Most dog parents proudly assert that their dogs are much more intelligent than science gives them credit for. This combats the once widely accepted notion that the dog and human bond was based on nothing more than a mutualistic trade off that delivered easy access to food, water and shelter.
In other words, dogs were sticking around humans for survival, not love.
This is certainly a glum way of looking at your relationship with your furry best friend, which is why we’re psyched to tell you it’s not true. Your dog totally loves you, and science is slowly but surely getting around to proving it.
But if you’re a dog mom or dad, we probably didn’t have to reassure you of that. And even if you don’t own a dog, all you need to do is spend a bit of time with one before you’ll quickly realize our four-legged counterparts are much more than opportunistic food-mongrels.
They are complex, emotional, and intelligent creatures biologically designed to literally behave as mans’ best friend.
And finally, science is catching up to what dog lovers already knew. Our dogs need us, love us and even understand us.
That’s right, the average dog is able to understand up to 165 words, hand signals, and cues. Some dogs have been able to learn as many as 250 words and one dog, a super smart Border Collie named Chaser, was able to learn an incredible 1,000 unique words.
To understand human words, emotions, hand signals, and cues, dogs must be pretty smart. But how smart are they? And is there a range to this intelligence we dog owners should be aware of?
Well, just like humans, the range of doggy intelligence can and does vary. This means that just as there are canine Einsteins, there are also canine dummies.
So, where does your dog sit on the list of the world’s dumbest dog breeds? Let’s find out.
The Dumbest Dog Breeds – How Do You Measure Canine Intelligence?
Measuring canine intelligence is based on three types of intelligence, according to experts.
There are plenty of studies conducted on canine intelligence, but perhaps the most famous is a 1994 study conducted and published by Dr. Stanley Coren, a renowned psychology professor, neuropsychological researcher, and author who specializes in canine behavior and intelligence.
In this study, which was published in Coren’s book The Intelligence of Dogs, Dr. Coren explains that there are different types of canine intelligence by which dogs can be graded on.
These types of intelligence include:
- Instinctive Intelligence
- Adaptive Intelligence
- Working and Obedience Intelligence
Instinctive intelligence is based on a dog’s ability to perform tasks in which he was bred to do. For many working dogs, this could include hunting, water retrieving, herding, etc.
Adaptive intelligence is based on a dog’s ability to adapt to new situations and problem solve without help as well as the dog’s ability to learn based on past experiences.
Working and Obedience Intelligence
Working and Obedience Intelligence describes a dog’s ability to learn quickly when trained or taught by humans. Dogs were ranked at the rate in which they were able to learn new cues, the number of repetitions it took for them to pick up on said cues, and their ability to follow through with what was being asked of them correctly.
In his study, Dr. Coren listed 100 different dog breeds and placed them in categories, ranking them based on the above types of intelligence.
Below are the categories the 100 dogs fell under after testing:
- Most Intelligent (Dogs who responded correctly 95% of the time)
- Excellent Intelligence (Dogs who responded correctly 85% of the time)
- Above Average Intelligence Dogs (Dogs who responded correctly 70% of the time)
- Average Intelligence (Dogs who responded correctly 50% of the time)
- Fair Intelligence (Dogs who responded correctly 30% of the time)
- Lowest Intelligence (Dogs who responded correctly less than 25% of the time)
So, which dogs were the smartest and which dogs ranked in as some of the dumbest dog breeds?
The list might surprise you.
The 15 Dumbest Dog Breeds And The 15 Smartest, According To Experts
Even the dumbest dog breeds should not be counted out.
