

Vedrana Nikolic


Vedrana Nikolić is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach, Professional Writer, Anthropologist & dog lover.

With a Masters Degree in Semiotics & Bachelors Degree in Anthropology, studying the communication between animals and humans, Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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