The bond between man and man’s best friend is a powerful one indeed. And there’s nothing that could ever change your mind in thinking your dog is the best there’s ever been — not even his intelligence or lack thereof.
While we wanted to highlight the flip side of the most intelligent dog breeds you’ll ever own, we’re really not trying to insult your pup, as we know just how much you love your canine. After all, he or she is an integral part of your family.
And before we dive right in, let’s clear one thing up: The term “dumbest dog breeds” is highly subjective, and it’s not all-encompassing. While each of these breeds made the list for one reason or another, some of these canines are considered smart in some aspects
So, without further ado, here are the less intelligent breeds and the reasons behind why they made the list.
These dogs are best known for their long, silky coats. But often, hiding underneath those locks is a more complex canine. Afghans thrive on a high level of activity, and the American Kennel Club says they need plenty of fenced-in running space. While they make great hunting companions, Afghan hounds are sometimes considered a bit ditzy, and their sensitive yet independent nature can make training them a difficult task.
The basset hound’s spot on this list just might be the most controversial, but he’s made the list for a reason. Google “dumbest dog breeds,” and you’ll find the basset hound on most lists. “The desire to smell things and search is so strong that the dog tends to get lost in the moment only to forget what was going on around,” WeLuvPuppies.com says. “This is a type of roaming that has many pet owners wondering what is going on in the dog’s mind when it wanders off in this manner.” Still, their droopy ears make them absolutely irresistible.
Beagles are friendly, happy-go-lucky, and downright adorable pups. And while their lovable little faces will draw you in, it’s their working breed mentality that generally gains them recognition as an intelligent breed. However, beagles aren’t exactly the leader type, as they prefer to hunt in packs. And furthermore, the AKC says their inclination to always follow their nose can get them into “sticky situations,” landing them on our list.
The borzoi is an ideal canine for any cat-lover who wants to add a canine to their feline collection. Essentially, borzoi are probably the most cat-like dogs. They’re obsessed with cleanliness, and they make their owners prove their leadership (read: worthiness) to them before deciding to show their loyalty. The borzoi is a noble breed that’s very stately and highly dignified, but independent and hard to train.
The bulldog is undeniably lovable, and their amusing disposition makes them somewhat dopey yet kind creatures. They’ll never beg for exercise, and they’d rather sit in your lap than anywhere else in the house. However, because they are eager to please their companions, they do respond well to training, so that’s a plus. Although bulldogs aren’t terribly bright, they’re very affectionate.
“Playful and clownish, the Bull Terrier is best described as a three-year-old child in a dog suit,” the AKC says. If that’s not a ringing endorsement for a rather dopey breed, we don’t know what is. However, a super playful personality and exceedingly friendly disposition are what make the bull terrier such a sweet, fun-loving companion. Furthermore, this breed is popular in the obedience, agility, and show rings.
These toy dogs are perfect purse pups, and they don’t try to be something they’re not. Originally known for being the beloved pet of choice for the royals — King Charles II in particular — the cavalier is gentle, graceful, and exhibits a happy temperament. But don’t let those wide eyes fool you, the cavalier isn’t exactly known for having too much going on upstairs. However, they are eager to please, which makes training them an easy chore.
Next: This dog’s tiny body is no match for its huge personality — and it’s one that needs to be put in its rightful place.
While the chihuahua might have gained its winning popularity as Taco Bell’s spokesanimal, this toy dog has been a go-to staple for people looking for a low-profile pup. Although the AKC says they’re intelligent and enthusiastic, a chihuahua does “need to be taught what is acceptable in human kingdoms.”
Next: This dog’s scowling, snobbish expression lets others know he wants to be leader of the animal kingdom.
Perhaps the chow chow’s distinct lion-like mane translates over into its less-than-lovable personality. Chow chows are serious, stubborn, and hardheaded in nature. According to Canine Journal, “Chow chows are very dominant dogs and without a firm handed and devoted owner they are next to impossible to control. If allowed, this breed will take the place as head of the pack and while it will always provide healthy companionship, it should not be allowed to dominate.”
