How Smart Are Australian Shepherds?

Depending on the dog breed you select, the intelligence of your dog will differ. Before adopting any dog, most people consider the intelligence level of that dog breed. The reason why people consider adopting smart dog breed is that smart dogs are really easy to train. No matter which type of training you want to provide to your dog, if the dog is intelligent, training him would be super easy. Here the main question comes in:

So how smart are Australian shepherds?

Australians Shepherd is an intelligent dog breed. It has got 66th rank for the smartest dog breed for obedience and working intelligence out of 138 qualifying breeds. The breed is really smart. Adopting an Australian shepherd will smoothen the training process as Aussies are intelligent.

The important thing is the measurement of intelligence of the dog breed. The meaning of smartness could differ. And, there are also different ways of measuring the intelligence of any dog breed. Depending on the criteria you follow, the Australian shepherd intelligence results would differ. One of the popular methods used by many dog owners for the measurement of their dogs’ smartness level is Coren’s Dog Intelligence Criteria.

Using Coren’s indicator for measuring the dog’s intelligence may not give you the perfect results. Let’s understand how actually Coren’s intelligence indicator works and how the intelligence is measured.

Coren’s Dog Intelligence Indicator

Stanley Coren is a pHD and canine psychologist from the University of British Columbia. To measure the intelligence of different dog breeds, he created an indicator. Coren’s dog intelligence indicator was focused on measuring two things in a dog: obedience and ability to learn.

The reason why this indicator cannot be considered as the perfect indicator for measuring the smartness of a dog breed is that it is focused just on two factors. However, this indicator can be great if you want to measure any of these two factors.

To rank which dog breed is the most intelligent, Coren has taken the help of 199 obedience trial judges from North America. The two main criteria of this experiment were:

  1. To learn a new command, how many repetitions are required by a particular dog breed. The dog breed which requires fewer repetitions would be considered as more intelligent as compared to breeds that required more repetitions.
  2. The success rate that the dog breed will obey the command. According to the second rule, a higher success rate with a particular dog breed means it is smarter as well as obedient.

Coren’s experiment was all about two things the obedience of the dog and the ability to learn a new command. Based on these two factors, different dog breed intelligence was measured.

How Australian Shepherd Performed?

In this experiment by Coren, Australian Shepherds got 66th rank out of 138 qualifying dog breeds. As per this indicator, the Australian shepherd can learn a new command with 25 to 40 repetitions.

Though the rank achieved by the Australian shepherd dog breed is great, still we can’t consider this rank as the IQ or intelligence level of the Aussie dog. The reason is the experiment was done based on only two factors.

This does not determine the overall intelligence or smartness of the dog breed.

So this was the intelligence indicator by Stanley Coren. As this indicator is focused on obedience and ability to learn, we cannot say that this can help to know the IQ of a particular dog breed.

Why Aussies Rank Low For Coren’s Intelligence?

The reason behind this is the loopholes in the intelligence indicator of Coren. Stanley Coren’s intelligence indicator for different dog breeds tests the dog’s obedience level and its ability to learn new commands. Using just these two factors, we can’t come to the conclusion that a particular dog breed ranks at a particular position in terms of intelligence level.

Aussies are highly intelligent, it is obvious to have the question even with such a great intelligence level why the breed ranks so low as per Coren’s indicator.

One of the main reasons why Aussies ranked low is because the intelligence test was based on two aspects, obedience and ability to learn. These two aspects are not sufficient to know the accurate intelligence level of the dog breed.

The test examines how obedient the dog breed is to various stuff. Here the important thing to consider is different dogs have different motivators. Let say, some are obedient toward playing with toys, while some are obedient to food. This is one of the possible reasons why Aussies are ranking low for intelligence.

Another possible reason can be the energetic personality of the Aussies. How? Australian shepherds are highly energetic and the personality of Aussies makes it difficult for them to go through various tests. This can be another main reason why this breed ranked low.

Aussie Intelligence Reactions & Opinions From Owners

Below is information we curated from different dog and Aussie forums/websites.

We only changed any spelling or grammar that had to be corrected. Other then that the answers remain the same.

