What makes a dog breed dumb? Ask an animal researcher and he will tell you that there is no such thing as a “dumb dog.” It’s just a matter of identifying what the canine is good at in order to realize its actual IQ.
Like human beings, dog breeds also differ in terms of intelligence and capabilities. While some would respond quickly to a set of instructions, others might excel in sniffing out objects, hunting or herding.
Most owners gauge their dog’s intelligence by its ability to impress (tricks and commands). Going by this logic, dog breeds that respond quickly to instructions are seen as more intelligent, despite their limitations in other aspects.
And breeds that prefer to remain aloof and are not interested in obeying their master’s commands are called “dumb.”
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Table of Contents
- How Dumb Dog Breeds are Measured
- Below Average Intelligent Dogs
- The “Dumbest” Dog Breeds
- Can Dogs Really be Dumb?
How Dumb Dog Breeds are Measured
On closer examination, a fact that emerges is that, like human beings, canines are also differently intelligent.
While some are great at responding to the human voice, others may not be as responsive. So just because a canine chooses to follow its own mind does not mean it is dim-wit or dumb. It just means that it has a unique persona.
According to canine psychologist Dr Stanley Coren, canine intelligence can be classified as being:
Instinctive – This refers to what the dog breed was bred for. For example, how efficient they are at performing specific tasks like hunting, herding cattle and so on.
Adaptive – This type of intelligence refers to whether they dog can think independently and relies on its own judgement rather than the master’s. Are they good problem solvers?
Obedient – And finally, this refers to how quickly a dog can learn commands and how obedient they are.
Obedience & Working Intelligence
Unfortunately, the most intelligent dog breeds list only measures obedience/working intelligence. This type of dog intelligence is the most objective and can be easily measured. The other two, not so much.
Coren measured obedience and working intelligence with the following criteria:
- The number of repetitions needed for a dog breed to learn a new command. Fewer repetitions meant the dog was “more intelligent.”
- In addition, the success rate at which a dog breed obeys a known command on the first attempt was another main factor.
Just because a dog fails this test doesn’t mean they’re not smart. They excel in other areas of dog intelligence, such as instinctive and adaptive.
Some researchers would argue that adaptive intelligence may be more important than the others. However, it’s difficult to standardize an IQ test for adaptive intelligence.
Below Average Intelligent Dogs
Below average or fair working intelligent dog breeds are the dogs that scored slightly below the averazge in Coren’s trials.
Dogs in this intelligence class will need 40 to 80 repetitions in order to learn a new command. Furthermore, they’ll obey a known command on the first try with a 30% or better success rate.
20. Lakeland Terrier
Highlights: Friendly, Brave, Spirited
When people say”big dog in a small package,” I think of the Lakeland Terrier. Though weighing just under 20 pounds, they have a bold and lively temperament.
Lakeland Terriers are stubborn, independent and mischievous – all the main qualities of a dog breed mistaken for low intelligence. Most of the time, mischievous dogs are actually clever, hence, more intelligent than you think.
These wonderful spirited dogs can be a handful at times, though. Plus, they can be quite aggressive towards other small dogs and animals if not properly socialized. The good news is that they’re low-shedding hypoallergenic dogs.
19. Old English Sheepdog
Highlights: Adaptable, Docile, Calm
The Old English Sheepdog is known for its shaggy coat and hairdo. They’re some of the most easy-going dogs thanks to their mellow and agreeable nature. However, they may be a little stubborn with strong herding instincts.
They’ve been known try to herd children by directing them or keeping them in place. It may take a little longer with obedience training, but these dogs are wonderful companions if trained properly.
Although they lack in obedience and working intelligence, these sheepdogs have very high adaptive and instinctive intelligence. Both of which, are significant components to true canine intelligence.
18. Great Pyrenees
Highlights: Patient, Docile, Sweet-natured
The Great Pyrenees is a big fluffy dog breed that’s often mistaken for a small polar bear. They are powerful dogs that love nothing more than to work, especially for the owners.
Though they didn’t score very high in Coren’s obedience trials, they’re not actually dumb dogs. In fact, they have exceptionally high instinctive intelligence – another component of dog IQ.