You’d probably recognize the Lhasa apso if you’ve ever seen dog show photos, as they’re popular in the ring. However, their main lot in life isn’t to please their master. “These adorable furry guys are the closest things you can get to a real life Ewok,” Terribly Terrier writes. “Unfortunately, their intelligence level is more along the lines of a Tauntaun. Translation for non-Star Wars fans: They’re cute, but dumb.”
This massive breed is sometimes considered a “dumb ox.” However, the mastiff is alert, good-natured, and docile. Because his large stature might intimidate people upon first meet, mastiffs tend to be good guard dogs and family companions.
According to Canine Journal, “Mastiffs have the intelligence; however, their reluctance to listen to anyone they do not deem a firm and competent leader earns them the label of “unintelligent.” If this giant breed receives positive reinforcement training from a strong leader, and is trained in shorter class periods, they are less likely to be labeled as ‘dumb.”
Having originated from China, Pekingese were only allowed to be owned by royalty. And perhaps that’s where they got their sense of dignity and regal manner. Pekes take pride in their independence and individuality. They’re bold in their disposition, and there’s no doubt these pups have a high sense of self-esteem. According to Dogster.com, “This breed is dumb and stubborn, a sometimes exasperating combination for the owner. These dogs also tend to think they’re in charge. But the Pekingese is also a loyal and excellent companion.”
With their long, gorgeous coats, Shih Tzus are accustomed to sitting for long lengths of time as their owners brush their silky locks. Shih Tzus are affectionate, playful, and charming, and they don’t require much brain power in their life’s calling. According to the AKC, the sole purpose of this pampered pooch is to act as companion and house pet, which is why they’re so friendly and trusting.
While the Scottie responds well to training, he’s not exactly known for his smarts. This stout yet sturdy little guy is confident and dignified, and his power comes in a small package. Also considered highly dignified, Scotties aren’t afraid to let their owners know how they feel or who they think is boss. Although they are usually rather easy to train, this dog is highly independent, which means he’s not necessarily concerned with what else is going on.
Originally bred in Africa as a hunting dog, the basenji is a lesser-known breed here in the U.S. However, this canine makes the list for a unique reason.
More specifically, we’re going with the literal meaning of the word “dumb.” In animals, dumb refers to those who cannot speak, and that’s just what the basenji is most known for. Although they don’t bark, basenjis are very expressive and make other rather odd noises, which are often described as a sound between a chortle and a yodel. They can also be difficult to train.
Even if your pooch made the list, it’s nothing to get down about. We certainly find all these pups simply irresistible and undeniably lovable, too.
What Is a Smart Dog, Anyway?
Dr. Stanley Coren’s 1994 book The Intelligence of Dogs lists three types of doggy smarts. Instinctive intelligence shows how good a dog is at the tasks it was bred for. Adaptive intelligence measures whether a dog can solve problems on its own by thinking critically. Finally, obedient intelligence measures a dog’s ability to learn and follow commands.
Humans tend to rank dogs in terms of obedient intelligence. This is easy to measure but doesn’t give the dog much agency. Not to mention, it heavily favors some breeds over others.
In order to put pups back in the driver’s seat, we’ll go through the list of the 25 dumbest dog breeds, explain why they’re perceived as “dumb” — and why they’re not so stupid after all.
In fact, some of the research on dumbest dogs might not be accurate
As it turns out, some of the research done to determine the most intelligent dogs or dumbest dog breeds might not be entirely accurate.
“The scientific work on breeds has not really held up,” Dr. Hare states. “Most breeds are only 150 years old, so there is very little to distinguish them. To scientifically prove the smartest breed, you would need to compare at least 30 dogs from each breed. They would have to be puppies raised and tested in a similar manner to control for the effect to rearing history and age on performance. If you took the AKC breeds or all breeds worldwide, you would need between 6,000 to 12,000 puppies, decades of work, millions of dollars and about a thousand graduate students. It is no wonder no one has done it.”
In fact, in his own research, Dr. Hare has seen as much variation within a breed as between them. “For example, Labradors bred for the military are the same breed as Labradors bred to be assistance dogs — and you have never seen two more different dogs in your life,” he explains.
Humans categorizing certain breeds as the dumbest dog breeds is less about truly measuring their intelligence and more about not understanding the breed’s particular skillset.
