Breed Facts

Why Are Border Collies So Smart – A Comprehensive Guide!

Border Collie is, no doubt, the smartest dog breed ever exist. Many pet owners already testified that this dog breed really possesses that extraordinary “dog intelligence”. In fact, studies are also conducted for dogs analyzing or measuring the level of smartness of canines which make the Border Collie land on the top spot. But, why are Border Collies so smart?

As we go along with this post, we will present the different reasons why the Collies are so smart. Be it tracing back on their ancestors, looking at their behavior, or the way of training and raising them – all of that information is here. Moreover, we also have here scientific data proving the intelligence level of Collie. So, if you are interested to know more about it, let’s check them out below!

Why Are Border Collies So Smart: Look Back on their Bloodlines

Initially, checking the ancestral heritage of the Collies is one way for us to identify the reasons why Border Collies are so smart. Going back on history, this dog breed was recognized from Northumberland where it lies between the borders of England and Scotland. Originally, the Collies were known as the Scotch sheepdog and eventually bred from Viking dogs.

why are border collies so smart

These two dog breeds entail a good sense of work drive and intelligence which creates a highly trainable dog breed. As this dog breed developed, its hypnotizing power by staring at animals became too strong. Well, it shows that their ancestors contribute to the reason why Border Collies are so smart.

However, the recognition for the Border Collie by the American Kennel Club tend to be given late in 1995. The good thing is that, for now, there is a number of groups and associations that highly recognize the breed. This means that registration, approval, and breeding of the Border Collies are now highly acceptable. Aside from the American Kennel Club, here are some of the associations that also acknowledge the Collies:

  • American Border Collie Association
  • American-International Border Collie
  • Australian National Kennel Club

Why are Border Collies So Smart: Check on their Temperament

Well, their innate nature of being a sheepdog is the one to be credited as part of the reasons why are Border Collies so smart. They are really intelligent to the point that many dog enthusiasts out there consider the Collies as the smartest dog breed. But, there are other good characteristics of the Border Collies that make them a great companion and best bud.

Although highly loyal and protective, the Border Collies tend to be reserved when there are strangers around. You do not need to worry about your kids as this dog breed can get along with them and even with other pets at home. However, you still need some monitoring here as the Collies may try to nip them due to their herding nature.

Also, please do keep in mind to always make your Border Collies busy at all times because boredom is really a pain for them and maybe for you as well. In case they get bored, this dog breed usually exerts compulsive behavior such as digging soil in the yard or chewing socks or shoes.

Aggressiveness is usually not a common behavior of the Collies, but without proper training, they can actually show it. Border Collies may also be barking for quite some time. Yet, this barking behavior of them would be an issue considering their herding inclination and visual stimulation.

Reasons for Making the Border Collies So Smart: Their Proper Training

Training is highly essential in a dog’s growing up stage. However, training requirements may vary based on the breed of the dog and their behavior. As a pet owner, it is very crucial to make a comprehensive research on determining the training needs of your dog. Usually, Border Collies are so smart because of physical and mental stimulation through proper training.

However, for an average person, training a Border Collie would be very difficult because of the dog’s high level of intelligence. Besides, using their intelligence, some of the Border Collies may tempt you in doing what they want.

Here are ways on how to train a Border Collie making them so smart:

  • Initially, begin training your Collie during their puppyhood.
  • Start implementing the crate and house training
  • Afterward, obedience training should be provided by letting them learn to follow the house rules.
  • It is actually better and effective to use the positive reinforcement technique while training a Border Collie.
  • There is a number of reasons for making the Border Collies so smart which include the trick and command training. Due to their high level of intelligence, Collies may easily adapt to new tricks and commands.
  • Socialization is also essential training to teach your Border Collie.
  • Let them play and engage in physical stimulation

Reasons behind the Smartness of Border Collies Based on Scientific Evidence

Stanley Coren, a neurologist professor, discussed why are Border Collies so smart. For him, 51% intelligence of the dog generally comes from the genes. The remaining 49% is from the environment.

