Since the domestication of dogs, people have tried to train them to learn new tricks and jobs. When it comes to determining a dog’s intelligence, there are certain traits that humans tend to prioritize over others, such as the ability to learn quickly.
While there’s been a lot of research into the matter — Professor Stanley Coren rated 130 breeds from the smartest dogs to the dumbest, a list originally published in 1994 — the science on the results of such research is still up for debate.
It’s true that there are some breeds that might not seem as smart on the surface. However, it’s important to note that there are no truly dumb dogs, just those that are considered dumb because their behavior and way of learning don’t traditionally match up with what people consider intelligent.
Gina DiNardo, who serves as assistant executive secretary and assistant vice president for the American Kennel Club (AKC), says that it’s important to look at other traits rather than just focusing on ease of training as a benchmark. In essence, recognize that different dog breeds excel at different things, and that doesn’t make them dumb; it just puts them in another category.
Dumbest Dog Breeds
When it comes to certain benchmarks, however, namely obedience training and the ability to learn from it, there are some dogs that fall short. Here are some dumb dog breeds that rank lower on the intelligence scale.
1. Afghan Hound
The Afghan Hound is an elegant-looking pup with long legs, a sleek stature, and flowing hair that has won the breed many awards at dog shows. What it’s not winning awards for is its intelligence. In fact, Afghans are often considered the dumbest dog when it comes to “obedience intelligence” or its ability to learn new commands from humans.
During testing, researchers determined that it took them repeating new commands an average of 80 times before the Afghan Hound caught on. Even the AKC has dubbed it a “special breed for special people.”
The Afghan Hound is a type of sighthound, a hunting dog, that is known for its eyesight and speed. Since they’re primarily prized for their stylish appearance, they can likely get away with their lack of smarts.
The breed hails from Afghanistan and is an agile animal. Despite their long coats, Afghans shed very little and are considered to be hypoallergenic. They stand between 24 and 29 inches tall and weigh between 57 and 75 pounds. Afghans have a life expectancy that ranges from 12 to 14 years.
The Basenji is another on the top list of dumbest dog breeds bred for hunting, as evidenced by its penchant for taking off after prey, no matter what it’s doing at the time. The drive to catch the smaller animals, typically cats, squirrels, chipmunks, and the like, is so innate that it will disregard any other commands while in pursuit. In this respect, it’s super smart.
However, the Basenji is not an obedient breed and may require lots of obedience training, so it’s important that its owner has a lot of patience. Equally so, the breed is very active with extremely high energy levels. If left alone for long periods of time, a Basenji can become quite destructive, even resorting to eating furniture. It’s also much like a cat in that it likes to stay clean and will groom itself obsessively.
The Basenji is from Africa and has a very sweet face. They’re curious dogs with a playful disposition. Its body is short with a muscular build. It’s classified as a hound and has a brown and white appearance, with a short coat that requires minimal upkeep. The Basenji stands between 15 to 17 inches tall and weighs around 25 pounds. They tend to live between 12 and 16 years.
Looking at the English Bulldog is sure to elicit at least one “aww!” statement. They’re notoriously cute dogs that have an endearing underbite that you just can’t look away from. They’re also one of the most popular dog breeds.
In general, the English Bulldog tends to be a bit stubborn, which means it’s slow to pick up on new commands and learn new tricks. In addition, they’re only likely to pick up on a select few, so when owners of these pups decide to train, they should be very careful on which terms to introduce.
Another problem with the English Bulldogs is that they tend to have health issues and, sometimes, deformities. However, with regular exercise — despite being called lazy dogs, they do love to be active, just look at all the videos of them skateboarding, for instance. They’re also popular companions.
The Bull Dog is English in origin, but there is an American variety, too, and the two should not be confused. This pup has a short, stocky build with a muscular body and tends to stand between 12 to 16 inches tall, with a weight of 40 to 55 pounds. They live around 8 to 10 years, the shorter life expectancy attributed to diseases they tend to have.
