Of course the smartest dog in the world, the border collie, is on this list. But intelligence isn’t the only requirement for responsive training.
woman training her border collie with a treat on the sidewalk; easiest dogs to train
Credit: Brie Passano Goldman

Maybe you're a new pet parent crossing your fingers and hoping your puppy will be the easiest dog to potty train. Or perhaps you want a clever canine pal to engage in agility training or scent work. Regardless of your motivation, it's always worth your time to help pets live up to their full potential by using positive reinforcement training for any skill, trick, or task. 

Here's what might surprise you, though: The easiest dogs to train aren't necessarily those considered to be the smartest breeds, according to Curtis Kelley, CPDT-KA, a trainer, pet behaviorist, and owner of Pet Parent Allies in Philadelphia. 

"Those in the 50th to 85th percentile are the easiest. In the top 15 percent, you have to start being much crisper about communicating with your dog about everything," he says. 

Why Training Is Important

Life with your pet is more enjoyable and less complicated with consistent training. From teaching them essential skills such as how to walk on a leash and to "drop it" if they encounter something nasty to more dazzling feats, like fun tricks and flyball, you assure the health and wellbeing of your pup with valuable mental and physical stimulation. Plus, regular training sessions strengthen your bond with each other.

Kelley says the easiest dogs to train are not only smart, but they also have just the right mix of confidence, responsiveness (as in, they're eager to participate), and motivation. And while intelligence and breed temperament significantly impact how easily trained a dog is, he adds the most significant factor is you. "Being patient and actively engaging your dog is already half of the recipe for training success," he says.

13 of the Easiest-to-Train Dogs

Kelley says the following dogs are brainiacs, usually eager to interact with you, and don't require that you be too precise. "Even if you're not clearly signaling, these dogs are often willing to do guesswork with you," he says.

Golden Retriever

golden retriever holding stick in his mouth; easiest dogs to train
Credit: Brie Passano Goldman

With such good looks, charm, and personality, who wouldn't want to spend time teaching a golden retriever all the tricks? These people-pleasing pups use astute instincts inherited from their Scottish Highland ancestors to accomplish many skills, including working as compassionate therapy dogs.

Labrador Retriever

woman giving labrador retriever a high five; easiest dog to train
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For more than 30 years, devoted Labs have reigned as America's most popular dog breed. First bred in Canada as trusted companions for fishermen, these sharp pups continue to serve in various roles, including as dedicated service dogs. They enjoy not only learning from you but also hiking, camping, and lazing by the fire as your canine pal. 

Border Collie

woman training her border collie with a treat on the sidewalk; easiest dogs to train
Credit: Brie Passano Goldman

Look up "intelligent and task-oriented dog," and there's a photo of a ready-set-go border collie. Experienced pet parents can't get enough of how totally cool this English/Scottish native is. Whether herding cattle, acing an agility course, or setting a Guinness World Record for the most tricks in a minute, you've got to have your wits about you with this one.

Australian Shepherd

tricolor merle australian shepherd sitting on back legs
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Another herding star is the sturdy and loyal Australian shepherd, famous for their keen minds and swift responses. Not actually Australian, these pups are descendents of European dogs assisting Basque sheepherders in the American West. While roaming the real range, they also learned to take direction as popular canine actors in Western movies.

French Bulldog

woman with black and white French Bulldog; easiest dogs to train
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At first glance, you'd never know such a cutie was once trained to chase away vermin, but a working dog like the Frenchie is full of surprises! This bubbly dog is easy to train, especially if she attends puppy kindergarten first so she responds better to cues and doesn't think of everything as playtime!

Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier dog with head cocked
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With such a snazzy coat, it's no wonder the Boston Terrier sports the nickname "America's Gentleman." His roots start in England, but he soon became a favorite in New England and is now the official state dog of Massachusetts. Fun-loving, spunky, and completely adorable, his training motivators are treats, pats, and more treats! 


Portrait of Vizla dog standing on a meadow.
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Another one of the easiest dogs to train, but probably not as well known, is the Vizsla (say it with me: VEESH-la or VEEZH-la), a Hungarian hunting dog. Able to point and retrieve as early as 1 year old, this gorgeous, high-energy lovebug adores her humans—she's the quintessential "Velcro dog"—and many active and experienced dog owners are amazed by her abilities.

Miniature Schnauzer

miniature Schnauzer on leash; easiest dogs to train
Credit: Brie Passano Goldman

German farmers first bred the miniature schnauzer by combining a standard schnauzer and other small breeds, such as the affenpinscher, to have a reliable vermin hunter. Now, these family-friendly pups with agile minds still expect to have a job to do, so not only will they succeed at basic skill training, but they might also offer a list of tricks they'd like to learn as well.


closeup of a white and red papillon running on a sidewalk
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If you have your heart set on finding the easiest small dog to train, take a closer look at a spunky papillon. As a continental toy spaniel, this sweet and attentive European beauty might not need a lot of exercise, but she expects oodles of attention. Use interactive toys and indoor games to keep her engaged.

Cocker Spaniel

cocker spaniel jumping with ball in mouth
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Another spaniel favorite is the tenderhearted cocker. Initially bred to be a hunting dog, this bright pooch prefers to be an instant playmate for kids and eagerly takes instruction on many daily skills and tricks.

Shetland Sheepdog

shetland sheepdog or sheltie running in park
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With enough zip and flash to round up an entire flock, Shetland sheepdogs or "Shelties" are little smarties hailing from the rugged hills of the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland. They tackle just about any task you give them with excitement and attention, and they're true diplomats in the household, getting along with children, other dogs, and even cats

Bernese Mountain Dog

woman smiling face-to-face at her Bernese Mountain Dog, one of the most affectionate dogs breeds
Credit: Jason Donnelly

Many dog-lovers are fond of "Berners" not only because they're easy to train, but also for their mellow dispositions and steadfast faithfulness to both two– and four–legged members of their family. These hardworking Swiss farm dogs are ready to help out on just about any chore with a quick press of a clicker: Pulling carts, driving cattle, or carrying camping gear are some of their favorite ways to lend a paw.


boxer wearing a grey and yellow collar on a leash with their owner in the background
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When the personable boxer comes in for a snuggle sesh, it's hard to say no! Their ancestors were Roman war dogs, and the family tree on their German side includes mastiffs. But boxers are lovers, not fighters, and they're extremely comical. Boxers also thrive with 30 minutes of daily exercise, so construct a dog-friendly backyard to teach them fun new tricks.

Dog Training Tips

Kelley says pet parents can usually cover the essentials and basic cues without the assistance of a trainer. Check out our step-by-step guides for skills such as: 

"If someone is interested in training their dog as a hobby, they can find activities such as agility, scent work, or rally classes taught by certified trainers," Kelley says. "Additionally, if pet parents encounter behavioral issues such as growling or lip curls, they should hire a certified trainer or behaviorist."