There are many medium sized dog breeds in the 20-60lb range that are fun to train, due to their athleticism and desire for a “job” to do! A dog in this size range is perfect if you are searching for an active companion, because they are large and athletic enough to handle most types of vigorous exercise, yet not so massive that strenuous activity would would be hard on their muscles and joints.
What does it mean when a dog is “biddable” or easy to train? It means that they want to work for YOU! A biddable dog is incredibly easy to motivate - these dogs will do anything for their reward, whether it be for a treat or a chance to play with a toy.
If you’re looking for a dog who can be trained to carry out complicated behaviors (such as completing an agility obstacle course, perform a Frisbee routine, or working as a service dog), seek a dog that has a biddable temperament. These dogs have lots of energy and are ready to spring to their feet at a moment’s notice to do whatever you ask of them.
Some dogs have been selectively bred for a high level of intelligence - such as the Border collie or German shepherd. Just because a dog is intelligent, it does not mean that they will train themself!
Intelligent dog breeds actually require a lot more work than the average dog. The smarter the dog, the more mental enrichment and stimulation that dog will require. Many smart individuals can become neurotic if left at home all day.
If you own this type of dog, you will need to provide opportunities for your dog to exercise their mind in productive ways. Smart dogs who have limited opportunities to use their brains to overcome challenges and learn new things will create their own job to do, such as digging holes in the backyard or destroying the leather furniture.
Examples of Highly Trainable Dog Breeds
Border collies are one of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world. They also take their jobs very seriously and have an incredible work ethic, and yet, have sensitive personalities and are extremely in tune with their human.
They were originally bred to herd sheep for many hours out of the day. A good Border collie can gather sheep and bring them to their shepherd or take them to a destination as directed. Border collies use pressure from their eyes and bodies to move sheep, and they learn how to do it in a controlled way (a scared sheep can injure themselves which will affect the quality of meat).
These days, most Border collies aren’t herding sheep. However, they still possess the genetics to do the work. This is why many Border collies become fixated on motion (moving objects, like skateboarders, running dogs, or children at play). Border collies are the most popular dog breed when it comes to most competitive dog sports, such as freestyle disc, agility, flyball, and more, due to their amazing athleticism and unbeatable work ethic.
Many people think of Australian Shepherds as “the same thing as a Border collie, just without a tail” which is a common misconception. Both breeds were developed for a different purpose.
Aussies tend to be a little more “pushy” compared to Border collies. They are more likely to bark at strangers. When their breed was being developed, part of their duties involved guarding their territory and protecting their pack. Aussies tend to be natural, athletic jumpers, and will enjoy playing in canine sports such as dog parkour, agility, freestyle disc, and dock diving.
There are few breeds as versatile as a good German shepherd. German shepherds are utilized for a staggering number of jobs, including (but not limited to) Search and Rescue, personal protection, military and police work, detection (from airport security to finding human remains), tending livestock, and service work.
A fit German shepherd will also excel at almost any dog sport you can think of - from dock diving, to barn hunt, to IPO, K9 Frisbee Toss & Fetch, and more. German shepherds work to please, and they will be very happy if you give them a job to do!
The Belgian Malinois is a true working dog. They are not house pets. They will be an amazing partner and companion to you, if you give them a sense of purpose and meaningful work.
Malinois tend to act before they think - this is why they excel at sports like dock diving. Most Malinois will dive into a body of water without even thinking about what they’re diving into. They are just so focused on biting their toy and will do anything to get to it.
Malinois cannot and will not be a couch potato. They are not for the casual dog owner. Owning a Malinois is a way of life and an immense commitment. The majority of Belgian Malinois owners are closely involved with training that requires significant time and effort, such as Search and Rescue, or IPO (which involves 3 phases: obedience, tracking, and protection).
Golden retrievers are the ideal family pet for a reason: They are attentive, intelligent, athletic, loving, and friendly with everyone. They are not known for being “stubborn” - a Golden desperately desires to please and they need few corrections.
