A few years ago, I went through a huge dalmatian phase. Not Cruella de Vil level, but close. I ogled Instagram accounts devoted to speckled pups and imagined having a chill dalmatian, quietly cuddled up next to me. Reality check: Dalmatians are notoriously stubborn and get bored easily, which can lead to destructive behavior. Training is possible but tough. And this is important because if you’re looking to adopt a dog, breed matters big-time, especially if you have small kids around. The breeds on this list are definitely energetic (canines with more get-up-and-go are more easily trained), but these dogs are also smart and enjoy learning commands. So much for my 101 dalmatians…
There’s a reason standard, miniature and toy Poodles excel at dog shows. A healthy mix of versatility, intelligence and playfulness makes them ideal competitors who can lead a pack and follow orders. At home they’re incredibly social with both people and animals, mingling well with all ages and species. Yes, poodles have a reputation as snooty show dogs, but trim their hypoallergenic fur and utilize firm commands on the reg and you’ve got a well-trained goofball of a family dog.
At its core, the German shepherd is a protector. These are smart, devoted dogs who love having a job to do. In fact, they’ve been working in various industries for decades (think: law enforcement; guide and assistance; search and rescue), and they willingly dedicate themselves to tasks. German shepherds definitely need exercise, both mentally and physically, so training in a park or big yard is ideal.
Pumis are energetic Hungarian herding dogs that aren’t afraid to cuddle up with their owners (and they’re known to pick favorites). On top of that, they are bright, social and very easy to train. As curious and observant animals, these fluffy canines are quick to try new things, so don’t be afraid to add on fresh commands once a Pumi has gotten the hang of the basics—sit, roll over, do the laundry! Pumis also prefer reward-based training, so stock up on some goodies.
Most small breeds aren’t super into the whole “training” thing. Enter the Papillon. Named for its luxuriously large and pointy ears (papillon means “butterfly” in French), these pups see themselves as big dogs in tiny bodies. Quick to learn and even quicker to play, Papillons need lots of exercise and are willing to try anything. This breed responds best to consistent training early in its life, with tons of positive reinforcement. They’re also just cute as hell, right?
Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Do not confuse the Cardigan Welsh corgi with its more stubborn, petite cousin, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Cardigans have longer tails and are generally taller. They’ve also retained their cattle-herding instincts over centuries, making them strong-willed, intelligent pups. For their shape, Cardigan Welsh corgis are incredibly agile. They’re also loyal and affectionate to their owners (of all ages) without getting too territorial. A bonus for city-dwelling dog lovers: These corgis don’t need big yards or tons of outdoors time. As long as they’ve got regular engagement and mental stimulation, they’re good.
This all-American, family-friendly dog picks up habits quickly, even though it’s not the brightest bulb in the box. Basically, golden retrievers are excellent dogs to train because they love you and just want to make you happy (marry me?). They’re also patient and can go with the flow, which makes training and forming positive habits a breeze. The only drawback is if you’re interested in training a guard dog because goldens enjoy making new friends, even with strangers.
Think of collies as yogis: They practically ooze enthusiasm, while maintaining a calm Zen on the inside. There’s a reason Lassie was a collie! These dogs are calm in a crisis, independent yet loyal and consider the entire family worthy of protection (yep, even Uncle Jack). Reward-based training works best, as does mixing it up a bit. Once you’ve established commands like “sit” and “stay,” try new tricks to keep the collie brain sharp and energy in control. Since they tend to bark a lot, it might be worth it to start training there first.
Like the German shepherd, Labrador retrievers have dabbled in tons of work environments. Like golden retrievers, they make terrible watch dogs because they are so friendly. But, like all the breeds on this list, they are super easy to train and can learn an incredible range of skills and tricks. Their even-keeled temperament and love of the outdoors makes training fun, albeit exhausting. Get ready to run, play and laugh with a Lab. And psst: make sure “no chewing shoes” gets covered early.
The Shetland sheepdog could be called the comedian of the dog world. These pups love discovering unfamiliar tricks, pleasing people and showing off once they’ve learned something new. Originally bred for herding sheep (duh), Shelties are some of the smartest dogs out there. This means excellent obedience and tracking skills, combined with a penchant for barking and territoriality, which could be a good thing for anyone looking for a canine security system.
OK, hear us out on this one. Yes, Doberman pinschers are known as aggressive guard dogs, but this is due to an undying loyalty to their owners. They are highly trainable, genuinely brilliant and almost intuitive in nature. Aggression comes out when Dobermans feel their home or family are threatened; otherwise, they are surprisingly affectionate. Training should be consistent and start early for best results (with firm commands and lots of love).