Is there such a thing as a dumb dog breed? Just like human intelligence, the intelligence of dogs can be measured in many different ways. As described in Stanley Coren’s book The Intelligence of Dogs, there are three different aspects of dog intelligence: “instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence, and working and obedience intelligence.
Instinctive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to perform the tasks it was bred for, such as herding, pointing, fetching, guarding, or supplying companionship. Adaptive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to solve problems on its own. Working and obedience intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to learn from humans.”
In simpler terms, one could say a dog’s intelligence can be judged based on how many repetitions it takes for a particular breed, on average, to pick up new commands. Giving a canine a series of tasks to master is the closest thing we have to an IQ test. Therefore, our list will comprise not of “dumb” dogs by our understanding of the word dumb, but instead breeds that are known for being difficult to train, have memory or attention issues and have a propensity to be stubborn or independent.
- 1 Are Dogs Actually Dumb?
- 2 Lowest Intelligence Breeds
- 3 Lower Intelligence Breeds
- 4 Final Thoughts
Are Dogs Actually Dumb?
We hate to classify certain breeds as “dumb.” Certain breeds in our opinion, are just harder to train. They have a stubborn streak and are often disobedient and this oftentimes leads to how these dogs were bred. Some dogs are extremely stubborn because they were bred to be guardians, and protect their land and domain at all costs. Others just flat out have minds of their own. Dogs are what they are bred to be first and foremost, and then become what they were trained to be. Any dog on this list can learn tricks, but the breeds below are the ones you’ll have a hard time training if you are a first time dog owner.
Lowest Intelligence Breeds
The dogs listed below will take an average of 80 to 100 repetitions of any one specific command in order to learn them. Our lead editor here at Love Your Dog can attest to the Mastiff being notoriously difficult to train, as she has two of them herself – one Fluffy Mastiff and an American Mastiff. This isn’t to say that any of the dogs below don’t make great family pets. We just want you to be aware that you may be spending a little more time training than you initially expected.
The Mastiff is a perfect example of a hard-working and loyal dog that can often be categorized as lacking intelligence due to the amount of time it takes for this breed to obey commands. The Mastiff makes our list of the dumbest dog breeds for this reason. Previous dog handling is highly recommended for those who would like to own and train Mastiff. This task is likely to take lots of dedication and patience. However, it may not necessarily be dim-wits that cause this slow training process but this breed’s propensity to be highly stubborn. Still, they score quite low in picking up obedience lessons and therefore are considered amongst the lesser intelligent breeds.
The Basset Hound, like many dogs on this list, is skilled at a multitude things – most notably is their heightened sense of smell. They have high instinctive intelligence, which is why they make such good hunting partners. However, they aren’t the sharpest when it comes to picking up new skills. This, coupled with their droopy facial features, has led many to believe the Basset Hound to be quite unintelligent. Luckily, Basset Hounds are naturally a well-behaved and devoted companion, even if they might not be the first to pick up an impressive new trick.
Like the Basset Hound, the Bloodhound is an excellent hunting dog with an unparalleled nose. Many argue this skill alone proves this breed cannot be classified as “stupid.” However, it’s no secret that training a Bloodhound can be a difficult and long process. They are notoriously strong-willed and slow to pick up tricks. You’re more likely to find them running off after a scent they picked up instead of obediently listening to your “come” commands. While their independence can be frustrating at times, they are generally a well-tempered pup!
The Afghan Hound is an ancient breed, beloved for their docile and affectionate personalities, which have often been described as “cat-like.” Their independent and aloof nature leads to a generally disobedient pup who can be difficult to housebreak and train. Training an Afghan Hound takes commitment and fortitude. Still, many are up to the challenge! Their lack of intelligence is usually overlooked for their beautiful features and unwavering devotion to their owners, making them still a popular breed choice and top competitors in Dog Shows.
The Shih Tzu is a small toy breed of dog that was a favorite amongst royals for centuries. It’s popularity has endured to this day as the 20th most popular breed of dog, according to the American Kennel Club. They have endured as a sought-after companion lap dog that has little need to learn new tasks or excel in obedience. Generations of Shih Tzu’s have fulfilled this purpose with flying colors, but have left something to be desired in the area of their intelligence and trainability – skills that were not necessarily for them to fulfil their function within a royal family.
The Pekingese is a small to medium sized pup who is very loyal to their family. While they love to be doted on, the Pekingese tends to have a dominant and independent personality. This makes them especially difficult to train. They rank very low in obedience intelligence due to their impressive stubborn streak which can be difficult to manage. However, it may not be that the Peringese doesn’t understand you, they could just be defiant. Either way, they are slow to pick up tricks which has landed them on our list.
