Dog Training Smartest Dogs

Are Chihuahuas Smart? Here’s Why They Ranked So Low in Dog Intelligence

Chiahuahuas rank low in dog intelligence, but they're actually very smart dogs.

Whether you’re a curious owner or a potential chihuahua parent, you may be wondering: are Chihuahuas smart? How smart are Chihuahuas? 

According to canine psychologist Stanley Coren, Chihuahuas are classified as fair or below average for working/obedience dog intelligence. In fact, they’re the 125th smartest dog breed as shown in the obedience trials. But just because Chihuahuas ranked low doesn’t mean they aren’t smart dogs. 

There are a lot of ways and factors that make the Chihuahuas intelligent dogs. Let’s examine this age-old question and discover the truth of the Chihuahua’s intelligence. 

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How We Measure a Chihuahua’s Intelligence

To truly understand how smart Chihuahuas are, we must first know how Stanley Coren measured dog intelligence. The renowned canine psychologist asked 199 obedience trial judges from the Canadian and American Kennel Club to participate in his research.

The trial judges measured and ranked how each dog breed did in obedience trials following Coren’s criteria. However, only breeds with at least 100 responses were qualified to appear in Coren’s dog intelligence rankings. 

Stanley Coren’s Dog Intelligence Criteria:

  1. The number of repetitions it took for a dog to learn a new (unknown) command.
  2. The success rate (%) that a dog obeys a known command on the first attempt. 

The criteria in which Coren used to measure dog intelligence was met with a lot of criticism and skepticism. We believe there’s much more to dog IQ than just obedience and learning. Still, it’s a great starting point and reference for us when debating on this topic.

How the Chihuahua Performed

According to the results of the trials, Chihuahuas ranked in the bottom half of the dog breeds. Out of 138 qualified dog breeds, the Chihuahua ranked 125th. Clearly, not as great as most people would think.

Being in the fair intelligence category, the Chihuahua breed was able to learn a new command with just 40 to 80 repetitions. On the other hand, Chihuahuas would obey a known command on the first attempt with a 30% or better success rate

For reference, other popular dog breeds in the same intelligence category as Chihuahuas include: the Pug, French Bulldog, Saint Bernard and Maltese. 

Still, they ranked higher than other dog breeds like the Beagle, Chow Chow or Bloodhound. 

Chihuahua Intelligence vs. Average Dogs

Chihuahuas are considered below average in Coren’s studies. But how did they compare to other dog breeds? And, what was the average dog intelligence like?

The “average” dog needed just 25 to 40 repetitions to learn a new command. On the other hand, average dog breeds can successfully obey a known command on the first try with a 50% (or better) success rate

These numbers aren’t significantly better than the Chihuahua’s average results. However, they are better. For reference, popular average dogs include: the Australian Shepherd, Siberian Husky, Havanese, Great Dane and the King Charles Spaniel. 

Owners: Is Your Chihuahua Smart?

We asked real Chihuahua owners if their dogs were intelligent.

Now that we know Chihuahuas may not be the most obedient dog breeds, we can’t rule them out just yet. To really gauge how smart a Chihuahua can be, we asked real owners. We surveyed the popular Chihuahua sub Reddit forum for responses.

Here’s what the Chihuahua owners had to say: 

1. Bathori says [NO]: “This is Rocket. 2 weeks ago he ate a rock. This week he ate a plastic bottle cap. Handsome. Not smart. (Pet insurance saves the day)”

2. Anonymous says [YES]: “Chihuahuas are generally recognized as more intelligent than average. My guy knows upwards of 15 tricks and recognizes tons of different words. If you want to keep it in your purse like a toy, i’m sure any dogs’ cognitive abilities would suffer. But they are very intelligent, learn quickly, and adapt fast.”

3. Viktorka14 says [MIXED]: “My little [Chihuahua] dog ​​is the most intelligent, but sometimes he does not recognize his own tail.”

4. Lunchtime1 says [YES]: “My Chihuahuas are smart and listen extremely well! She has since birth. The thing with Chihuahuas is they only like one or two people, but the people they love they are soooo protective of. They love to be loved and cuddle.”

5. Rainbowlu14 says [YES]: “My husband and I have 2 chi’s. I’ll admit we’ve spoiled them. But they are great dogs. Loyal, smart and obedient when taught. Socializing is key. Bring the dog around kids and other dogs.”

6. Cawkatiel says [YES]: “So far, he is the smartest little thing I’ve ever met. First thing I taught him was to come with called and he nailed it as well as walking on a leash, my husband and I are currently house breaking him and crate training.”

7. Anonymous says [YES]: “Truth is, chihuahuas are SUPER smart and will listen to you if discipline them. They’re wonderful, healthy, loyal, playful, adorable little dogs.”