Moreover, a recent scientific research known as the Nova Science Now revealed that there is human gene responsible for the cognitive development. The CTNND2 gene is also present in canines in which it is believed that the gene is the one accountable for the high intelligence level of the Border Collies. Some Collies genome reveals the artificial selection for the CTNND2.

Judging the Dog’s Intelligence

Generally, the dog’s intelligence is measured by the criteria set by Stanley Coren. Upon investigating the emotions, psychology, intelligence of the canines, the following sets of test serve as major determining factor.

Here are the three tests involved in measuring the dog’s intelligence:

Test #1: The Instinctive Intelligence

This first set of test determines the ability of the dog to do the specific task for their breed.

Test #2: The Adaptive Intelligence

Moreover, adaptive intelligence identifies the dog’s ability in learning from themselves.

Why are Border Collies so Smart – their Adaptive Intelligence

Generally, adaptive intelligence is the term used to describe the last stage of the Border Collies IQ. It actually involves the ability of the dog to solve problems and their ability in learning from their experiences and committed mistakes. However, this may vary exceptionally from one individual Collie to another. The good news is that most Border Collies possess a high level of adaptive intelligence.

Examples of adaptive intelligence of the Border Collies:

  • There is a Collie named Oreo. According to his owner, Hannah Sheen, this Border Collie usually has an idea when it is already time for everything. Oreo knows different objects when his owner asked him to picked them up. Usually, this kind of object associations and the human act of picking things up is a great example of adaptive intelligence in canines.
Test #3: The Working/Obedience Intelligence

Generally, this last set of test can be learned by the dog from humans.

The Test Result:

why are border collies so smart

Through learning and following specific commands are ways in carrying out the first and the third set of tests for measuring a dog’s intelligence. Meanwhile, the second set of tests basically entails cues from the social or emotional aspects of dogs, memory, and their problem-solving skills.

After doing those tests, the Border Collies ranked at the top position. The next on the list is the Poodle followed by the German Shepherds.

Testing the Border Collies Intelligence

Here are some basic tests to determine the smartness of the Border Collie:

Cognition Test

Follow the steps below to use the cognition test in determining the IQ level of the Border Collie.

  1. Place three cups on an upside-down position laying on the floor in front of the Collie.
  2. Hide a treat inside one of the cups while the dog is watching.
  3. Afterward, wait for a few minutes and tell Collie to look for the specific cup that stores the treat.
  4. Once they get the right cup during the initial try, congratulate your Collie. He is really a smart dog.
  5. Put more challenges by adding some layers to the test.
  6. Try reshuffling the cups with a new treat position prior to asking your dog.
Empathy Test

Follow the steps below to use the empathy test in determining the IQ level of the Border Collie.

  1. Basically, sit inside a room in a similar position with your Border Collie.
  2. Afterward, pretend that you will begin crying.
  3. Wait for your Collie to come over and comfort you. In case your pooch shows any indication of physical with you, well great! The Border Collie is generally showing empathy.
Problem Solving Test

Follow the steps below to use the problem solving test in determining the IQ level of the Border Collie.

  1. Put a treat beneath a piece of furniture that is only reachable with Collie’s paws.
  2. Once Collie reaches it, well it means that he has good skill in problem-solving.

Smart Level Comparison of the Border Collies

Well, many pet owners and even dog experts believed that the Border Collies are the smartest dog breed. Let’s have a little comparison between the Collies from the other breeds and even from humans.

Comparing to Other Dog Breeds

Based on the intelligence testing of dogs conducted by Coren, the Border Collie really holds the top spot of being the smartest dog. With just only 5 repetitions of instructions, the Collies have the ability to learn new commands. Aside from that, they tend to become 95% successful in following a familiar command in doing it on the initial trial.

Let’s try to compare this Border Collies intelligence level with the other dog breeds. Generally, dog breeds were categorized into six groups. They were grouped based on the following:

  • Brightest
  • Excellent
  • Above average
  • Average
  • Fair
  • Lowest intelligence

For the ‘average dog’ category, the dogs usually adapt to new instructions for around 25 to 40 repetitions. Moreover, they typically do a familiar command on the initial trial gaining about 50% of success.

