Chihuahuas belong to the toy dog breeds. You know that they’re fluffy, cute and sometimes… snappy.
But are they smart?
This article will reveal:
- Whether Chihuahuas make good police dogs.
- What research has to say about Chihuahuas’ intelligence.
- How smart Chihuahuas are compared to other dog breeds.
- And a whole lot more…
Table of contents
Are Chihuahuas smart?
When it comes to whether or not Chihuahuas are smart, the answer is a little mixed. They can easily learn more tricks and follow the most common orders like other breeds. However, Chihuahuas do rank relatively low on lists of intelligent breeds.
Unfortunately, the media portrayal of Chihuahuas has increased this bad reputation. They are often thought of as dumb because they play dumb characters. Instead of being seen as a legitimate pet, they are fashion pieces being carried in a purse.
This stereotype can be seen in films such as Legally Blonde. In the movie, airhead Elle Woods (played by Reece Witherspoon), carries around tiny Chi “Rufus.” Since she plays an airhead persona, her dog is also seen this way.
While these purse-sized pups can easily be carried around, they are not fashion pieces. They should still be treated properly like pets. This also means that they should be provided with the training they need.
What do the experts say?
Many experts do agree that Chihuahuas are not at the top when it comes to intelligent dog breeds. In a study conducted by Stanley Coren, he found that Chihuahuas actually ranked 125 out of 138 different breeds when it came to intelligence.
Coren is a psychology professor, who has researched the neuropsychology of canine behavior. He also studied the bond between humans and dogs.
You may have heard of his book: The Intelligence of Dogs. This 1994 book displays the wealth of research that Coren worked on over many years.
The Intelligence of Dogs shares Coren’s thorough list of over 100 different breeds. In the list, he ranks each type of pup by their intelligence.
Coren researched each type of dog to determine their intelligence. Yet he noted that there are some factors that could differentiate from breed to breed.
The main factor is that the intelligence of individual dogs may vary
Just like the intelligence of children. Not every dog is the same, and their brains may work differently.
Just like people have different learning abilities, so do dogs.
Despite this, Coren noted that the “obedience intelligence” in dogs does vary. By this, he means that types of dogs have been bred with different characteristics. As well as unique purposes.
Whether this is hunting, guarding, sporting, herding, et cetera. As a result, each type of dog requires a different level of training.
But what about Chihuahuas?
Chihuahuas actually ranked quite far down on this list of intelligence rankings. They came in number 125 out of 138 breeds.
This ranking shows that most Chihuahuas will obey the first command from their owner around 30% of the time. So, to put it kindly, they’re not the smartest of dogs.
How was the study conducted?
To come to this conclusion, Stanley Coren had to carry out a lot of research into each breed of dog. He looked into 138 different breeds.
Although he didn’t work with the dogs, he spent a lot of time requesting evaluations. From the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club obedience trial judges.
He asked each judge to rank dog breeds by their performance. They ranked each dog throughout different circumstances.
He received a grand total of 199 responses from these judges. This represented an estimate of 50% of dog obedience judges working in North America at that time.
After receiving the results, Coren only used evaluations for breeds with 100+ responses. This made the study unbiased.
Giving all the breeds a fair chance in the final rankings and ensured that no breed was unfairly tried.
These test results are from many different experts in the field of dog training and judging
The outcome of this study is recognized worldwide.
The judges concluded the top-ranking dogs. Some of these were: Border Collies, Poodles, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers.
The lowest ranking dogs were those such as the Chow Chow, Afghan Hound, Shih Tzu, and Bulldog.
A few breeds, such as the Jack Russell Terrier, were not included in Coren’s rankings. This was due to them not being recognized by the American Kennel Club or the Canadian Kennel Club.
Although Chihuahuas were not last on the list of intelligence, 125 out of 138 breeds of dog is a pretty low score.
You can view the full list with evaluated dog breeds here.
Are Chihuahuas smart compared to other dogs?
While Coren ranked Chihuahuas as 125th out of 138, are they really that low on the list? It all depends on how you look at it.
During Coren’s research, he found the ‘brightest’ breeds of canine. These were dogs such as the Border Collie, German Shepherd, and Golden Retriever. Dogs that ranked the lowest are those such as the Afghan Hound, Chow Chow, and Bulldog.
