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Are Chihuahuas The Dumbest Dogs?

Have you ever seen a headline telling you that the tiny canine you have at home is the dumbest of its kind? As offensive as it may sound, the people who are saying this generally believe the fact that tests indicate that chihuahuas are less intelligent than most dogs. However, a general misconception does not justify calling them the “dumbest” dog breed, which we will cover in the upcoming sections of our article.

After reading this article, you will learn about how chihuahuas ironically do well but also terribly with these tests and certain behavioral traits that may lead many to believe that they are the dumbest dog breed. But first, we will go over the typical tests used as the basis for a dog breed’s intelligence. 

BASIS FOR DOG’S INTELLIGENCE

chihuahua dumbest breed

🧠 Discipline-related skills

Unlike humans, who typically use the IQ system to measure intelligence (or at least a few facets of our intelligence), dogs do not have the capabilities to use this same system. As you would know, it is somewhat reminiscent of how they are trained and disciplined to become excellent household companions. How quickly they will be able to learn various skills such as proper littering and socialization is one of the indicators of what makes a dog breed intelligent by most people’s standards.

🧠 Reaction to tricks

Aside from discipline-related skills, dogs are also taught various tricks and commands. The same logic is applied to these tricks. Only this time, how frequently a dog breed reacts to the cues for the commands or tricks is the basis for their measured intelligence. 

There are other tests like those that you would expect to be given to a toddler instead. For example, memory games can be one of the bases for measuring an individual dog’s intelligence and memory capacity. The owner can conduct this game in the comfort of their home without expensive equipment. However, this is not a practical or efficient measure of a dog breed’s intelligence. 

🧠 Measurement

To measure a dog breed’s intelligence, there need to be several dogs of that dog breed to be tested first. Whatever the data leans into more or whatever the result is more apparent during the tests will be the primary basis for the conclusion. For example, in a test involving a hundred chihuahuas, if more chihuahuas fail to perform a command during their first attempt, that will typically be the chosen majority or result of the test. In short, whatever the majority of the chihuahuas’ intelligence they were able to display will be the basis for the outcome. 

Following this formula, let us go over what is generally observed of chihuahuas during their training sessions.

ARE CHIHUAHUAS EASIER TO TRAIN COMPARED TO OTHER DOG BREEDS?

Chihuahuas fall under that odd gray area of performing very well in some situations but falling short in others. In most cases, they are moderately more complex to train than most dog breeds. Not because of their inability to learn the skills taught but because they have obedient problems. As we mentioned in the introductory section of this article, they are both excellent and terrible at these training sessions, and it is because of this specific reason.

🧠 Stubbornness

One of the reasons for gathering accurate data when it comes to chihuahuas’ intelligence is because they are incredibly stubborn towards other people (and sometimes even to their owners). Because they are stubborn, this causes inconsistencies with the data they provide to the trainers. There will be some cases where they will be smart enough to learn a command with the average number of attempts. While there will be other cases where they will not even pay attention to the trainer. Some owners have also stated that they are even surprised that their chihuahuas are being stubborn to other people, as they are typically obedient to them as their owners.

In a nutshell, chihuahuas can be below average or moderately difficult to train because of their behavioral traits. However, that begs that jarring question you may still be wondering about.

ARE CHIHUAHUAS DUMBER THAN OTHER DOGS?

It highly depends on your definition of “intelligence,” as there are multiple facets to the intelligence of dogs as well. Some chihuahuas can do very well in some areas, and most are well-rounded in all aspects. But some breeds fall behind in one or two of these classifications. Because this can be a broad topic without a definitive order, we classified these facets of intelligence into seven categories:

🧠 Classifications of intelligence

>>Adaptability to environmental or routine changes

How well the chihuahua will be able to react to environmental or routine changes (such as moving to a new house) without straining itself due to high amounts of stress?

>>Mind and body coordination

How well the chihuahua can move athletically and efficiently?

>>Socialization and emotional intelligence

How well the chihuahua can socialize and empathize with its owners and other dogs, whether or not they have a close connection? How well the dog can communicate its needs also falls under this classification.

>>Discipline and temperament

How well the chihuahua is obedient to its owner or trainer and how much it displays playfulness and affection.

>>Instinctive intelligence

How well the chihuahua can instinctively perform actions or behavioral changes that either benefit itself or the people around it?

>>Sensory capability

How effectively the chihuahua can respond to its senses (particularly in hearing and smelling)?

>>Memory

The capacity of the chihuahua to remember various scenarios, scents, stimuli, or cues, especially if they have been in the far past.