“No individual dog or an entire breed should be considered ‘dumb,’” says Gina DiNardo, executive secretary for the American Kennel Club. “Ease of training is not an accurate way to assess a dog’s intelligence. What we humans may perceive as an animal being ‘dumb’ may be independence, stubbornness or aloofness, which are common characteristics in many breeds. Training takes time and patience, and every dog is different. Learn different training techniques available, and if you are having problems, seek out a trainer who can give you the skills that you need to teach your dog.”
So, what is it about certain breeds that caused them to end up as the dumbest dog breeds in Dr. Coren’s book The Intelligence of Dogs? Let’s take a look at each of the supposed dumbest dog breeds.
The 24 Dumbest Dog Breeds
Afghan hounds have long, beautiful coats, and are often described as behaving like cats.
Why they’re “dumb”: Their reputation for beauty, combined with their resistance to traditional training methods, makes Afghans vulnerable to charges of ditziness.
Why they’re not: Afghans are proud, and don’t like doing things just because their masters order them — but they’re also extremely affectionate once you’ve won their loyalty.
The African Basenji is almost totally silent, producing a hyena-like “laugh” instead of a bark.
Why they’re “dumb”: Like Afghans, Basenjis are often compared to cats, since they prefer to do their own thing and aren’t very responsive to learning tricks.
Why they’re not: Though they don’t bark, Basenjis express a lot of complex feelings with their chortles and body language.
The instantly recognizable Basset Hound has long, floppy ears, and a superpowered sense of smell.
Why they’re “dumb”: Not only can Bassets be a chore to housebreak, they also have a bad reputation for running off after every interesting smell.
Why they’re not: Basset Hounds have high instinctive intelligence — they’re extremely good at following their noses, even if they don’t always know when not to track down a scent.
The celebrity breed that inspired Snoopy, Beagles are determined, affectionate hunters with strong noses and lovely coats.
Why they’re “dumb”: Like with Basset Hounds, it’s hard to get a Beagle to focus on anything when they want to chase a smell.
Why they’re not: Beagles are excellent trackers, and frequently turn up as K-9 cops.
Borzois have beautiful coats, and they never forget it, behaving a lot like cats in their steadfast devotion to hygiene.
Why they’re “dumb”: Borzois have a reputation as divas, more concerned with cleaning themselves than with paying attention.
Why they’re not: Just because a Borzoi isn’t rushing to please you, don’t mean it’s not smart; they’re surprisingly trainable when they trust their master and training sessions are kept short.
Bloodhounds don’t live up to their gory-sounding name, looking more like adorably droopy sad sacks than mighty hunters.
Why they’re “dumb”: In another example of a recurring theme on this list, it’s very difficult to get them not to chase a smell once they’ve picked it up.
Why they’re not: Like Basset Hounds, Bloodhounds are extremely good at doing what they were trained for: picking up scents and chasing them down.
The Bull Terrier is a playful clown with a distinctive rounded snout and large pointed ears.
Why they’re “dumb”: AKC calls them “a three-year-old child in a dog suit” due to their preference for playing and frolicking over paying attention.
Why they’re not: Much like a three-year-old child, a Bull Terrier isn’t stupid — it just knows it would rather have fun than do boring work.
The extremely cuddly bulldog, with its signature rumpled snout, has been accused of foolishness in both its English and French varieties.
Why they’re “dumb”: Bulldogs aren’t known for their energy, and would rather crash on the couch than chase balls or solve puzzles.
Why they’re not: Despite their reputation as living furniture, both English and French bulldogs are easy to train.
Bullmastiffs are a giant breed that does everything slowly and ponderously.
Why they’re “dumb”: Bullmastiffs take a long time to obey commands, but like the Afghan Hound, the charge owes a lot to stereotyping due to their looks.
Why they’re not: Bullmastiffs know perfectly well what they’re doing — they’d just rather do it on their own schedule.
What is the least trainable dog?
This is unique breed is widely known as the “barkless” dog—instead of barking, it makes yodeling noises. Between that and their cat-like tendency to clean themselves, the Basenji doesn’t score high on your classic dog trait test.
What is the laziest dog breed?
They make up for their lack of obedience by being extremely affectionate and loyal. Owners of this dignified breed report that no amount of training will overcome the breed’s hunting instinct to chase after prey.