They were bred to be guardians of livestock in the snowy mountaintops. And, they’re some of the best at their jobs. Protecting and guarding requires intelligence, just not the type that Coren measured.
17. Scottish Terrier
Highlights: Confident, Bold, Independent
The Scottish Terrier is a spirited companion that’s compact in size, but big in personality. They’re often described as dignified dogs, with a personality similar to a human’s.
Thanks to their resilience and intensity, they’ve been nicknamed the “diehard.” But because they’re such independent dogs, they’re not a big fan of following a human’s commands.
With such qualities, these dogs think obedience is optional. Just because a Scottie doesn’t obey you doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t understand you.
16. Saint Bernard
Highlights: Curious, Playful, Brave
Saint Bernards are your friendly giant nanny dogs. For such a large fluffy dog, they’re quite playful and inquisitive by nature. In addition, they’re calm and patient dogs, which explains why they play well with rowdy kids.
However, in terms of obedience intelligence, they didn’t score very high. They’re not the type of dogs to obey you for the sake of obeying you. They can be very independent minded at times, but that’s all part of their charm.
Despite their low rankings, Saint Bernards are still relatively easy to train. With that said, these dogs have high adaptive intelligence, which more than makes up for the obedience.
15. Bull Terrier
Highlights: Charming, Lively, Mischievous
The Bull Terrier is more or less your typical terrier. However, they may be the most comical and mischievous dog breed. They’re all about having fun and play time.
Though there’s a certain charm to their playful attitude, they are very stubborn dogs. In fact, it’s not unordinary for the Bull Terrier to have long stubborn streaks.
Sure, Bull Terriers are more difficult to train. However, they are fantastic companions that’ll thrive in the right environment – that is, full of affection and positive reinforcement.
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Highlights: Lively, Elegant, Charming
If you are someone who correlates intelligence with the size of the brain, then the Chihuahua is a dog breed that would emerge as being the least intelligent. From a Chihuahua’s perspective, size does not matter.
This explains why it regards itself as a valiant knight despite being one of the smallest in the canine world. This dog is brave and fearless, as seen by it’s knack for picking up fights with bigger opponents. Obviously, many would raise questions about its intelligence.
Pet owners feel that it is due to the pea-sized brain that a Chihuahua loves barking all the time. Lack of intelligence also renders this canine difficult to potty train. It is also believed to be responsible for their anti-social attitude, wherein they go round nipping every person.
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13. Lhasa Apso
Highlights: Confident, Clownish, Playful
The Lhasa Apso is an ancient Chinese dog breed originating from the Himalayan region of Tibet. They served as sentinels in isolated monasteries – along with other breeds, such as the Tibetan Spaniel and Mastiff.
Most Lhasa Apso owners would be shocked that these dogs made this list. Because of their playful nature, they enjoy goofing around and having fun, instead of doing your bidding.
Still, every owner will tell you that the Lhasa Apso is a very intelligent dog breed. Though they aren’t great at obedience intelligence, they have extremely high adaptive intelligence.
Highlights: Loving, Devoted, Courageous
The Bullmastiff is a fierce working dog on the field, but a gentle companion in the home. Don’t let their exterior fool you, these dogs are sweet, kind and affectionate dogs.
As you may have guessed from the name, the Bullmastiff is the cross between a Bulldog and Mastiff. Their muscular build and sneaky athleticism makes them great as guard dogs.
However, when it comes to obedience training, they may not be so cooperative. Bullmastiffs have been called “tremendously strong and stubborn.”
The “Dumbest” Dog Breeds
The least intelligent dog breeds are usually the most stubborn and independent-minded dogs. They may not be the most obedient dogs, but they are smart in their own ways.
The 10 “dumbest” dog breeds need between 80 and 100 repetitions to learn a new command. In addition, these dogs will obey a known command (on the first attempt) just 25% (or worse) of the time.
11. Shih Tzu
Highlights: Loving, Playful, Social
The Shih Tzu is a legendary dog breed that’s been bred in China for thousands of years. In mandarin, their name translates to “little lion” because of their lion-like mane.
