Why Border Collie is considered the most intelligent dog in the world?

How does a dog, who doesn’t speak the human language is capable of understanding all the commands you give it? Well, the answer to this question is easy; it is their intelligence speaking. The Border collie dog breed is considered to be the smartest dog according to the rankings of Stanley Coren’s Intelligence. Sometimes, these animals can even outsmart us in a few matters. 

We know this breed to be one of the hardworking dogs that can please you easily. Other breeds can be better than a Border collie in many aspects, but they can never compete with the intelligence of this breed. This article will give you every tiny bit of information regarding a Border collie’s intelligence and the facts that make them smart. But before learning about the Border collie’s intelligence, we must understand the concept of Dog IQ. 

What is Dog Intelligence?

Dog Intelligence or Dog IQ measures the capacity of a dog in storing memory, retrieving memory, and using the memory for a given task. This intelligence has three phases:

  • Instinctive Intelligence– It refers to the inbuilt ability to understand things. Eg. Border collie’s trait of herding cattle.
  • Adaptive Intelligence– It refers to the ability of a dog to solve a problem at hand. This way, the dog gets to learn more than it does from regular training.
  • Working Intelligence and Obedience– It refers to the dog’s obedience level and working abilities. Here, both instinctive and adaptive intelligence plays an important role. 

Measuring a Border collie’s intelligence:

A Border collie’s intelligence is hard to defeat.  Those who have owned this breed should know about the traits it inherits. While measuring the breed’s intelligence, we came across research done by one of the well-known canine psychologists Stanley Coren. He was accompanied by 199 obedience trial judges who supported him throughout his research.

They judged a dog depending on-

1. How long does he take to learn an unknown command,

2. What is the success rate of obeying the command and

3. What is their accuracy to recognize problems and emotional cues and solving them.

Their research concluded that 138 breeds qualified for the intelligence test. And since Border collie was registered both by the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club; it was the first breed to be selected for the final list. The Border collie’s intelligence got a success rate of 95%. The breed that ranked second was Poodle and third was a German shepherd.

  • Comparing a Border collie to other dog breeds

The dog with an average intelligency took at least 25-40 repetitions for remembering a command. Unlike the Border collie, they had a success rate of 50%.  Dogs like Huskies, Great Dane, Boston Terrier, Boxer, and Dachshund are dogs with an average intelligency. Other dogs who came close to the IQ of a Border collie’s intelligency were Poodles, German Shepherds, Doberman, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, etc. While the intelligence of a Border collie is the same as a 3-4 years old human toddler, other dogs will have the intelligence of a 2 years old child.

There were a total of 9 dogs who ended up on the list of smartest dogs in the world. These were Border collie, Poodle, German shepherd, Golden Retriever, Doberman pinscher, Shetland Sheepdog, Labrador Retriever, Papillion, Rottweiler and finally the Australian Cattle Dog.      

Why are Border collies smart?

The border collie is a medium-sized breed with an IQ that is equivalent to the knowledge of a 4-year-old toddler. These dogs are also energetic beings and task-oriented. However, the reason for their smartness dates back to its origin. The prime reason for breeding this dog was to herd sheep. Gradually, this allowed them to showcase themselves in sheepdog trials and stage performances. 

Border Collies Smart

Coren believed that a dog gains 51% of its intelligence from its genes. The remaining 49% of the intelligence is gained by the breed from its environment. Therefore, we can assume that the descendants of a Border collie named Landrace collies are responsible for more than half of its intelligence.  Researchers have also confirmed that a gene called CTNND2 that causes normal cognitive development in humans can also be responsible for a Border collie’s intelligency. 

