What Are the Characteristics of Less Intelligent Dog Breeds?

What characteristics define a less intelligent dog breed? Studying the intelligence of dogs is not an exact science, but there are specific things that determine intelligence.

Mar 23, 2024By Holly Ramsey
what are the characteristics of less intelligent dog breeds

To say a dog breed is less intelligent than other dog breeds is not truly accurate because breeds were bred for a specific purpose. Herding breeds are not necessarily adept at retrieving, and guardian breeds may not be able to track very well.

Some breeds can learn tasks quicker and can problem-solve better than others. These breeds are considered more intelligent than breeds that take a little longer to learn or figure new things out. What characteristics do dog breeds possess that make them seem less intelligent? Keep reading to find out.

Is It Right to Call a Dog Breed Less Intelligent?

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Calling a dog breed less intelligent or even stupid is not one of the nicest things you can say, and it is a phrase that lessens the likability or even value of a dog breed. Basenjis, for instance, are considered a less intelligent breed. However, their aloofness is one of the reasons they have been saddled with such a label. Several Basenjis are competing in dog sports hosted by the American Kennel Club (AKC), and Basenji owners will tell you these interesting hounds are cunning.

Purpose of the Breed

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Dogs were bred for a specific purpose: guardians, herders, ratters, and retrievers, to name a few. Then there are the dog breeds that were bred specifically to be companions, such as the Japanese Chin and Shih Tzu. The companion breeds may seem less intelligent because they were not required to perform specific tasks. When they are asked to learn commands or problem-solve, it may take them a bit longer to figure things out.

Companion breeds are more sensitive to the moods of their owners and can sense when a person is depressed or even sick. These breeds excel as emotional support dogs and enjoy spending time just hanging out with their owners.

Stubbornness Plays a Role

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Most dog intelligence tests are based on how quickly a dog can learn a new command or accomplish a new task. Problem-solving and playing with interactive toys also are factors considered when determining dog intelligence.

Some dog breeds, such as the Bulldog, are exceedingly stubborn and will refuse to complete a task no matter how many treats or toys are offered. Afghan Hounds are also stubborn creatures who find it amusing to make their owners look a little foolish.

Determining the intelligence of a dog based on its ability to quickly learn and execute tasks can be deceiving when measuring stubborn breeds. Laziness may also play a role; some dogs simply do not want to do something that requires a lot of physical activity.

Environment Contributes to Intelligence

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The way a dog is raised and their day-to-day environment does play an important factor in their overall intelligence. Dogs that are left to their own devices, especially those kept outdoors in a yard or on a chain, will easily become bored and look for ways to amuse themselves. In some cases, this means they figure out things and show their smarts. In other cases, dogs become bored and melancholy, not wanting to move around much or play games.

Less intelligent dog breeds do not necessarily like to play games or puzzles or work with interactive toys; instead, they would rather lounge around and do their own thing. Shih Tzu are playful dogs but prefer spending the day surrounded by their toys rather than learning new tricks or following commands.

Training Takes Longer

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Less intelligent dog breeds do take longer to learn new commands. The training techniques used on a Border Collie or Labrador Retriever will greatly differ from the methods used on a Bulldog or Afghan Hound. Positive reinforcement is useful with any dog, but repetition will be the ultimate tool for those breeds that have ranked lowest in intelligence.

Be prepared to spend several training sessions learning a new command. Once your dog has mastered a new task, you can move on to the next task. Do not confuse your dog by trying to teach several commands at the same time. You will become discouraged, and your dog will be frustrated.

Socialization and Aloofness

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Many of the less intelligent dogs share a common factor; they are aloof and not fond of socialization. These breeds like their owners and families, but are more aloof toward strangers or people who do not live in their home. They love playing games and spending time interacting with their owners but become distant when there are visitors.

They prefer to spend time alone and do not enjoy special outings such as dog sports, visiting new places, or even having company visit their home. Aloof dogs are often mistaken as shy and unsocialized, but if you know the breed you will understand their aversion to being in large groups or new situations.

The Overall Health of a Breed

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Every dog breed has its inherent health issues, and, in some cases, these health issues can cause a breed to seem less intelligent. Hearing and vision problems can cause a dog to withdraw and not want to interact in new situations. This will make them seem less intelligent. Brachycephalic, or flat-faced, breeds are more likely to not want to do high-energy tasks such as agility or lure coursing.

Dogs with health issues will have problems completing certain tasks and may flat-out refuse to even try. Knowing your dog’s overall health before you start any training or exercise routine is important. Senior dogs in any breed will also have a diminished mental capacity.

Characterizing a dog breed as less intelligent seems a bit harsh since these breeds were created for a specific purpose, and who is to say one breed is smarter than another? But, according to Professor Stanley Coren’s book “The Intelligence of Dogs,” some dog breeds do not meet the three criteria set to measure intelligence.

Holly Ramsey
By Holly Ramsey

Holly is a 2nd generation dog breeder/trainer and has over 25 years of experience with several different breeds. She enjoys working with her Japanese Chin and Rough Collies and helping her mom and daughter with their chosen breeds. Most evenings, Holly is hanging out with her daughter watching movies, crafting, or playing with the fur-kids.