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25 Most Trainable Small Dog Breeds

When we guage a dog's intelligence, we generally consider their obedience or trainability. It is obvious that being intelligent impacts how a dog learns; it is the genetics of the dog that determines personality and obedience.

For example, working breeds are notoriously obedient; while terriers and hounds were bred to be independent (thus less likely to obey).


Listed below are the small dog breeds that are most trainable, according to the American Kennel Club and dog psychologist Stanley Cohen. Cohen studied obedience in his book, The Intelligence of Dogs.


🔹️POODLE

Poodles may look regal; but this breed is smart, hard-working and eager to please (according to AKC). Toy and miniature versions will happily learn commands.

On the AKC Most Popular Breeds Rankings, the Poodle is #6.

🔸️PAPILLON

Their name derives from their butterfly like ears; this toy breed is alert, intelligent and eager to please (like poodles). These small dogs are active and curious; and enjoy learning new tricks.


🔹️PEMBROKE WELSH CORGI

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a solid working dog; and tends to learn new commands in five to 15 exposures. These dogs obey at least 85% of the time, according to Cohen.


🔸️MINIATURE SCHNAUZER

Mini Schnauzers are terriers who aren't known for their obedience. However, if training is fun, these dogs can learn quickly. According to the AKC, Schnauzers perform well in several canine sports; including agility, obedience, rally and earthdog events.


🔹️POMERANIAN

These tiny fluffly dogs decend from large working sled dogs. Poms are willing to learn; but you most be consistent and firm as Poms can become bossy!


🔸️CARDIGAN WELSH CORGI

Cardigan Welsh Corgis are loyal and friendly; but they are also smart and eager to learn (if well-trained). These dogs were originally bred to work on farms; their short legs put them are the right height to nip at stubborn cattle. Still to this day, these dogs need jobs or tasks to stimulate their need to work.


🔹️YORKSHIRE TERRIER

Yorkies learn commands in 15-25 repetitions; and obey 70% of the time according to Cohen. Bred for ratting in Yorkshire's mills, these dogs have a strong prey drive that can override their desire to listen.


🔸️BORDER TERRIER

Border Terriers are intelligent and eager to please, but are also independent. These dogs were originally bred to chase rats and foxes underground, and are still driven to chase prey. However, these dogs love people and when properly trained, they can make good family or therapy dogs.


🔹️AUSTRALIAN TERRIER

Australian Terriers decend from rough-coated terriers brought from Great Britain to Australia in the early 19th Century (such as Yorkshire and Cairn Terriers). Aussies rank 34th in Cohen's The Intelligence of Dogs, being above average in Working & Obedience.


🔸️CAIRN TERRIER

Cairn Terriers are small working terriers developed on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Farmers used them to hunt mice, rats and moles. These dogs are full of courage, tenacity and intelligence.

🔹️SILKY TERRIER

A member of the AKC toy group, these terriers are closely related to the Yorkshire Terriers. Like most terriers, these dogs have strong prey drive; but are intelligent and train well with consistency.


🔸️BICHON FRISE

Bichons are small white dogs with corkscrew curls. The AKC describes the Bichon as a personality dog that love to learn new tricks and put on a show for their humans. They respond best to positive reforcement training.


🔹️NORWICH TERRIER

Recognized as a breed in the 1930s; these terriers are hard-working and loyal companions. These dogs are quite rare because they have small liters; and often require cesarean sections to birth their pups.


🔸️BEDLINGTON TERRIER

Bedlingtons are working dogs with a lamb-like appearance. They tend to learn new commands in 25 to 40 repetitions; and obey at least 50% of the time according to Cohen.


🔹️SMOOTHED-HAIR FOX TERRIER

The Smooth Fox Terrier was the first variety of Fox Terriers to be recognized as an official breed according to the AKC. Dog training classes with a terrier-savvy trainer is highly recommended.


🔸️CAVALIER KING CHARLES SPANIEL

Toy Spaniels can be traced back to at least the 16th Century. These dogs are gentle, affectionate, smart, easily trained and eager to please humans.


🔹️PARSON RUSSELL TERRIER

In the 17th Century, the Parson Russell Terrier was developed in Southern England to presue foxes. It was named after Rev. John Russell, a hunting clergyman.


🔸️WEST HIGHLAND WHITE TERRIER

These friendly, lively dogs are always cheerful. They are intelligent and keen to please their humans; but can also be stubborn and have high prey drive.


🔹️HAVANESE

These small fluffy dogs make excellent watchdogs. Training is required to keep barking to a minimum.


🔸️DACHSHUND

Dachshunds are scent hounds originally bred to hunt badgers and other tunneling animals. Originally from Germany, these tiny dogs were once used to trail wild boar.


🔹️WIREHAIRED FOX TERRIER

These happy-go-lucky dogs are intelligent, independent and bore easily. Training sessions must be fun and interactive. With patience and consistency, these dogs can be good family dogs.


🔸️BOSTON TERRIER

The Boston Terrier was developed in the USA as a cross between an English Bulldog and a White English Terrier. Originally bred as fighting dogs; these spunky dogs are happiest at home with their humans.


🔹️SKYE TERRIER

This unsual dog originates from the Isle of Skye in Scotland; but one of the most endangered native UK breeds. These terriers are happiest indoors with their family.


🔸️NORFOLK TERRIER

A big dog in a small body, this dog is known by their folded over ears. Like other terriers, these dogs chase prey and are strong-willed. However, they are smart an obey commands with solid training.


🔹️SEALYHAM TERRIER

Named after the Sealy Ham Estate on the Seal River in Wales; where this sturdy and confident dog was bred. One of the least obedient dog on the list, they require firm but not harsh training techniques.

No matter the breed, all dogs require consistent training techniques. There are a lot of great trainers in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area. However, Wild at Heart Canine Academy is one of our favorites. They have a lot of options to work with your adult dog or puppy. In addition, a low dose CBD may help your pup focus and maximize training classes, check our La Barkeria CBD treats.


The list above is for entertainment; and is not meant as a resource for selecting your next canine companion. Reference your veterinarian or dog trainer before selecting your next pet to ensure it is a good match for your family.