During his research, he looked at the ability to react to commands as a major source of intelligence.
However, this is not the only way that a dog can show their intelligence. In fact…
Reacting to commands can go far beyond intelligence and be impacted by personality
This test seems to favor working dogs and give them an unfair advantage, often putting them at the top of the list. They were bred for a specific role to listen and act on commands. Of course, this means that they will be better at completing commands.
Chihuahuas were bred to be loyal companions, who would nurse the sick. They would most often be used to warm the beds of the sick and elderly, and as lap dogs to keep individuals’ company.
They have great skills in adaptive behaviors and are extremely protective dogs but may not be best at taking commands.
Don’t forget to also read: Chihuahua-Husky Mix: 13 Facts, Characteristics & Pictures
11 Facts about Chihuahua intelligence
Although Chihuahuas are proven to be lower on the list of intelligent breeds, they are not all bad. They have amazing, unique personalities that many love.
If you are on the fence about their intelligence, here are some fun facts:
#1: Chihuahuas and stubbornness go hand in hand
There is a big reason that Chihuahua owners believe that Chis ranked particularly low. This reason is their stubborn personalities.
You can compare a Chihuahua to an Aquarius human. Very loyal, but horrendously stubborn.
Some dogs don’t respond to demands. Due to their strong-willed attitudes, they may need a different form of communication. Chihuahuas need patience.
You should also master the technique to train them. And once you do, it will be a walk in the park.
Keep in mind that some dogs respond to firm demands and requests positively. But chances are your Chihuahua may need a bit more of a friendly manner.
A lot of owners use positive reinforcement as a method to train their pups and swear by it.
Patience, consistency, and dog treats tend to be the most successful methods. The more fun you add to the learning experience, the better it is for everyone involved.
#2: Chihuahuas are very protective
Chihuahuas are very loyal and protective dogs. We often mistake them for aggressive and snappy—but there is a reason for it.
Usually, Chihuahuas only become snappy and loud when in the presence of a stranger.
This can also happen in other situations that they feel threatened in. If they feel that something is a threat to them or their owner, they’ll become protective.
This has to do with the fact that they have been domesticated and evolved to be lap dogs. They tend to build strong bonds with their owners and are great as small companions.
This means they can quickly grow protective of those they love.
So, their purpose is a little different from working dogs, who were bred to hunt or herd.
Chihuahuas were believed to have originated from Mexico. Here they were often used as healers for the sick.
They would be purchased as loving companions. And they would also be used as small bed warmers for those who had become ill or were getting old.
Chis are known to be serious barkers, but this often comes from love. From the perspective of those who own a Chihuahua, all that barking is for protection.
While Chihuahuas may be lacking when it comes to listening to commands, they will love your fearlessly. They are highly intelligent when it comes to protecting their humans.
#3: Chihuahuas tend to have adaptive intelligence
When tested, Chihuahuas did not do great in the area of “Obedience Training.”
While Coren felt this was the most important area, many owners disagree. In fact, obedience is just one area of intelligence when it comes to your pup.
While being obedient can make raising a dog simpler, it is not the only thing to keep in mind. Chihuahuas tend to do better in another area of intelligence called Adaptive Behaviors.
Adaptive intelligence is a dog’s ability to solve problems of their own. And to learn from their mistakes!
This is something many Chihuahuas owners vouch that their dogs are great at.
So, if your Chihuahua is struggling to respond to your commands, don’t automatically assume they’re dumb.
Watch out for those signs of learning from their past experiences. They may even solve some problems on their own!
#4: Chihuahuas’ heads are a little different
Chihuahuas are the smallest breed of dog in the world. More often than not, they are mistaken for puppies.
This is a strange coincidence because Chihuahuas are born with a soft spot on their heads. Much like human babies. On dogs, this is called a Molera.
Human babies have a soft spot, which is a separation of the skull. This allows the skull to squish together when the mother is giving birth. This makes the birthing process easier and helps to protect the skull from breaking.
The weird thing is most Chihuahuas are born with this soft spot and have it for the rest of their lives. Not all Chihuahuas do, but depending on their genetics, size, and structure a lot of them may!
If you do add a Chihuahua to your home, this is something to note. These soft spots will need to be watched out for. If handled incorrectly, this can be a hazard to the brain underneath.
