Dumb dog breeds we love
While the smartest dog breeds may be popular companions, some experts feel it’s high time for all those goofy, tail-chasing, sweetly affectionate dogs of supposedly lesser intellect to have their moment. “I’m a fan of dumb dogs,” says canine behaviour consultant Lauren Novack. But what are the dumbest dog breeds, and what exactly does it mean to be a dumb dog?
Some experts assess canine intelligence based on how quickly a dog learns human-taught tricks. But Novack maintains that when people claim to want a smart dog, what they most often desire is a dog that’s both motivated to learn and forgiving of our failed attempts at teaching them. Indeed, some dog breeds may not be dumb, just disinterested in performing on command. Others may simply be lazy dog breeds and expert nappers – and who can blame them? In many cases, that disinterest goes hand in hand with the qualities for which they were bred.
Some of the reputedly dopey dog breeds also happen to be among the most loyal dogs and the most calm dog breeds, and if your priority is hours of quality canine cuddle time, one of these supposedly dumb dogs might just be the best choice for your new faithful friend.
What makes these the dumbest dog breeds?
The leading canine intelligence scale, developed in the ’90s by UCLA psychology professor and renowned canine researcher Stanley Coren, author of The Intelligence of Dogs, combines adaptive intelligence (ability to problem-solve and learn from trial and error), instinctive intelligence (ability to do what it was bred for) and obedience and working intelligence (ability to learn human commands). But what this methodology leans most heavily on is observing dogs learning commands. Per Coren, the so-called dumbest dog breeds require the highest number of repetitions per command.
But not all canine cognition experts subscribe to Coren’s rubric. Anya Parks of Boston College’s Canine Cognition Program says that intelligence is increasingly regarded as diverse among individual dogs. Moreover, both Parks and Novack believe it’s impossible to accurately measure canine intelligence using a single set of standardised criteria. “Across breeds, and across individuals, dogs have different strengths and weaknesses,” Novack says.
And while these dumbest dog breeds might be most likely to tank their obedience training, we can promise they’ll still win our doggie-loving hearts.
The Afghan hound has the lowest IQ of all dog breeds, per Coren’s research. But since these hounds are known as independent and strong willed, perhaps they just can’t be bothered to learn commands; what’s in it for them, after all? Afghans would rather spend their time loving on family members, entertaining kids with glamorous hair-flip pyrotechnics and playing well with other pups.
Energetic, playful and open to strangers, your Afghan hound may never master much beyond the easiest dog tricks, but there are plenty of positives, including their luxurious coats. Afghans hardly shed, which might be surprising considering their silky hair requires near-daily grooming.
Ranked by Coren as only slightly less dumb than the Afghan hound, the basenji may not actually be “dumb” so much as not particularly interested in the sort of interactions that obedience training tends to require. One of the quieter dog breeds, the basenji doesn’t bark to get attention. In fact, the basenji doesn’t seem to need that much attention at all, which can be a good thing for some humans.
It may be that independent streak, combined with its fastidious grooming habits, that have led some to describe the basenji as “catlike.” But everyone knows cats aren’t dumb; they simply cannot be bothered to learn tricks for the sole purpose of entertaining humans. Perhaps the basenji ought to be accorded similar latitude?