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Why Is My Dog So Dumb? 7 Real Reasons + 3 Must-Read Tips

Why Is My Dog So Dumb

Your dog doesn’t act the way you want them to.

No matter what or how hard you try.

So, you start thinking your dog must be dumb or stupid. You wonder what’s the reason for that.

Ask no more! Here you’ll find out:

  • Which dog breeds are considered the smartest.
  • Whether your dog is acting dumb because they belong in the less intelligent breeds group.
  • What specific purposes dogs have based on their breed and what you can expect of your dog.
  • How you could be making your dog act dumb by depriving them of one main need (check #7 for more info).
  • And way more…

Why is my dog so dumb?

The reasons your dog is so dumb have to do with not enough exercise, training and socialization. However, some people have misconceptions regarding intelligence and dumbness. What they think is dumbness is actually independence, aloofness, and stubbornness.

7 reasons why your dog is so dumb/stupid

#1: Dogs that belong in the ‘less intelligent’ breed groups

Less intelligent dogs ("dumb" and "stupid")

Some people would say your dog is dumb if they belong in the less intelligent breeds. 

And how do you know if they belong in the less intelligent breeds?

The standard used is the book ‘The Intelligence of Dogs’ by Stanley Coren. Coren is a professor at the University of British Columbia.

For this book, Coren examined the rankings of 110 dog breeds from various dog obedience judges.

Based on this examination, the following dog breeds came out as the smartest:

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

On the other end of the spectrum are the top 10 less intelligent dog breeds:

This is the list according to the book:

  1. Afghan Hound.
  2. Basenji.
  3. Bulldog.
  4. Chow Chow.
  5. Borzoi.
  6. Bloodhound.
  7. Pekingese.
  8. Mastiff and Beagle (tie).
  9. Basset Hound.
  10. Shih Tzu.

If your dog belongs in any of these 10 breeds, does it mean that your dog is dumb?

Pet owners of these breeds would definitely disagree.

Just because your dog belongs in the less intelligent breed doesn’t mean they are dumb.

Keep on reading to find out why.

#2: Dogs have different purposes

Put a scenthound – such as Basset Hound and Beagle – to work. They would spend more time looking down. 

They stick their nose to the ground and work hard to track. Sniffing every inch of the dirt, looking for valuable clues. 

This is what they were bred for.

Pointer dogs are bred to ‘point’ preys. Retrievers are bred to ‘retrieve.’ And Bloodhounds are bred to ‘track.’

Dogs are great at doing what they were bred for. However, this could mean being slow in doing other tasks.

It’s like a child who excels in Mathematics but not in writing essays.

In fact, there’s this perfect overused quote on the Internet that backs this up (I’m sure you’ve seen it at least 5 times, not counting this one): 

‘Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid’.

But back to dogs…

Similarly, a Labrador Retriever might not be as good at sniffing preys in the woods. Or a Border Collie might be great at herding but not at hunting.

So why are hounds crowding the list of less intelligent dogs? It’s because of their purpose.

There are 3 types of hounds: sighthounds, scenthounds, and a combination of both.

These dogs are incredibly great at what they do. So good, that they are too focused on the task at hand.

Take sighthounds, such as Afghan Hound and Borzoi, for example. They focus on spotting anything that moves and chasing it.

Being able to spot a moving target, or sniffing the hiding spot of a prey, requires a dog to focus.

This means that they spend less time listening or pleasing anybody. Once you get them to work, they’ll do anything to do it.

So while a Border Collie is highly trainable, they can’t track prey like a hound does.

Note: The take-away here is that dogs are not dumb. They are not bred equal because they have different purposes.

#3: Dogs that don’t have adequate exercise

Dog Lack Of Exercise

Exercise is a basic requirement for your dog’s happiness and health.

But what happens if your dog doesn’t get the right amount of exercise on a daily basis?

Among other things, they’d appear dumb.

Imagine your dog being the human equivalent of a couch potato.

When they’re home alone, they sleep all day. And when you get back home, you give them food. Your dog doesn’t even have to work for it.

Depending on your dog’s breed, age and health, they need adequate exercise.

Without it, your dog ends up having excess energy and dealing with boredom. And when they’re hyperactive, all they care about is releasing that energy. 

In cases like this, they won’t be able to focus on you or their training. If you ask them to sit, they won’t be able to sit still. They might be running around, jumping at you or barking.

Now if this is always the scenario, you won’t be able to train them. 

You might even think they’re dumb for chasing their tail. Or for not knowing what to do with the ball in their mouth, as they stare at the treat in your hand.

Check out also: Why does my dog bark when I arrive home?

#4: Dumbness is in the eye of the beholder

It’s unfair to call dogs ‘dumb.’

But how do you define ‘dumb’ in relation to dogs?

Are dogs dumb because it takes 100 repetitions to learn how to roll? Is it being dumb if your dog doesn’t listen? Or if they do something else from what you want them to do?

What can you say about 3-year-old Otto the Bulldog? His breed is among the less intelligent breeds. And yet he’s a World Guinness titleholder.

His feat? Skateboarding under the legs of 30 people.

The problem here has nothing to do with dogs. It’s a lot to do with human’s misconceptions about dogs’ intelligence.

For instance, a pet owner concludes that their pet is dumb just because they couldn’t do a simple roll.

First of all, a simple roll for you might not be that simple for a dog.

Second, their refusal to follow you could be out of stubbornness. Or they want to do something else.

Sometimes they could be distracted by many things around them.

Note: How fast or slow your dog learns is not an accurate measure of their intelligence.

