Dogs are the oldest domesticated species and have co-existed with people for thousands of years. Through the years, humankind has relied on these animals for jobs, protection, assistance, and, more recently, companionship and friendship.
The different dogs have been bred for different purposes and traits. Some have been produced specifically for tasks such as protection, herding, hunting, or tracking. Others are more people-oriented, with a high desire to please and seek closer human companionship than others.
If you are looking for a large, intelligent dog for a specific job or need, then it should be relatively easy to narrow your choice down to the leading dog breeds for different tasks.
But what if you are looking for a companion that is intelligent, eager to learn and please, and a pup who is smart enough to understand you better and perform clever tricks and tasks?
Here are the most intelligent large dog breeds for various purposes and needs.
Pros of Owning a Smart Large Dog
A dog that is naturally intelligent is a joy, especially to the eager and experienced trainer. It can learn different commands and perform various tasks, and communicating and living with it can be a blast.
But not every large dog breed is suitable for every owner.
Most big smart pups need intensive and consistent training, as well as having their minds and bodies stimulated. A large bored dog can become a nuisance and, in extreme cases, can become destructive and even dangerous.
So, make sure to choose a dog that suits your lifestyle and one that you are ready to tend to and care for.
Many large dog breeds have high exercise needs, so they will be better suited to humans who lead active lifestyles.
Others are predominantly couch potatoes, so if you are an indoor person or have limited mobility, then you should look for a pup like that.
There are pups that crave a lot of attention and do not do well when left alone for long hours.
Some require more grooming and maintenance than others as well.
Here are the most important factors to consider when picking the most suitable intelligent large dog to add to your family:
Make sure that you can provide your large dog with the daily walks, exercise, playtime, and interaction it needs in order to stay healthy, well, and happy.
If you are a runner, then pick a dog that can be your running buddy. If you like spending time reading and watching TV at home, then select a less energetic dog.
Bored and under-exercised pups can develop unwanted behaviors and can become destructive and disruptive.
Some dog breeds have very high energy levels and require long walks or runs and hours of playtime and exercise. Others will feel better with moderate walks and time spent relaxing in the backyard.
The brighter the dog, the more likely it is to become bored if left without physical and mental exercises.
Unfortunately, excessive barking can occur among the smartest dogs, especially if they suffer from separation anxiety or don’t get enough physical and mental stimulation.
Large and giant dog breeds naturally need more room both indoors and outside in order to live comfortably. So, they are better suited for large houses with backyards rather than tiny apartments.
Grooming and shedding
All dogs require maintenance, but some need more grooming than others if you want to keep them healthy and good-looking and keep your home clean. Some require regular professional grooming, which can be pretty costly, especially if the pup is large.
Some breeds are more prone to heavy shedding than others, which can be essential for your choice of a pet, especially if you are a clean freak or suffer from dog allergies.
Gentleness with children
Some of the popular dog breeds are referred to as gentle giants and are very friendly and kind to children. But a dog that is huge and weighs a lot can accidentally hurt a toddler, so this is something to keep in mind as well.
Other large dog breeds are not suitable for families with young kids, and can even be dangerous, so please do your research if you are adding a pup to a household where there are babies and toddlers or children who enjoy roughhousing.
Some big dogs with thick coats will thrive better in colder climates, while others do not do well in the cold and will be better in warmer temperatures.
The Top Smart Large Dog Breeds
1. Border Collie
The Border Collie is more of a medium-sized dog that reaches a weight of up to 55 lbs. but it is considered the most intelligent dog breed of all.
These herding dogs are incredibly intelligent and are among the few which can recognize even the most subtle non-verbal signals given by their trainers and owners.
These dogs are friendly but have high energy levels, so they require extensive exercise daily.
They are highly motivated, eager to learn, and very focused, which can be annoying to owners who don’t have the time or patience to train, play and interact with their pups.
A dog from this breed requires weekly brushing to prevent matting.
Due to their strong herding instincts, they are not suitable for multiple-pet households and may even try to herd small children at home.
Otherwise, these pups are absolutely brilliant and much fun to be with.
Since they are so smart, they can become destructive if left without sufficient mental and physical exercise and stimulation or if left alone for long periods.
