How Smart Are Chihuahuas?

When most people think of a Chihuahua, they picture a cute little furball with attitude. 

Chihuahuas are not known for being the most intelligent breed. Their feisty and energetic demeanor is often perceived as being dumb or simple-minded. 

So, how smart are Chihuahuas, really? 

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?

There are many factors that go into determining how intelligent a dog is, so the answer is a little complicated. 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. 

Stanley Coren, a canine psychologist, published his book The Intelligence of Dogs in 1995 which was widely accepted. Inside his book, he included a list of breeds ranked by intelligence which are based on a survey of dog obedience judges. 

His list includes 130 dog breeds which are assigned to 79 ranks, including ties. They are then grouped into 6 categories based on their obedience and training ability.

Chihuahuas were rated number 67 out of 79 ranks, which is in the 5th tier out of 6 tiers total. The 5th tier 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. 

Other breeds that ranked in the 5th tier are Pugs, Maltese, and Italian Greyhounds. 

According to Professor Coren’s list, Chihuahuas are not that intelligent. While some breeds are naturally smart, he does note that there are exceptions to every breed. Dogs should be seen as unique individuals and not just a member of their breed.

How Smart Are Chihuahua Puppies?

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

A Chihuahua is a smart, loyal, and charming companion dog who can also be a lap dog. That level of intimacy aids them in being more perceptive when it comes to reading human emotions, needs, and actions.

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 you leave them alone.

Chihuahuas may exhibit small dog syndrome, which makes them more fearful. However, the way you respond to that behavior and act around them makes an impact on their confidence. Be calm and patient with your dog since these personality traits will affect how they respond to training.

Are Chihuahuas Smarter Than Other Dogs?

Yes, Chihuahuas are smarter than 13 dog breeds. Chis were not ranked last on the list of intelligent breeds so there are several dogs that are less intelligent than them.

Some include Shih Tzus, Bulldogs, and the Afghan Hound which is known as the least intelligent dog. 

Chihuahuas have the biggest brain-to-body size ratio of any dog breed. Their high perception and attentiveness make them capable of learning all sorts of tricks.

How Smart Are Chihuahuas Compared to Humans?

A Chihuahua’s mental abilities are close to a human child age 2 to 2.5 years old according to psychologist Stanley Coren. 

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. Dogs with super high intelligence can master 250 words!
  • Dogs can count up to 4 or 5
  • They have a basic understanding of arithmetic
  • Canines can be taught how to operate simple machines and how to use mechanisms like latches 
  • They have the ability to deliberately try to deceive other dogs and even people to get treats

Chihuahuas tend to learn how their owners’ minds work and how they anticipate their actions. A Chihuahua is quick to pick up on how you think so he will try his best to obey your commands.

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

How 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.

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.


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.


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.

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.


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.

Comment below the smartest thing your dog has ever done!


1. Which Dog Has the Highest IQ?

Border Collies have the highest IQ. They rank number 1 in Stanley Coren’s intelligence list. They are herding dogs with high instinctive intelligence.

2. What’s the Least Intelligent Dog?

The least intelligent dog is an Afghan Hound who ranks last on how smart dogs are. Afghan Hounds are stubborn and aloof, making them hard to train.

3. What’s the Easiest Dog to Train?

Some of the easiest dogs to train are Poodles, German Shepards, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers.

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