Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How Intelligent are German Shepherds? Breed Cognition Facts & FAQ

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

german shepherd dog lying on wooden table outdoors

It’s been found that the average dog has the mental ability equal to a 2-year-old human. This is remarkable when you stop and think how smart 2-year-old children can be as these inquisitive youngsters are constantly learning from the time they awake until bedtime.

If you’re wondering how intelligent a German Shepherd is, we’ve got the answer you need! The German Shepherd is not only a strong and loyal dog, it’s also an intelligent breed that’s always up for a challenge and is eager to learn new things.

divider 10

How Smart Are German Shepherds?

Of all the dog breeds in the world, and there are many, the German Shepherd ranks right up with the smartest breeds. To be more specific, German Shepherds are considered to be the third smartest dog breed right behind Border Collies and Poodles.

German Shepherd Intelligence & Training

woman teaching german shepherd to keep paws on floor
Image Credit: marcin jucha, Shutterstock

In addition to being bright, German Shepherds are also one of the easiest breeds to train. Ingrained in the German Shepherd is a quick and retentive memory. This helps the dog easily remember key words, commands, and tricks it’s taught by its owner.

This dog’s intelligence comes from its early history in Germany when the dog was specifically bred to shepherd over sheep. These early livestock-guarding dogs were counted on for their intelligence, alertness, and their ability to quickly respond to danger. For these reasons, today’s German Shepherd is an excellent protector of people and property and is often used by law enforcement and the military to serve and protect.


German Shepherds are Smart Even as Puppies

bi color german shepherd puppy
Image Credit: Lurin, Shutterstock

Even as puppies, German Shepherds are smart! Between 7-12 weeks of age is when German Shepherd puppies are exploring and learning about the world they live in. This is the optimal time to teach a German Shepherd some basic commands and to expose the pup to as many new sights, sounds, noises, and environments as possible.

This early exposure to new experiences will help ensure that a German Shepherd puppy will grow to be a dog that’s always eager to learn new things. In other words, if you want to tap into the full potential of a German Shepherd’s intelligence, you have to begin exposing the puppy to new things early in life.

The Two Types of Dog Intelligence

Dog intelligence is divided into two separate varieties. There is instinctive intelligence that consists of a dog’s natural ability that’s inherent to a breed. This is the type of intelligence that makes German Shepherds good protectors, Bloodhounds good sniffers, and Border Collies excellent herders of sheep.

Then there’s a type of dog intelligence called adoptive intelligence. This is nothing more than a dog’s ability to learn. Adoptive intelligence includes socialization, learning to carry out tasks, and understanding human language. A German Shepherd, like any dog, can do better at one type of intelligence that the other.

It’s easy to test your dog’s intelligence by using an online dog IQ test. Whether you have a German Shepherd or another type of dog, this type of test can give you a general idea as to how smart your dog is. Just be sure to follow the directions and have fun watching your dog figure out some things using nothing but his brainpower!

German Shepherd standing on the grass
Image By: cvop, Pixabay

You Can Make a German Shepherd Smarter as an Adult

There are some ways to make an adult German Shepherd smarter. While most of these dogs don’t work in law enforcement or for the military, German Shepherds do like being physically and mentally challenged.

The key to sharpening the mind of a German Shepherd is to challenge the dog and allow it to think on its own. These dogs also need plenty of exercise which helps keep them from becoming bored.

Playing challenging brain games with a German Shepherd helps as well. For example, you can use a few plastic cups and a favorite treat to play a challenging game with a German Shepherd. Once you have the dog’s attention, place the treat under one of the cups and then tell your dog to find it.

An excellent way to make a German Shepherd smarter is to enroll in a dog training course that teaches something like agility or nosework. Not only will your dog need to pay attention around distractions, but his mind will also be challenged by learning new things. If this sounds interesting, have a look around your area to see what types of dog training classes you can sign up for.

german shepherd running outside with tongue out
Image Credit: Vilve Roosioks, Pixabay


Final Thoughts

German Shepherds are among the most intelligent dogs living today. Considering the origin of this breed and the intensive training many of these dogs go through early in life, it’s not hard to understand how such a smart and protective breed has become so popular.

If you’re thinking of getting a puppy and want your dog to grow up to be a smart adult dog, you really can’t go wrong by choosing a German Shepherd!

Related Reads:

Featured Image Credit: lancegfx, Pixabay

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database