The 15 Dumbest Dog Breeds
- The Mastiff
- The Basset Hound
- The Beagle
- The Pekingese
- The Borzoi
- The Bloodhound
- The Chow Chow
- The Afghan Hound
- The Bulldog
- The Basenji
- The Shih Tzu
- The Lhasa Apso
- The Chihuahua
- The Bull Terrier
- The Italian Greyhound
The 15 Smartest Dog Breeds
- The Poodle
- The Border Collie
- The German Shepherd
- The Doberman Pinscher
- The Golden Retriever
- The Shetland Sheepdog
- The Labrador Retriever
- The Rottweiler
- The Papillon
- The Australian Cattle Dog
- The Sheltie
- The Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- The Gordon Setter
- The Welsh Terrier
- The Belgian Tervuren
Did your dog make the list of dumbest dog breeds? If so, don’t worry. The truth is, there aren’t really “dumb” dogs. There are simply just dogs who pick up on human words and cues better than others.
For the most part, dogs in general are intelligent, eager to please, and ready to learn. And speaking of learning, let’s learn more about the fifteen so called “dumbest dog breeds” below.
1. The Mastiff
Mastiff’s are considered some of the dumbest dog breeds, according to Coren’s study on canine intelligence.
Mastiff dogs are famous for their imposing size and sweet nature, so it’s somewhat of a surprise to Mastiff dog lovers that they top the list as one of the dumbest dog breeds. What gives?
If you have a Mastiff, don’t worry. They may not be equipped at following cues and picking up on commands, but they weren’t really bred for that kind of thing anyway. Mastiff dogs are a very old breed, bred as great defenders of ancient civilizations. Evidence of these majestic dogs have been found all over the world from Greece to Egypt to Tibet, and more.
The Mastiff was also bred for big-game hunting, but he never lost his “war-dog” appeal to warriors who wanted that four-legged fury defending them in battle.
Despite their formidable past, Mastiff dogs of today are known to be gentle, sweet and devoted companions.
2. The Basset Hound
Basset Hounds are devoted to their noses and get distracted easily.
As you scroll through our list of dumbest dog breeds, you may notice that hounds seem to pop up quite often. Are hounds really that dumb?
Actually, on the contrary, hounds have recently been found to be incredibly intelligent. In fact, if we were to test hound dogs solely on Instinctive Intelligence (the type of intelligence that tests how good a dog is at doing what he was bred to do) then hounds would likely be some of the most intelligent dogs.
Unfortunately for the hounds, though, this intelligence list is measured by the dogs’ abilities to follow commands and learn new cues.
The Basset Hound, like most hounds, is a scent dog who is devoted to his snout, and this can get in the way of his training. He was bred to follow the scent of rabbit and deer in the French terrain. Known for his short little legs, elongated body, and very long ears, the modern-day Basset Hound is beloved by enthusiasts who adore his low-key nature, endearing expression, and sweet disposition.
3. The Beagle
Despite being considered one of the dumbest breeds, the Beagle is one of America’s most favorite dogs.
Bred for hunting, the Beagle is another scent hound who didn’t quite make the ranks as one of the world’s most intelligent breeds. But don’t count him out. While the Beagle may be sitting on our list of dumbest dog breeds, he is also one of the world’s favorites.
Ranking in at number 6 on the American Kennel Club’s list of America’s most popular dog breeds, the Beagle is beloved for his charming personality and happy disposition.
Plus, the breed can’t be that dumb if it is repeatedly used in Hollywood films like Shilo, Cats and Dogs, Underdog, and many more. In fact, while the Beagle may not be traditionally intelligent according to some experts, he is still rather trainable, fun-loving, and inquisitive.
4. The Pekingese
The Peke is an ancient dog with ties to Buddha.
The Peke is an ancient breed of dog hailing from China and mythicized to have been created by Buddha himself. Bred by Chinese nobles and beloved by Emperors, the flat-faced Pekingese was designed for nothing more than companionship. This may be why the little pup found himself on the list of dumbest dog breeds, as his skill set really requires nothing more of him than to simply snuggle up and be adorable.
But if you want to test the Pekingese and grade him on this skillset, he gets an A+. Royal at heart and in demeanor, the tiny but charming Pekingese is packed with loads of love and makes a wonderful companion for seniors, singles, and homes with older children.