Though playful, fun-loving and outgoing, the Shih Tzu can be mischievous at times. In fact, they tend to get themselves in trouble from time to time. Just ask any owner!
Combine that with their stubborn reputation and you have all the ingredients for a dog that would score low on an obedience intelligence test.
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10. Basset Hound
Highlights: Charming, Patient, Calm
Endearing that a Basset Hound appears (thanks to its droopy ears), nature-wise, it is nowhere close to being as amicable. The main reason why this dog breed is regarded as being dumb by pet owners is because they take a long time to grasp even the most basic instructions.
So, as a pet owner you should be prepared to show plenty of patience while training your Basset Hound. During the training session, expect your Basset Hound to be a bit slow in responding.
In addition, be prepared for them to get distracted with every possible scent. Similar to the Beagle, this breed is just overwhelmed by its powerful nose.
You might find this canine as being really lazy, laid-back and stubborn, but do not interpret this behavior as lack of intelligence. Provide it with the right motivation and you would be amazed at its efficiency.
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9. English Mastiff
Highlights: Brave, Proud, Sweet-natured
When it comes to brawn and brains, most pet owners hold the opinion that this dog breed has only the former. There are several reasons for this impression.
The main reason is because the Mastiff dogs are reluctant in accepting just anyone as its master. Big and muscular that this canine is, it obeys only those whom it respects. Thus, others whom it chooses to ignore regard it as being dense and dim-witted.
To entice a response from this large canine, you need to be firm and consistent, and also ensure that your training sessions are short. Otherwise, you can just continue to tell your friends this dog breed is dumb to explain why it does not obey your commands.
Highlights: Curious, Affectionate, Happy
‘Hard-headed’, ‘thick-headed’ and ‘empty-headed’ are some common terms that pet owners usually use to describe a beagle. In reality, the beagle is none of these. It can be argued that they are one of the most intelligent dog breeds that diligently follows its nose.
Because of this, no matter how much you try to train a beagle not to chase critters, it would end up doing just that. They can’t help but follow their nose. Meanwhile you are bound to feel totally helpless as you watch all your efforts having wasted away.
That being said, Beagles are affectionate and having them around is good fun. It is their aversion to training which pet owners interpret as dumb behavior and love them anyway. However, their keen sense of smell make them some of the best police dogs in the world.
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Highlights: Regal, Affectionate, Loyal
Having been bred and revered by the royal members of China’s Tang Dynasty, this dog breed has it in its genes to assume the role of arm-candy.
Because no-one has ever expected a Pekingese to be anything more than a show-piece, this pooch does not believe in pushing itself. It is totally comfortable being a pampered lap-dog and enjoying the luxuries that life has to offer.
All the attention that the Pekingese receives makes it stubborn and independent, resulting in a dog that doesn’t accept any form of training. Unless trained to be social, this dog breed tends to assume a hostile attitude towards other animals and children.
This should be reason enough for you to be consistent with rules before the situation aggravates into a real problem. To be able to truly enjoy the affection of this small-sized canine, never allow it to get away with its tantrums.
Highlights: Gentle, Inquisitive, Independent
Bloodhounds are some of the most widely used police dogs in the world – at least for search and narcotics. Because of their incredible sense of smell, they’re able to track a scent for over 130 miles!
Just imagine how distracted you’d be if you were able to smell so many scents at the same time. I know the first thing on my mind wouldn’t be following mundane commands.
Bloodhounds are also very independent dogs, meaning they’re friendly and affectionate but not overly attached to the owner. Just like the Beagle, Bloodhounds are specialists and have some of the highest instinctive intelligence in the dogdom.
Highlights: Friendly, Proud, Devoted
Several habits of this dog breed are similar to a feline’s way of life, which explains its complete disregard for training. A Borzoi is extremely particular about its personal cleanliness, which is why it always appears well-groomed and impressive.
However, it is this self-obsession that causes this canine to not respond to training, even at the cost of being labeled dumb by its master.
If you realize that the beautiful and stately Borzoi is deliberately acting stubborn, then try countering this attitude by projecting yourself as the undisputed ‘head of the pack.’
