These well-behaved pups are the easiest dogs to train, making their transition to your home that much smoother
The easiest dogs to train
Dogs are some of our most beloved animal companions. But not all breeds are the easiest dogs to train, and if they’re not well-behaved, they can be a huge source of stress. Without owners learning how to train a dog and teaching their pets the basics, dogs can have all sorts of unwanted behaviors, like barking, pulling on the leash, destroying items in the house and not socializing well with people or other animals. This sadly contributes to many pets being surrendered to animal shelters when their owners are no longer able to cope.
Proper training is essential for any pet, whether they’re going to be family companions, service dogs, emotional support dogs or guard dogs. “Your dog needs to know basic obedience,” says Courtney Briggs, head trainer at dog-training company Zoom Room. “‘Sit,’ ‘stay,’ ‘come,’ ‘off’ and ‘down’ are all crucial skills you’ll need to have mastered before bringing your dog into unfamiliar environments with unfamiliar humans and activities.” And although it can be a little trickier when they are very young, you can also learn how to train a puppy to teach them good habits right from the start.
If you’re thinking of bringing a new pet into your life, first consider which breeds are the easiest dogs to train. Both instinct and intelligence play a role in how trainable an animal is. Certain breeds have been bred for hundreds of years to do specific activities, like herding, and it’s challenging to stop a dog from doing what it’s instinctually supposed to do. But with regular training, any pup—from the smartest dog breeds to even the hardest dogs to train—can learn the basics. So find a dog trainer and enroll your furry friends in obedience school when they’re young.
With positive reinforcement and consistency, your new puppies will become obedient, happy members of the family. And remember: Regardless of breed, training a pup takes time, consistency and patience, says Rob R. Jackson, co-founder and CEO of Healthy Paws Foundation and Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. Treats don’t hurt either.
Guide dogs for the blind, service dogs, watchdogs and herding dogs often have one thing in common: They’re German shepherds. These are some of the easiest dogs to train for work and family life, says animal behaviorist Mary Burch, PhD. No wonder they’re one of the most popular breeds. Because they have a strong protective instinct, it’s important to train them early, so they don’t perceive a threat where there isn’t one.
“Pet parents should work to train their dog in short bursts of time—about five to 10 minutes—a few times a day,” Jackson says. “Marathon sessions aren’t good for puppies, as their attention spans are too short. Plus, puppies’ growing bodies need lots of rest and sleep, so give them regular breaks. Training before mealtimes and offering treats can be productive too, as food is a big motivator.”
With its small stature and lightweight body, this breed belongs to the American Kennel Club’s toy dog group. These pups are as well known for their perky, fringed, butterfly-shaped ears (papillon is French for “butterfly”) as their personalities. Papillons are “intelligent, self-assured, playful, affectionate and happy,” says Burch. They’re also excellent at learning tricks and obedience work, making them one of the best dogs for first-time owners. While these tiny pups may seem fragile, they’re go-getters that love to exercise and play. You can train papillon puppies to do almost anything, and these lively, popular pets thrive on mental stimulation and work. Try training them to do fun tricks or participate in dog sports, such as agility courses with hurdles to jump and poles to weave through, and your pet may just compete in the Puppy Bowl one day!
America’s most popular dog is the Labrador retriever, according to the American Kennel Club poll. According to Burch, labs have won the club’s National Obedience Championship for the past several years too. In short, these are eager-to-please pups and some of the easiest dogs to train. Lab puppies have personality and then some; they’re friendly, sociable and playful. Still, you’ll have to stay vigilant with younger doggos. “It’s important to remember that puppies are curious by nature and can easily get into all sorts of mischief, such as swallowing things they shouldn’t,” Jackson says. That kind of behavior is more than just annoying—it can be life-threatening. You’ll want to train your dogs to “leave it,” or ignore something you don’t want them to pick up.
Considered sporting dogs, golden retrievers are happy, friendly and intelligent. Their stellar obedience makes them some of the best-behaved dogs and easiest dogs to train. They also make great service and therapy dogs, Burch says, and they’re one of the best dogs for seniors. Originally bred to fetch downed waterfowl for hunters, they’ve evolved into wonderful family dogs. Because they’re loving and want to please, they respond well to verbal praise and playtime.
“Positive reinforcement, sometimes known as reward-based training or force-free dog training, is widely recognized as the most effective and humane form of dog training,” says Jackson, who suggests training with snacks or treats, affectionate ear scratches and belly rubs. “It improves the bond between parent and pet while reinforcing the desired behavior.”
Happy, affectionate border terriers like to work, which bodes well for obedience training. “They’re good-tempered, affectionate and easy to train,” Burch says. She adds that they’re also great at Earthdog events, noncompetitive tests designed to assess a dog’s hunting ability. The American Kennel Club recommends training your border terrier pup for Earthdog events by setting up a simple maze of cardboard boxes in your backyard. If your pup takes to training happily, “it’s something to be celebrated,” says Jackson. “This means your training is effective and your puppy is having fun and enjoying pleasing you.”
But don’t consider it a dog-training mistake to skip the Earthdog stuff. It’s totally fine if your goal is simply to have your pup walk on a leash without pulling, or heel off-leash, Jackson adds. Just know that any type of training will take effort on your part. “A lot of progress in training depends on the time a pet parent puts into working with their pup, which is why many pet parents are reminded that getting a puppy is hard work,” he says. “In the end, it’s always worth it—for both parties involved.”