5. The Borzoi
The Borzoi were once referred to as Russian Wolf Dogs.
Famed for his days leading wolf hunts in Russia, the Borzoi is a beloved staple of Russian history. Romanov, the Czar of Russia, his family, guests, and other nobles would go to great lengths and spend great amounts of money on these wolf hunts of which their large, sleek Borzoi dogs starred in.
Upon the revolution, the Borzoi almost found itself extinct. Luckily for us, American fanciers and other breed enthusiasts around the world took it upon themselves to ensure the breed’s survival. It is likely that the Borzoi has not changed much since his wolf hunting days with the Czars of Russia, and while he is on this list of dumbest dog breeds, those who know and love the breed insist this dog is devoted, loving, and very intelligent in his own right.
6. The Bloodhound
Bloodhounds may not be the brightest crayon in the box, but they’re still some of the best scent dogs in the world.
The Bloodhound is yet another hound on the list of dumbest dog breeds, though it would be ill advised to think of this dog as anything other than smart. Famed for his remarkable nose, the Bloodhound is a working dog like no other. He is employed by police departments worldwide as a scent dog and is one of the best in his field.
So, why is the Bloodhound on this list of dumbest dog breeds? Probably due to their poor trainability. Bloodhounds are known to be slightly stubborn and willful, and that darn nose of theirs gets in the way, often making it difficult for them to follow anything other than the scent they’re currently sniffing.
7. The Chow Chow
The ancient chow chow is likely one of the oldest dog breeds.
Chows are believed to be one of the oldest dog breeds in history, dating all the way back to China’s Han Dynasty. Bred for a number of tasks like hunting, guarding and hauling, Chow Chow dogs were also the beloved companions of Chinese nobles.
And though they are on this list of dumbest dog breeds, it’s important to note that Chow Chow dogs are anything but dumb. In fact, it is their intelligence that has landed them here on this list, as they can be so brainy they sometimes prefer not to listen to cues or take direction.
That said, Chow Chow dogs are excellent problem solvers and make devoted companions to the right family.
8. The Afghan Hound
Afghans are gorgeous dogs, but in this case beauty and brains don’t mesh.
The Afghan is another ancient breed on our list of dumbest dog breeds. It is also another breed who is not so much dumb as he is stubborn. Afghan Hounds can be rather aloof and dignified, finding redundant training sessions quite useless.
While most dogs are eager to please, and this is often one of the basis for doggy intelligence, the Afghan Hound prefers to do his own thing and be simply doted on by his family.
Bred as hunting dogs in the Middle East, the Afhgan is considered a sighthound with incredible eyesight and incomparable speed.
As a companion, the Afghan is devoted, loving and very proud.
9. The Bulldog
Bulldogs may not be known for their intelligence, but they’re beloved for their friendly, sweet nature.
The Bulldog, named for his bloody history as a bull fighting dog in the 13th century, is known and beloved for his squat build, wrinkled skin, and flattened face. He is also known as being one of the dumbest dog breeds.
The original Bulldog was known to be brutish and fierce, and markedly bigger than the modern-day Bulldog we know and love today.
However, upon banning bullfighting in 1835, the Bulldog was bred down in an effort to keep the breed from going extinct. Enthusiasts were careful to make the Bulldog more even-tempered as well, and what resulted is an adorably affectionate little dog who is as unique in personality as he is in looks.
While he may not be the most intelligent of dogs in the world, this is one of the dumbest dog breeds who is adored for his sweet and dopey demeanor. In fact, Bulldogs currently rank at number 5 on the American Kennel Club’s list of America’s most popular dog breeds.
10. The Basenji
The Basenji has a wild side and was, until recently, considered a partially feral dog.
Next on our list of dumbest dog breeds is the Basenji.