Factors that make Border collie the smartest breed in the world:

  1. Herding: One of the most important factors that made Border collie the smartest breed include their herding traits. As we all know, these breeds were bred to become efficient working dogs, but they gradually evolved into herders. The leaders of the sheep cattle trained these dogs to obey the commands. It is from this point that they developed obedience and became accurate at doing tasks. 
  1. Training: A Border collie’s intelligency and smartness can be detected from the way it is trained. Among the few breeds that can be highly trained, the Border collie is one. As super-quick learners, they grasp the commands you teach them in just 5 repetitions. Their easy-to-train feature makes Border collies smart. 
  1. Rescuing: The Border collie is an all-rounder breed. As smart dogs, they utilise the training they receive in rescue operations. Being agile is a part of their natural trait. But, their strong sniffing power is the cherry on top! They use their amazing tracking ability to rescue people. The Border collie Blitz is one of the greatest examples of such rescue dogs that tracked a woman who went missing in England for 24 hours. She was later rescued from under thick foliage by Blitz. 
  1. Staring: The Border collie’s intelligency has made them a popular breed. But a smart feature of this breed is its staring. The breed has a hypnotic stare that can make the cattle follow the lead. This stare is also called ‘give the eye’. This super-powerful gaze was enough for the breed to control the entire flock. 
  1. Predicting owner’s desire: Now how smart can a dog be so that he can predict the desire of its owner? Guess that is a unique trait possessed only by Border collies. These dogs are not only good partners but are also responders to every action. Sometimes, they can even predict your commands without you saying them out, loud. Such a unique trait proves Border collies smart.   

It is impossible for such all rounder dog to not win any titles at dog shows. There are several dog shows organised by the Westminster Kennel club, Crufts and others. These organisations conduct events based on agility, herding, training, etc. A 5-year old Border collie named Pink won the Agility Championship held by the Westminster Kennel Club in 2020.

Border collie in Kenel club

Another Collie who gained popularity after winning dog shows was Verb. Along with its handler Perry DeWitt, this dog won the title for Masters Agility, twice! First, it won in 2019, and then in 2021. Winning a show with such reputation, back-to-back has again proved a Border collie’s intelligence.

Why are Border collies intelligent?

The Border collie’s intelligence is not a debatable topic. There have been several sources that confirm the intelligence of this breed. Besides having the highest IQ level, this breed has also proved its allegiance as a working dog. Let’s take a look at how the three dimensions of intelligence make Border collie the most intelligent and smartest breed in the world.

border collie intelligency
  • Instinctive intelligence of a Border collie: What we know about instinctive intelligence is that it is a being’s natural ability. Every dog breed in the world was bred for a reason. The biggest reason for breeding dogs was to help humans in their daily chores. But, the Border collie’s intelligency made them the best sheepherders of the world. Their descendants were great herders as well. Therefore, it was in their genes to herd flocks better than anyone. Using their instinctive ability, they could round up sheep, move them forward or backwards and make desirable formations. 
  • Adaptive intelligence of a Border collie: Under this dimension, every being gains experience from its surroundings. The same goes for every dog breed. While most dog breeds have average intelligence, the Border collie’s intelligency includes a greater portion of adaptive intelligence. This intelligence involves a problem-solving ability that helps the breed to learn from mistakes and experiences. An interesting fact about this breed is that not every Border collie has this intelligence. The component of dog IQ may vary among the Border collies. But the fun part is, most Border collies have high adaptive intelligence.
  • Working IQ and obedience of a Border collie: How the breed uses its adaptive and instinctive intelligence describes its working IQ. The working Intelligence of a dog is equivalent to school learning. Gaining experience from the surroundings and using the natural talents together can help develop the Border collie’s intelligency.

However, it is mostly the instinctive and adaptive intelligence of a dog that is required for measuring a dog’s IQ.

How to know that your Border Collie is smart?

Intelligence and smartness are among the hidden talents of a Border collie dog breed. However, these features stay dormant unless exposed to a suitable situation. Effort and practice are also necessary for bringing out the Border collie’s intelligence. Those who own a Border collie are well aware of its intelligence. For those, who are new at this, here is a list of the behavioral signs that will prove that your Border collie’s intelligence is no less than the other ones. 

  • Suppose you threw a ball at your Collie pup. There are chances that he may not catch the ball. Instead, the ball rolls out of his reach. But, if he is a smart pup, he’ll find out ways to bring the ball back to you.
  • Border collie pups are curious. They would wanna sniff a new toy you just kept on the floor for them to play with.
  • They are great learners. Therefore, if you call out to them, they should respond in just one to two attempts. A Border collie’s intelligency is also useful when it comes to whistle training. Watching them run to you right at the sound of a whistle is very pleasing to watch. 
  • They will recognise newly met people. A Border collie’s intelligency will allow them to memorise every face they have met.
  • They will be better predictors than tarot cards. They can pick up cues about your next command and do it before you even ask them to. 

