Dogs are naturally intelligent animals. They can perform tricks that we teach them. Some can even find themselves joining certain talent shows with their respective owners. Unfortunately, like all species, some dogs are naturally gifted with the intelligence that makes them very easy to train. Canine training, sadly, has become a measuring stick upon which members of the canine family can be labeled either as smart or dumb. Regrettably, “dumb” is a harsh word. We would rather prefer calling these dogs to be somewhat more challenging to train than others. And in case you’re wondering if your dog happens to belong to this classification, we encourage you to read our list of the 6 dumbest dog breeds.
Our List of the 6 Less Intelligent, Less Smart Dog Breeds
As we have already said, we don’t want to use the word ‘dumb’ because we believe every dog is fully capable of being trained. However, we also recognize that some dogs may take a considerably longer period of time and substantially greater effort to train them compared to other breeds. Like human children who may have learning difficulties, we don’t call them ‘dumb’. We just look at them as being more challenging to teach. In like manner, we do believe that dumb dogs should not be called as such as it can be particularly demeaning. Instead, we would want to call them as challenging-to-train pooches.
Do understand that our definition of a less intelligent or less smart dog is very subjective. It simply reflects our very biased opinions of their behavior whether what we see constitutes any form of intelligence at all. As such, the 6 dumbest breeds of dogs we have listed here are but a reflection of the opinions and views of dog owners as well as canine organizations. Also it is worth pointing out that what these breeds may somehow lack in “intelligence” they more than make up for it in other ways.
Regal and elegant is what many people think about the Afghan hound. It has a dramatic silky coat, a rather thin and fashion model-like body, and a very exotic, albeit elongated face that will make you think twice whether to consider it a dog or not. It’s very energetic and its wanderlust potential is exceptionally high, as if more than ready to flaunt its regal nature.
Contrary to what most people think, the Afghan hound is an intelligent breed. If this is the case, why does it deserve to be on this list? Well, it may be intelligent, but its overly independent and aloof nature makes it one of the most difficult canine breeds to train. It is as if it is more interested in showing off rather than get down and dirty and learn a few tricks that should make it an even better rounded pooch.
The Afghan hound is generally indifferent to unfamiliar persons. It will bark when a visitor enters your home, but don’t expect the bark to be more than twice. Unlike other dog breeds, the Afghan hound is not motivated by food so even if you lay down the most sumptuous looking steak on its feet, you will never get it to learn even a single trick. It is also not motivated by an intense desire to please its human master. For the Afghan hound, nothing is more important than itself.
There have been many instances when professional dog handlers were put to shame in dog competitions simply because the Afghan hound they were training would not cooperate. And we’re talking about professional handlers here. What more for ordinary dog owners?
The Afghan hound is not dumb; let’s be clear about that. Unfortunately, its being stubborn, hard-headed, and independent minded that makes it so difficult to train. If there is an award that should be given to the Afghan hound, then that would be the best at doing what it wants to do its own way. For that, the Afghan hound is unbeatable.
They’ve got large droopy ears that spread flat on the ground when lying down. They’ve got these awfully sad eyes that will make you want to cry with them. The Basset hound, made even more popular by Hush Puppies, is an exceptional scent-tracker, playing second fiddle only to the Bloodhound. It is mild-mannered and very laid-back that you will never see it complain or even yelp when kids play rough with it. The Basset hound is a very calm and affectionate dog. Unfortunately, it does carry with it one of the most distinguishing characteristic of all hounds – stubbornness especially when it comes to training. This is a rather surprising fact since hounds need to be particularly good at tracking scents. Perhaps this ability is already dutifully ingrained in their genes that they no longer require training.
Unlike the Afghan hound, however, the Basset hound can be trained, albeit you will have to have your patience lengthened and your perseverance topped off. This dog breed is very stubborn to train perhaps because of their laid-back personality. The great news is that they respond best to one thing – the scent of food. While there is no guarantee that they will learn the trick you are teaching them right away, at least you will have something to work with. But be forewarned, there have been a number of dog trainers who are known to have given up training Basset hounds for their sheer stubbornness.
This may come as a surprise to you. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Many dog owners are also taken aback by the inclusion of the lovable Snoopy in this list. You might ask how is it possible that a dog known for its playfulness, friendliness, adorable nature, and happy-go-lucky personality be classified as ‘dumb’?
