Are Chihuahuas smart?
The other day, I was reading about a smart Border Collie named Chaser who had a vocabulary of approximately 1000 proper nouns!
And that made me wonder – Are Chihuahuas smart too?
I personally believe that dogs’ IQ is very much like human IQ: It depends a great deal on your pet’s environment and can be developed as well. Also, it isn’t fair to call all dogs ‘not-smart’ just because their breed does not feature in the list of smart dog breeds.
In case you are wondering – Are Chihuahuas smart? – you have come to the right place.
Here I will discuss just how smart this cute breed is, what their IQ is in dog-dom, and also some ways to make your Chi smarter.
Are Chihuahuas Smart?
We all like to believe that we are blessed with the smartest child in the world, then why should it be any different with our pooches? I think every dog parent in the world wants to be the proud owner of a smart doggo.
Chihuahuas are affectionate dogs that make ideal housemates and lapdogs.
When psychologist Stanley Coren authored the book The Intelligence of Dogs, he developed specific tests to measure the IQs of the various dog breeds. These tests were a measure of each breed’s short-term memory, agility, problem-solving skills among other aspects.
Based on these tests, Chihuahuas came out as fairly smart dogs. In the list of 150 odd dog breeds, our dear Chis came at number 67. This means that they need approximately 40 to 80 repetitions of a single command to learn that command.
So we can say that Chihuahuas are fairly smart dogs. They are certainly more intelligent than the Afghan Hound which is considered to be the least smart dog breed on account of their being difficult to train.
While some people might argue that 67 is not such a good rating, I like to still think of Chihuahuas as a fairly smart dog and highly trainable breed too.
What is a Chihuahua’s IQ?
Often, when an owner is wondering about his/her dog’s IQ, it may be because their dog might seem difficult to train.
Just because a Chi (or any dog for that matter) seems difficult to train, does not mean that it is dumb.
A Chihuahua’s IQ is 67 as per Stanley Coren’s book. This means that the breed needs an average of 60 repetitions of a single command to learn that command. According to those tests, Chihuahuas are also known to obey a command on the first attempt about 30% of the time.
The positive thing is that Chihuahuas are still a lot ahead of other dog breeds including Lhasa Apso and bullmastiffs in the above list.
Here, I must mention that the average IQ of dogs is 100. This helps put things in perspective. Chihuahuas are not too far behind the average although some people might still say that they are below average.
The right way to describe things would be to say that Chihuahuas are fairly smart. As you will see, intelligence can also be acquired and developed. It depends on a lot of factors like the pet’s environment and the training it receives as well. I will cover this in detail later in the guide.
So Just How Smart are Chihuahuas?
Ask any proud Chihuahua owner whether their pet is smart and you will definitely get different answers. Some pet parents might say that their dog is not too smart, while someone else might state that theirs is one of the smartest dogs in the world.
Chihuahuas have small bodies but their brain to body ratio is actually larger than the average dog. This means that they certainly have the potential since larger brain size is directly proportional to cognitive function.
There is also the fact that canine intelligence is of different types, so we simply cannot generalize how smart or dumb a Chihuahua is. (More on this in the subsequent section).
If we believe Stanley Coren’s book then Chihuahuas rank 67th in the list of 130 odd dog breeds. So we can still say that Chis are fairly intelligent and certainly more intelligent than most dog breeds.
The sad truth is: media portrayals of Chis aren’t great.
Many movies have shown Chihuahuas in a bad light and often as companions of ‘dumb’ lead characters or purse dogs for fashion-conscious celebrities. Perhaps, all this has given them a bad reputation that they are not really intelligent.
So I strongly feel that Chihuahuas, and all dogs in general, are never dumb. They might be stubborn and not-too-eager-to-please-their-owners, but calling them dumb is unfair. They also might be victims of their circumstances and might just need more conducive environments to blossom.
What are the Different Types of Intelligence in Dogs?
Dog intelligence can be broadly categorized in the following types:
1. Canine instinct
Intelligence can be a measure of a dog’s instinct.
A Golden retriever might rank the highest in this category of canine intelligence because it was bred to be a retriever and hunter. On the other hand, a Chi might fare badly in this category since it was never given any of those jobs that working dogs perform.
Our cute and cuddly Chihuahuas are bred to be lapdogs. That is why they might not have those hunter or guard dog instincts. However, I still like to believe that they make very good watch dogs.
My Bella (our 8-yr old Chi) will never let a stranger pass by our yard without letting me know about it. And to me that is sign of her intelligence!
A dog’s ability to adapt certain situations is also a part of its intelligence.
This intelligence can vary from dogs within the same breed too.
For example two Chihuahuas belonging to the same litter might show different abilities to work for themselves. One might be able to push and open doors while the other might simply wait outside and bark or whimper until someone comes and opens it for them.
This type of intelligence includes the ability to learn working or obedience commands.
Now, we all have heard that Chihuahuas are difficult to train. Again, in my opinion, this can vary from dog to dog and trainer to trainer.
