While few breeds can match the superior smarts of say the brainy Border Collie or the German Shepherd, there are some pooches out there with a reputation for being among the dumbest dog breeds around.
Is that really a fair assessment? Are the canines you’re about to meet in this guide really clueless? Or is there more to them than might first meet the eye?
Below, we’ll look at the ten breeds ranked lowest in terms of intelligence in the popular -yet controversial- book The Intelligence of Dogs by Stanley Coren, a tome that is still considered to be the go-to guide on canine intellect.
We’ll talk about why the likes of why basset hounds, bulldogs, and other beautiful pups are often considered to be some of the dumbest dog breeds around and look at whether or not that’s actually true.
10 Dumbest Dog Breeds
1. Afghan Hound
Growing up to 27″ tall with a slender, often shaggy look, the Afghan Hound’s unique appearance alone can create the impression that he isn’t the smartest pup on the block, but that’s not really why they’re known as a dumb dog.
These dogs are fiercely independent with a reputation for being stubborn and stand-offish, which -as you can imagine- makes them quite difficult to train.
As such, some owners who lack the patience or understanding of just how special these creatures are can be quick to dismiss them as ditzy. The truth, however, is that they’re anything but.
There’s an old saying that goes something like this:
“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that’s it’s stupid.”
In other words, a person’s -or in our case, a dog’s ability and intelligence all depends on the test. You’d no more judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree than you should judge an afghan hound on its ability to shake a paw or do tricks.
That’s simply not what they’re bred for.
These most real and dignified of dogs are sighthounds, bred to use their incredible speed and sight for hunting. Put the Afghan Hound in a hunting or tracking environment, and they’ll soon show you that they’re anything but stupid.
The beautiful Basenji is another much misunderstood creature who, like the Afghan Hound, gets his reputation as a dumb dog because he’s notoriously tough to train.
That isn’t stupidity though, that’s the Basenji’s trademark stubbornness. Although they can be trained using positive training methods, they don’t always do as they’re told and actually have much in common with a typical domestic cat in terms of their strong independence.
However, they’re also very smart, with a keen sense of curiosity and a very playful spirit. Although you may need to keep an eye on them, they do make good family pets if you have the time and energy to take care of such an active breed.
3. Basset Hound
The basset hound’s reputation as a dumb dog breed might have something to do with the slow, monotone drawl of that famous cartoon basset, Droopy, or it might have something to do with their laid-back personality that can make them seem lazy and unmotivated.
More than likely though, it’s because of their superior sense of smell and undeniable prowess as a tracking dog. Though they’re no longer really used as working dogs anymore, basset hounds haven’t lost touch with their roots. If they pick up a scent, they’re likely to fixate on it no matter what is going on, meaning they typically wander off and lose concentration when you’re trying to train them.
However, much like Droopy himself, the basset hound has much more smarts about him than meets the eye and can be a bright, friendly, and loving pet.
Borzois commonly appear on lists of the dumbest dog breeds for the same reasons as many others – they have a reputation as being tough to train.
The problem though, lies not in the fact that this gorgeous pooch can’t -or even won’t- be trained, but more than those doing the training haven’t found the right way to get them to cooperate.
More often than not, Borzois respond best to short bursts of exercise and mental challenges. After a while, they tend to get bored and their feline-like independence has them walking off to find something else to do.
Though not the most playful pups on the planet, the Borzoi tends to be quite affectionate towards their family and will be a peaceful, quiet presence in your home.
Yes, it’s another hound known for being a dumb dog breed, and another hound for whom such a reputation isn’t exactly warranted.
Like other similar breeds, the bloodhound is governed primarily by its nose. They have no interest in rolling over, shaking a paw, or otherwise making you happy. They’re more concerned with following that scent.
We’ve said before that there are different types of canine intelligence, one of which being “instinctive intelligence” – that is, the dog being able to do what they were bred for. To that end, the bloodhound is very smart indeed, and they’ll triumph over the super-smart border collie any day of the week when it comes to tracking scents.
Yet since this single-minded, often stubborn, nature means they have no desire to jump through hoops (either literal or metaphorical ones), they can be written as stupid.
Undoubtedly adorable and affectionate, the bulldog’s low energy lifestyle and penchant for always having their tongues hanging out can make bulldogs seem like goofy creatures who aren’t particularly bright.
While it’s true that they’re quite lazy dogs who will happily spend the day doing as little as possible, and while it’s true that their famous stubbornness means you’ll have a hard time getting them off the couch to do any kind of training, they’re far from dumb.
Once motivated, bulldogs prove very responsive to training, always tend to remember what you’ve taught them, and do much more than their sloth-like energy would have you believe.
7. Chow Chow
Looking like a cross between a dog, a big, cuddly teddy bear, and a magnificent lion, the Chow Chow can give the impression that they’re the most friendly, playful pups in the universe, though the truth is that they’re usually anything but.
One of the most stubborn pooches you’re likely to come across, the Chow Chow can be both aloof and assertive, with a tendency to try and dominate and challenge their owners for a position as head of the pack.
As such, they’re often written off as untrainable and classed as dumb but again, that’s just not the case. Firm yet kind training and plenty of socialization from being a puppy will help ensure this one becomes a loyal, loving member of your family.
Big, broody, and beautiful, the magnificent mastiff is not a dog well known for its keen intellect. While a certain sense of stubbornness does contribute to this misconception, it’s their docile, gentle spirit and laid-back temperament that can often lead to them being labeled as a dumb dog breed.
While it’s true that a mastiff won’t cooperate with you if he doesn’t deem you a worthy leader, anyone with a strong, firm yet positive training approach willing to work with the mastiff in short periods better suited to his attention span will find that despite his size and general laziness, he’s anything but dumb.
While the jury is still out on whether bigger dogs are smarter than smaller ones, the shorter Pekingese breed proves that you don’t have to be a huge pooch to be labeled as dumb.
These lazy, laid back pups have a fondness for the easy life and would much rather chill out all day than engage in training sessions with you.
This undoubtedly presents a few challenges when it comes to training them, but again, don’t rule them out as a family pet altogether. If you can engage them in training early enough, they will respond to those they trust, while their chilled-out personality makes them a great indoor dog for homebodies.
10. Shih Tzus
Unlike other dogs that are bred to herd, hunt, pull, or otherwise exert themselves, the Shih Tzu’s primary purpose is to be a household companion. As such, this close relative of the Pekingese typically pampered pooch who is more at home when sitting around being groomed than he is being trained to do anything complicated.
Naturally, this doesn’t require a great deal of intellect, but the Shih Tzu can actually be trained fairly easily along as training is positive, consistent, and regularly rewarded.
The Final Word: Are the Dumbest Dog Breeds Really Dumb?
So, are the bloodhound, bulldogs, and other beautiful canines really as dumb as people say they are?
Not at all.
What most people dismiss as dogs being dumb is usually just a case of them being fiercely stubborn or independent. Either that or their laid-back temperament means they’d much rather lie around relaxing than getting stuck into some training, a trait we certainly can’t blame them for. After all, who wouldn’t prefer a good snooze to an afternoon obeying commands?
Still, just because the breeds above are difficult to train doesn’t mean they’re impossible to train, and it certainly doesn’t mean they’re dumb.
Positivity, persistence, consistency, and a firm yet compassionate approach -often using dog treats as rewards- can all prove an effective way of training even the most stubborn pooch, proving that they’re much, much smarter than many people give them credit for.