#5: Chihuahua’s heads come in different shapes
There are two shapes of Chihuahua heads.
Chihuahuas can either have a deer shaped head or an apple-shaped one. You can figure this out by looking at the shape of the dog’s head and snout.
Deer-headed Chihuahuas tend to have a long snout and a narrow head. Whereas the apple-headed Chihuahua is known for its larger, rounded head. That typically comes with a shorter snout.
We’re not sure how this affects their brainpower. Some owners report that deer-headed Chihuahuas are less aggressive than their apple-headed counterparts.
There is not a lot of research available to support these claims though.
#6: Chihuahuas like to be in (Chihuahua) packs
Chihuahua owners have noted that the breed tends to prefer the presence of their own kind. Meaning Chihuahuas like other Chihuahuas.
While some breeds are known to get along with pretty much any dog or pet possible, Chihuahuas are not this way.
They tend to enjoy spending time with other Chihuahuas and may not mesh well with other pets.
This may not be the case with all Chihuahuas. However, do not be surprised when your new pup is not best friends with your cat or another dog.
If you have no pets, this should not be a problem.
#7: Mexico celebrates the Chihuahua
Do not let the negative reputation that Chihuahuas hold in some countries fool you. In some areas, like Mexico, they are highly celebrated. Each year, Mexico honors their favorite tiny pup.
Cinco De Mayo is a yearly celebration held on May 5th. Mexicans celebrate the day in which their army won the battle with the French Empire in 1862. During this celebration, Chihuahuas are thoroughly honored.
If you are ever able to be part of these Mexican celebrations, some of the amazing things that they do for the event are:
- Chihuahua Races.
- Chihuahua Parades.
- Owner and Dog Lookalike Competitions.
- Free Spaying and Neutering Services during Cinco de Mayo.
While you may be questioning why these tiny dogs are so honored in the country, the history is very deep. There is no single, exact reason. Instead, there are many. They have been trusted canine companions in Mexico since Aztec rule.
Long ago they were thought to be spirit guides and to have healing powers. Aside from that, they have always been amazing pets and friends, which is worth honoring.
#8: Chihuahuas have large brains
Whether the world thinks they are smart, or dumb, Chihuahuas have big brains!
In fact, Chihuahuas have the largest brain-to-body ratio of any breed of dog. This means that their brains are actually very large in proportion to the rest of their bodies.
While brain size may not equal more intelligence, it is interesting to note. These small dogs have brains that are quite large for their stature.
#9: There are Chihuahua police dogs
In 2010, Momo the Chihuahua became the first police dog of that breed in a Japanese police department!
While this is not common, the dog was trained to reach tight areas. This proved to be very beneficial to the police force and shows the ability to use Chihuahuas in this way.
This amazing, trained Chihuahua was able to search in small areas, such as rubble. Such kind of abilities do not only help the police but can also save lives.
Since Japan suffers many natural disasters, these abilities can be very useful during such events.
Even though the use of Chihuahuas in the police force not widely taking off, Momo was great at her job.
This training of a Chihuahua in this way shows their usefulness. It also shows that many of the breeds are smart enough to be trained and take on more serious working positions.
Look at Momo go:
#10: Chihuahuas are great to play with
It is important to remember that most owners purchase Chihuahuas as pets. While they may not have ranked well on Coren’s list, they are great pets.
Chihuahuas are natural-born retrievers. They actually were once used for their ratting abilities. They could rid a home of rodents with their quick retrieving skills.
However, today, this makes them a great fetch partner and playmate.
If you want a dog that you can play with but do not have room for a Golden Retriever, you don’t need one. You can have just as much fun playtime with a tiny Chihuahua!
You are bound to have countless hours of fun with these pint-sized pups. Between their immense love and playful attitude, their lack of smarts doesn’t matter at all!
#11: Chihuahuas are often used in television
So, they may be portrayed in a mostly negative light on TV, but Chihuahuas are a commonly seen dog.
We quite often see them displayed as that small, yappy, and even annoying dogs. Another favorite theme is the toy dog that has been dressed in overly pink human clothing.
However, we can’t deny that Chihuahuas are used a lot on television. They’re used in movies, advertisements, and even TV shows.
Dogs on television need a lot of training and patience to pull off stunts and follow movie scenes. Movie takes are often filmed over and over again.
