While all dogs can be trained, some breeds seem as though they have an easier time learning commands. This is due to a number of different reasons. “The idea of breeds being easy or difficult to train is relative. The nearly 200 American Kennel Club breeds were developed to perform specific jobs,” says Mary R. Burch, Ph.D., director of AKC Family Dog. “In the beginning, dogs helped people by herding, hunting, and guarding and over time, they became companions. Some breeds were shown to make excellent service dogs or competitors in sports such as agility.”
Burch recommends knowing your dog’s skill set. “Considering this, a key question when it comes to training is, what was your breed created to do, and what kinds of training do you want to do with your puppy?” she says. For example, trying to train a Border Terrier to be a hunting dog when terriers are more suited to therapy work will likely cause disappointment. If you enjoy an active lifestyle yourself, let them accompany you on long walks or runs or sign them up for agility training competitions to channel their herding instincts. They also enjoy hunting trips, field trials, and other canine sports like agility, obedience, and tracking. Mental challenges, such as learning tricks and playing with puzzle toys, are also appealing to these breeds, but should never replace physical activity. Dogs aren’t meant to be left alone for too long, since this can lead to separation anxiety or even destructive behaviors if left alone for long periods of time.
That said, all dogs are trainable. “A trick to working with the breeds considered less trainable is to use the sound principles of behavior such as shaping (baby steps) and positive reinforcement,” Burch says. “Another thing to do is start where the training provides a carefully sequenced curriculum such as the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen program where all breeds have been successful.” Keeping this in mind, consider these breeds known to be highly trainable.
The Border Collie is part of the Herding Group breeds, which means that these pups enjoy herding other animals (and maybe even people, too). They are highly intelligence dogs full of energy, which makes them veritable athletes—they can learn tricks and exercises all while eager to please their owners.
A smaller breed, the Border Terrier only weighs up to 25 pounds. Border Terriers are known for their good temperament and affectionate personality, making them a great family pet or companion for an active senior.
German Shepherd Dog
Known as K9 units in the military and police, the ever-dutiful German Shepherd is known for having a calm, confident demeanor suitable for law enforcement. Though these dogs are not outright aggressive, by nature they are very protective of their people.
Considered one of the most popular breeds in America, Golden Retrievers are smart, amicable dogs. Because of their outgoing, eager-to-please personality, they enjoy a “the more, the merrier” approach to people, making them ideal for families. They’ll enjoy a long walk, swim, or outing as long as it’s with you.
The faithful Labrador Retriever (affectionately called Lab) is another popular dog breed and considered America’s most popular pup, according to American Kennel Club statistics for 2019. Labs also held the title to AKC’s National Obedience Championship for several years in a row. They love hiking, cold and warm weather, and anything that involves water.
This little dog has a big personality and loves to learn new tricks. Papillons are active but, due to their small size, most of their exercise needs can be met simply with some indoor play. They learn basic commands and tricks quickly due to having a keen mind.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
As they are both loyal and protective of their families—and also have a tendency to bark—the Pembroke Welsh Corgi can make a good watchdog. They happily play with their people in good humor. Because of their short legs, they aren’t inclined to accompany you in an agility course but they enjoy learning new tricks.
Whether Standard, Miniature, or Toy breed, the Poodle is a highly intelligent dog that’s personable with human caretakers. They also have a hypersensitive nature—meaning that they are intuitive to their environment (a calm home results in a calm dog, whereas a noisy home can cause them anxiety). Due to this reason, they will listen to older children in games and activities.
Gentle and devoted under the right care, Rottweilers can be trained to be great guardians. This powerful breed should be occupied with tasks and are inherently trainable.
Sweet-tempered and attentive, Shetland Sheepdogs were bred to work. That said, they are a vocal breed but it’s worth noting that this barking can be redirected as a guard dog. They may be shy toward other people but will open up toward their humans.