A Golden will even perform a repetitive task, such as fetching a ball for you over and over again, all with an upbeat personality and a big smile. Goldens were bred to work closely alongside other hunting dogs so they tend to fit in well with multi-dog households. As hunting dogs, they have a terrific sense of smell, so we recommend sports such as barn hunt, nosework, and tracking, in order to hone that amazing natural ability.
Labrador retrievers aren’t as sensitive as Golden retrievers, and they aren’t quite as clingy to their owners. They are usually very food-motivated, have a strong work ethic, and enjoy learning new things.
Labs often have an oral fixation, such as picking up objects and parading them around. Rather than punishing them for that behavior, leave some durable dog toys around the house and encourage your dog to redirect on to the toy instead. Praise them warmly when they select their toy, rather than your shoe.
Labs are the most popular breed in the exciting sport of dock diving - their natural love of water, instinct to retrieve objects, and athleticism allows them to learn the game fairly quickly. Due to their hunting background, they also make great detection dogs, and can be trained to sniff and alert to almost anything: lost people, narcotics, human remains, bedbugs and other vermin, fruits or other contraband items, and even your low blood sugar!
A lot of people are dismissive of poodles - a common misconception is that there is not much depth to them other than lots of grooming. Poodles are not only exceptionally intelligent, but they are amazing athletes!
They are happy dogs with a goofy personality who will excel at any task you can think of, whether it’s advanced obedience training, scent detection, agility… some people even use them for duck hunting! Poodles are known for having a lot of energy, but it’s pretty easy to tire them out as long as you regularly provide ample play time, exercise, and training.
How can you tell if your dog is biddable or not?
Is your dog constantly watching your every move? Will your dog fetch an object for you over and over again? Does your dog immediately rouse from a nap in order to follow you from room to room, hoping that you’ll do something fun together? Does your dog offer behaviors in the hopes that it will pay off in a reward? (such as sitting in front of you, putting a paw on your knee, spinning in a circle and looking at you hopefully, offering a play bow or more?)
Congratulations! You have a motivated canine partner who is eager to learn new things with you!
Fun Activities to Do with Your Dog!
There are so many fun activities that you can do with your dog right in your own neighborhood! When you work with your dog and train them new things in a fun and positive manner, you are nurturing the connection you have with your dog, building their confidence, and you’re showing your dog that you love them.
Dog parkour is a fantastic way of providing mental and physical exercise for your dog. Parkour doesn’t require purchasing any equipment, instead, you go out into the world and interact with things you find in your environment! The more obstacles you conquer together, the more confident your dog will become in a variety of situations!
Here are some fun parkour behaviors you can teach to your dog - all you’ll need is a harness, a leash, and a bag of treats!
- 4 feet on an object
- 2 feet on an object
- Gap jump
- Balance beam
Every dog should try nosework - this sport gives your dog the opportunity to engage with their natural hunting instinct to seek out food and challenges your dog’s mind to solve complex problems. Nosework allows your dog to be a dog.
In the beginning stages of training nosework, you teach your dog that in certain contexts, they can expect to sniff out treats and be allowed to do so. Start by letting your dog search for treats in your living room, and as your dog learns the game, you can increase the difficulty by finding more challenging hiding spots or having your dog search in new locations.
Eventually, you can pair the treats with a target odor, and with enough practice, your dog will learn that if they alert you to the target odor, you will reward them with some delicious food!
If your dog has prey drive - and enjoys chasing bunnies, squirrels, birds, or tennis balls - you can teach them to channel that drive into catching flying discs! There are few things as thrilling as watching your dog sprint down the field, take a leap and snag a bit of plastic mid-air.
Toss and Fetch (click here to find a league close to you!) and Freestyle are fun, yet physically intense sports. Your dog must be at an appropriate level of fitness and conditioning before pursuing that type of training.
If your dog loves chasing toys and swimming in a body of water, you’ll have a blast learning about dock diving! Dogs and their handlers compete to see which dog can jump the furthest (or highest) off of a dock and into a pool, all in pursuit of their favorite toy. Develop a cross training program (building upon a dog’s strength, balance, endurance, and flexibility)
What is the most fun activity that you have tried with your dog? What kind of training did it involve? Let us know in the comments!