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Are Chihuahuas Smart? They’re Smarter Than You Think - PawSafe
Dog Training

Are Chihuahuas Smart? They’re Smarter Than You Think

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

are chihuahuas smart

Chihuahuas are known for their sassy personalities and small size, but the question remains:  are Chihuahuas smart? Some believe small dogs like chihuahuas are not as intelligent as larger breeds. 

However, this is a common misconception. Size does not determine intelligence, and chihuahuas are actually quite smart. Any dog, no matter their intelligence ranking, is intelligent in their own right and needs mental stimulation like puzzle toys to stay mentally healthy.

Some people may mistake independent behavior for stubbornness or lack of intelligence, but this is untrue. Overall, chihuahuas are definitely capable of learning a lot. We have looked into Stanley Coren’s Intelligence of Dogs for a thorough look into Chihuahua intelligence. 

These dogs are fast learners, capable of grasping even complex commands once you overcome the stubbornness hurdle. 

Chihuahuas are very quick-witted canines, and Chihuahua owners can attest to this. They have a strong sense of self and will most likely listen when they want to. 

Seeing all the misconceptions like Chihuahuas being mean, while it’s their owners that overstep, it wouldn’t be surprising if we got their intelligence all wrong. In fact, you could argue that a low intelligence ranking is a sign of intelligence because they have us fooled that they’re dumb.  

It’s important to note that intelligence is just one aspect of a dog’s overall personality and behavior. Like any other dog breed, Chihuahuas have unique traits and characteristics that make them special. Whether you’re looking for a loyal companion or a fun-loving pet, chihuahuas can make great pets for the right owner.

Minnie the Chihuahua proves the breed’s intelligence with his impressive arsenal of tricks:

Overall, Chihuahuas may not be the most intelligent dog breed by the experts’ standards, but they are certainly not dumb. They can learn various tricks and commands with patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement. It’s important to remember that every dog has a unique personality and learning style.

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Why Do Chihuahuas Shake So Much?

All About the Long-haired Chihuahua

Understanding Chihuahuas

Breed Origin

Chihuahuas are a small breed of dog that originated in Mexico. It is believed that they descended from the Techichi, a breed of dog that the Toltec people kept. The Techichi were small and used for religious purposes and as companions. The Chihuahua was named after its place of discovery, the state of Chihuahua in Mexico.

Physical Characteristics

Chihuahuas are known for their small size, typically weighing between 3 and 6 pounds (1 to 2.7 kg). They stand about 6 to 9 inches (15 to 20 cm) tall at the shoulder. 

They have a short, smooth coat in various colors, including black, white, brown, and fawn. One of the most distinctive features of the Chihuahua is its large, erect ears.

Despite their small size, Chihuahuas are known for their big personalities. They are often described as feisty and energetic and can be quite vocal. They are also known for being loyal and affectionate towards their owners.

Chihuahuas and Intelligence

Defining Dog Intelligence

Firstly, it’s important to understand that intelligence can be measured differently. Some dogs are bred for their working ability and need to be quick learners when it comes to commands, while others are bred for companionship and don’t require the same level of intelligence. 

Other dogs are bred for tasks they need to do instinctively, like pulling sleds, chasing prey, or guarding houses, and these dogs often aren’t the most trainable either, because their ancestors only had to do what they did naturally (instinctive intelligence) and didn’t have to bother learning tricks or obedience.

Chihuahuas fall into the category of ancient dogs who, according to the Guardian, existed since the last ice age and were companion dogs to the ancient Aztecs. So it’s not fair to compare their intelligence to that of a Border Collie or German Shepherd that are newer breeds specifically bred to be smart, work, and learn fast.

That being said, Chihuahuas are not dumb dogs. They can learn tricks and commands and even excel in obedience training with the right approach. They are also very observant and can pick up on their owner’s emotions and behavior, making them great therapy dogs or emotional support dogs.

Also, Dog intelligence can be defined in several ways, including instinctive intelligence, working and obedience, adaptive, emotional, and social intelligence. 

Instinctive intelligence refers to a dog’s natural ability to perform certain tasks, such as herding or hunting. Working and obedience intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to learn and follow commands. Additionally, studies show that a larger brain in bigger dogs improves short-term memory and self-control. 

Adaptive intelligence refers to a dog’s problem-solving skills, while emotional intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to understand and respond to human emotions. Dogs like Dalmatian Husky mixes often have strong adaptive intelligence and can easily figure out how to escape a yard. Social intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to interact with other dogs and humans.

Chihuahuas may be lacking in instinctive, working, and obedience intelligence. However, they have acute adaptive (amazing problem solvers), emotional (highly receptive to your emotions), and social intelligence. 

Also, keep in mind that intelligence can differ quite a lot depending on the individual Chihuahua.

Chihuahuas’ Intelligence Level

The Quick-witted Chihuahuas are known for their problem-solving skills, as seen in their ability to navigate through small spaces and find hidden treats. Chihuahuas also have high emotional intelligence, allowing them to understand and respond to their owner’s emotions.

According to Dr. Stanley Coren’s book “The Intelligence of Dogs,” Chihuahuas rank 125th out of 138 breeds in working and obedience intelligence (67th if it’s the list with 79 dogs). While they may not be the most obedient dogs, they are still considered intelligent and trainable.

Chihuahuas can also be stubborn and independent, making training more challenging. They may not always follow commands if they don’t see the point or are not in the mood. Additionally, they can be easily distracted and have short attention spans. This is the only reason some people may falsely consider Chihuahuas dumb.

But most of all, surveys show most Chihuahua (and other small dog) owners simply don’t train their dogs the same way big dog owners do. So, it’s not really that Chihuahuas are dumb, so much as most of them are just untrained.

