How Smart Are Chihuahuas Really?

Are you wondering, “how smart are Chihuahuas?”

When we adopted our rescue Chihuahua, Leo, he didn’t know a single command, but we soon discovered that despite the common belief that Chihuahuas aren’t known for being super brainy, our little guy is a quick learner.

Chihuahuas often face an unfair reputation for being dumb, but with the right training, they can surprise you with their cleverness.

Many Chihuahua owners, like us, would say their Chis are pretty smart, but let’s explore this topic and see what the research says. 

A chihuahua is wearing glasses and perching atop a book with several books and pencils stacked around

How Smart Are Chihuahuas?

According to Stanley Coren’s book “The Intelligence of Dogs,” Chihuahuas were ranked 67th out of 79 ranks in terms of working and obedience intelligence. 

His list includes 130 dog breeds which are assigned to 79 ranks, including ties.

This rank means they are fair working dogs and will take 40-80 repetitions to learn a new command and will obey a first command only 30% of the time or better. 

According to Professor Coren’s list, Chihuahuas are not that intelligent.

Chihuahuas rank near the bottom of the list of the smartest dogs, but this does not mean they are dumb.

Chihuahuas can be trained to do all sorts of tricks and even compete in agility courses. It all depends on their training, care, and age. 

While they may not excel in obedience training, they are known for their problem-solving skills and their ability to adapt to new situations.

Even though Chihuahuas have small brains, they do have the largest brain-to-body size ratio among all dog breeds.

How Smart Are Chihuahua Puppies?

Young puppies are naturally intelligent, but how smart they become depends on how well their training and socialization go.

two white chihuahua puppies. one is laying its head on a book with glasses to the side.

Any dog can be trained to do tricks and obey commands if taught properly, regardless of how smart they are or how much energy they have. 

Individual dogs will naturally excel at some things while struggling with others.

If your Chihuahua is not excelling in obedience, you may need to try a different approach.

Remember, training should be an ongoing process throughout the lifetime of your dog.

How to Determine Dog Intelligence

How do you truly determine how smart a dog is? One limitation of Coren’s list was that it was only based on one type of intelligence: working intelligence.

Measuring a dog’s intelligence must take many factors into consideration, not just how well they obey commands. 

There are 3 main types of intelligence:

  • Instinctive intelligence: a dog’s inborn abilities like herding, guarding, or hunting
  • Adaptive intelligence: how well a dog solves problems 
  • Working intelligence: the ability to follow orders and learn from humans

The reason that Chihuahuas ranked near the bottom of Coren’s list is because they rank very low on working intelligence.

This is due to their small size and lack of hunting and guarding instincts.

If adaptive and instinctive intelligence had been included, our Chis might have done much better.

Even though Chihuahuas rank lower in the working intelligence spectrum does not mean they are incapable of learning and competing at the professional level.

Chihuahuas can be trained to do all sorts of tricks and even excel at agility courses. It all depends on the dog’s capabilities and the trainer’s commitment.

Chihuahua Temperament 

Chihuahuas have quite the personality! These little guys are not just smart and loyal but also charming companions who love nothing more than snuggling up on your lap.

Their close bond with their humans makes them surprisingly perceptive when it comes to understanding our emotions and needs.

They are quick to comfort you when you’re feeling sad or in pain. We can equate this to Chihuahuas having high emotional intelligence.

In movies, Chihuahuas are portrayed as yappy and snappy, but in reality, they are very loyal and affectionate to their owners.

They can be protective of their family and often suffer from separation anxiety when left alone.

There’s something called “small dog syndrome” that some Chihuahuas may exhibit. This can make them a bit more fearful, but here’s the scoop: your response and how you behave around them can significantly impact their confidence.

Being calm and patient will have a positive affect on how they respond to training.

Are Chihuahuas Smarter Than Other Dogs?

Yes, Chihuahuas are smarter than 13 dog breeds.

That means they’re ahead of the pack, and they didn’t even end up at the bottom of the list!

a tan chihuahua is wearing big black glasses because he is smart

Some of their canine buddies in the “less intelligent” category include Shih Tzus, Bulldogs, and even the Afghan Hound, which holds the title of the least intelligent dog.

One cool thing about Chihuahuas is their impressive brain-to-body size ratio, which is the largest among all dog breeds.

This means they’ve got big brains for their tiny bodies, and it shows in their high level of perception and attentiveness.

How Smart Are Chihuahuas Compared to Humans?

According to psychologist Stanley Coren, a Chihuahua’s mental abilities are akin to a toddler aged 2 to 2.5 years old – pretty impressive for our pint-sized pals!

Here are some interesting facts from Coren’s findings of dog intelligence compared to humans:

  • The average canine can learn about 165 words, including signals. But the brainy ones? They can master a whopping 250 words!
  • Dogs can count up to 4 or 5
  • They have a basic understanding of arithmetic
  • Believe it or not, canines can be trained to operate simple machines and use mechanisms like latches – handy pups!
  • And here’s a sneaky one: They’re known to be crafty deceivers, both with other dogs and us humans, all in pursuit of those tasty treats.