An ancient breed beloved by Egyptians, the Basenji is a unique dog who lived much of his early days being a semi-wild hunter. This breed is known for his gorgeous sleek coat, compact body, and expressive face.
He has remarkable eyesight and speed, and was invaluable to African tribes, who utilized this little dog’s skill for hunting and protection. Amazingly, the Basenji lacks what makes most dogs, well, dogs. He does not bark.
That said, the Basenji is still considered a clever, outgoing breed who is keen on communicating and can learn easily.
So, why is the Basenji on the list of dumbest dog breeds? Experts point out that the feral mannered Basenji dog is catlike in temperament, grooming himself regularly and maintaining an aloof demeanor. His trainability, or lack thereof, is likely what places him on the list of dumbest dog breeds.
11. The Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu is a bred companion dog who excels at being adorable.
With a name that translates to lion dog, it’s no surprise the Shih Tzu comes from a regal background. Bred by Chinese emperors, the Shih Tzu was born and bred for companionship. his adorable face, soft hair, and impeccable charm made it a popular and highly protected lap dog of royalty and their families.
Today, the Shih Tzu is still beloved for his sweet nature and devotion to his family. And while he is a curious, loving and outgoing companion for a variety of homes and lifestyles, the Shih Tzu isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, based on some studies.
While this little dog is eager to please and quick to learn, he lacks some of his other canine counterparts’ motivation and focus. Enthusiasts point out that while the Shih Tzu is a comedic student that is fun to work with, he is also easily distracted, somewhat stubborn, and overly playful.
12. The Lhasa Apso
Beautiful and comedic, the Lhasa Apso is aloof around strangers.
The Lhasa Apso has a rich history and is famed for his correlation with the Dalai Lama. A breed whose history goes back one thousand years, the Lhasa Apso was first bred to be a sentinel dog. Small but mighty, this little pooch was a wonderful watchdog and made for excellent companionship.
Gorgeous, funny, but aloof, the Lhasa Apso can be difficult to train and is known for his bull-headed nature. This hard-headedness is perhaps one of the qualities that landed him on this list of dumbest dog breeds.
That said, he makes a wonderful family companion and enjoys being with his people.
13. The Chihuahua
The Chihuahua thinks he’s a big dog. He also thinks he’s a smart dog. Neither of these things are true, according to studies.
The Chihuahua has a fierce following of devoted fans, and it’s easy to see why once you take the time to get to know one of these little dogs. A famous symbol of Mexico, the little Chihuahua is one of the smallest breeds in the canine kingdom. Still, he is known for his big-dog persona and almost human-like demeanor.
Stubborn and sassy, the Chihuahua is considered difficult to train, hence their place on this list of dumbest dog breeds. That said, most experts agree that Chihuahuas are by no means “dumb” as this list suggests, and they instead can learn to push buttons and find mischief as a way to entertain themselves or get what they want.
However, when properly trained, Chihuahuas can be highly motivated and eager to please. They will enjoy learning new tricks and receiving their just rewards.
14. The Bull Terrier
The Bull Terrier may not be the brightest of canines, but he’s landed some starring roles in Hollywood shows and Target ads.
Another mischievous dog on the list of dumbest dog breeds is the Bull Terrier. You may recognize the breed from his starring roles in Target commercials and Hollywood films, but the Bull Terrier is best known for his charming nature and devotion to his people.
The Bull Terrier is exactly what it sounds like – a Bulldog mixed with a Terrier. That said, this dog has the slow sweetness of a Bulldog and the sass of a Terrier all mixed in one. Originally bred for blood sports in the early 13th century, Bull Terrier dogs quickly found their mark as a fashion statement for men during the 1800’s.
Today, the Bull Terrier is a popular companion dog who gets on well with families of all ages. However, he can be very stubborn and difficult to train. His terrier disposition makes for a good stubborn streak and his curious, playful Bulldog persona often steals his focus during more serious training sessions.