4. Chow Chow
The Chow Chow has a no-nonsense face that has solidified its place as a guard dog, but it ranks as one of the less intelligent breeds. However, it’s not that the Chow Chow isn’t smart, it simply does what it wants to, when it wants to.
It’s a very strong-willed breed that can be trained if you start training and socialization early. This is especially important because it can struggle with dominance in a household.
However, with proper training, the breed is known for being very loyal to its owners. Despite its cuddly, teddy bear appearance, it’s not something to expect, though some will lay with their human companions. They also tend to groom themselves regularly, making them very clean pets. This breed is also one of the dogs with the strongest bite force.
Chow Chows hail from China and have a somewhat intimidating appearance that’s inspired by the thick coat that makes them look bigger than they are. They stand around 18 to 22 inches tall and weigh 40 to 70 pounds on average. The lifespan of the Chow Chow ranges from 9 to 15 years.
The Borzoi kind of resembles an Afghan Hound in that it’s tall with long flowing fur and known for its graceful, gentle nature. Like its Afghan counterpart, it’s a sighthound, which means it exhibits the same traits — this is one of the independent breeds and is very stubborn.
Training the Borzoi requires a lot of patience because of those two traits. For this reason, it ranks low on the intelligence scale.
Training a Borzoi should be done in short sessions with a singular focus. They do, however, have a calm disposition, which makes them great family pets. But they are fast, having been bred as hunting dogs.
The Borzoi is a giant dog breed that originates in Russia and Belarus and can stand from 28 to 32 inches high, around the size of a Great Dane. They are slender, with long snouts, resembling a bit of the Greyhound appearance. They typically weigh 75 to 105 pounds, though they can be slightly smaller. Unlike the Afghan Hound, they are not hypoallergenic. They live around 7 to 10 years.
The Bloodhound often gets a bad rep as lacking intelligence because of its droopy face and its penchant for ignoring commands in favor of following its nose and keen sense of smell. This breed is notorious for participating in search and rescues, as well as serving as a hunting dog. It’s also easily distracted.
The personality of a Bloodhound is that it’s a very energetic breed, but it’s also stubborn with a fierce independent streak. Many times, their owners enter them in competitions where they truly stand out and get to put their talents on display. However, at home, they are very affectionate and make popular companions.
The Bloodhound is a medium to large-sized dog bred as a hunting dog that stands 23 to 27 inches tall and can weigh up to 110 pounds. Their coats are short and easy to care for. A Bloodhound tends to live between 10 and 12 years on average.
The Pekingese is a small dog with long flowing fur and was originally bred as a companion dog in China. Their legacy dates back to the 8th century, when they were carried around by their owners, earning them the term “sleeve dogs.”
What lands the Pekingese on the list of dumbest dogs is not its lack of intelligence but rather the traits it exhibits. For example, it’s a stubborn dog that will learn only what it wants to learn, and this applies to potty training, too. They’re often difficult to housebreak, as can be common with some of the smaller breeds.
Early training and consistency are key. The Pekingese also tend to prefer lounging over strenuous activity and can develop hostility towards other pets and children.
The Pekingese is a short-statured dog that has a long coat, which is longer on its neck and head. The coat requires regular grooming to avoid knotting and tangling. These pups stand around 6 to 9 inches tall and weigh around 6 to 14 pounds. They typically live 12 to 15 years.
Beagles are often considered one of the best family dogs for their sweet dispositions. Like all scent hounds, the instinct to follow its nose is strong. This can lead to the Beagle ignoring other commands and distractions. In fact, its tendency to chase other critters means a Beagle will forsake all other training in a mission to catch their prey. Beagles were originally bred as hunting dogs.
However, despite their stubbornness and innate ability to follow their noses, these scent hounds make excellent house pets simply because of their sweet nature. To train Beagles, it’s important to be consistent but also be aware that sometimes the Beagle will just disregard commands.