Real Aussie Owner Opinions

1. Cpersall “These tests are bs” – To start with, those lists are bs. For example, a husky is an intelligent breed, but not easily trained (biddable) because it’s bred to think for itself. Each breed is bred for a purpose and should be better at that job that a dog bred for something else. If you are lost in the forest, you want a scent hound, if you are a farmer, a herder or livestock guardian, a hunter would want a retriever or pointer. Each of those dogs would be intelligent, but it shows in different ways. Intelligence and trainability can very in the breed as well, depending on lines and what exactly they are bred for. I would say aussies are very comparable to BCs, as well as other herding breeds. Many lists only list common breeds. Up until not long ago, aussies weren’t even on these lists, never mind at the top of them. Now I see them usually in the top 5. Considering there really is no such thing as the smartest breed, I think top 5 is fair enough.

2. DFWPhotoguy “There is a place for these test” – Ok, so if you want to p*ss off the aussie crowd, claim that their dogs are not in the top 10 smartest breeds.

Dr Corens biddablity scoring is a good foundation but I honestly think that most Aussie owners and many in the field would question a few things about the tests, the results and ranking.

Do not believe for one moment that Aussies are dumb. Even on the list, they are in the middle which means average to slightly above average. From personal experience I would say they are in the top 20 ranking, possibly top 10 but I am clearly biased.

Aussies are the class clown compared to border collies, but not in a stupid way at all. They just don’t have the same intensity but they both perform very very similar tasks. They just go about interacting with Humans differently.

3. TheDogIsBotheringMe “Hard time believing” – I have a hard time believing that stuff. If you train your dog, work with him, and keep his mind occupied, you will have a “smart” dog.

4. TxLadyVoter “Every dog different” – Every dog is an individual. And very subject to your interactions and stimulation.

5. Schleppenheimer “Border and Aussie Similar” – I’ve owned zero border collies, and two aussies. My limited knowledge/impression is that aussies are less skittish/more friendly and dopey than border collies. I initially wanted a border collie, but I read (often) that they are very intense and really do NEED a job to do or interaction constantly. My aussies have been very trainable and intelligent, but they know how to relax as well, and really seemed to love ALL people and other dogs. I think Border Collies are wicked smart, but tend to like their family (and specifically one person) more than other people.

6. Eric987235 “Border and Aussie almost same” – Aussies basically are border collies, only adapted to harsher climates. I can barely tell the difference half the time!

7. MamiesMom “Only time I have heard is from these tests” – Truthfully, I have never, ever heard someone call an Australian Shepherd stupid or ditzy. I’d question the judgment of anyone saying that. The only time I’ve ever seen Aussies ranked low is on Stanley Coren’s biddability scale (the one you’re citing with Aussies in the 40s) and I have no idea why he ranks them so low. They are known for being one of the most intelligent and trainable breeds. Do keep in mind that that’s only a single ranking – most others will rank Aussies as the #2 most intelligent breed, or at least in the top 5.

8. SnoraLax “Take test with huge lump of salt” – As others have pointed out, I would take that test with a huge lump of salt. I also have never heard of Aussies being thought of or called “stupid,” are you just inferring that from the test? BS and Aussies have different working styles and I’ve always felt it translated to Aussies being a bit more goofy and full-body contact. Drive might vary a bit even within lines of working/show Aussies, but they’re certainly still quite smart.

Aussies have also recently risen in popularity quite a bit so I think you are now seeing more inexperienced folks who own them. This happens to BCs, too, of course, but I think that they are more commonly seen as working dogs or dogs with dog-savvy/sport homes.

Minis/Toys are “talked down” because there are no size variants of the Australian shepherd (and thus, no such thing as a Standard Aussie, either.) Typically minis and certainly toys have other breeds mixed in and from BYBS. Thus, they very a lot. Not to be confused with Miniature American Shepherds which are a different breed and not a size variant of Aussies.


So as you can see a very love/hate relationship with these tests. Here is our take just like something called the BMI test in people it works for some, but others it is way off. Somebody like Arnold Schwarzenegger would be considered very obese in his prime when he wont Mr. Olympia and Universe.

So take it with a grain of salt. If Bordie Collies are so smart according to Coren’s then common sense would tell you an Australian Shepherd would be right there with them, but that’s not the case.