15. The Italian Greyhound
We love the Italian Greyhound for his speed and sweet personality, so who cares if he isn’t a doggy genius?
Small, agile, and incredibly fast, the Italian Greyhound is beloved for his unique look and loveable demeanor. He is last on our list of dumbest dog breeds because he does have a tendency to lose focus if training isn’t kept in short, game-like sessions.
Still, Italian Greyhounds are not “dumb”. Like many of the dogs on this list, the Italian Greyhound is instead focused on things that are important to him as opposed to what is important to the trainer.
Italian Greyhounds are sweet, gentle-natured, and eager to please. Just because they don’t learn as quickly as some other dogs does not mean they don’t learn at all. They simply need a trainer with lots of patience and loads of treats.
When Ranking the Dumbest Dog Breeds, Keep In Mind That All Dogs Were Bred To Excel At Certain Skills
The purebred dogs of today have all been bred and refined to excel at certain tasks. Hounds, for example, who find themselves ranking repeatedly on the above list of dumbest dog breeds, excel at tracking scents.
If they were to be tested in a scent tracking category, they would likely rank as some of the smartest dog breeds. That said, the dumbest dog breeds above are only considered “dumb” based on the tasks they were tested in.
So, before you count your dog out, consider his strengths and what he was bred for. Is he great at what he is supposed to be great at? Then perhaps he is actually quite smart.
Besides, The Science Behind The Dumbest Dog Breeds Is Controversial
Many of the dumbest dog breeds above might also be considered dumb simply because they are more difficult to train. This is just one of the reasons that the science behind these studies might be dodgy. In fact, some experts suggested that dogs who are difficult to train may be difficult because they become bored more easily.
Think of children in school. Often, the very intelligent children tend to fall behind because the curriculum they are learning is not engaging enough or stimulating enough. The same goes for clever dogs.
Many experts also argue that, like humans, trying to measure a dog’s intelligence based on margonized categories does not allow for accurate findings.
This is especially relevant when you consider what we have already gone over when rating the dumbest dog breeds; that each dog is bred for a specific skill. Some dogs were bred as hunters while others were bred to herd. Some dogs were bred to catch vermin while others were simply designed to cuddle up on someone’s lap.
So, is your dog really one of the dumbest dog breeds, or is he just really good at the particular skill set he was bred for?
And while you ponder that question, we also want to point out one more amazing thing about dogs.
Recently, science has confirmed that most dogs, regardless of where they rank on the intelligence spectrum and regardless of their breed or mix, are emotionally and intellectually on par with the average 2.5 year old toddler.
Tips On Training The Dumbest Dog Breeds
As we mentioned briefly above, very intelligent dogs can be confused for the dumbest dog breeds just because of their independent nature. The truth is, many stubborn dogs are actually quite intelligent, and this is why they are often more interested in forgoing boring training sessions and doing things that are more fun and stimulating to them.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s consider you have one of the dumbest dog breeds listed above (remember, that “dumb” dog is actually pretty smart). How do you train a dog who isn’t interested in being trained?
It’s all in the motivation.
Experts agree that positive reinforcement training works best, regardless of your dog’s level of intelligence, eagerness to please, or ability to learn. At the end of the day, even the most stubborn of dogs are still dogs, and they are generally built to want to make their people proud. Plus, they like rewards.
When training your dog, use what motivates him best. For some dogs, treats are the most rewarding and will help you keep your dog’s attention..
However, treats aren’t always the best motivator. Some dogs respond more enthusiastically to praise while others are motivated by games or toys.
So, what is the best advice for training the dumbest dog breeds? Keep training short, fun and friendly. When you notice your dog is getting bored or distracted, give him a break.
And remember, just because a dog is on the list of dumbest dog breeds does not mean he is actually dumb. So don’t underestimate the pooch you have and keep working with him using motivations he understands and responds to.
You might be surprised at just how smart your dumb dog really is.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.