How Many Words Can My Dog Learn?

The word "words" written out in scrabble tiles

I know all the words, I’m a dog blogger. But I realize this isn’t a typical hobby for most other pups, so I looked deeper into this to gather a more comprehensive answer for you. You want to know how many words your dog can learn.

Let’s get to it.

How Many Words Can My Dog Learn?

A dog of average intelligence can learn up to 165 different words and commands. Smarter dogs ranking in the top 20% can learn closer to 250 words and can count to 5 – ranking them in the same mental capacity of a 2.5 year old human child.

Well, scratch my ears and call me Lassie because I’m heads and ‘tails’ above the top 20 ‘percenters’. I’m somewhat of an anomaly.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into particular breed cognition and what it actually takes to teach your dog specific words.

Shall we begin?

Disclaimer: The Can My Dog articles contain information based on the individual research and opinions of the author of the site – who just so happens to be a dog. How you utilize the information given is completely up to you. Proceed at your own risk.

The Smartest Dog Breeds

‘Supposedly’, and I use this term loosely because I’m not on this list so it has to be inaccurate…

Anyway, supposedly the following breeds are ranked as the top three smartest dogs to date:

  1. Border Collies
  2. Poodles
  3. German Shepherds

Canine intelligence, much like human intelligence varies greatly on the scale of overall comprehension and performance.

As a general rule of thumb, if your dog’s breed has been evolved over time as a herder, hunter, or retriever, then they have a tendency to be more engaged, quick on the training uptake, and generally more intelligent dogs.

On the other hand, if your dog has been bred as more of a guard dog, they may have the tendency to seem a bit slower (mentally) as other dogs.

I think it’s important for me to interject that the cognitive capacity of your dog has little to do with their ability to learn from you. Taking the time to train your dog on a consistent basis, whether that means teaching them new words or new tricks, relies heavily on your continual commitment to training your dog.

The Dumbest Dog Breed

The dumbest (or least obedient) dog breed, according to a cognitive and comprehensive test administered in a controlled setting by neuropsychologist Stanley Coren, PhD, came down to the:

Afghan Hounds.

My sincerest apologies to all of the Afghan Hounds out there. Ah, who am I kidding? They definitely can’t read this – I’m safe.

Anyway, according to Coren, the indicators that constituted grouping certain breeds into this “less obedient” category meant that a command had to be heard by the dog and repeated between 80-100 times resulting in a less than 25% obeyed or success rate.

I am a firm believer that your dog is held hostage by the amount of time and attention you give them. I think many elite trainers and neuroscientists would agree – consistent training with positive reinforcement will make for a smart, obedient, and overall good dog.

Top 10 List of Both the Smartest and Least Obedient Dog Breeds

The following list is based off the findings of Dr. Coren, author of The Intelligence of Dogs. [Source]

Top 10 Smartest Dog BreedsTop 10 Least Obedient Dog Breeds
Border CollieShih Tzu
PoodleBassett Hound
German ShepherdMastiff / Beagle (tied)
Golden RetrieverPekingnese
Doberman PinscherBloodhound
Shetland SheepdogBorzoi
Labrador RetrieverChow Chow
Australian Cattle DogAfghan Hound

Expand Your Dogs Vocabulary

I’ve mentioned this before, but it warrants repeating….because….we all learn through REPETITION.

The single best way to teach your dog new words is through repetition and direct association on a consistent basis.

Let me explain what I mean here.

If you’re trying to teach your dog the word ‘refrigerator’, then you would verbally say the word ‘refrigerator’ every time you walk up to it, making sure your dog is paying attention to you

Once your dog recognizes your verbal and physical association to a particular object, reward them with a treat – every time. This enhances their engagement with positive reinforcement.

It’s the repetition coupled with the positive reinforcement (the treat) that stimulates cognitive receptors and word associations in your dog’s brain to allow for expansive learning opportunities.

It really is a simple process that can be molded to fit any other word you want to teach your pup.


Be Consistent

Repeat again.

And make sure you’re consistent.

And don’t forget the treats.

That’s it. These are the keys to training your dog to learn anything. Don’t make training them harder than it needs to be.

The Smartest Dog in the World

I mean…

You’re reading the grand masters words this very moment, but since I don’t like stressful testing situations the award for smartest pup went to the runner up.

Chaser, the smartest dog in the world was a border collie. I use ‘was’ because unfortunately, Chaser passed away on July 23, 2019 at the age of 15.

Chaser was well known for pioneering the research focused on dog cognition.

Her and her human’s research on dogs understanding nouns, and techniques such as ‘errorless learning‘ were all nothing short of ground breaking.

Rest in peace, sweet Chaser. You will absolutely be missed.

We are all capable of so much more. Let this be a lesson to us – do something great today. Be different, not better. Better initiates comparisons, but different creates legends.

Be a legend.


Here’s my final thoughts on the subject.

How many words can your dog learn?

My answer: As many as you’re willing to teach them.

Spending time with our humans makes us very happy and very smart. Don’t believe me? Read what I wrote on that very topic right here.

Don’t be bound by breed restrictions written up by some human who thinks they performed adequate due diligence on the subject matter. Break through all limitations. Show the world just how brilliant you are.

I’m mainly talking to you, afghan hounds! 🙂

And per usual, continue to Live, Love, Laugh, and Scratch our bellies often.

Love you guys,


P.S. If you’re new to this world, you may want to check out my Ultimate Guide for First Time Dog Parents. It’s a great reference to get you started on this journey.

Related Questions

Does My Dog Think He’s a Human?

Dogs have a comprehensive awareness with the capacity to tap into differentiating factors between themselves and their human counterparts.

In short, your dog does not think he’s a human.

It would stand to reason that if you’ve raised your dog since infancy, that they may assume they’re the exact same as you. This isn’t the case though. Dogs have an innate perception of differentiating species.

I have actually wrote a comprehensive article on this very topic. Read more here: Does my dog think he’s a human?

Do Dogs Like When You Talk to Them?

Research shows that dogs appreciate your dog-directed tones, mannerisms, and emotional dictations.

As a matter of fact, talking to your dog makes them want to spend more time with you.

And as if all of this couldn’t possibly get any better, talking to your dog on a consistent basis is actually the fastest way to make them smarter.

True story.

Key factors at play when you talk to your dog:

  • Talking to your dog will improve your mood and their intelligence.
  • Verbal and active repetition is the best way to teach your dog anything.
  • Body language is also a human language that dogs are fluent in.

Read all about it here: The easiest way to make your dog smarter.

This article has been reviewed by our Editorial Board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our Editorial Policies.

Recent Posts