Chihuahuas tend to learn how their owners’ minds work and how they anticipate their actions.

A black and tan chihuahua staring into the distance with a blue background

6 Tips to Train Your Chihuahua to Be Smarter

Since Chihuahuas ranked low on the intelligence list, this means they can be harder to train. If you are looking to increase your dog’s intelligence, try these tips.

1. Puzzle Toys

Puzzle toys provide mental stimulation for your pet.

Fill these up with kibble or treats and watch their problem-solving skills improve.

Start with a beginner puzzle and work your way up to the expert level.

When our Chihuahua tried his first puzzle, he needed plenty of hints and took his time to figure it out.

As time went on, he got faster and faster and has now become a pro.

2. Socialization

Socialization is crucial at a young age but it’s never too late to start the process.

Make the effort to consistently expose your Chihuahua to novel sights, sounds, and new people.

Exposure to new experiences will boost their confidence and offer new opportunities for them to learn how to react in different situations.

There are socialization training programs you can implement once your puppy is 12 weeks old.

You can also attend puppy classes that will help with the socialization process.

Socialization is key for a chihuahua puppy’s future behavior as an adult but like most things worth doing, it’s a lifelong process.

3. Training

It’s important to teach your Chihuahua new tricks and practice old ones.

Having a repertoire of commands to rely on will help with training.

Plus, learning new tricks will keep their mind active.

Some tricks you could teach are spin, speak, roll over, and high five.

Chihuahua intelligence shines through when they quickly pick up on new tricks during training sessions.

4. Superfoods for Brain Health

Superfoods are foods that are rich in nutrients, antioxidants, or fatty acids.

They can make a world of difference when it comes to how smart your Chihuahua is.

Mix in superfoods such as blueberries, broccoli, or fish oil with their food. It will give their brains a hearty boost.

5. New Environments

Take your dog to new places, exposing them to different smells, sights, and sounds.

Novel experiences stimulate their curiosity and intelligence.

It’s like a mental workout that keeps their curiosity and intelligence sharp.

Whether it’s a trip to a new park, a stroll in a different neighborhood, or a visit to a pet shop, these novel experiences can be both fun and mentally enriching for your furry friend.

6. Use Scent Games

Scent games are an excellent way to engage your dog’s keen sense of smell.

To play, simply hide treats or toys in various spots around your home or yard and encourage your dog to find them.

This activity taps into their natural hunting instincts, turning it into an exciting game of discovery.

As they follow their nose to uncover hidden treasures, they’re not only having a blast but also giving their brains a satisfying workout.


Chihuahuas are one of the most popular breeds of dogs in the world and for good reason. They’re entertaining, loyal, and make great companions.

But, how smart are Chihuahuas?

We’ve concluded that while Chihuahuas are not the smartest breed, what they lack in working intelligence they more than make for with their high emotional intelligence.

Chihuahuas are great lapdogs and companions, so they don’t need to be the smartest cookie in the jar.

They are perfectly content sleeping in your lap or following you around the house but it’s up to you to help them become the best dog they can be.


Which Dog Has the Highest IQ?

Border Collies have the highest IQ. They rank number 1 in Stanley Coren’s intelligence list, which evaluates dogs based on their ability to understand and obey new commands quickly and accurately. Border Collies are renowned herding dogs. They excel at understanding and responding to complex herding commands, making them invaluable working dogs on farms and ranches.

What Is the Least Intelligent Dog?

The least intelligent dog is an Afghan Hound. Afghan Hounds are known for their independent and aloof nature. They are a breed that tends to have a strong sense of self and may not always be eager to please, which can make training more challenging compared to other breeds.

What Is the Easiest Dog to Train?

The easiest dog to train often depends on factors like the dog’s age, temperament, and previous experiences. For example, a well-socialized and eager-to-please dog with a calm temperament might be easier to train than a high-energy, independent-minded dog. Some of the easiest dogs to train are Poodles, German Shepherds, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers.

Are Chihuahuas the Smartest Dogs?

While Chihuahuas are not typically considered to be one of the smartest dog breeds, they are still intelligent and trainable. They may not excel in obedience competitions, but they can learn tricks and commands with patience and consistency.

Are Chihuahuas Easy to Train?

Training Chihuahuas can be a mix of rewards and challenges. They’re intelligent dogs but may show independence and a strong personality, making them less eager to please than some breeds. Early socialization is vital, as they can be wary of strangers. Positive reinforcement, like treats and praise, works well, but patience and consistency are key. Housebreaking might take extra effort due to their size.

Are Chihuahuas Dumb?

No, Chihuahuas are not dumb. Like all dog breeds, Chihuahuas have their own unique personalities and intelligence levels. While some Chihuahuas may be more difficult to train than others, this does not mean they are dumb.

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