11 Easiest Dogs to Train That Make Obedient Pets
These well-behaved pups are the easiest dogs to train, making their transition to your home that much smoother
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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.
Bred to be bright and energetic, border collies take their name from the border region of Scotland, where the breed was developed, and the Scottish word for sheepdog: collie. These agile, intelligent dogs are practically athletes when it comes to herding and are no doubt smarter than you think. So impressive are the pups that, the story goes, onlookers at one of the first sheepdog trials, held in Wales in 1873, were amazed by the breed’s ability to follow hand signals and whistles to gather sheep into pens.
Keep in mind that border collies need a lot of dedicated time, attention and activities. It’s worth the effort, though; collies are one of the most loyal dog breeds out there. Jackson recommends focusing on potty training, socializing and commands like “sit” and “stay” to help your pup get used to new people, animals and situations.
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.”
A sweet, lively breed that comes in a variety of sizes, the poodle is the national dog of France. But get this: They’re not actually French dogs. They were originally bred in Germany as waterfowl-hunting dogs; the name poodle comes from the German word pudel, which means “to splash in the water.”
Curly hair might make poodles the most stylish pups outside the Westminster Dog Show, but they’re also some of the smartest, part of the reason they’re among the easiest dogs to train. With a high level of intelligence, athletic nature and innate desire to be a companion, the poodle is a very fast learner that loves the challenge of not only training but also learning new tricks and games. They need frequent mental and physical stimulation, though, so give your poodle plenty of toys and games, such as puzzle feeding bowls.
The statuesque Doberman pinscher is renowned for being one of the easiest dogs to train, which is why they’re frequently used for military and police work. Despite reputations as protective and fearsome guard dogs, these German dogs were actually bred as companion animals, making them great pets for families (yes, even kids). They’re known for being loyal, brave, trustworthy and intelligent, and while they need plenty of enrichment and exercise, they’re also happy with a cuddle on the couch.
Due to their large size, consistent training from a young age is key, ensuring they learn how to follow dog commands like “sit,” “stay” and “walk” nicely on a leash without pulling. “The key tool for keeping your dog calm is teaching them to have great owner focus,” explains Briggs. “Owner focus does not mean forcing the dog to pay attention to us humans. It means rewarding the dog for checking in with us, no matter the situation.”
Both the Pembroke Welsh corgi and Cardigan Welsh corgi make for obedient, loving pets. Even Queen Elizabeth II was a fan of corgis, having owned at least 30 throughout her lifetime. You don’t need to live in a palace to enjoy this breed, though. They’re also one of the best apartment dogs, as they’re perfectly pint-size and love looking out the window and watching the world.
The breed is intelligent and quick-witted, with an innate nature to herd and work. As such, they’re receptive to training. Combine that with their fearless nature, and it’s no surprise corgis are always interested in trying new things or learning games. Although they can be strong-willed, regular training and exposure to plenty of new environments and settings will help your pup become obedient, well adjusted and good with kids. Just be sure you’re able to give your corgi plenty of exercise.
The iconic Shetland sheepdog, or sheltie, is a beautiful animal and one of the most popular medium dog breeds. It’s a herding breed originally from Scotland’s Shetland Islands, and with a love for people, it makes a wonderful family dog. When it comes to training, the sheltie enjoys a challenge and also loves to please, landing it on the list of most-trainable dogs. Its intelligent nature and knack for agility and athletics make it a prime candidate for agility courses and dog tricks. Indeed, many sheltie owners go above and beyond basic obedience training.
These dogs are energetic and eager, so they’ll do best with a big yard or plenty of long walks. They’re also kind, playful and loving, remaining loyal throughout life. They’re known for being very sensitive, so teach your puppy the foundations by being gentle and giving lots of positive reinforcement. They may be one of the easiest dogs to train, but the key to success is calmness. “The most important factor in maintaining calm in your dog is for you to remain calm,” says Briggs. “Emotions run down the leash, so whatever you’re feeling can be sensed by your dog.”
When you’re looking for the easiest dogs to own, don’t rule out a shelter dog. Plenty of perfectly well-behaved pups still wind up in shelters. And for those that need a few lessons in manners, many shelters have training programs to get dogs ready for adoption. You may find a lovable purebred or mixed-breed dog that’s eager to please and ready to make a loving, obedient addition to your family.
Additional research provided by Lynn Coulter.
About the experts
- Courtney Briggs is a head dog trainer and operations manager for Zoom Room, a dog training company. Briggs also has experience in private dog training and as an adoption specialist at an animal rescue.
- Rob R. Jackson is the co-founder and CEO of Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation, a pet insurance company and nonprofit foundation to help homeless pets.
- Mary Burch, PhD, is the director of the Citizen Canine and American Kennel Club S.T.A.R. Puppy programs. She has an emphasis in behavior analysis.
- American Kennel Club: “Dog Breeds”
- American Kennel Club: “10 Fun Facts About Poodles”
- American Kennel Club: “How to Train a Doberman Pinscher Puppy: Milestones & Timeline”
- American Kennel Club: “10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Border Collie”
- American Kennel Club: “Top 10 Facts About German Shepherd Dogs”
- American Kennel Club: “Earthdog”