If you want to see how smart they can be go on youtube and check out some of their agility shows they are amazing to watch when well trained. Our Aussies are very smart and listen to almost everything except when they want to bark when somebody comes to visit then forget it.

Now let’s take a look into the top smartest dog breeds out there:

Top Smartest Dog Breeds

The smart breeds we have listed here are listed based on the Coren’s dog intelligence indicator. In this indicator, Coren has taken into account two factors, obedience and ability to learn, with two different criteria. So here are the top smartest dog breeds according to the Stanley Coren’s dog breed intelligence indicator:

1. Border Collie

Border Collie is an energetic, easy to train, and intelligent dog breed. The breed has got high intelligence level as well as energy level. Border Collies are perfect for friendly people. The breed is friendly toward families, kids, and strangers. This is the dog breed that took the number one position in Coren’s Dog Intelligence Indicator.

From Stanley Coren’s indicator, we can say that most Border Collies can learn a new command in five seconds and can follow it 95% of the times. From the survey by Coren, it is concluded that Border Collie is the best breed when it comes to obedience and the ability to learn new commands faster.

2. Poodle

Apart from being smart, Poodles are also friendly, loving, and playful. The good thing about Poodles is they can get along with almost everyone. They can be friendly toward families, kids, other dogs, and even toward strangers. By providing socialization training, it can be easy to get along with them.

The breed is affectionate and outgoing, Poodles don’t like spending their time alone. If you leave the Poodle dog alone for a longer period, it may lead to destructive behavior. In order to provide physical and mental stimulation, it is essential to focus on exercise and other activities. Another good thing about Poodles is they are hypoallergenic. It means if you are allergic to dog shedding, this breed is for you.

3. German Shepherd

German Shepherds are the world’s leading police, guard, or military dogs. Germans are energetic as well as easy to intelligence. Their high energy level smoothes the training process. They are not just used as a guard or police dogs. As this breed is friendly and loving, it is also a great family-friendly dog.

German Shepherds are good and friendly with families as well as kids. They may or may not do great with other dogs and strangers. As this is a highly intelligent dog breed, its ability to learn a new command is great and it does follow the provided commands. After getting a German Shepherd, you will need to focus on providing regular exercise and physical activities, as this breed has high energy levels and high exercise requirements.

4. Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever is the most popular dog breed in the United States. Goldens are high intelligent, fun-loving, playful, and easy to train. They can get along with anyone. No matter whether it is your family, your kids, your other dogs, or strangers, the Golden Retriever dog will be friendly with all. The breed is very friendly that it loves to stay around with people and don’t enjoy being alone.

The Golden Retriever dog does not do well when it is left alone for long. So in order to avoid separation anxiety and depression, it is essential to always have someone with this breed dog.

5. Doberman Pinscher

Doberman Pinscher dog breed was originated in Germany during the late 19th century. This is another highly intelligent dog breed. Due to the high intelligence level of Dobermans, they are easy to train. The breed is popular for its high stamina and speed.

Dobermans are very affectionate toward their family. Their reaction toward kids and strangers may or may not be good. One thing for sure is that they can’t do well with other dog breeds. So if you already have any other dog adopted and planning to adopt the second one, you should avoid getting a Doberman Pinscher.

6. Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog is also called as Sheltie. This is a friendly and playful dog breed. Sheltie is a miniature working Collie. Their loving and friendly nature can attract almost everyone. The good thing is they are friendly toward their family, kids, other dogs, and strangers as well. They do bark on strangers, but with proper socialization, they can get along with any person.

The high intelligence level of this dog breed makes the training process easy. Unlike many other dog breeds, providing training won’t be big stress with a Shetland Sheepdog.

7. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever is the perfect family-friendly dog breed. The breed is gentle, intelligent, fun-loving, and easy to train. The good thing about Labradors is that they can get along with everyone. They are friendly toward their family, kids, other dogs, and strangers. They are muscular and athletic, they are built especially for sporting.

The breed is so affectionate that it can’t tolerate being alone. Labs require so much of love, care, and affectionate from their owners. Leaving or locking them alone for long periods is the worst thing you can ever do. As the breed has a high energy level, by leaving alone for long, the energy would not be used at the right place.

