Owning a dog comes with a lot of responsibility. Dogs need a safe environment and a nutritious diet. They need veterinary care. Plus, they need exercise, attention, and plenty of training. It’s no wonder that in addition to searching for a dog who’s easy to own, many people want a dog who will easily learn new tricks (or learn to relieve himself outside). If that sounds like you, you probably want a dog who’s easy to train.
To be clear, you’ll still need to spend plenty of time training your dog. And dogs who are easy to train often still need lots of your time and energy. The most intelligent dogs might understand what you’re saying but decide they have something better to do. And dogs with deep herding or hunting instincts will find it difficult to ignore those impulses. But the dogs who are easiest to train will quickly associate commands with actions. And most of the time, they’ll want to please you and follow your instructions.
Check out 18 dog breeds that have a strong chance of quickly learning what you teach them. They might not be the easiest dogs to own, but they have the potential to learn some impressive tricks.
1. Australian shepherd
The Australian shepherd can learn anything you can teach him. But you need to keep him busy and entertained. In fact, you’ll probably need to continually devise new games and challenges for this highly intelligent dog. As the American Kennel Club explains, this breed’s “strong work drive can make Aussies more dog than a sedentary pet owner might bargain for. Aussies are remarkably intelligent, quite capable of outthinking an unsuspecting novice owner.”
The United States Australian Shepherd Association reports these dogs are highly trainable and “easily housebroken because they are intelligent and eager to please.” But you’ll need to channel your dog’s energy to keep his behavior under control.
Next: A gentle giant that’s easygoing, and wants lots of interaction with people
2. Bernese mountain dog
The Bernese mountain dog is a friendly breed that takes to training easily. According to the AKC, this “gentle giant” is mild-tempered and loves outdoor activities. This breed needs a moderate level of exercise, which will usually keep your dog from barking or acting out.
The Bernese Mountain Dog Club reports that “with the training essential for ownership of a large working breed, Berners are generally gentle, easygoing, and tolerant.” But they do need plenty of interaction with people. And the club advises training should always use positive techniques.
Next: An intelligent dog who wants to use his energy pleasing his owner
3. Border collie
If you’re an experienced dog owner and simply want a dog who will take to training well, you might want to consider a border collie. The border collie has tons of energy but wants to please you. The AKC advises, “The uncanny intelligence, athleticism, and trainability of border collies have a perfect outlet in agility work.” Translation? This workaholic dog will never be a couch potato. So you’ll need to expend some of your own energy keeping him busy.
The Border Collie Society of America reports you’ll also need to make time for ongoing training “in obedience, obedience, obedience!” Activities, such as agility, flyball, rally, herding, and tracking, all enable your dog to learn new mental skills. And they can help you provide your border collie with the vigorous daily exercise he needs.
Next: A surprisingly laid-back — and trainable — terrier
4. Border terrier
The border terrier is often considered a highly trainable dog. And he’s laid-back for a terrier — but don’t think that means he won’t need a lot of activity. The AKC explains the border terrier is “described as ‘hard as nails’ when working, but at home they’re good-tempered, affectionate, and trainable.” With plenty of exercise, they can live just as happily in the city as in the country.
According to the Border Terrier Club of America, the border terrier wants to please you. “This makes it easy to train basic house manners, such as housebreaking, walking on a leash, leaving garbage alone, leaving clothes and kids’ toys alone, not jumping on people or furniture, sitting and staying, and coming when called (barring the presence of a squirrel or rabbit).”
Next: An upbeat and playful dogs who take orders from you or your kids
The boxer is an intelligent and even-tempered dog who learns new commands easily. According to the AKC, these very active dogs “enjoy physical and mental challenges.” But they are also “upbeat and playful. Their patience and protective nature have earned them a reputation as a great dog for children.”
The American Boxer Club reports though many boxers succeed at performance events, the “same innate intelligence that makes him quick to learn also gives the boxer a mind of his own.” The club adds that a trainer needs to stay “purposeful and patient.”
Next: A social dog who doesn’t like being left alone
6. Brussels griffon
The Brussels griffon consistently ranks as one of the easiest dogs to train. As the AKC notes, they are “social, friendly, and easily trained and will usually get along well with other family pets and well-behaved children.” Just bear in mind they’re one of the more high-maintenance dog breeds because they prefer to stay close to their owners and don’t like being left alone.
Nonetheless, the American Brussels Griffon Association reports this breed “excels in conformation (the show ring), obedience, agility, rally trials, tracking tests, and as therapy dogs.”
Next: A large dog who makes a great pet, guardian, and athlete
7. Doberman pinscher
Only experienced dog owners should consider a Doberman pinscher. But if you’re able to provide consistent training and leadership, he can become a friendly member of your family. Just remember Dobermans, like many other dogs, can become destructive and aggressive if you let them become habitually bored or lonely.
According to the AKC, the Doberman who is well trained and socialized “is a loving pet, a world-class family guardian, [and] a versatile canine athlete.” The Doberman Pinscher Club of America reports these dogs require intelligent handling but are versatile in activities, including search and rescue, obedience, and work as a guide or therapy dog.
Next: A dog who can learn just about any job
8. German shepherd
The German shepherd is eager to please and ready to work. And as the AKC reports, this very active breed needs regular mental and physical exercise. However, devotees love the breed for its loyalty, courage, and “the ability to learn and retain commands for an amazing number of specialized jobs.”
The German Shepherd Dog Club of America reports simple training should begin the moment your puppy arrives home. A German shepherd puppy can learn his name and basic commands as early as 8 weeks old.
