10 breeds we love – and not for their brains: here is the top list

Jakab Viktória

2024. April 6 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

If there are very smart dogs, then theoretically a dog can be stupid. But can we say that a breed in general is dumb? A list has been drawn up of the breeds that are supposed to be not so clever. But is it really true?


For most owners, it is obvious what their pet’s intellectual abilities are. At least they think it is. How can you tell if a dog is dumb or just lazy? If it doesn’t listen to us, does it not understand what we want, or is it just stubborn? If we can’t teach them something, maybe we’re just trying the wrong way? In any case, every dog is an individual! They can give us a lot of happiness, but some of them will not dazzle us with their tricks.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki published a study in 2022 about the intelligence of dogs. During the six-year study, 2,352 adult dogs underwent cognitive and behavioural tests. They assessed, among other things, greeting behaviour, learning, short-term memory, problem-solving skills and the recognition and interpretation of human gestures.

There are also differences within breed groups

They concluded that the breeds performed broadly in line with how they were bred, but there were exceptions. For example, the Kelpie and Malinois (Belgian Shepherd) scored high on the gesture test, which is to be expected from these herding breeds. However, the lowest score is also a herding species, the Finnish Lapphund. It seems obvious that breeds may differ in their behaviour even within their breed group, since different breeds may have different traits, regardless of the breed group to which they belong.

Several factors influence intelligence

And this selection can even be observed within a species. For example, Labradors are bred specifically for the military and as assistance dogs. They are the same breed, yet they have visibly different personalities. However, the researchers also pointed out that the test did not include the effects of training, environment, life experiences or the background of the dogs, which may also contribute to intelligence.

No fully comprehensive research yet

The research in this area is not yet complete, as scientific proof of the smartest breed would require comparing at least 30 dogs of all breeds, similarly bred and tested as puppies, to check the effect of training history and age on performance. This would require at least 6,000 puppies, decades of work, millions of dollars and around a thousand graduate students. No wonder no one has ever done it before.

Let’s see which dog is dumb or super smart

In his 1994 book, psychologist Dr Stanley Coren ranked more than 100 dog breeds according to three types of intelligence:

  • Instinctive intelligence (the ability to perform tasks that you have been bred to do, such as herding or hunting)
  • Adaptive intelligence (the ability to solve problems independently and learn from previous experience)
  • Working and obedience intelligence (ability to learn when taught by people)

The 10 smartest dogs according to Dr Coren:

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

10 dumbest dog breeds:

  1. Basset hound
  2. Mastiff
  3. Beagle
  4. Pekingese
  5. Bloodhound
  6. Russian greyhound
  7. Chow chow
  8. Bulldog
  9. Basenji
  10. Afghan greyhound
Don’t assume a dog is stupid just because it’s harder to teach

If you look at it, you can see that it is mainly hunting dogs that are on this negative top list. But is it really true that they are dumber than the other species? Not at all! These puppies have an outstanding sense of smell, which is why they are often preoccupied with their noses. They prefer to look down and are more interested in an exciting scent trail than in entertaining us with tricks. They pay less attention to what we say to them, and as a casual observer, we might see this as a sign of stupidity. It’s true that a border collie is much more trainable than a bloodhound, for example, but when it comes to scent tracking, a hunting dog is unbeatable. Each has different skills, but each is outstanding in their own way.

Can a dog be stupid?

No single dog or breed should be considered “dumb”. Light training is not an accurate way to assess a dog’s intelligence. – says Gina DiNardo, Executive Secretary of the American Kennel Club.

When we humans feel that a dog doesn’t understand what we’re saying to it, it may actually be independence, stubbornness or shyness on its part, which are common in many breeds. Training takes time and patience, and every dog is different. Learn different training techniques and if you have problems, see a trainer who can give you the knowledge you need to train your dog. But even if it’s true that our pets are a little dumber than average, there are still plenty of qualities about dogs that make us love them. We don’t just love them for their brains!

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