8. Papillon

Papillon is an alert, friendly, happy, and intelligent dog breed. This small dog breed is very affectionate and to spend time with its owner and its people. In the French language, Papillon means the butterfly. This name is given to this dog breed due to its butterfly-like ears.

The breed is loving toward its family, other dogs, and strangers. The dog breed may or may not be friendly toward kids. Due to their high intelligence level, providing training would be easy.

9. Rottweiler

Rottweilers are loyal, friendly, smart, and confident. Rottweilers are very loyal and protective of their owners and families. They are friendly toward their families, kids, as well as strangers. The breed is not dog-friendly. So you may find difficult to get him along with a particular breed of dog.

The breed is very playful and it has got great energy. In order to burn off the excess energy, it is essential to focus on the exercise needs of the dog. After getting this breed, you must focus on providing enough exercise and physical activity sessions regularly. Failing in doing so will not just create destructive behavior, but it may also result in weight gain as this breed has a high potential for weight gain.

So these are the top nine smartest dog breeds. The above-given list is based on Stanley Coren’s dog intelligence indicator. As we have seen, the intelligence indicator by Coren was focused on obedience and ability to learn so here we can say that the above-listed dog breeds are very obedient and they have great learning ability.

Are Big Dogs Smarter Than Small Ones?

One interesting question we came across is are big dogs smart than small dogs? There was research conducted to get the answer to this question, and finally, scientists have found the answer.

In the research, it is found that bigger dogs with larger brains perform better than small dogs. The large dogs perform better on certain measures of intelligence.

It was found that larger brained dogs have are great on measures of executive functions as compared to small-brained dogs. Executive functions are the set of cognitive processes required to control and coordinate the cognitive abilities and behaviors. The research also tells that bigger dogs to have better short-term memory and self-control as compared to small puppy dogs.

So when it comes to intelligence level, the size of dog does matter. The bigger-brained dogs have better executive functions and short-term memory as compared to the small-brained dogs.

Are Australian Shepherds Affectionate?

The Australian shepherd is like a combo of intelligence, energy, and affection. As per Coren’s intelligence indicator, Aussies are pretty smart, they are obedience and they have a great ability to learn a new command.

If we talk about affection, Aussies are highly affectionate, loving, and friendly. They love spending time with their owners and their people. Their high energy level allows them to play for long hours, without getting tired. Their affection toward families and kids, make them perfect for family people.

The loving, loyal, and affectionate nature of Aussies always want to be around with its owner and its people. Aussies can’t tolerate being alone. If you are always busy and can’t get time for your Aussie dog each and every day, then you should look for any other dog breed. To keep Aussies happy, regular playtime sessions are not enough.

Due to the high energy level, they also require a great focus on fulfilling their exercise & physical activity needs. The needs for physical activities are higher for high energy level dog breeds. In order to keep your Aussie dog physically and mentally fit, regular exercise & play sessions would be very important. On average, Australian shepherds require a minimum of 1 to 2 hours of exercise every day.

Not helping them to burn off their energy on a regular basis would lead to so many problems. Mostly, it happens, people own energetic and fun-loving dog breed like Australian shepherd. Later on, they can’t manage to pay attention to the dog’s requirements and at last, these dogs end up being at rescue centers.

This is the reason why it is essential to pay due to importance to the dog’s personality before adopting it. Knowing the personality gives you an idea about whether the dog will match your lifestyle or not.

Australian shepherds are very affectionate and loving. You can consider adopting this dog breed only if you can deal with its requirements. It is important to maintain the love and affection with the dog.

Final Thoughts

The Australian shepherd is a smart, loving, and energetic dog breed. According to dog breed intelligence test by Coren, Aussies rank 66th for the smartest dog breeds for obedience and working intelligence. This rank is from the total number of 138 qualifying breeds.

Obedience and the ability to learn a new command cannot hugely impact the intelligence level. As this test by Coren is concerned just about two factors, it may not be the best method to know the intelligence or IQ of a particular dog breed.


Tab Winner

Hello my name is Tab Winner. My wife and I have been around Australian shepherds for 20+ years and we definitely love them. We currently have a pair of Toy Aussies one is a Tri-color and the other is a blue merle that are both 10 and 11 years old.

Recent Posts