2. Standard Poodle
The Standard Poodle is a large and very smart dog that can reach a weight of 40 to 70 lbs.
The dogs from this popular intelligent breed have long life expectancies of 10 to 18 years.
Although they shed little and are considered hypoallergenic, Poodles require regular professional grooming. Still, they are an excellent choice if someone in your household has a dog allergy.
They are very active pups who are eager to learn and easy to train and can perform very well at agility, tracking, and retrieving. You will need to take your dog on long walks or runs and spend hours playing with it to keep it happy and well.
They are friendly and loyal to their families, with children, and even with other pets. They are people-oriented and need proper training and socialization to prevent boredom, anxiety, and destructive behaviors.
3. German Shepherd Dog
German Shepherds are considered the best all-purpose dogs. They are strong, large, highly intelligent, and excellent working dogs.
These large dogs are very loyal and protective of their family and home but can be aggressive with other dogs outside.
Training and socializing the German Shepherd is crucial to prevent it from becoming potentially reactive and aggressive towards strangers.
Since they are athletic pups, they require extensive daily exercise.
Plus, they will be happy only if given mental and physical tasks to perform.
The dogs from this German breed can shed a lot during the shedding seasons. During the rest of the tie, they need regular weekly brushing.
4. Golden Retriever
Golden Retrievers are one of the top preferred dog breeds for family pets in the USA. They are friendly and loving towards all people, kids, and pets.
These large beautiful dogs are easy to train and eager to please but need a lot of exercise and playtime to stay happy and well.
They do require weekly brushing to control the shedding and to keep them looking shiny and great.
Keep in mind that some of these pups can have strong hoarding instincts and even be aggressive, so look for breeders who have outbred this behavior, and always start training and socializing your puppy as soon as possible.
5. Doberman Pinscher
Even though they have often been depicted as scary guard dogs, Doberman Pinschers can be perfect, loyal, attentive pets. In fact, responsible breeders have used selective breeding to curb the aggression in these beautiful dogs.
They are smart and eager to learn, but due to their robust frame and their strength, it is imperative that you socialize and train your Dobie with firm and consistent training as early as possible.
Your dog will need a lot of vigorous exercises every day in order to satisfy its high energy needs and the need for mental stimulation.
Remember that they have protective instincts, can be suspicious around strangers, and be aggressive to other dogs they don’t know.
6. Labrador Retriever
The Lab has consistently held the number 1 spot for the most popular dog breed in the USA for 28 years. This is due to its great looks, its natural intelligence, and its friendly demeanor.
Labs are very friendly and outgoing and will be happy to meet anybody, so do not expect a guard dog if you add a Labrador Retriever to your household.
They are very easy to train, thanks to their high food motivation and intelligence.
These beautiful pups love swimming and need daily exercise and play to stay happy and fit.
Labs have short double coats which are water repellent and require only occasional brushing.
The dogs from this German breed are large, powerful, and excellent guard dogs. Rottweilers are intelligent and enjoy learning and working for their owners.
But at the same time, they are not so friendly with strangers. In fact, since they are bred as guard dogs, they can become aggressive if not socialized and trained by an experienced trainer or owner.
Needless to say, having an aggressive Rottie can be dangerous, especially since these dogs can reach a height of 34 inches and a weight of 120 and more pounds.
So, they are not the best breed for timid or inexperienced owners.
Thanks to their short coats, Rottweilers do not need too much grooming.
Related: Large German Dog Breeds
8. Belgian Tervuren
These dogs can reach a height of up to 26.5 inches at the shoulder and a weight of up to 70 lbs. They are very smart and intensely focused and can be excellent pets and companions but will most likely remain aloof to strangers.
Due to their intelligence and their strong focus, the Belgian Tervurens are usually very good at agility and obedience tasks.
They are athletic and have high endurance, which means that they require vigorous daily exercise.
The pups from this Belgian breed are known to be quite stubborn, so they will need a firm and confident trainer to achieve good behavior.
9. Belgian Sheepdog
Also known as Groenendael, the Belgian Sheepdog is a close cousin to the Belgian Tervuren. The dogs from this breed are superb working dogs and have a similar athleticism to their “cousins.”