The Basenji is a unique breed, medium-sized and coming in 87th in popularity, according to the AKC. Despite this low ranking, many Basenji owners are completely devoted to the breed. They can be quite temperamental and generally like to keep to themselves. Their independence makes them difficult to train. They are not great at learning new things and can have difficulty with remembering commands. The Hypoallergenic Basenji is much happier grooming themselves or staring out the window for hours on end. They aren’t exactly keen on sitting through a training lesson where they are asked to remember things.
The Beagle is a very adorable and lovable dog that may not necessarily be “dumb” but are difficult to train. This is mostly due to their independant and sometimes mischievous personalities. They won’t want to sit for long periods of time to learn a new trick. They can become easily distracted or disinterested, giving them low points for obedience intelligence. They are a medium-sized dog and despite their independent streak, are very loyal and loving to their families – making them a popular choice of breed.
The Borzoi and the Afghan Hound have similar personalities in that they have both been described as “cat-like” in their demeanors. In fact, many Borzoi owners would argue this breed is even more independant and aloof than the Afghan Hound. The Borzoi is not known for their eagerness to please, a trait which makes many other dogs easily trainable. It’s hard to find what will motivate this breed, as they can tend to be quite self-involved. This makes them very difficult to train.
The Chow Chow is a beautiful canine who’s fluffy, cuddly appearance should not be underestimated. This pup is very dominant and quite stubborn. They can be jealous of their owners and demonstrate territorial behaviors. While this doesn’t necessarily mean this breed lacks intelligence, they are certainly a handful to train and are not instinctually obedient. They can be a challenge for inexperienced owners who don’t have the patience or time to dedicate to properly training a Chow Chow into a well-behaved pup.
Another difficult breed to train is the English Bulldog. Despite their intimidating appearance, this dog is extremely gentle and loving. They are a very popular breed and have become a favorite in dog shows and as household guard dogs. However, training a bulldog can be a long and frustrating process which requires a lot of patience and dedication. Some speculate that their dopey faces, which are certainly not the most attractive, have contributed to the perception that this breed isn’t the brightest. But, of course, looks aren’t everything!
Lower Intelligence Breeds
The dogs below each will take around 40 to 80 repetitions before they will learn a specific command. This is a bigger gap, and some breeds may pick up on tricks faster than others. But generally speaking, the fifteen different breeds below may be a little more challenging to train. Some of it is breed nature, and some of it is going to be how willing you are to identify what it really takes for your dog to learn the command. Some dogs respond better than others to high-value treats, which can help limit the repetitions as you work with your pup.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a very popular breed that is known as a wonderful family dog who is a very loving and affectionate companion. Unfortunately, however, a long history of inbreeding has, in some opinions, made this breed less sharp. They can struggle with learning new commands and do not generally have very good recall. They can take awhile to properly train. This perception has persisted with Cavalier King Charles Spaniel owners, who report a loving pup that it’s necessarily the brightest.
This breed is often praised for their loyalty and ferocity. There’s no denying this breed has a lot going for it. Power and devotion have often caused owners to overlook a Rottweiler’s general intelligence, which it turns out, does not rank the highest. Rottweiler’s tend to have bad memories and difficulty concentrating. This can make training a challenge and is the reason they are on our list. While their obedience intelligence is not the best, the Rottweiler certainly has great instincts and are deeply devoted to their owners. Sometimes, that’s all anyone could want from a companion!
The Scottish Terrier is a small dog with a big personality! This pup is not short on energy or spunk. This spunk, however, can oftentimes be translated into defiant and stubborn behavior that makes them very difficult to train. They are known for standing their ground against their owners wishes. Like previous breeds we’ve discussed, it’s possible the Scottish Terrier’s comprehension is not the issue here but their willingness to learn. Regardless, they are one of the more difficult dog breeds to train and certainly make our list.
The Saint Bernard is the definition of a gentle giant. This large dog can weigh well over one hundred pounds and is known for being very calm and wonderful with children. With that being said, they can be quite independent and are not necessarily quick to obey commands. They are often labeled as one of the dumber dog breeds. They won’t necessarily resist training, but remembering and obeying the tasks they’ve learned can sometimes be a challenge. Luckily this sweet breed is naturally well-tempered and still makes a wonderful family companion.