Chihuahuas in Action

Chihuahuas are small dogs with big personalities. They are known for their feisty and energetic nature, but are they also smart? Let’s take a closer look at their training and problem-solving abilities.

Training and Learning Abilities

Having a hard time training your Chihuahua is probably what made your search for their intelligence level. It may take 40 to 80 repetitions for a Chihuahua to understand and remember a command; to put that in perspective, a Poodle needs about five. 

Still, they can learn basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, and come, as well as more advanced tricks like roll over and play dead. Chihuahuas can also be trained for agility and other dog sports.

You can read the training articles below if you’re having a hard time with your Chi.

How to train a stubborn dog

How to bell-train your dog

My dog won’t poop outside, what to do

How to correctly discipline your dog

Problem-Solving Skills

Chihuahuas have an inquisitive nature, which can make them good problem solvers. They are known for their ability to find creative solutions to challenges. For example, if a Chihuahua wants to reach something out of reach, they may use nearby objects to climb up and retrieve it.

However, their small size can also be a disadvantage in problem-solving. They may struggle to reach or move objects that are too heavy or too high.

Comparing Chihuahuas’ Intelligence With Other Dog Breeds

When it comes to comparing the intelligence of Chihuahuas with other dog breeds, it’s important to note that intelligence can be measured in different ways. However, Chihuahuas are generally considered to be a moderately intelligent breed. 

You’d be surprised to learn that a Chihuahua is placed above a Beagle in intelligence as per Coren’s list. This is surprising because the single-minded Beagle is a spectacular hunter, and most people consider them way smarter than Chihuahuas.

Some surprising dogs considered less intelligent than Chihuahuas per Coren’s list:

When comparing Chihuahuas with other dog breeds, it’s important to remember that intelligence can vary widely within a breed. Some Chihuahuas may be more intelligent than others, just as some dogs within other breeds may be more intelligent than others of the same breed.

With Other Pets

When comparing the intelligence of Chihuahuas with other pets, it’s important to remember that intelligence can be difficult to measure across different species. However, Chihuahuas are generally considered more intelligent than other small pets, such as hamsters or guinea pigs.

Chihuahuas are also known for being sociable and friendly with other pets, which can signify intelligence. They can adapt to different social situations and often get along well with other animals in the household.

Chihuahuas as Pets

Chihuahuas are a popular dog breed known for their small size and lively personalities. They are often kept as pets and can make great companions for the right owner. In this section, we will explore the behavior and temperament of Chihuahuas, as well as the care and maintenance required to keep them healthy and happy.

Behavior and Temperament

Chihuahuas are known for their big personalities despite their small size. They are often described as feisty, energetic, and affectionate. However, they can also be stubborn and difficult to train. Socializing Chihuahuas from a young age is important to prevent them from becoming overly protective or aggressive towards strangers.

Chihuahuas are also prone to separation anxiety and may become destructive if left alone for long periods of time. They thrive on attention and affection and require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy.

Care and Maintenance

Chihuahuas are relatively low-maintenance dogs but require special care to keep them healthy. 

They are prone to dental problems. So, it is important to brush their teeth twice a week and provide them with dental chews, toys, and a no-brush solution. They only need the occasional monthly bath with a canine shampoo to stay clean. 

Chihuahuas are also sensitive to cold temperatures and may require a sweater or jacket in the winter months. They should be kept on a healthy diet and may require special food if they have allergies or other health issues.

Regular grooming is also important for Chihuahuas, as they tend to shed. They should be brushed twice a week to prevent matting and tangling. They also need nail trimming with a sharp dog clipper and ear cleaning with canine wipes twice a week to prevent infections. 

Overall, Chihuahuas can make great pets for the right owner. They require attention and care but can provide years of love and companionship.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Chihuahuas good pets?

Chihuahuas are a popular choice for many people as pets. They are small, cute, and loyal dogs that are easy to care for. However, they are not for everyone. Chihuahuas can be high maintenance and require a lot of emotional attention. They are also known for their strong personalities and can be difficult to train. 

How smart are Chihuahuas compared to humans?

Chihuahuas are intelligent dogs, but they are not as smart as humans. They can learn new things and follow commands, but they may require more time and patience than other breeds. Chihuahuas are also known for their stubbornness, which can make training more challenging. 

Are Chihuahuas Terriers?

No, Chihuahuas are not Terriers. They are a separate breed of dog that originated in Mexico. While they share some characteristics with Terriers, such as their small size and feisty personalities, Chihuahuas are not classified as Terriers.

Are Chihuahuas good with kids?

Chihuahuas can be good with kids, but it depends on the individual dog and the child. Chihuahuas are small dogs and can be easily injured if handled roughly. It is important always to supervise interactions between children and Chihuahuas and teach children how to handle and interact with dogs properly.

Are Chihuahuas affectionate?

Chihuahuas are known for their affectionate and loyal personalities. They are often described as “lap dogs” because they love nothing more than snuggling up with their owners. Chihuahuas are also known for their strong bonds with their owners and can become anxious or depressed if left alone for long periods.

What is the behavior of a male Chihuahua?

Male Chihuahuas can exhibit various behaviors, just like any other dog. However, they are known for their territorial and protective nature. Male Chihuahuas may also be more aggressive than female Chihuahuas, especially towards other male dogs. It is important to socialize male Chihuahuas from a young age and provide them with proper training and discipline to prevent unwanted behaviors.

Final Thoughts

Chihuahuas are generally considered to be below-average intelligent dogs. However, they have a good memory and can learn to recognize and respond to different commands. With patience and consistency, you’ll be able to train your Chihuahua for various tasks in no time.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.