Are Chihuahuas Smart?

Thinking about getting a chihuahua? Want to know why they were originally bred and are chihuahuas smart? In this article, we’ll show you how dog intelligence is measured, where chihuahuas fall on that scale, and the top reasons chihuahuas are smart anyways.

How Do You Measure Dog Intelligence?

While there are a variety of ways to measure intelligence in canines, the most quoted comes from the Stanley Coren book on the topic. He highlights three types of dog intelligence and then rated common breeds.

The Stanley Coren Test

In 1994, Stanely Coren, a professor of dog psychology, published The Intelligence of Dogs (1). In it he highlights three types of dog intelligence:

  • Instinctive Intelligence – Herding dogs were bred to herd. Guard dogs were bred to guard. What your dog’s breed determines its instinctive intelligence or the intelligence it inherits from its breed and the reasons that breed was created.
  • Adaptive Intelligence – This refers to your dog’s ability to solve problems it wasn’t trained for.
  • Working and Obedience Intelligence – This is the standard training intelligence. Can your dog learn to sit? Not to jump? The easier it is to train them means the higher their working and obedience intelligence are.

According to Coren, the chihuahua was rated in the bottom three of all breeds for working and obedience intelligence (1).

The Smartest Dog Breeds in the World According to the Stanley Coren Test

According to Coren and the Wikipedia page on the topic, these are the ten brightest dogs (1).

1. Border Collie
2. Poodle
3. German Shepherd
4. Golden Retriever
5. Doberman Pinscher
6. Shetland Sheepdog
7. Labrador Retriever
8. Papillon (dog)
9. Rottweiler
10. Australian Cattle Dog

Other Studies on Dog Intelligence

A study from the journal Intelligence discovered a general intelligence factor for dogs (2). The study by Rosalind Ardena and Mark James Adams tested 68 border collies to build a model for general intelligence.

They call it the G factor. A partial goal was to build it first in dogs and other animals then see if the same model can be applied to humans.

Measuring Your Chihuahua’s Intelligence

  1. Measuring instinctive intelligence – Chihuahua’s were bred as companions. Is your chihuahua a lap dog? Do they bond to you and protect you from intruders by being cautious of anyone other than you? Congratulations, your chihuahua passes the instinctive intelligence test for its breed!
  2. Measuring adaptive intelligence – Hide a treat for your dog and see how long it takes them to find it. Don’t use the same location. An adaptive intelligence test relies upon how quickly chihuahuas can solve new problems they weren’t trained for. Did they find the treat? Score again – your chihuahua has adaptive intelligence!
  3. Measuring working and obedience intelligence – Can you teach your chihuahua to sit? Lie down? Paw? Not jump? Third score! Your chihuahua has good working and obedience intelligence.

Are Chihuahuas Smart?

Chihuahuas have a slightly below-average intelligence level for common dog breeds according to the Stanley Coren test. However, they’re affectionate, loyal and can easily learn basic obedience commands like “come,” “sit” or even stay when needed. They make great guard dogs and deeply bond with their owners. Plus, chihuahuas have a long lifespan; most live about 15 years!

7 Reasons Why Chihuahuas Are The Smartest Dogs in the World [Coren Debunked]

  1. Chihuahuas are affectionate and loyal.
  2. They are great guard dogs.
  3. Chihuahuas can easily learn basic obedience commands like come, sit, and stay. Editor’s Note – My chihuahua Ella learned to lie down in one session.
  4. They’ve figured out the secret to long lifespans – Most live 15 years or longer
  5. Chihuahuas like and need playtime – Only an intelligent dog likes to play. Dumb dogs love to nap.
  6. They are ever watchful of intruders. When I take Ella to the office she never sleeps. She just watches everyone walk by. So vigilant!
  7. Chihuahuas are famous. Just ask the Yo Quiero Taco Bell Dog or our favorite, Nacho, in the video below.