You can look at the Beagle as the more playful counterpart of the Afghan hound. It is not reserved, that’s for sure, but it has the intelligence that, if harnessed, can really make for a great pooch to showcase in talent shows. Unfortunately, it does share its hardheadedness with similar hounds. You see the Beagle was primarily bred as a hound, known for its amazing skill at following scent after scent after scent. Unfortunately, it trusts its nose a lot more than the commands that you teach it. That is why the American Kennel Club has deemed the Beagle to be one of the ‘least intelligent’ breeds of dogs if only trainability were to be taken into consideration.
This does not mean that you cannot train the Beagle, of course. But you will definitely require extra miles of patience and perseverance as well as consistency in your training approaches. The Beagle is the epitome of that acquaintance of yours in the office who may have the cognitive skills to excel yet operates more on the what’s-in-it-for-me principle. If there clearly is no benefit to be had in the training, then there is no way you can get a Beagle to appreciate what you’re doing.
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The Borzoi bears an uncanny resemblance to the Afghan hound: long slender yet tall body in a manner that is similar to a fashion model, exotic face, and a very regal stance. The only difference is that the Borzoi has shorter fur than its more conceited cousin. The other difference is that, while both the Afghan hound and the Borzoi are very intelligent breeds, the latter is quite easier to train than its cousin. So why is it included in this list, you ask?
Well, trainable as the Borzoi may be, its stubbornness and independent thinking still closely mimic that of the Afghan hound. In fact, many experts consider the Borzoi as the canine version of an independent minded cat. Like the others in this list especially the Afghan hound, once the Borzoi is hit by stubbornness there’s no point in resuming any training. However, catch it in its rare mood for friendliness and sensibility and you might be able to teach it a trick. But, since canine training requires repetition of tasks, once this ‘good mood’ has passed, you’re more likely to see the Borzoi lazing off again and doing its own thing.
The Borzoi is also generally aloof, although it can also show some flashes of friendliness even to strangers, as we have already mentioned. It may not be a shy type of dog yet it requires constant reminders that it is well-loved and well-taken care of by its human masters.
If you do get a Borzoi, make sure to get it as a puppy so you can still train it and expose it to early dog socialization. This is important if you don’t want your Borzoi to end up more like its Afghan cousin.
Bred specifically to be the companion pets of the Chinese imperial family of ancient dynasties, there really isn’t much to expect from the Pekingese. These remain one of the most cherished show dogs, greeting everyone with grace and dignity. Unfortunately, it is their lineage of being showcase pieces in imperial courts that has somehow given them an air of self-importance, almost bordering on arrogance. And this is what makes the Peke exceptionally challenging to train. Their sense of self-esteem is so high that they often think the world is centered on them and that all things must be in accordance with what these dogs see fit.
The Pekingese may look more like a fluffy footstool yet its character is that of a brave and tough pooch that is never going to back down in a fight. It is affectionate and extremely loyal, making it an excellent guard dog for the royalty. Unfortunately, it is the Peke’s bloated self-importance, stubbornness, and overconfidence that pose a unique challenge to those who would like to train it.
It goes without saying, therefore, that the Pekingese can still be trained, albeit with extreme level of perseverance and consistency. The trick, according to established dog handlers, is to make the Pekingese think that doing something – a trick or a particular action – is actually its idea and not the idea of the trainer or handler. This is a lot easier said than actually accomplished, though.
They’re more like miniature lions except for a ball of fur for their tail instead of the classic lion’s tuft. Their wrinkled face gives the Chow Chow the look of an American Bulldog that recently lost in a high-stakes game of Poker. It’s got a mane-like fur over its head, too. Proud and regal as it may seem, the Chow Chow is, like the Borzoi, your cat in a dog’s costume or is it a dog pretending to be an arrogant, self-serving, and conceited cat?
There is one characteristic that gives the Chow Chow the right to be in this list: it’s also very stubborn. Actually, many dog experts compare the Chow Chow’s disposition to that of members of the feline family: independent, aloof, stubborn, and reserved despite the fact that it looks dignified and quite intelligent, too. They prefer minding their own business and will never really show interest in other things or what may be happening around them. Training the Chow is particularly challenging, albeit not as challenging as the Afghan hound, although it is still very much trainable. You’d have to have lots of patience to pull this one out though.
How Do You Know If Your Dog is Dumb or Not?
It is clear from our list that these dogs are not really ‘dumb’ in the way we use and understand the term. These breeds are rather intelligent, too. However, if there is one thing that serves as the common denominator among the six, that is they are all stubborn and have high levels of independent mindedness. Most experts would agree that their characteristics typically resemble that of a cat: independent and stubborn. This is not to say that cats are not trainable. It’s just that they followed a different evolutionary path than dogs. And these so-called ‘dumb’ dogs mirror the same path as felines.