Next: A classic family dog who will act like a puppy for a long time
9. Golden retriever
The golden retriever makes a great companion for novice dog owners. This dog wants to please. And as the AKC notes, “They have a joyful, playful approach to life and maintain this childlike behavior for longer than some other breeds.”
According to the Golden Retriever Club of America, dogs — including golden retrievers — are problem solvers and learn by trial and error. But your golden isn’t the only one who will be learning during the process of training. “As you teach your dog the steps necessary to learn the obedience exercises, he will respond correctly or incorrectly, and you must learn how to respond appropriately,” the club says.
Next: A people-pleasing dog who loves to clown around
The Havanese always wants to please his owner. That means he loves learning new commands and tricks. In fact, the AKC reports the “Havanese are smart, trainable, and natural clowns.” This dog breed is a good choice for novice dog owners.
But keep in mind he wants company and loves being the center of attention. According to the Havanese Club of America, the major concern with a Havanese puppy “is to provide adequate socialization for the pup to become a good citizen both in the home and the community. This usually involves exposure to a lot of other people and other dogs.”
Next: An incredibly popular breed that loves people and other dogs
11. Labrador retriever
The Labrador retriever takes the cake as the most popular dog in the U.S. — and for good reason. The breed is easy to train, whether you want one as a family dog or working dog. The AKC reports Labs socialize well with humans and with other dogs. But you shouldn’t “confuse his laid-back personality for low energy. The Labrador retriever is extremely active — he’s never met a backyard he didn’t like.” According to the Labrador Retriever Club, these dogs are “eager to please and non-aggressive toward man or animal.”
Next: A spunky little dog who’s very quick to learn
12. Miniature schnauzer
The miniature schnauzer finds it easy to learn new commands. But you’ll definitely to work to keep this high-energy dog occupied. And you’ll have to train him not to bark excessively. Fortunately, the AKC explains, “This breed craves human companionship, which, combined with the breed’s intelligence, makes him easy to train for all kinds of activities. He is alert and spunky, but also obedient to commands.”
The American Miniature Schnauzer Club reports the breed benefits from basic obedience training and ongoing socialization. But they are “obedient and quick to learn, extremely devoted, very playful, and very affectionate.”
Next: A terrier with a very happy temperament
13. Norwich terrier
The Norwich terrier is energetic and needs a lot of activity. But he’s easy to train, and even novice dog owners will be able to handle him. The AKC reports the Norwich terrier needs both physical and mental exercise. But these dogs make “smart, willing companions and can excel in a variety of canine activities.”
The Norwich Terrier Club of America explains though the breed originally served as a working terrier, these dogs “were also valued for their affable temperament.” Today, “the breed retains its original hunting instincts, small size, and jovial temperament so prized by early huntsmen on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Next: A dog who learns from every single experience
The papillon is another dog who will easily learn new tricks but really needs you to keep him occupied. The AKC reports this “very active” dog breed likes exercise and takes to training. Their intelligence plays a role in their trainability. But additionally, “it helps that they like to please and be with those they love.”
The Papillon Club of America explains these dogs are “happy, alert, and friendly,” but you need to be a consistent trainer to bring out the best in your dog. “Consistent, dedicated trainers delight in the aptitude this breed has for just about anything. But this is a breed that learns from every single experience, and an inconsistent trainer will not produce consistent results — even with very basic skills like housebreaking.”
Next: A dog who’s smart and bossy, but takes well to training
15. Pembroke Welsh corgi
The Pembroke Welsh corgi is an active little dog who loves having a job to do. The AKC explains, “The Pembroke responds well to training and loves his family, but he may try to herd you.” Corgis (and corgi owners) benefit from obedience classes. And the AKC promises, “The time you spend in training, especially during the first year of your pet’s life, will be repaid many times over by giving you a well-behaved companion, one that is bonded to you and your family for the rest of his life.”
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America that corgis “are intelligent dogs, trainable and good with children.” Nonetheless, “this breed is bright and bossy — if you aren’t in charge, they will happily assume the role and a problem is much harder to correct than prevent.”
Next: A breed that can learn just about any task
The standard poodle consistently ranks as one of the most intelligent and obedient breeds — which can sometimes feel like an uncommon combination. The AKC promises, “Poodles are very intelligent and easily trained to do a number of things. Some of the activities that poodles enjoy are tracking, hunting, agility, and obedience.”
The Poodle Club of America advises that “a poodle should be a member of the family. Prospective owners of poodles should be equipped to provide a fenced-in area in which the poodle can exercise, or be prepared to walk the poodle regularly on a leash.”
Next: A dog who’s willing to go to work with you
The Rottweiler takes easily to training, but he definitely needs a job to keep him happy. According to the AKC, this dog’s “intelligence, endurance and willingness to work make him suitable as a police dog, herder, service dog, therapy dog, obedience competitor and devoted companion.” You’ll need to train him on basic obedience commands, as well as social skills. And you’ll also have to harness his natural territorial instincts. As the AKC puts it, “He has to know that you’re in charge, even if he is twice your size.”
The American Rottweiler Club explains these dogs “need socialization, exercise and stimulating mental challenges. With these things, you will have a wonderful companion; without them, your Rottweiler may become destructive and out of control.”
Next: A herding expert who wants to please his owner
18. Shetland sheepdog
The Shetland sheepdog is a small but very active dog that consistently performs well in agility and other dog sports — a testament to his ability to learn. According to the AKC, you should tap into the breed’s herding heritage with “task-based exercise.”
The American Shetland Sheepdog Association explains these dogs “have an intense desire to please their owners and an enormous capacity for love and affection.” Additionally, “the Sheltie is exceptionally trainable and responsive, plus being an outstanding worker in obedience, herding, and agility trials.”