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Dumbest Dog Breeds: How to Measure Doggie Intelligence

The ‘dumbest’ dog breeds in the world aren’t necessarily the stupidest. Measuring doggie intelligence is difficult to accomplish, as we all value different qualities and personality traits and see ‘intelligence’ very differently. 

Dogs are unique animals, and it’s impossible to say with any conviction that any particular breed of dog is dumb or lacking intelligence. What one owner might perceive to be ‘dumb dogs,’ another might find to be curiously smart in other ways.

Just like humans, our dogs are all individuals, with their own characters and ways of thinking. This article examines how humans class intelligence in dogs and why so often we are wrong! Keep reading to discover the truth about the dumbest dog breeds.

How do we measure intelligence? 

Are dogs more stupid than humans? It’s a tricky question to answer. It depends largely on what you class as ‘stupid’ and what counts as ‘intelligence.’ If you compare a dog’s intelligence in terms of human intelligence, then a human will always win. For starters, we set the rules, so it’s humans that define intelligence.

Dogs haven’t built huge cities and trained other animals to be subservient to them, but does this make them ‘dumb’? Perhaps not. Dogs are known to be highly social creatures, with their own feelings, emotions, and personalities. Sure, a dog can’t write us a letter or speak to us, but they have their own intelligence, which humans cannot comprehend. 

However, there are several methods that humans do use to try and measure intelligence, and separate the dumbest dogs from the smartest dogs. 

  • Instinctive intelligence applies their past experience to the present. Essentially, an ability to problem solve!
  • Obedience intelligence - a measure of a dog’s ability to respond to and follow commands from its human owners. How easily can your dog be trained? 

The problem with measuring a dog’s intelligence 

Comparing dogs to humans is never going to produce an accurate measure of intelligence or stupidity. The problem we have when measuring doggie intelligence is that we hold our standards up to dogs. 

Humans have bred dogs to be our companions or to be working dogs. But the best companion dogs need to be house trained, and the best working dogs need to be able to follow commands. All too often, humans decide if a dog is dumb or smart by measuring their ability to follow orders and to be trained (a dog’s obedience intelligence) or by measuring how well they perform in their supposed ‘role’ as a specific breed (instinctive intelligence). 

For example, the following dogs are all deemed to be ‘intelligent. What they have in common is their hard work ethic, physical stamina and agility, and ability to follow commands and orders:

  • Border Collies
  • Poodles
  • Retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Australian Cattle Dogs

We don’t often provide a dog with an opportunity to be creative or problem-solve, so it’s difficult to spot adaptive intelligence, even if dogs have this in abundance. If a dog breed of dog is difficult to train, we see it as lacking in obedience intelligence, and we label them as stupid dogs because they won’t follow our orders!

Therefore, humans don’t necessarily prize free-thinking intelligence in their four-legged companions. The annoying dogs and dumb dogs are the independent dogs that think for themselves and take matters into their own paws. Conversely, dogs that respond well to training, and dogs that follow commands, are labeled smart. Consequently, the most intelligent dog breeds are often labeled ‘dumb’ simply because they don’t want to listen to humans!

‘Dumbest’ dog breeds list

To understand what we actually mean when we call a breed ‘dumb,’ let’s take a look at the ‘dumbest’ dog breeds in the world. 

#1 Afghan Hound

The Afghan Hound is often said to be one of the dumbest dogs globally, as seen in most ‘top 10 dumbest dog breeds’ polls, but this ancient breed of sighthound is actually the opposite. 

Afghan Hounds are wonderfully acute; they just don’t necessarily want to do what you tell them to do. Given that this breed can be traced back thousands of years, that’s no surprise. 

#2 Chihuahuas

Chihuahuas - you either love them or hate them. These tiny toy dogs are a perfect example of a misunderstanding. While yes, they are challenging to train (because of their independence), they are also incredibly loyal once you gain their trust. They’re also one of the funniest dog breeds out there due to the viral memes surrounding chihuahuas. 

#3 Bulldogs 

Bulldogs are notoriously difficult to train, but they are full of personality and character despite their somewhat droopy faces. They’re also popular dogs to be included in ‘top 10 dumbest dog breeds’ polls.

This breed takes perseverance, but that doesn’t make them dumb. Far from it, these creatures take their time, but the trust you gain will be lifelong. 

#4 Shih Tzus

Shih Tzus are commonly glammed up and put on parade, but these well-groomed dogs are far from dumb. 

They are hard to train, and often they’ll do whatever they want to do. But that’s the result of their fierce independence and regal personas. 

#5 Basset Hounds 

Basset Hounds are a distinctive breed of scenthound that’s best known for being long and squat. These dogs were bred purely for their ability to smell out animals and game in the countryside, and consequently, their other senses are lacking - a situation which often makes them appear ‘dumb.’ 

#6 Beagles

Beagles are full of life and love, but they are often labeled as stubborn or difficult to train. While this is true, it doesn’t warrant them being called ‘dumb,’ which they so often are!

Beagles do their own thing but stick with them, and they’ll learn your commands, and they’ll learn to trust you as their owner. 

#7 Mastiffs

Mastiffs are hard-working and incredibly loyal dogs, but they are often dopey or slow to react. These large dogs are known for their drooling, too, which really doesn’t help!

But while they take their time over things, they still get the task done, and they do eventually follow your orders!

Training ‘dumb’ dogs

As we’ve already explained, a ‘dumb’ dog doesn’t necessarily lack intelligence. While a Retriever might be considered ‘intelligent’ because it can retrieve items after being trained to do so, its ability to respond to new situations is actually lacking. 

A Shih Tzu, on the other hand, might look pampered and spoilt, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t smart. They are difficult to train and independent, but they can easily tackle a bed ramp for dogs - they just need to be treated in a particular way for their intelligence to shine through. 

Yes, even dumb dogs can be trained. If your dog actually lacks intelligence, then the best form of training is conditioning. Dogs respond well to being trained with treats and positive reinforcement. 

If your dog is independently minded, though (what humans perceive as dumbness in dogs), no amount of treats will help if they don’t want to respond. Instead, training takes longer. You need to develop emotional bonds with your pooch, and once they trust you, they’ll start to listen to you!

Dumbest dog breeds: the final say 

Dogs are so often misunderstood, and this becomes extremely apparent when you unlock what humans actually mean when they talk about the smartest and dumbest dog breeds!

Our list of the ‘dumbest’ dog breeds includes a wide variety of curious, proud, and other measures of intelligence, brilliant. A Chihuahua might not herd sheep, and they won’t follow your orders if they don’t want to, but does this make them dumb? Certainly not! 

If you’re debating which dog to raise, then why not bookmark our guide to the world’s misunderstood, ‘dumb’ dogs?

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