Beagle is a smaller dog with a tricolor coat of white, tan, and black. They are approximately 13 to 16 inches tall and weigh between 20 to 25 pounds. The Beagle has a relatively long lifespan of 12 to 15 years.
The Mastiff is a giant dog with a gentle temperament, and because it tends to laze about, it might get a reputation for being one of the dumbest dog breeds. However, that’s not really the case.
One thing to know about the Mastiff is that it’s very choosy in whom it respects. The breed’s sheer size and attitude mandate that it has an alpha owner who can show it who’s boss. They make great guard dogs because of their enormous size.
Being firm and consistent will yield good results with the English Mastiff, but be prepared for it to ignore your commands at any time. While they are affectionate with their families, they do tend to be wary of strangers, so if you plan to be around other dogs and people, it’s a good idea to socialize them early. They are sweet dogs, though, and love their families.
The English Mastiff is wrinkly in appearance, with a droopy face and ears. They range in size from 28 to 36 inches tall, making them one of the largest breeds, and weigh 120 to 230 pounds. The lifespan can vary but typically falls in the 6 to 12-year range.
10. Basset Hound
Floppy ears, droopy eyes, and a low-to-the-ground body are the very traits that give the Basset Hound a dumb appearance. Yet, like all hounds, they are very nose-smart and tend to keep their snouts to the ground. All of the good smells they find are enough to keep them sidetracked from learning what you really want them to.
However, one of the things you’ll immediately learn about the Basset Hounds is that they are affectionate, goofy creatures that have large personalities. This makes them excellent family pets. Plus, they don’t need a lot of exercise as they are more than happy to laze about.
Basset Hounds are longer than they are tall, standing at 11 to 15 inches tall and weighing 44 to 75 pounds. They have a short coat that’s easy to maintain. The Basset Hound lives between 10 and 12 years.
11. Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu, like the Pekingese, hails from China, where it was a prominent lap dog doted on by the elites. The breed is very playful, outgoing, and spunky. It also tends to be an independent breed. The Shih Tzu makes a great family pet because of their gentle nature. They are affectionate dogs toward family members. They love to be around people.
In testing, they had to be told a new command around 80 to 100 times, or even more, before they understood it, which is why Coren ranked it as one of the dumbest dog breeds.
However, this could also be attributed to the fact that Shih Tzus aren’t typically your most obedient dog. In fact, you could say they’re a bit stubborn. That could lend credence to it being a listening problem rather than the dog’s intelligence problem.
The Shih Tzu is a toy breed with a long coat that needs regular brushing and grooming. They are usually no taller than 8 to 11 inches and weigh around 9 to 16 pounds. The average lifespan of the Shih Tzu breed is between 10 and 18 years, with most falling in the middle of that range.
12. Lhasa Apso
The Lhasa Apso joins the other Chinese breeds on the dumbest dogs list, they would often stand guard in monasteries despite their small stature. The breed is very playful and would rather horse around, enjoying itself rather than listening to human commands. They’re energetic pups that are also very fearless and spirited. They are devoted to their owners.
When it comes to intelligence, the Lhasa Apso is not a dumb dog; rather, it tends to be more adaptive, meaning the breed can independently problem-solve very well. They’re just not super obedient.
The Lhasa Apso has a long coat that can be cut short if the owner prefers but will require regular upkeep. It’s a small dog, standing 10 to 11 inches tall with a weight of 11 to 18 pounds. The Lhasa Apso lifespan is between 12 and 14 years.
Finally, last on our list is the Chihuahua, everyone’s favorite small dog. Despite its size, the Chihuahua does not believe it is small and often acts like the big man on campus. They’re brave and fearless, thinking nothing of barking at bigger animals, which may lead some to question dog intelligence. However, it’s also a charming breed that often bonds with its owner.
The Chihuahua loves to bark and will often not listen to commands to be quiet. It’s also a notoriously difficult dog to potty train unless you’re extremely diligent in training puppies from an early age. They can also be nippy — which is where they get the term “ankle biters.”
