7 Great Reasons German Shepherds Are So Smart!

German Shepherds are a popular dog breed for many reasons, as they make loyal and dependable companions. While dogs are known for being adorably aloof, they can also be quite intelligent. With the right training, it’s possible to bring out the best of their intelligence, and there is no exception when it comes to German Shepherds. 

The German Shepherd was bred using dogs who were witnessed being agile, smart, speedy, and dedicated. They were originally used for herding sheep but became more domesticated as people learned just how lovely they were to keep around the house. Their intelligence has been monitored over the years, and they keep getting smarter and smarter. Let’s take a look in more depth as to why this is. 

Why Are German Shepherds So Smart?

The German Shepherd was specially bred in the late 1800s, using the best dogs to do so. This thoughtful process helped develop the German Shepherd into a dog that is not only known for being smart but brave, confident, and strong. 

Apart from this special breeding process, there are specific attributes that German Shepherds have that contributed to their intelligence: 

They Have An Excellent Sense Of Smell

It’s no surprise why German Shepherds make such good K9 police dogs. At the very least, their sense of smell is 10,000 times stronger than a human’s. They have helped with their sense of smell in a variety of situations, such as drug busts, searching for bodies in disaster areas, and being able to hunt down people in search situations. 

They Have A Strong Work Ethic

A German Shepherd has a very buff physique and a natural inclination to get the job done. This is partly why they are often used as service animals, law enforcement dogs, or even therapy dogs. They are very happy to work to any degree, from chasing bad people down to finding a buried treat.

They Are Natural Herders 

A German Shepherd used to be commonly seen herding flock, but that’s not really their purpose anymore. Regardless, they haven’t lost that instinct. This instinct requires a strong family connection, critical and independent thinking abilities, and of course, superior smarts. 

They Are Obedient

There is actually a scale that exists to rank which dogs are the most obedient, and German Shepherds are towards the top of this list. They naturally want to please their owners, which allows them to pick up good behaviors after just a little bit of training. It’s vital to nurture this instinct in them positively during training for the best chance of success. 

Their Instincts Are Top Notch

Above just being obedient, German Shepherds have incredible instincts. This is why they make such excellent guard dogs, among other things. They have a natural instinct to sense danger and threats and are very protective of their families. 

They Adapt Very Well 

We may not think of dogs as critical thinkers, but German Shepherds prove that they can be. They are able to work out solutions to barriers placed before them. They also learn from past mistakes; if they do something that hurts them or makes their owner upset, they most likely won’t do it again.

They Have The Right Brain Structure

German Shepherds have a large prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that determines cognitive abilities and problem-solving abilities. 

Portrait of a cute German shepherd wearing a graduation cap (isolated on white), copy space on the left for your text

How Smart Are German Shepherds?

Most people would argue that German Shepherds are the smartest dog breed. There is ample evidence to support this theory, as well as some scientific evidence to support why their intelligence is ranked so high.

They Rank Third In Intelligence

There is actually a rating system that exists to determine just how intelligent a dog is. If a dog can memorize a command after being trained on it five times and can respond correctly to a command 95% of the time, they are considered among the most intelligent. German Shepherd’s rank third on the list according to this criterion.

They Are Award-Winning Dogs

It may be a surprise that dogs can get awards, but they can, and the German Shepherd dog has. They have won the Award For Canine Excellence thirteen times. These awards recognize dogs who have positively contributed to their community. 

Their Noses Are Extremely Accurate 

A very small study trained two German Shepherds for six months to see how their noses would be able to sniff out breast cancer. These dogs were able to detect breast cancer with 100% accuracy after this training. 

They Have Incredible Memory 

Part of why German Shepherds are so easily trainable is their strong memory. They are able to remember commands with ease and can even form word associations with certain things. 

They Are The Top Choice For The Military

Using their keen sense of smell, instinctual abilities, and obedience, German Shepherds have been an excellent resource on military endeavors. They are able to sniff out explosives, they can work in any climate, and they can handle stress. Their athleticism also helps them keep up with strenuous missions.

They Get Along With Children And Other Animals 

While German Shepherds are big dogs, they understand the need to be gentle with other animals and small children. It is important to socialize your dog well in these scenarios, but the task wouldn’t take long. They will become just as protective over them as they are of you. 

They Make Excellent Service Animals

Service animals undergo a lot of training and have to retain things like word association and social cues and do important things to protect their owner, such as alert them to traffic or to a health concern. German Shepherds, with their speed, intelligence, ability to learn quickly and retain information, are one of the top choices for service animals. 

Is Your German Shepherd Smart?

There’s no doubt that if you monitor your German Shepherd closely, you’ll marvel at just how intelligent they are. It’ll be easy to see how quickly they learn the tricks that you teach them and how excited they get when they hear you say their favorite words, such as “walk” or “treats.”

They will be happy to show you their intelligence if you positively affirm their actions after performing a task or following a command. German Shepherds also show off their smarts with their protective instincts. They will shield you from signs of danger and monitor around your home to ensure there are no intruders. 

That being said, every dog is different. While German Shepherds have inherent abilities that are easy to bring out in them, if they are not trained early in life, they may not come to you knowing everything. If you adopt an older dog, for example, you may need to put some extra effort into training them.

Chances are, your German Shepherd will pick up your cues and commands quicker than other dogs, even if they are older. Just be sure to reward them when they succeed and stay patient with them.

How Can You Make A German Shepherd Smarter?