🧠 Validation

Chihuahuas are generally adaptable and quite active and playful at times, which validates them in our first two classifications. However, they have problems with their socialization skills and temperament as some chihuahuas can be stubborn, rebellious, and even aggressive. The last three classifications, particularly memory, depend on factors such as diet, age, and maintenance. Since all of them are impacted by the chihuahua’s environment. You can observe that the last three are typically things that chihuahuas are good at. Besides memory, which can become challenging to validate sometimes since they can be prone to distractions.

🧠 Result

So does this conclude that chihuahuas are a “dumb” dog breed? Not entirely, because though they fall short in temperament and socialization, they are generally average to above average in other facets of their intelligence. You may not be able to calm down a raging chihuahua quickly, but their aggression can often be due to their instinct telling them that something can be a potential threat. After all, chihuahuas are a small dog breed, and they can become protective of themselves from time to time because of their disadvantage in their size.

RELATIONSHIP OF BEHAVIORAL TRAITS WITH INTELLIGENCE

So what about the various online articles and blogs telling you that chihuahuas are dumb? Well, though they can be hypothetically correct in that the results they offer come from a variety of tests typically used to measure a facet of a dog breed’s intelligence, it is not exactly the full picture. Chihuahuas have a disadvantage when it comes to these types of tests solely. This is because they have difficulty conforming to the behavioral traits favored by these tests.

You can’t expect a child that is having tantrums to be able to absorb the information that you are relaying to them comprehensively. You can apply the same logic to chihuahuas, who have behavioral traits that are just unfit for quickly absorbing the information the trainer relays to them. 

If there is no accurate way to measure a chihuahua’s intelligence, how can we assure that the dog breed is neither intelligent nor dumb? Well, the thing is that you cannot fully define their mental capabilities just by observing one facet of their intelligence. It will highly depend on your standards. This is what you consider “smart” for a dog, and what you expect of your chihuahua.

However, we do have proof that can validate why chihuahuas are challenging to train in the first place.

CHIHUAHUA BREED ORIGIN

Chihuahuas were initially for shows, ceremonies, and most recently, companionship. Unlike Huskies, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and various other dog breeds bred to become service or worker dogs, chihuahuas are simply bred to be with their owners. Chihuahuas nowadays are almost always exclusively to be companions for their owners due to their somewhat retired career as show or ceremonial dogs.

is chihuahua the dumbest breed?
Photo credits: Alicia Gauthier

🧠 Cultivation of behavior

That means chihuahuas were not typically the dogs you would want to give to a trainer. Though they do often come to vets or trainers for litter training, they were not as well-trained as the other dog breeds that were previously mentioned. Cultivation of behavior can be present through generations. And thus, it can be amplified further. This logic is valid for creating desirable traits for dog breeds. However, the concept of training or even socializing was not well-introduced to the chihuahua dog breed, leading to them being the notorious little troublemakers we know today.

🧠 Aggression

Despite chihuahuas not being one of the dogs breeds a trainer would always be willing to work with, they are known for being aggressive yet affectionate. This aggression can stem from the protectiveness of their owners, as though they can be very territorial and vile to strangers, they have the innate capability to communicate emotionally with their owners. Chihuahuas can be so affectionate that they will typically only pick one person as their recognized owner. You may even notice that your chihuahua gets jealous when another person or pet gets your priceless attention.

However, with the plethora of distinct behavioral traits comes the possibility of something going wrong. Chihuahuas are prone to behavioral issues that can develop at any age and are typically affected by environmental factors. 

BEHAVIORAL ISSUES

🧠 Generalized Anxiety

With the many forms that anxiety in chihuahua manifests in, this is one of the most common forms it takes. Generalized anxiety is essentially the overwhelming feelings of stress and nervousness that various environmental stimuli can trigger. Chihuahuas with generalized anxiety are typically easily distracted because of the infinite number of potential threats they may feel lurking around them.

This behavioral problem can further amplify the difficulty of training because not only is your chihuahua in a new environment, but another person handles them with whom they may not be familiar. Knowing what triggers your chihuahua’s generalized anxiety and proper treatment from your vet will be the best way to approach this condition.

🧠 Separation Anxiety

This form of anxiety is quite different from generalized anxiety as the stimuli needed for this to trigger are traced easily. As you may already know, separation anxiety happens when the chihuahua is away from its owner for a certain period. The amount of time needed for this anxiety to occur varies in each case. Still, most chihuahuas display anxiety symptoms in the first few minutes after they realize their owner is not with them.