The Chihuahua is among the world’s smallest dogs, standing 6 to 9 inches tall and weighing only 2 to 6 pounds, though some may be heavier. They can have short coats that are easy to maintain or long fur that requires regular brushing. The breed lives a long time, between 12 to 20 years.
What Makes Hound Dogs Dumb
Hound dogs, like the Beagle and Bloodhound, get a really bad reputation when it comes to their intelligence, which begs the question, why are hound dogs considered dumb in the dog world? This is often because they are bred to do a singular job — they’re very driven by their noses. This means that tracking scents is their forte, and it’s what they prefer to do.
This is also the reason why they make great police dogs.
So, rather than focus on the human teaching element, which they view as a distraction, they keep their heads down. They actually make for smart dogs.
Hounds serve an amazing purpose in the search and rescue field. Due to their innate ability to pick up and track any type of scent, they’re often called upon for missing-person searches.
Research on Dog Intelligence
The most notable intelligence ranking scale comes from Professor Coren, who ranked 130 breeds based on one type of canine intelligence — obedience and working. There are three different types of canine intelligence testing: adaptive intelligence, instinctive intelligence, and obedience and working intelligence.
Those who performed well on the tests, like Border Collies, Poodles, and German Shepherds, which are common police dogs, were given higher ratings and considered an intelligent breed. The Belgian Malinois is at the top when all three are applied as testing methods.
This type of canine intelligence focuses on problem-solving and social skills. Dogs with adaptive skills are very adept at reading facial cues, and they’re also very adept at solving puzzle games, such as those involving finding hidden treats. Consistent training from puppies in this arena will only sharpen their skills, much like humans.
When canine intelligence is said to be instinctive, it means that they follow their instincts. In other words, these are working dogs that have innate skills — such as herding, fetching, pointing, and guarding — that come naturally to them, with very little training.
Obedience and Working Intelligence
When training in obedience, canine intelligence levels depend on how quickly and efficiently it picks up on the tasks being taught. Both obedience and working varieties are scored on how well the pups learn from humans. The German Shepherd, Poodle, and Border Collie fit into this category.
When dogs are honed to carry out one or two specific tasks and perform tasks but little else, they often receive lower scores. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the pup is dumb.
Most dogs have smarts. Rather, different dogs are bred for different skills. Maybe they don’t learn commands or tricks easily, but when put in, their natural element can outperform a breed that ranks higher on the IQ scale.
Research Isn’t Perfect
One very important thing to note is that research on the intelligence of dogs isn’t foolproof. In some cases, information may be outdated as dogs do tend to evolve. Additionally, in order to adequately score a breed, it’s important to test many of them, not just rank on a single canine intelligence. Pigeonholing a breed into a category of smart vs. dumb is doing them a great disservice.
What Is the Laziest Dog Breed?
Any dog has the potential to be lazy. I had a foster Great Pyrenees/Newfoundland pup that took the cake, even though those two breeds are some of the more intelligent ones. However, the Basset Hound tends to be the laziest dog breed there is, often plopping down when they’ve had enough and not moving until they’re well and ready.
Which Dog Breed Has the Lowest IQ?
According to Canine Expert Stanley Coren, the Afghan Hound has the lowest IQ, particularly when it comes to learning new tasks, and thus is hard to train. In our list, out of 13, 3 are hounds and the 10 dumbest dog breeds are other breeds, which is saying something!
Which Dog Breed Is Clueless?
There are two dog breeds that are considered clueless, but only because they get hyper-focused on a single task, scent work, that they tend to ignore all other commands. The Bloodhound and the Basset Hound both fall into this category.
When it comes to gauging canine intelligence levels, it’s important to look at the individual traits of an individual dog. While some breeds may be more prone to laziness or perhaps aren’t the best dogs to train, it doesn’t speak to their intelligence, only their capabilities.
Keep this in mind when you’re searching for a new dog to bring home, and rather than judge them on the breed or the intelligence of dogs, take a look at their personality traits and what they can bring to your home.