Thankfully, you don’t have to do much work to develop your German Shepherd’s intelligence. Much of a German Shepherd’s intelligence is displayed through them following their natural instincts. However, there are some things you can do to aid them in their development.

Start Their Training Early 

A German Shepherd hones into their intelligence in their early years. That being said, starting their training at a young age will ensure the most success. You should start when they are between 7 and 12 weeks old.

Train Them Properly 

Be kind and gentle with your German Shepherd. Don’t yell or be mean when they make a mistake. Using positive reinforcement and rewards with your German Shepherd will guarantee they learn their new commands quickly. 

Get Training Help If Necessary 

If you’re not used to training a dog, you can take them to obedience training. This helps them learn to socialize with other people and dogs and can teach them basic commands and tricks. 

Provide Them Mental Stimulation

Just as humans need to exercise their brains, German Shepherds need to as well. Consider toys that make them have to work for a reward, such as a treat-dispensing ball or a puzzle that hides treats for them to uncover. There are endless toys to discover that help your dog learn in a fun way.

Give Them A Task Or A Job 

It may sound silly to put your German Shepherd to work, but in reality, you’re just innocently taking advantage of one of their many smart attributes. Vets recommend training them to have a responsibility such as putting their toys away or bringing in the morning paper is as fun for them as it is helpful for you. Be sure to give them a treat for a job well done.

Give Them Attention And Play Time

German Shepherds are high-energy dogs, and they need the opportunity to expel that energy. Taking the time to play with your German Shepherd will keep them happy and motivated to continue making your life easier with their intelligence.

Don’t Leave Them Alone Too Long 

Leaving your German Shepherd alone for long stretches of time, especially without anything to occupy their time like toys or exercise, can be detrimental to their physical and mental health. This, in turn, could hinder their training capabilities and willingness to listen. Give them daily exercise, let them run around, and play with them with mind-stimulating toys. 

Want To Train Your Dog With Peace Of Mind?

If you haven’t trained your dog properly, then this is the perfect time to start. Whatever bad behavior your shepherd has, whether it’s barking at night or other bad behaviors, using the right training program is the key to having an obedient and happy pup.

The training program I love and highly recommend is Brain Training For Dogs.

With Brain Training For Dogs, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and effort. Instead of banging your head against the wall trying to figure out why your dog won’t listen, you’ll follow a path that has been tried, tested, and most importantly, that’s given proven results. Not to mention the fact, you’ll be able to fit the course around your schedule, not fit your schedule around a trainer or obedience class.

So instead of worrying about whether they’re going to be well-behaved or not, you’ll only have to worry about how much fun you’ll have with them!

And in most cases, it’s still going to be:

  • Cheaper than hiring a professional.
  • Cheaper than replacing everything they might break.
  • And definitely cheaper than a lawsuit against you, if they decide to bite someone.

Just imagine how great it will feel to finally be able to trust your dog completely and never worry whether they’ll be naughty or not. Instead, you’ll have the peace of mind that you have a well-behaved pup, and the boundaries you set for them will always be there, EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT.

And the best part is it also has a 60-day money-back guarantee! So there’s no reason not to give Brain Training For Dogs a try!

So if you’re tired of your dog’s bad behavior or how they react around other people and pooches, then give it a try! You’ll be amazed by the results!

(You can also check out a full review here to learn exactly what the course has to offer!)


As previously mentioned, German Shepherds rank very high in intelligence according to standardized testing. This testing was developed by canine psychologist Stanley Coren, who extensively studied several breeds to test how accurately they responded to training commands and how fast they learned them. Looking at several other breeds, we can see how they rank in smarts compared to German Shepherd’s using the cited research.

Are German Shepherds Smarter than Belgian Malinois?

Belgian Malinois are exceptionally smart as well and are extremely active. They are often compared to German Shepherds regarding their intelligence levels. However, they require exceptional care at a young age to adapt to training and socialization well. 

Are German Shepherds Smarter than Huskies?

The gentle giant, known as the Husky, is a sweet dog, and they share a similar work ethic to a German Shepherd. They require constant training to learn behaviors at a young age, and they can be quite stubborn sometimes.

Are German Shepherds Smarter than Pit Bulls?

A Pit Bull can be stubborn to learn tricks and commands if they aren’t trained at a young age. That being said, they are very intelligent and learn quickly when trained properly. They are not on Coren’s list for top-rated breeds. 

Are German Shepherds Smarter than Rottweilers?

The Rottweiler, while rated below the German Shepherd in terms of intelligence, still falls within the top ten smartest dog breeds. They sometimes work as police dogs as well and share the same loyal instincts that German Shepherds have.

Are German Shepherds Smarter than Golden Retrievers?

The Golden Retriever is ranked just below the German Shepherd on Cohen’s list of intelligent dog breeds at number four. They are happy to learn whatever you would like to teach them and retain commands and tricks very well. 

Are German Shepherds Smarter than Labs?

The Labrador is also in the top ten of the aforementioned list. They are quite relaxed and easy to train and work very well with families. They are commonly trained to be support dogs for people with disabilities. 

Are German Shepherds Smarter than Dobermans?

A Doberman is rated number five, falling very close behind the German Shepherd. They are large and fast and can be seen working as police dogs too. They will be just as devoted to their owners as German Shepherds are. 

Are German Shepherds Smarter than Border Collies?

Based on the ranking system cited earlier, Border Collies are actually the smartest dog breed. They love to work and learn and have the same herding instincts as German Shepherds.