Chihuahuas are notoriously difficult, and it’s usually because the breed just has a stubborn streak. They like to think they are pack leaders, and will take ownership of the house if you give them the opportunity. They are known to bark, and known to show possessive behaviors if they are not trained properly from the time they are puppies. They can make absolutely wonderful family pets though, as long as they are socialized and trained early. While you will likely need to put in more training time, know that it’s because your Chihuahua probably just has a stubborn streak.
Like English Mastiffs, the Bullmastiff is also a breed that’s stubborn and not necessarily one of the dumbest dog breeds. The parent breeds of the Bullmastiff (Bulldog and Mastiff) both make our list of the top ten least intelligent dogs. Bullmastiffs like English Mastiffs are gentle giants. While they won’t always listen to you and often do things on their own time, they are incredibly sweet and compassionate dogs, making great family companions and guardians of their home.
The Great Pyrenees is a breed of mountain dog, and they were bred to guard their flock from potential threats. Because of their guardian nature, they are extremely independent thinkers and will not always listen. This breed is very intelligent, but their stubborn streak will mean that traditional obedience training is going to be a headache, and you’ll need to be extremely consistent. They get bored very quickly, and will respond in a slow manner when given commands.
Old English Sheepdog
Old English Sheepdogs are loveable fluffy bunches of fur. They are indeed intelligent, but like the Pyrenees, they bore easily and tire quickly of routine commands. You’ll need to start obedience training early, and stay consistent if you want your dog to be well adjusted. Because of their big fluffy look, they often look like a dumber dog breed than they actually are. Old English Sheepdogs are very popular, and you’ve seen them in many movies on-screen like “Hook” and “The Little Mermaid.”
While even-tempered and charming, Pugs can have a stubborn streak when it comes to obedience training. As a result, they’ve often been considered a dumber dog breed. Because Pugs were bred to be a companion dog, they do want to please their owners. Their feelings can get hurt though, so you need to have a good balance of being firm with commands but not overly critical and harsh. Pugs make great family companions (even the odd-looking ones), you’ll just need to spend more time training them without losing your patience.
Italian Greyhounds were bred to chase. They are graceful and attentive and can also battle bits of separation anxiety and nervousness. Because of their sometimes nervous nature, you should never act too harshly when training. Basic obedience training should be consistent and firm, accompanied by high-value rewards and praise for a job well done. They can have a stubborn streak, but pushing them too assertively is not the answer as you’ll likely have an even more difficult pup on your hands at that point.
Frenchies are sweet family companions that have a rowdy stubborn streak. While they are more intelligent than their English Bulldog cousins, you’ll still spend more time training this breed than you would a Golden Retriever pup. Because French Bulldogs have lots of personalities, you’ll need to make sure you are very consistent with their training regimen. They are very food motivated and do well with consistency.
The Maltese is actually a very intelligent breed, and not one of the dumbest dog breeds in our opinion. However, they have learned over time how to manipulate their owners into getting what they want. They are not always food motivated, but do well with positive praise and should not be overcorrected during training sessions. Like the Chihuahua, this breed has a stubborn streak, and is used to being treated like they are the center of the universe. With consistent training, a Maltese can become an amazing dog for families of any size.
The Lhasa Apso is intelligent, confident and courageous. They are also stubborn and will quickly lose interest in basic obedience training. They are quick learners as long as you can actually capture and hold their attention. Training will need to be broken up into smaller training sessions through the day, as they don’t do well in longer training sessions. They don’t respond well to harsh commands and will need a firm but consistent owner.
Bull Terriers are feisty and have plenty of attitude. They were bred for bull baiting in the early 1800’s, so they have a courageous side to them that makes them practically fearless, making us hesitant to label them as a dumb dog breed. While Bull Terriers can be stubborn and independent, they also live to please their owner and will excel with a master that is present and consistent with training and positive reinforcement techniques. Bull Terriers absolutely love their toys, but they are known to tear them to shreds, so make sure you have a few toys that can withstand some damage.
It’s a fair argument to suggest there really are no dumb dog breeds. Any breed can excel in certain areas and fall short in others. Canine intelligence, just like human intelligence, can be viewed on a spectrum – not just “intelligent” and “unintelligent.” However, our best test for understanding a dog’s intelligence is by how quickly they can learn new tasks. Therefore, training can be a great indicator for a breed’s working and obedience intellect.
Don’t be discouraged if a breed you love has made our list – brain’s aren’t everything! I am a firm believer that any dog can be trained in the right environment with the right person as long as they are provided with kindness, respect, reinforcement and encouragement. If you have the patience and determination to properly train one of the breeds above, they are sure to reward you in countless other ways!