Well, with that, it shows that the Border Collies can able to learn new things about five times faster compared to average dogs of the other breeds. And, in terms of obedience training, the Collies seem to have twice as obedient.

Comparing to Humans

There are no two individuals that are completely the same. Well, this also implies true when it comes to canines. Each dog possesses a different level of intelligence, academic excellence, creativity, and even emotional aspect. Because of that, it is really challenging to perfectly gauge the intelligence of any four-legged creatures in comparison to ours.

Yet, trying to break it down into more outlined analysis, Stanley Coren’s study revealed:

The linguistic capacity of the average dog is comparable to that of a 2-year-old child. However, the Border Collie is nearly comparable to a 3-year-old human.

Stanley Coren, The Intelligence of Dog

Moreover, in terms of the fundamental mathematical abilities of the Collies, Coren’s study linked it to a 3 or 4-year-old child. Additionally, the rest of the canines smartness on the social aspects and emotional IQ are nearly to average adult human being.

Border Collies Being a Smart Pet

Any dog owner having Border Collie as pets may generally tell you that this dog breed is actually the best one to have. However, having that said, the Collies may not be a perfect match for everyone.

The Need for Physical and Mental Stimulation

This dog breed generally has a significant amount of energy. They are alert, obsess, and intense. With that in mind, the Border Collie needs someone with the same level of energy, fun to be with, and patient.

On a daily basis, the Border Collie usually needs at least two hours of exercise. Aside from that, like what we’ve mentioned, mental stimulation is also essential. Again, for them, boredom is a hard issue to deal with. It is very destructive for them if they get bored.

Moreover, squeaky toys are not enough to entertain the Border Collie. They essentially toys and games designed for stimulating the mind. One great example for this is the hide and seek.

The Border Collies really love playing the fetching game. This canines exercise is important in letting them exhibit their herding instincts. Additionally, they also have the ability to look over for a sheep like a ball.

Slow to Emotional Maturity

Well, the mind and the heart of the Border Collie do not usually work in connivance. This means that having a quick working mind, Collie slowly matures emotionally. They typically not mature until they reach the age of 3 to 4 years old.

Naturally, the Border Collies are also obsessive. This basically means that they do not get tired of playing with their favorite toys over and over. Having that in mind, it is very essential to carry on more and more patience here.

Frequently Asked Questions


A: Border Collies are excellently smart dogs. Most dog experts revealed that this dog breed is an intelligent compulsive worker. Meaning to say, the Collies never stop working to look for ways to stimulate his mind. They have lots of capability to learn a significant number of words and commands. In fact, they become extremely happy when they are putting into work every day.


A: Well, based on our discussion above, the Collies are considered as herding dogs. They were bred to work on and look for sheep and livestock. However, if you really want to own a Border Collie, this dog breed can also make a good family pet. Yet, this is only applicable for those Collies in which the herding instincts are not running on their blood intensely. Aside from that, Border Collies are only suitable for those families who are ready to settle with the ramifications of this dog’s behavior.


A: Actually, one of the great characteristics of the Border Collie is their being protective. Well, just like with the other herding and sheepdogs, the Border Collie highly possesses this temperament. Moreover, the Border Collie also has this temperament to be distrusting of strangers.

So far, the protective characteristic of the Border Collie is also a factor for making them great watchdogs. Once there are unordinary things going around and being noticed by the Border Collie, they will also look for ways to alert their family. This is how they protect their family.

Final Thoughts

There are actually lots of reasons why are Border Collie so smart. In fact, owning and falling in love with this dog breed also entails a number of excellent considerations that you will never regret. With proper care and training, the Border Collie makes the best ever intelligent, reliable, loving, sensitive, and loyal companion that you could ask for.

Do you own a Border Collie? Is there any instance that your Collie shows you how smart are they? Please share your thoughts with us!

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