The Easiest and Hardest Dog Breeds to Train

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A cute 'n' cuddly pup has become something of a COVID commodity, with canines being scooped up at record numbers from shelters and breeders. As new (and sometimes inexperienced) owners adjust to their furry family member, they should keep in mind that some breeds are going to be easier to train than others. Which breeds are the best for learning fast and furiously, and for that matter which are the most, um, challenged, when it comes to doggy commands? Here's what to expect.

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Border Collie

Easiest: Border Collie

Recognized by the American Kennel Club as the No. 1 easiest-to train dog breed, the border collie is the "workaholic" of the dog world. This herding breed needs a job because it loves learning new things. In fact, a border collie named Chaser is known as one of the smartest dogs in recent history — she learned to identify over 1,000 words in her lifetime.

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Labrador Retriever

Easiest: Labrador Retriever

Catherine Gilmartin, a certified dog trainer in Connecticut, says Labradors are her personal top pick for trainability. "Labs are my #1 pick for easiest to train because they are a wonderful combination of driven, energetic, intelligent, and most importantly — the most-food motivated dogs you will ever meet in your life!" says Gilmartin. "Labs would perform Hamlet if it means they'll get a treat, and dogs like that are a dream to train."  The breed is so friendly and eager, it's no wonder they're often used as service dogs. 

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German Shepherd Dog

Easiest: German Shepherd Dog

Both Gilmartin and the AKC list German shepherds as among the easiest breeds to train. "These are intense working breeds, so it's in their biology to need a job. No, really — they NEED a job!" exclaims Gilmartin. The breed responds extremely well to rewards-based training, according to the AKC. But don't expect to leave this breed in the yard alone — GSDs are happiest being with their family.

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Standard Poodle
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Easiest: Standard Poodle

Beneath that fluffy, frou-frou exterior is actually a working dog that excels at obedience, agility, hunting and tracking, making them one of the more trainable breeds … if you know what you're doing. "They are another example of a breed that may not be for the novice dog owner as they will find their own trouble to get into if their intelligence isn't harnessed correctly," says Gilmartin.

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golden retriever

Easiest: Golden Retriever

Goldens have a reputation for being friendly and good-natured, and want to make their owners happy. Says Gilmarten, "Golden retrievers are on this list for very similar reasons as the Labrador retrievers; they are generally driven, food-motivated, and eager to please! Unlike the intensity of a breed like the border collie, goldens and labs are good choices for more novice dog owners as they strike a great balance of being trainable as well as agreeable and easy going."

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Australian Shepherd
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Easiest: Australian Shepherd

The Australian shepherd is known for its intelligence, drive, and stamina, which give it an ideal temperament for working in search and rescue, detection, or even as an assistance dog. The breed is enthusiastic about working at everything from obedience to herding to agility.

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Afghan Hound

Hardest: Afghan Hound

Afghan hounds are rather notorious for being difficult to train, but "with those long silky locks, who needs brains, right?" jokes Gilmartin. Afghan-hound owners are often quick to point out that no amount of training will overcome the breed's hunting instinct to break off on a high-speed chase.

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English Bulldog

Hardest: English Bulldog

"I absolutely love English bulldogs, but if I was trying to pick a trainable dog, they would not exactly be high on my list," says Gilmartin. "They have very distinct and entertaining personalities, and they will keep you constantly laughing. However, as you may be able to tell by their overall build and demeanor, they are not exactly a whip-smart working breed. They're more like hilarious, loving, powerful little bowling balls." This breed loves to chew, so owners should be sure to work on teaching what is and isn't acceptable chewing behavior. 

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Basset Hound

Hardest: Basset Hound

"If you want a mellow and easygoing dog, this breed might be for you. They love to snooze and are incredibly charming and lovable in their personality," says Gilmartin. "However, their motivation is not exactly at the top of the charts, and they tend to do things at their own speed … which is slow as molasses." She adds that hounds are at their most motivated when they get to use their incredibly talented noses, but basset hounds are very independent, which makes training the breed challenging.

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Hardest: Chihuahua

Chihuahuas may be small, but they are also quite mighty. "Training a teeny tiny dog can be quite challenging (not to mention murder on your back)," says Gilmartin. "Chihuahuas tend to have a slightly frenetic energy about them, and they have quite the zesty personality despite the very small packaging. Entertaining: yes! Easy to train: not so much," she adds. The breed can also be bossy and wary of strangers.

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