Are Chihuahuas Smart?

When you think about a Chihuahua, you may imagine them as a small, loyal, quirky, or maybe even yappy breed. These pups are loved by many for their affectionate nature and big personalities. But are Chihuahuas smart?

According to Stanley Coren, a canine psychologist, Chihuahuas are among the lowest-ranking dog breeds in the intelligence category. However, what Chihuahuas lack in obedience, they make up for in their communication skills and ability to understand their owners.

are Chihuahuas smart
Are Chihuahuas smart?

Additionally, you can train Chihuahuas to do tricks like any other breed. If you want to teach your Chihuahua tricks, there are a few things to remember. Otherwise, your dog will likely train you instead of the other way around.

Breakdown of Chihuahua Intelligence

The average IQ for Chihuahuas is between 65-70, while the average dog IQ is 100. Their IQ is much lower than other dog breeds like Poodles, which rank at 105, or German Shepherds, with a whopping 130 IQ. Some breeders argue that it’s not their intelligence that’s lacking but rather their size.

Brown Chihuahua
Brown Chihuahua standing in front of a pink wall.

It’s no secret that Chihuahuas aren’t working dogs and can’t easily do specific tasks as larger breeds can.

Although Chihuahuas aren’t the most intelligent dogs, they are one of the most popular breeds in the United States. Many Chihuahua owners believe that their beloved pets are knowledgeable because they can learn tricks, some without their owners even teaching them.

If you have a Chihuahua, you’ve likely seen how effectively they communicate with you. This breed pays close attention to your emotions and reactions and will use that knowledge later. For example, a Chihuahua may sit on command when they want attention or similar attention-grabbing habits.

Why Chihuahuas Rank Low for Intelligence?

So why do owners see their Chihuahuas as intelligent while Coren’s dog intelligence test shows the opposite? Well, the primary key is the ranking system of his test. A dog’s IQ test is challenging to standardize because each breed has varying motivators.

three Chihuahuas enjoys sun at the beach
The three Chihuahuas enjoys the sunlight at the beach.

Coren’s test focuses on obedience trials. So, top-performing breeds were likelier to learn and obey commands more quickly. Dogs like Poodles or Border Collies enjoy working and will respond to commands simply for the sake of doing what motivates them.

Chihuahuas, on the other hand, have different motivators and personality traits that may affect how you view their intelligence.

Chihuahuas Are Notoriously Stubborn

Have you ever met a person who you know is intelligent but they’re stubborn and strong-willed? Well, take that and multiply it, and you have a Chihuahua. Although they’re loyal to their owners, they wont obey for the sake of it.

Chihuahua lying on the floor
The Chihuahua has some health conditions that a pet owner should know about.

Some dogs are motivated by obeying their owner’s commands, and Chihuahuas aren’t. Trying to force your Chihuahua to do something is the quickest way to get the opposite effect. Hence, their stubbornness.

Additionally, these small dogs don’t respond well to punishment. Instead, they do much better with positive reinforcement. In fact, one study shows that negative reinforcement can often cause more harm than good.

This is especially true for this breed.

You have to be patient when training a Chihuahua. So, if you’re looking for an obedient dog for your next family pet, you’d do better with a Poodle than a Chihuahua. You can train your Chihuahua, but they will do what they want at the end of the day.

Chihuahua Intelligence Varies

Although dogs within a breed are similar, a lot of their temperament, intelligence, and overall persona come down to their training. Additionally, like humans, every dog is different, no matter their breed. 

short hair chihuahua outdoors
A short haired Chihuahua

Chihuahuas are companion pets through and through. Their motivation is to keep their owners safe and spend time with them. When you understand a Chihuahua’s unique intelligence and personality, training them becomes much more manageable.

Your Chihuahua may be intelligent and do tricks on command with no issue because you understood them and trained accordingly. However, take this same dog and put it in a different environment; you’d have a completely different animal.

They may be stubborn, and their intelligence ranking may be low, but many Chihuahuas can learn a trick or two. However, you’ll have to spend more time with them and be more patient than other dog breeds.

Can Chihuahuas Learn Tricks?

Yes, most Chihuahuas can learn tricks and can understand basic commands. Like most breeds, you’ll have better luck teaching them tricks at a young age by someone who understands their breed.

owner trains Chihuahua outside
The owner trains her Chihuahua outdoors.

Patience and positive reinforcement are essential to influence Chihuahuas to be successful learners. You’ll need to ensure you are keeping their commands simple and easy to understand. For example, use one word and stick to it for each order, like “come” versus “come here.”

Using hand signals can also be an effective training tool. Choose a distinctive hand signal for each command you teach your pet and use it when voicing it. Focus on one command at a time, ensuring your Chihuahua has one trick down before moving to the next.

Communicate slowly and calmly with your Chihuahua. Despite what their IQ test may say, Chihuahuas are intelligent and can learn relatively quickly as long as they start their training earlier in life.

Adaptive Intelligence

One factor the dog IQ test leaves out is adaptive intelligence. While Chihuahuas may not be the highest achievers in the behavioral category, this breed can learn from their mistakes and learn to solve problems.

Chihuahua open mouth
Chihuahua mouth wide opened.

When it comes to training, your Chihuahua will learn where it went wrong and will adapt its behavior for the next round. Regardless, their stubbornness can overshadow their abilities. Some Chihuahuas are more hard-headed than others, but generally, you’ll need to remain calm and patient, even if training them becomes frustrating.

Properly Training a Chihuahua

Humans learn in several different ways. Some of us learn better through visuals, while others do better when they read. Dogs are no different, so training your Chihuahua, you’ll have to teach them in a way they understand.

Chihuahua rubbing legs
Chihuahua rubbing owner’s legs.

Some Chihuahua owners may give up or show frustration when their pet doesn’t perform the task after a few rounds. We get it; it can be frustrating. However, you have to keep in mind how perceptive these little creatures are.

If they pick up on frustration, it may deter them from wanting to learn at all.

The fact of the matter is – your Chihuahua’s intelligence depends on how often you train them and the way you go about it. Remember that it’ll take several tries before your Chihuahua gets down their next trick. Once they do, don’t forget to shower your beloved pet with praise and a treat.

Many people may discredit the Chihuahua because they don’t pick up the training as quickly. However, once they get the commands down, they will likely obey you in the future. So, don’t give up on your little pup too soon. 

Final Thoughts

So, are Chihuahuas smart? The answer to this question depends on who you ask. Chihuahuas have low IQs, but factors like their stubbornness play a role.

A Chihuahua’s intelligence comes down to how they’re trained and how frequent their training is

It’s not that they aren’t intelligent; instead, they need more time to learn a task than other breeds. As long as you’re patient with your Chihuahua and offer plenty of positive reinforcement, you can train them as many commands as other breeds.