With proper training and socialization, a dog of this breed can be a perfect, loyal, obedient, and protective companion. But keep in mind that its strong protective instincts can make your pup suspicious and even aggressive to strangers.
They can be prone to anxiety, so you should start training and socializing your pet as early as possible and avoid leaving it alone at home for long hours.
Collies are beautiful, expressive pups and excellent working dogs, making them perfect family companions and pets.
They are affectionate and will get along with all family members, children and other pets included.
Since they are very energetic, you will need to ensure enough daily exercise for your Collie.
They are easy to train and very focused. Some of them can have strong herding instincts, especially if they are bred for competitive herding.
Choose a breeder who breeds good family pets, and you socialize your furry friend as early as possible.
Rough collies need regular brushing, while smooth-coated ones are easier to maintain.
11. German Shorthaired Pointer
The German shorthaired pointer is among the best hunting assistants and can be an excellent companion for active owners.
The dogs from this German breed are handsome and intelligent and are superb pointers and retrievers.
They are incredibly energetic, so they need extensive daily exercises such as running, hiking, and games rather than simply two walks around the block.
They are highly focused and require little grooming.
Even though they get along with children and other dogs at home, they are not the most suitable pet if you already have other smaller animals in the household.
Please note that the German Shorthaired Pointers require a lot of activity, work, and attention, or they can easily become bored and turn to undesired behavior such as barking and destruction.
12. Flat-Coated Retriever
Flat Coated Retrievers are medium to large-sized and can reach a weight of up to 70 lbs.
These pups are intelligent and eager to please, so it is fun training them.
When they are socialized and trained and provided with enough exercise to meet their high energy needs, the Flat-coated Retrievers can be very affectionate, cheerful family companions, and friendly to other people and dogs.
They do not like being left alone, as they are prone to separation anxiety.
The dogs from this German breed are often referred to as “gray ghosts.” They are athletic and sleek, and their short silver, blue or grey coats will make them stand out from the crowd at any dog park. Plus, they require little grooming.
The Weimaraners were originally bred for hunting and are intelligent and obedient working dogs. But they are also friendly and loyal companion dogs.
They learn quickly and are eager to please, but like other hunting dogs, they are highly energetic. Such a dog will thrive well with an active owner willing to go on daily jogs, hikes, and runs.
14. Belgian Malinois
These medium-sized shepherd dogs from Belgium are commonly used as work dogs for the police, military, and for protection.
Belgian Malinois are highly intelligent and intense, and with the help of an experienced and consistent trainer, they can become obedient and loyal companion dogs.
Due to their high energy levels and athleticism, the dogs from this Belgian breed need a lot of work and vigorous exercise every day.
Please note that this breed was selected to protect and bite, so your pup can be very mouthy. This means nipping, biting, gnawing, and tugging a lot. This is why it is crucial to nip this biting behavior from an early age to prevent further unwanted or dangerous behavior.
15. Bernese Mountain Dog
These beautiful tricolor dogs come from the Swiss Alps, where they used to help farmers herd the cattle and pull the carts full of milk.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are strong animals but are very affectionate and calm companions, focused on pleasing their owners.
The large smart pups from this popular breed are very intelligent and hardworking. Due to their energy levels, Bernese Mountain Dogs require daily long walks, runs, or intensive playtime.
At home, a pup from this breed can get along with all members of the family, kids and other pets included, if socialized and trained in a timely and correct manner.
They do not like to be left at home alone for long and are prone to heavy shedding, so you will need to brush your pet’s coat at least once a week to keep the shedding under control.
It is great to have a smart dog, but please note that for your own and your pup’s good, you should do your research first and find a dog that will suit your lifestyle and your expectations.
Most of these large, intelligent pups have very high energy needs, so you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time outdoors and indoors with them. Plus, their high intelligence needs to be stimulated consistently, so ensure you can provide them with the time for training, teaching them tricks, and other mental exercises.
If you are an indoor person, look for a dog with lower energy requirements.
Last but not least, before going ahead and buying a dog, you may want to check your local shelters for any large smart pups waiting to be adopted.