10 Best Dog Breeds for Obedience

Black labrador retriever dog with red collar looking up

The Spruce / Kristie Lee

When it comes to dog obedience, it's not just about how smart the dog is. Some breeds can be incredibly intelligent, but they also might be free thinkers known for being stubborn. And that can make obedience hit or miss. The dog breeds that tend to excel at obedience have a good balance of intelligence, eagerness to please, and enthusiasm for learning. Although it can vary on the individual dog level, many of these dogs are highly motivated by positive reinforcement, such as treats. And some simply have strong work ethics that allow them to focus on training.

Here are 10 of the best dog breeds for obedience.


Even for breeds that excel at obedience, training still must be fun and frequent. Set your dog up for success by taking things slowly, minimizing the distractions, keeping the training sessions short, and using lots of praise and rewards.

  • 01 of 10

    Border Collie

    Black and white border collie dog with mouth open

    The Spruce / Kristie Lee

    Border collies are often viewed as one of the smartest dog breeds. Their intelligence, combined with the fact that they are quick to learn and very in tune with their humans, make them extremely obedient dogs. They also have a strong work ethic and thrive when given a job to do. But while they can be easy to train, they need lots of mental enrichment to prevent boredom. Otherwise, they can develop problem behaviors, such as destroying household items.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 18 to 22 inches

    Weight: 28 to 48 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Rough or smooth medium-length double coat; body is slightly longer than it is tall; long head comes to a point at the nose with ears standing erect and tips curling over

  • 02 of 10

    German Shepherd

    German shepherd dog with light brown fur coat laying on grass

    The Spruce / Kristie Lee

    The German shepherd is another highly intelligent dog that was bred to be responsive and obedient. Thus, it's no surprise that German shepherds are often used by law enforcement and as service dogs. These dogs are very loyal and protective of their families. And without proper training and socialization, this can turn into aggression toward strangers.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 22 to 26 inches

    Weight: 60 to 100 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Large, athletic build; double coat comprising a thick undercoat and a dense, slightly wavy or straight outer coat; tan and black or red and black coloring

  • 03 of 10

    Golden Retriever

    Golden retriever dog sitting in front of water and looking up

    The Spruce / Kristie Lee

    Golden retrievers are popular family pets for good reason. They're typically very affectionate, patient, and gentle, and they have an endearing enthusiasm for life. Goldens are known for being extremely eager to please. This, combined with their intelligence, means they're very receptive to training. They also tend to be serious foodies and will do just about anything for a treat.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 23 to 24 inches (male); 21.5 to 22.5 inches (female)

    Weight: 65 to 75 pounds (male); 55 to 65 pounds (female)

    Physical Characteristics: Medium-length double coat; light to dark gold; medium to large stature

  • 04 of 10

    Labrador Retriever

    Black labrador retriever dog with purple collar and mouth open closeup

    The Spruce / Kristie Lee

    Labrador retrievers share a lot of characteristics with golden retrievers. They're another breed that is often trained as a service dog because of their smarts, enthusiasm, and calm and gentle nature. Plus, they're known for having outstanding retrieval skills. Like with goldens, food rewards also work wonders with Labs during training. Just make sure to keep portions under control as Labs are prone to obesity.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 21 to 24 inches

    Weight: 55 to 80 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Sturdy, athletic build; smooth, water-resistant double coat; otter-like tail

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10


    Vizsla standing near lake

    Hillary Kladke / Getty Images

    Vizslas generally have incredible stamina, enthusiasm, loyalty, and intelligence. They tend to be eager to please, and they form very strong attachments to their owners, often being referred to as "Velcro dogs." Vizslas need lots of exercise, and training is an excellent way for them to work out some energy. Dog sports are ideal for these canines to get both a mental and physical workout.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 22 to 23 inches

    Weight: 45 to 50 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Muscular and well proportioned; russet-colored short, smooth, dense coat

  • 06 of 10

    English Springer Spaniel

    English springer spaniel on grass

    Pedro Lopez / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    If you're looking for a dog that has boundless energy and enthusiasm and a real desire to please, the English springer spaniel might tick a lot of boxes. This busy and jovial breed has a constantly wagging tail and loves having a job to do. It also has excellent retrieval skills and an incredibly sensitive nose, which can be put to use in dog sports. These dogs are best suited for an active household where they'll get plenty of exercise.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 19 to 20 inches

    Weight: 40 to 53 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Long ears; dense, medium-length coat with feathering; coloring includes black or liver with white markings (or the opposite) along with blue or liver roan and tricolor

  • 07 of 10


    Poodle sitting in grass

    Carol Howell / EyeEm / Getty Images

    A lot of the poodle's popularity can be attributed to its elegant and refined look. But this breed is also quite intelligent and very eager to please. Poodles are typically devoted to their owners, and they love to learn. As long as you keep training fun for them, they can be experts at learning complex tricks. Their natural athleticism also means they can excel at dog sports, such as agility.

    Breed Overview

    Height: Standard: 15 inches; miniature: 10 to 15 inches; toy: 10 inches and under

    Weight: Standard: 45 to 70 pounds; miniature: 15 to 18 pounds; toy: 5 to 9 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Curly, dense single-layer coat; may be one of many solid colors, including white, black, gray, brown, and apricot

  • 08 of 10


    Keeshond standing on grass

    Daniela Duncan / Getty Images

    The keeshond is generally smart, loyal, gentle, friendly, and easy to train. These dogs are very alert and curious, and while they typically have a calm demeanor, they're constantly taking everything in. Plus, they have a lot of enthusiasm for trying new things and tend to excel when learning new dog sports thanks to their athleticism. But keeshonds were developed as watchdogs, so you might have to put in extra training to prevent alert barking from getting out of control.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 17 to 18 inches

    Weight: 35 to 45 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Almost fox-like in appearance; thick plumed tail; mask around the eyes that gives the impression of glasses; thick double coat; usually a mixture of gray, black, and cream with varied shading

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10


    Havanese dog on flowery lawn

    @Hans Surfer / Getty Images

    The little Havanese is generally a friendly, adaptable, and smart dog breed. It is also known for being easier to train than many other small dog breeds, which overall can be a bit headstrong at times. The Havanese is typically very attentive and eager to please during training, especially when given lots of positive reinforcement. The breed also is a regular competitor in dog sports and obedience trials.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 8.5 to 11.5 inches

    Weight: 7 to 13 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: May have one or two colors including black, silver, white, cream, tan, fawn, gold, sable, and red; coat can vary drastically from silky straight to very wavy with ringlets

  • 10 of 10

    Manchester Terrier

    Manchester terrier on grass

    Charles Walker / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    While known for being smart, terriers, in general, are also often associated with being strong-willed and feisty. However, Manchester terriers are typically more responsive and trainable than your average terrier while not being any less intelligent. These dogs love being busy and having a job to do, which helps them focus during training. As long as you keep training sessions fun and challenging, their interest in mental challenges should overtake that trademark terrier stubbornness.

    Breed Overview

    Height: Toy: 10 to 12 inches; standard: 15 to 16 inches

    Weight: Toy: Under 12 pounds; standard: 12 to 22 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Smooth, glossy, short, dense coat; colors include black and tan or black with mahogany markings; powerful, compact, muscular body; naturally erect ears

Breeds to Avoid

If you want a dog that can learn and reliably perform complex tricks or tasks, then there are some dog breeds you might want to avoid. It's not that these breeds are dumb. They just often have an independent, stubborn streak that can make training difficult. Such breeds include the Afghan houndPekingeseBasenjiBorzoi, and Shiba Inu.