The question now is that, given the 6 dumbest breeds of dogs in our list, how do you know if your pooch happens to have some of these qualities, too? Here are some questions that will hopefully guide you towards the determination whether your pooch is as stubborn as these dogs on this list or not.
- How quick is your dog in figuring things out?
Just like humans, there are dogs that seem to instantly ‘get’ what you are trying to tell it to do. Unfortunately, there are also pooches that may require a lifetime, pun intended, to figure out what is being taught to them. If your pooch happens to belong to the former, then rejoice as it can be rightfully classified as the doggie equivalent to a human genius. But, if your pooch belongs rather to the second type, fret not for it is not alone. Just like humans where only a few can be truly considered as geniuses, the same is true for dogs. You simply cannot expect all dogs to have the same level of intelligence.
- How well does your dog ‘attempt’ to communicate?
All dogs will try to communicate something, although there are some dogs that are particularly adept at using a variety of overt bodily gestures coupled with peculiar vocalizations. The thing about this is that you can always think that the dog that shows very overt signs of communication is being smart or intelligent and that the dog that doesn’t make any attempt at communicating is dumb or less intelligent. Before you can arrive at such a generalization, you have to ask yourself first if you have been very observant of your dog’s communication cues, both vocalized and body language. This is because some dogs are not really very ‘vocal’ yet they do attempt to ‘communicate’ through other means. If this is the case, then the real problem is in the human pet owner who simply ignores subtle communication cues from his or her dog.
- Does your pooch always get into trouble?
If you find your pooch getting into trouble despite you painstakingly training it to ‘behave’, there’s a chance that it really doesn’t understand what you are teaching your dog. Or, this is where the classic doggie stubbornness comes in. Sometimes, these ‘naughty’ behaviors are a dog’s way of getting your attention and of alleviating their boredom. Maybe they don’t really need training; all they need is some good ol’ quality playtime with you. However, if you notice your pooch to be unhappy, such behaviors typically don’t point to boredom; instead, they point to stress.
- How quickly can your hound get a treat out from a treat-dispensing chew toy?
There are certain doggie toys that dispense treats. You can actually use these gadgets to evaluate the speed upon which your hound is able to retrieve the treat from the chew toy. For instance, the KONG Classic may be a very simple treat-dispensing toy yet there are dogs that simply take a much longer time to figure out how to get the treat from inside the toy. There are also other gadgets that are more complex and will often require higher levels of canine intelligence. Our suggestion is to start with the simple first to make sure that your pooch is able to get the treat out. Do understand that this test is time-critical so it’s actually the speed upon which the treat was obtained from the toy that really matters.
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- How does your dog fare in canine cognition tests?
If you want to be more scientific about it, you can purchase one of those dog cognition tests like Dognition. The system is predicated on the belief that, like humans, all dogs are smart, except that they do it in different ways. Dognition is composed of 20 games that you play with your pooch. The result of the games are then interpreted and classified into one of 9 profiles that should help define the kind of intelligence that your dog has.
- How fast can your pooch find a hidden treat?
Here’s one test you can actually do on your own without having to resort to something fancy. Get three cups, preferably plastic ones. Now, show your pooch that you have its favorite treat in your hand. Show to your pooch that you are placing its favorite treat underneath one of the three cups. Command your pooch to stay. Take a walk around the cups or do something else to distract your dog and get its attention from the cups. Once you’re done distracting your canine friend, stand aside, and command your pooch to find its favorite treat.
If your dog is able to find the treat right away, it simply means that it is particularly observant and has exceptional memory. If, however, your pooch is simply standing or sitting there seemingly lost, it may mean that it really didn’t understand the task or what it was supposed to do. It’s not really a test of canine cognition, but it sure helps determine whether your pooch is observant and good at remembering, too.
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- Does your canine pet show some signs of problem-solving?
How do you know that your pooch is fully capable of solving very simple problems? Well, you might be surprised that there are a variety of instances where canine problem solving can be manifested. For instance, it is a known fact that some dogs are able to open the doors of their respective refrigerators or even get something from the counter without resorting to jumping and knocking the object off. Now, these may not be the ideal behaviors in dogs, but they sure point to a skill that can be considered as one of the hallmarks of intelligence in dogs.
There really are no dumb dogs just as there are no dumb people. What we have is just a very subjective definition of what we consider to be a dog’s intellect whereas what we are essentially doing is projecting our notions and conceptualizations of what constitutes a smart dog. Pooches that fail to meet these ‘parameters’ are thus, labeled as ‘dumb’, being the opposite of smart.
- Elizabeth Xu, Is Your Dog Smarter than the Average Dog?, PetMD
- Can Dogs Be Dumb?, Wag!