8. 1234 says [MIXED]: “I have two Chihuahuas. The older male we adopted at 12 weeks old and was easy to pad train. He’s very smart. The other guy we adopted, we assume to be about 8 weeks and, well, is kind of a dumbo. I’ve tried everything to pad train him, but he still will not use the pads.”

9. Scotty5x5 says [NO]: “They are not the smartest dogs but are completely trainable with some repetition. Try to avoid buying a dog from a bad breeder.”

10. Cuuun says [YES]: “I wouldn’t say that they aren’t smart! My Chihuahua outwits me and other dogs on a regular basis.”

Chihuahua Owner Survey Recap

According to the owners, 6 out of the 10 responses said that their Chihuahua was intelligent! On the contrary, only 2 owners thought that their Chihuahua wasn’t smart.

Additionally, two more owners mentioned that they have mixed results concerning intelligence in their Chihuahuas. 

We understand that this is a very small sample size. There may also be a little bias as well. However, many owners claim that their Chihuahuas are in fact intelligent, despite the results of Coren’s intelligence trials. 

Why Chihuahuas Ranked Low in Intelligence

There are real and explainable reasons for why Chihuahuas ranked so low in dog intelligence.

So we have owners saying Chihuahuas are smart, while Coren’s dog intelligence tests says otherwise. What could possibly cause the discrepancy? 

Stanley Coren’s dog intelligence rankings were primarily based on obedience trials. This means that the top performing dogs, such as the Border Collies, were more likely to obey known commands.

It’s difficult to standardize an IQ test for dogs because different dog breeds have different motivators. Border Collies are more likely to comply because they love to work and obey commands for the sake of “working.” 

Stubborn Little Dogs

Chihuahuas are known to be stubborn dogs. They won’t necessarily obey your commands for the sake of obeying. In other words, Chihuahuas are motivated by other things. 

If you’re having difficulties with obedience training, it is likely your approach and not the dog. With the right approach and understanding of these dogs, training can be as easy as with any other dog breed.

Never try to force your Chihuahua into doing something. Coercion is the quickest way to bring out the stubborn nature of a Chihuahua. They don’t respond well to scolding or punishment. Instead, use positive reinforcement – it definitely works best with most dogs. 

Remember, you’re not a drill sergeant, you’re a friendly guide when it comes to obedience training and Chihuahuas. It does take some patience, but this positive upbeat approach will make learning much faster.

Small Protective Dogs

It’s not that Chihuahuas don’t love their owners enough to obey them. As a matter of fact, they’re some of the most affectionate dog breeds. However, Chihuahuas have different motivators. They aren’t serious workers. 

Chihuahuas tend to develop a strong bond and attachment with one member of the family. For this reason, they want nothing more than to protect and defend the loved ones

These dogs are motivated by their immense loyalty and devotion to the pack. In my opinion, this is a much better characteristic than being able to perform tricks on command. 

Though small, they show no fear when they sense danger to the pack (owner). It’s also another reason why they’re serious barkers. If you’re looking for dogs that don’t bark, check this article out.

All dog breeds, including the Chihuahua, are more than capable of providing everything you need (and more). Never bring home a dog based on how “smart” they are. 

Instead, you want to pick a dog breed based on their temperament and personality

Chihuahuas are unfalteringly loyal dogs. If you’re looking for a great lap dog with a chance to make a best friend for life, the Chihuahua is right for you. 

Let us know if you own a Chihuahua. Is your Chihuahua smart? Leave a comment and let us know in the comments section below!

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3 Comments

  • Never liked Chihuahuas but ended up rescuing a 6 week old one. I fell in love! By 4 months he was trained to go on a pad in the rr, leash trained, store trained, sit and come here. He is now 10 months old and is left out with the cats while no one is home, has 0 potty accidents, can sit, give paw, shake, lay down, stay, fetch, will not enter the kitchen, does not beg for food(gets a special meal when we all finish eating), can walk beside off leash and does not bark for every little thing only when strangers come to the door. He is also my lap dog. Sleeps with me at night at the foot of my bed and next to me on the sofa. When we go to stores he sits in my arm with chest against my hand and does not try to jump, get away or touch anything in stores. Great pup and definitely not dumb.

  • We rescued a Chihuahua puppy about 6 weeks old, took only about 2 weeks to potty train and is a absolute joy to have. He is our new baby. .he seems to be more clever than smart.. pulling little stunts and tricks of his own choosing.. can be a little food aggressive and owner protective but we are working through these with good progress… Very cute breed with a ton of mischief to keep any owner laughing … we just love him..

    • Thanks for sharing, John. Congratulations on your Chihuahua and THANK YOU for rescuing him. You just described all the key characteristics of these wonderful little dogs 🙂

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