Treating this condition is neither simple nor quick. As it involves curing a behavioral problem that can be difficult to face without feeling guilty for your chihuahua. Leaving them behind for a definite period knowing they may feel anxiety symptoms, is quite overwhelming. But it is typically a part of the treatment. A routine set by your vet will be the best way to deal with separation anxiety and its taxing effects on both you and your dog.

🧠 Territorial and Possessive Behavior

As we previously mentioned, chihuahuas are quite prone to developing territorial and possessive behavior towards certain areas of the household or with their items. Whether it has sentimental value or not, chihuahuas protect these prized possessions by the chihuahua. This is because they may not fully trust other people or pets to handle them. Though this behavior can be quite common towards strangers or those who have yet to form a proper connection with the chihuahua, the opposite is true for its owner.

Chihuahua owners must be able to handle their chihuahua’s items, usually for sanitation purposes. However, suppose you belong to the more uncommon cases of having a very territorial chihuahua (to the point where it even displays aggression towards you, its owner). In that case, it may be a sign of a behavioral problem.

It may be existing anxiety, stressors around the environment, or simply because your chihuahua does not fully trust you. Whatever it may be, you should consult this issue with your vet. Especially if this behavior has just recently appeared or resurfaced. 

🧠 Picky Eating

Picky eating is not only a problem that can affect your budget, but it affects your chihuahua’s overall health as well. As you would expect from a common issue that also affects children, this causes your chihuahua to be extremely selective of what you feed it. Often only sticking to a few types of foods. 

Fortunately, there is a treatment for some dogs for this behavioral problem through a dietary plan that your vet can prepare. However, this involves a bit of experimentation, trial-and-error, and patience, which can be taxing to your time, wallet, and energy. 

You can click here to know what to feed a picky chihuahua.

🧠 Stubbornness and Rebellious Behavior

One of the most common behavioral problems observed in chihuahuas is stubbornness and rebellion. Both behavioral problems usually stem from environmental and conditional factors such as boredom, lack of training, and hormonal fluctuations (which vets can usually resolve by spaying or neutering). Allowing this behavior to pursue will only cause it to become increasingly worse over time as the impulses slowly escalate into actual habits. 

To fix this behavior, your chihuahua must undergo training that involves asserting authority and discipline. However, this can become increasingly difficult if the chihuahua is older and has already developed its pattern of behavior. So as early as possible (depending on your vet’s recommendations), you should be able to train your chihuahua at an early age or hire a trainer to do so. 

PROS AND CONS (Behavior Focus)

If you are contemplating getting a chihuahua but discouraged by the large amounts of content telling you that they are a dumb dog breed, you should first look at the two sides of the chihuahua coin. 

🧠 Pros of getting a chihuahua

  • Chihuahuas can be very loyal and affectionate. Suppose you ever succeed in being able to form a close connection with one of these tiny raging canines. In that case, they will reciprocate your love by being affectionate and protective of you.
  • If you are looking for a dog that does not need hours of playing to get full satisfaction, then chihuahuas are quite a good pick. They generally only need around half an hour of playtime per day, but this can vary depending on their age.
  • Chihuahuas can be highly independent and resourceful if trained properly. You can leave them for hours during the day, and they will usually do fine on their own. They also do not need as much attention as other clingy dogs (unless they have separation anxiety).
  • Though this is not part of their behavior, it is worth mentioning that chihuahuas do not need that much maintenance. Grooming them is very easy, and they do not usually need to go to a groomer very often because of their shorter fur.

🧠 Cons of getting a chihuahua

  • Chihuahuas are not good for households that have multiple children. Because they are quite frail and sensitive to contact, they can easily feel hurt by children who may accidentally hit them while playing. As a response, the chihuahua may impulsively bite or scratch the child because of its hurt. 
  • If you dislike barking, you should consider getting a quieter dog. Chihuahuas are notorious for being vocal, especially when communicating their needs to their owners. Of course, as canines, chihuahuas express their thoughts through barking (sometimes, a lot).
  • Chihuahuas are prone to stubborn or rebellious behavior that can be difficult to handle most of the time. Though there are fixes to this (such as consulting your vet or a trainer), it can become quite expensive and taxing to deal with.

BOTTOM LINE

Chihuahuas are a misunderstood dog breed with many misconceptions spreading about them. Though we cannot deny that some of these alleged behavioral traits are present in many chihuahuas, we should also appreciate the better side of this particular dog breed.

Hopefully, this article could clear up some popular opinions about chihuahuas being the dumbest and have made you appreciate these tiny dogs even more. Remember that just because a creature’s behavior does not conform to the testing methods does not mean that they are dumber than the rest of their species.