#5: Pet owners don’t understand their dog’s skillset

Some pet owners are too quick to call dogs dumb.

And this usually involves comparing one dog breed to another. It’s not right to do so, because dogs are not the same.

Thus, you can’t compare the skills of, say, a Chow Chow to the ones of a German Shepherd.

If you have a Chow Chow, then you know this is a stubborn breed of dog. They are independent and aloof, probably as a result of being bred as guard dogs.

Having this breed of dog requires that you understand them fully. Their temperament and their personality, among other things. 

Because if you don’t, you might have difficulty training them. These dogs could end up challenging your authority.

And these characteristics make it hard to train them. Hence, being listed under the less intelligent dogs.

But did you know that Chow Chows are devoted dogs when raised properly? 

Still think they’re dumb? The owners of these two adorable teddy bears will prove you wrong:

Note: Understanding your dog’s skillset means you know where they shine. It’s better to build on areas where your dog is good at. At the same time, you can also work on areas that need more improvement.

#6: Dogs that lack training

A dog is man’s best friend.

They can also be your guard dog, your emotional support dog, your stress reliever dog.

Having a dog is simply amazing. But it is also a huge responsibility. 

If you want them to become well-adjusted adults, then you have to train them accordingly.

However, some owners are detached from properly training a dog. They either train them a little, train them wrong, or not train at all.

Sometimes, an owner is overwhelmed by the personality of a dog

For instance, they first thought that they wanted to have a German Shepherd. 

It’s cool owning a German Shepherd, right? You’ve got this big dog guarding you or your home.

But then you really didn’t prepare for a German Shepherd. You taught them to sit, stay, stop and other basic commands. 

But you failed to consider the amount of exercise this breed needs. You come home from work tired. And you can’t take them for an evening walk or run.

I am not discouraging you from getting a German Shepherd, though. These pooches can be wonderful family dogs. And can be happy even if you live in an apartment.

But it’s vital to know what you’re getting into when getting a certain breed. 

Dogs, in general, need training. 

Without it, your dog won’t know how to act in certain situations. They could be in danger when they don’t know how to respond to a ‘sit’ or ‘stop’ command. 

In addition, the lack of training will lead to annoying behaviors. If these behaviors are too ingrained, it will be more difficult to correct them.

#7: Dogs that lack socialization

Some dogs are ‘dumb,’ as some people would put it, because they lack socialization.

Socialization is an integral part of a dog’s life. It helps puppies become well-adjusted adult dogs.

If not socialized, dogs engage in more undesirable behaviors compared to socialized dogs.

Without socialization, dogs are:

  • Reactive.
  • Hard to handle.
  • Sensitive to sounds.
  • Fearful and anxious.
  • Unable to cope against stress.
  • Uncomfortable in new surroundings.
  • Uncomfortable around people and animals.

Your dog’s reaction to certain things can make you think they’re dumb. 

For instance, the usual hustle and bustle in your area had your dog cowering in fear. Thus, it makes your walks stressful.

Or the leaf blown by the wind into the direction of your dog can scare them to death.

This study suggests starting socialization as early as possible. This is the critical age for socialization. It should continue throughout a dog’s life. 

Also, dogs should be exposed to other pets, people and situations in a controlled way.

Some dogs in the less intelligent breeds list – such as Chow Chows and Mastiffs – would benefit from early socialization. 

These breeds are known for being stubborn. Luckily, you can prevent it through socialization.

3 tips on how to make your dog less dumb/stupid

#1: Give your dog plenty of exercise

Help your dog focus by giving them physical exercise and mental stimulation. 

Spend time teaching them games, tricks or commands.

All the quality time you spend on them strengthens your relationship. It will reinforce your dog’s obedient behavior.

It also helps to give your dog a job. Otherwise, they will find a job for themselves, such as chewing at the door.

Even if you’re at work most of the day, you can assign a job to your dog. 

For example, give them a puzzle toy before leaving for work. A puzzle toy will provide your dog hours of fun. 

Depending on the toy, there are some that have compartments to hide the treats. Your dog will figure out how to move or remove those compartments.

Some toys don’t have compartments such as a Stuffed Kong. But they can give your dog a serious brain workout to get the treats.

Note: Giving them interactive toys helps your dog develop patience and problem-solving skills. 

#2: Use positive reinforcement in training

Dog Training Positive Reinforcement

A dog is ‘dumb’ because it had been trained using negative reinforcement.

Remember, how you train your dog affects the outcome. 

This research proved that dogs trained using punishment develop more behavior problems. Dogs trained using rewards exhibit fewer behavior problems.

Unfortunately, there are people who still believe that punishment can make obedient dogs. Or that it can make training easier.

In some cases it can. A dog wearing a prong collar, for example, stops pulling on the leash.If they do, the prongs will hurt them.

But this kind of training also makes a dog fearful. A supposedly enjoyable walk becomes stressful for dogs. They know they’ll get hurt if they don’t follow their owners.

I am a firm believer in the efficacy of positive reinforcement when training dogs. And to prevent stressful situations in the future, train a dog as early as possible.

#3: Love your dog just the same

There is no such thing as ‘smart’ or ‘dumb’ dogs.

One dog is good at something. Another dog is good at other things. This doesn’t make them far more superior than others.

It doesn’t matter if your dog belongs in the top 10 smartest breeds or top 10 less intelligent breeds. Or even somewhere in the middle. 

What’s important is that you know where your dog excels or where they fail. And what you do about it.

If your dog is good at providing comfort, then you’re luckier than you’ll ever know. If they suck at catching a ball, it’s not too late to teach them.