This means that dogs need a lot of patience to work in this environment.
This further proves the theory. Chihuahuas have had a negative light held over them for many years, but they are pretty smart!
How to train your Chihuahua
One reason why Chihuahuas may not rank well on Coren’s list is that they are simply stubborn (which I talked in fact #1).
This stubborn behavior may affect their desire to react to commands. This does not mean they are not smart. But it does show the need for a little extra training.
Even though it takes extra work, it is crucial to train your Chi. If you approach this properly, you’ll have one amazing dog.
Here are some of the most common and effective methods used to train your Chihuahua:
#1: Using rewards
Incentives are well known amongst dog owners worldwide. Offering your pup a treat for a trick is a great way to alter their negative behaviors. This will teach them some positives.
Show your Chihuahua their favorite treat, and say your command in a clear, playful voice. Using a tone that shows you want to play gives a positive vibe to the training.
Chihuahuas can be stubborn. Making the training as fun as possible will speed things up and keep them interested. Once they have completed the action, reward them by giving them the treat.
Note: Ensure you give your Chihuahua the treat straight away. If not, they may not associate the reward with the training.
Once your pup has mastered the basics, gradually increase the difficulty level of the trick. And then slowly phase out the treat.
#2: Set rules in your home
Encourage rules within your home and stick to them. This is a great method to train your Chihuahua. Make sure you confirm these rules right from day one of bringing your Chihuahua home.
If you do not want your pup in the bedroom at night, establish these rules, and do not allow them in.
Or, let’s say you do not want your Chihuahua jumping up onto the sofa. To prevent that, make sure you remove your Chi from the sofa every time they try.
Chihuahuas can be aggressive when meeting new people
Is your Chihuahua growling and becoming aggressive with a new friend in your home? Sternly correct said action quickly and effectively.
It is highly important that you stick to all these new rules you have set. Make your Chi stop gnarling by commanding them firmly and saying “no.”
If this is not effective, remove the dog from the situation. This will teach them they shouldn’t gnarl or snarl if they don’t want to be left out.
Follow up with these rules, don’t make exceptions. The better you do that, the quicker and more positive the outcome will be. These expectations should be set from day one.
Note: Failing to stick to rules can be confusing for your dog. This will show that sometimes they can get away with a bad habit and sometimes they can’t.
#3: Earn their respect
Chihuahuas may be small, but they can quite quickly wind up ruling your household.
The good news though, is that you can create a mutual respect for your pet while staying in charge.
When preparing food for your Chihuahua, ensure that they do not begin to eat until you have allowed them to. Quite often, dogs can jump up at you impatiently while you’re laying out their meal.
This is negative behavior.
Help your pup to learn patience, by training them to wait until you are ready. Reinforce these positive behaviors with a positive and upbeat tone of voice.
You can teach your Chihuahua patience in many areas of their life. Teach them to sit at the roadside, instead of dragging you into the road with them.
Make them sit before you agree to pick them up or allow them onto the couch or bed.
This establishes that you, the owner, are in control. It also teaches positive behaviors rather than negative ones.
Bonus: Create boundaries
Finally, ensure that you teach your dog to know your boundaries. There are many different ways you can go about this.
Having these boundaries will help your dog behave. It’ll also increase respect.
One common boundary is to not allow them onto your bed. Instead, buy a small bed for them which you can put next to yours.
This way the dog knows whose bed is whose and does not assume they own your furniture.
Set mealtime schedules each day and stick to a routine.
Having their meals prepared at the same time every day can help them to establish a routine. That can prevent anxiety and pent up energy as they know what’s next on the list.
Socialize your pup as often as possible. This will prevent them from barking constantly in the presence of new people.
Your dog needs regular interaction with new dogs, animals, and people. Starting from a young age.
If your dog constantly barks around new people, it can be embarrassing. To prevent this, socialize them early on.
Even going on a simple walk regularly can help with this.
Because your Chi will release pent-up energy and get to meet other dogs along the way.
Socialize your Chihuahua in as many situations as possible. This can help them to learn to trust. It will stop negative aggressive behavior patterns.
Comparative to other dogs, Chihuahuas do have a tendency to be on the less than the smart side. Of course, you should never judge a pet simply because most of the breed representatives are lower in intelligence. Almost any breed has the capability to be trained with the right techniques.