Doing so might just convince the canine of your firm personality and it could soon start taking training a bit more seriously. As long as your training sessions are short, they will serve the purpose of transforming your borzoi into a well-mannered, loyal and pleasant companion.
4. Chow Chow
Highlights: Dignified, Bright, Independent
Decoding a Chow Chow could prove to be challenging for a dog owner, and this is why they are categorized with the dumb dog breeds. But, contrary to what most owners think, Chow Chows are not dumb. In fact, they are intelligent dogs that believe in following their own mind.
Given this strong proclivity for independent thinking, a Chow Chow is quite capable of challenging its owner or even accepting any form of authority.
Most of the time you’ll find a Chow Chow looking aloof and bearing a serious expression, which explains why they are an excellent choice for a guard dog.
Rather than cuddling this strong-willed canine, be firm with it and establish yourself as the one in charge (alpha dog). After a couple of difficult sessions, your persistence will pay off when your Chow Chow transforms into a loyal and friendly companion.
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Highlights: Affectionate, Brave, Docile
All good things come in small packages. However, when it comes to bulldogs, you would need to change this age-old adage a bit. It should really read as – all good things come in brave, affectionate and thick-headed packages.
Being brave implies that this dog breed can defend its owner against any adversity. Likewise its affectionate nature is indicative of how dependent this canine is on its master. But what renders them dumb in the eyes of pet owners all over the world is their reluctance to grasp and comply with instructions.
When it comes to handling a bulldog, the responsibility is on you to maintain a strict and regular training schedule. If you are consistent with the training and generous with your attention, you will soon acquire a well-trained and physically active companion by your side.
Missing out on both these aspects would lead to a lazy and lackluster dog that would stubbornly refuse to budge even an inch, thus living up to its image of being dumb.
Highlights: Independent, Poised, Quiet
Compare the Basenji to cats and you will have almost solved the riddle as to why they are virtually impossible to train. Like cats, a Basenji is fond of grooming itself, and like a cat, it is also inquisitive and playful.
On the flip side, this canine also has a tendency for stirring up trouble in ways which is strongly reminiscent of cats, not to mention their wild behavior and dislike for outsiders.
Cautious and vigilant, a Basenji is like a feline on the prowl. Use positive methods of training and do not expect any degree of obedience with a Basenji. At the same time, keep an eye on your Basenji so that you can rescue him in time.
If you know how to deal with them, you will have earned a grateful companion.
1. Afghan Hound
Highlights: Independent, Gentle, Regal
Dogs of this breed are slim, stylish and swift. It’s probably why have such confident personalities and high self-esteem. This in turn leads to an independent mind-set.
Try instructing an Afghan Hound to do your bidding and the only reaction you are likely to get is an aloof expression, as if it is unable to comprehend anything you say. It is because of this behavior that has also caused many pet owners to describe this dog breed as being ‘air-headed.’
Rather than expecting your Afghan Hound to follow instructions, accept them for what they are, namely for their excellent hunting skills. In lieu, you will have earned an affectionate and devoted fashionista for a pet.
Train your Afghan Hound while showing respect for its freedom of thought and it will reward you with unquestionable trust and devotion towards all members of your family.
Can Dogs Really be Dumb?
No dog breed can be as dumb as the list make them out to be. And before you put one under this category, do spend some time to figure out if it might just be a little unconventional. Rather than labelling your pooch as dumb, you could try recognizing the fact that it may excel at different abilities.
Moreover, this classification is based on research, which may not be reliable for a number of reasons. To be able to draw accurate conclusions on dog breeds, each would need to be examined comprehensively over a long duration.
That would be highly impractical and not financially feasible. So, much of the existing data is not accurate enough to be treated as conclusive evidence. Therefore, to label a dog breed as being dumb based on an IQ test which cannot stand up to close scrutiny is unfair.
Ultimately, why does it matter whether your pooch is dumb or intelligent? As long as it is compatible with you and professes loyalty through thick and thin, its IQ doesn’t really matter.
What truly matters is whether it can make you smile through your tears, and if it can, then it is meant to be your pet, “dumb” or otherwise.
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