A Border collie’s intelligency will always surprise you. Therefore, if you want them to take part in competitions, proper training and guidance will only bring out more talents of your furry companion.

Smartest Border collies of the world:

It is a universal truth that every Border collie is smart. But again, every dog is distinctive in its way. Given below are some of the smartest Border collies you would want to meet at least once in your life.

  1. Brac-  Meet Brac, the Balancing dog. This Border collie’s intelligency and smartness will surely flabbergast you. This dog has astounding balancing skills. Beginning with oranges, bacon, sausages to eggs kept on different spoons; Brac can balance everything. Brac’s trainer Sally trained him so well that he can balance a glass of water on his head without much difficulty. 
  1. Zoe- Though most Border collies are multitalented, this dog surpasses all of them. He is capable of doing so many tricks that you’ll soon lose count of them. He is also among the dogs with greater adaptive intelligence.
  1. Ted: This Border collie is a great sniffer. You might think that all Collies are, so what’s special about him? Well, he can sniff not just anything but cancer. The owner of this dog, Josie Conlan, developed breast cancer along with a tumour in her breast. However, she wasn’t aware of her disease unless Ted sniffed the tumour and gave an alarming cry which forced her to have a check-up.  It was because of this Border collie’s intelligency that Josie’s life got saved.
  1. Chaser: This Border collie is known for having the largest tested memory. She has the strongest memory unlike any human or animal. Besides human language, she was also aware with nouns, verbs, adjectives and pronouns. She lived with John Pilley in Spartanburg, S.C. She knew about the names and shapes of things very well. When asked to bring a toy with an unknown name, she would bring the one that is the most familiar.  However, she died a year after her owner’s death on July 23, 2019.

A person who owned Border collies for 30 years have claimed that these dogs don’t require a lot of training. Once shown about the likes and dislikes of the owner, these versatile dogs will try to do things the faster they can.  We also learnt about a herder who once bought a Border collie pup for using him in his herding business. He conveys that it took his pup just 6 months to learn the process of herding while his other herding dog breeds took as long as 7 years.

Living with a Border collie:

Living with this breed is fun most of the time. A Border collie’s intellgency will never fail to surprise you.  These workaholics may be good at any kind of job, but they are best at giving you company. Collies create their own routine with their owners. They know what every member of their family is doing and at what time. Sometimes, these dogs love to be a part of a chaotic household. But, you must assign them a role to play. As patient companions, they’ll always listen to you and follow accordingly.


The research conducted by Stanley Coren has led to several conclusions. In one of his interviews, Coren claims that dogs with average intelligence can learn 165 words. However, ‘super dogs’ like Border collies can remember up to 250 words. He studied a Border collie named Rico who had knowledge of 200 spoken words and depicted ‘Fast-learning’ that was found only in language learning apes and humans. Even the Guinness Book of World Records has listed another Border collie named Chaser for remembering the names of 1000 objects. Most of the researches done by Coren proved the Border Collie’s intelligency.

Coren also concluded that dogs use observation for learning like searching valuable items, which is treats in their case, finding the best routes to get to their couch, learning about simple mechanics like latches, and finally, understanding meanings of different words by looking at people’s actions and hearing them use the words while speaking. Some of the Border collies who could share their title as the smartest dog include- Max, Rico, Nalini, Gaia Whiskey and others.


Q. Are there any smart toys for Border collies?

Yes, there are smart toys made especially for Border collies so that they don’t get bored when their owner is unable to give them time. Some of these smart toys are Nina Ottosson Dog Puzzle, StarMarks Bob-A-Lot Feeder, etc.

Q. What is the prime drawback of owning a Border collie?

Border collies are very energetic. Therefore, owning them can be a very stressful job. You will always need to keep them engaged by giving them both mental and physical tasks. 

Q. Can I adopt a Border collie with some other pet?

A.  Border collies have a friendly instinct and are good with children and other pets.

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