Some Chis learn fairly quickly.
My Bella was fully potty trained by 5 months of age. She even learned basic commands like sit, stay, and paw and knew the meaning of words like Car, Treat, Dinner, and Walking before she was 1 year old.
Of course, I have friends having Chis who complain about their dogs’ stubborn streaks. Stubbornness can definitely pose an impediment to training.
Bottom-line: It is hard to measure a Chihuahua’s (or any dogs) intelligence because they might be intelligent but might also have a stubborn streak that makes them appear to be ‘slow or dumb’.
Are Chihuahuas Easy to Train?
Chihuahuas, like most dog breeds, can be fairly easy to train provided you start training them from an early age and also remain consistent with the training.
There are 2 positive traits in Chihuahuas which make them highly trainable:
1. Their willingness to learn something new
This small dog is highly curious. S/he will show an earnestness to please you and this can be great from training point of view.
Most Chihuahua puppies quickly grasp what you want them to do provided you repeat it over and over several times and also use positive reinforcement such as feeding it high-quality treats each time it does what you want it to do.
2. Their eagerness to spend time with you
Another factor that benefits a Chihuahua’s trainability is that it is a family dog breed. That makes them very eager and keen to spend all their waking hours with you.
They will gladly follow you all around. This quality helps them grasp things and the more you socialize your Chi pup and take it everywhere you go, the faster it will learn and the more intelligent it will seem.
Of course, the converse is true too. There are some Chihuahuas that may come across as difficult to train because of their stubborn natures. They also might not be interested in pleasing their owners. These two features can sometimes make a Chi seem slightly difficult to train.
So How Can You Make Your Chihuahua Smart?
According to veterinarian expert Dr. Katrina Warren, there are some steps you can take to make your Chihuahua (or any dog breed) smarter:
1. Start training from an early age
Chihuahuas, like all puppies, are like sponges – they will soak in whatever you ‘feed’ them. And this refers to mental stimulus. The earlier you start training and socializing your buddy, the faster it will learn and the more intelligent it will seem.
2. Enhance its vocabulary with positive reinforcements
Have you ever wondered why your Chihuahua dog can easily grasp the meaning of the words toy, ball, walk, potty, dinner, etc.? That is because you have always followed these words with an outing, or a game, or favorite food item.
So, use this fact to your advantage and provide a positive association with each word that you want your companion dog to learn.
3. Use hand signals
In addition to basic obedience training like Come, Sit, Heel, Stay, etc. Chihuahua owner must use plenty of hand signals. Dogs learn quickly when they see you gesture.
One of the most important hand signals to use for teaching your Chihuahua is ‘pointing’. Point to a particular toy, say the name of that toy (Frisbee, for e.g.) and ask your Chi to pick up the toy. Dr. Warrant recommends the use of hand signals for all such commands.
4. Be regular and consistent
The easiest way to make your Chihuahua smarter is to schedule short, daily training sessions. Limit the training to 10-15 minutes daily and end each session on a high note with plenty of play time, treats, petting, and cuddling.
The best time to schedule training, according to Dr. Warren, is right before your Chi’s meal since they are very eager to respond then.
5. Make your Chi work for its food
I personally have seen so many benefits of this step!
A year ago, our vet recommended that we cut back on Bella’s food because she was getting overweight.
The problem was that she was used to eating two wholesome meals a day and I could not bring myself to suddenly go cold turkey and stop feeding her her morning meals. So I invested in some treat-dispensing toys .
These worked in multiple ways: she has to spend several hours thinking of ways to get all the (low-calorie) treats out of the toys. Secondly, she would get too tired afterward and stopped demanding and begging for more food.
The result: a leaner and a smarter dog!
FAQs on Are Chihuahuas Smart?
1. Are Chihuahuas the least intelligent dogs?
Chihuahuas DO NOT feature in the list of top 10 dumb dogs. They are a fairly smart dog breed and Chihuahua intelligence ranks around 67th in the list of 130+ dog breeds.
2. Which dogs have high IQs?
Many working dogs like Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, German Shepherds, and Doberman Pinschers have very high IQs. Poodles, Labradors, Rhodesian Ridgeback, and Pitbull terriers also feature in the list of high IQ dog breeds.
3. Is there such a thing as dumb dogs?
The fact is that no dog is dumb. It just means that some dogs are better at picking cues and human vocabulary compared to others. The intelligence of dogs also depends on their training, environment, and nourishment they receive.
4. What is the least intelligent dog?
In tests conducted on different dogs by psychologist Stanley Coren, Border Collie consistently ranked as the smartest dog breed while Afghan Hound ranked as the least intelligent breed.
Are Chihuahuas smart?
Chihuahuas are fairly smart dogs. The smallest dog breed ranks 67th in Stanley Coren’s list based on canine intelligence testing. They also need an average of 60 repetitions of a single word or command to learn it.
You can make your Chihuahua smarter by socializing and training it from an early age. With consistent training and patience, you could easily become the proud owner of an intelligent doggy.