Are Chihuahuas Smart? How Smart is Your Pooch?

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When questioning the intelligence of one of the world’s smallest dog breeds, it’s natural to wonder, “Are Chihuahuas Smart?” This comprehensive guide delves into the intellectual fabric of Chihuahuas, addressing their cognitive abilities, problem-solving skills, and emotional intelligence.


Yes, Chihuahuas are smart. Their intelligence manifests in their ability to solve problems, learn commands, and read human emotions, displaying a complex blend of cognitive skills and emotional acuity.

What Does Intelligence Mean in Dogs?

When considering the intellect of our canine companions, it’s crucial to recognize that dog intelligence is not a one-size-fits-all attribute. It’s a multi-layered concept, and in exploring the facets of a dog’s mental capabilities, we find that each breed, including Chihuahuas, exhibits a unique set of intelligences. This diversity is why assessing Chihuahua intelligence is as nuanced as it is fascinating.

Instinctive Intelligence

At the core of a dog’s intelligence is instinctive intelligence—innate abilities they are born with, often specific to their breed’s historical purpose. For instance, herding dogs like the Border Collie have an instinctive intelligence honed for gathering and moving other animals. In contrast, Chihuahuas, originally bred for companionship, may showcase their natural intelligence through strong social bonds and communication signals.

Adaptive Intelligence

Complementing instinctive skills is adaptive intelligence, which embodies a dog’s problem-solving capabilities and ability to learn from the environment. This type of intelligence can vary widely even among Chihuahuas. It’s what enables them to navigate complex social environments or learn household routines, reflecting a keen observational learning ability.

Working/Obedience Intelligence

Finally, there’s working and obedience intelligence, often highlighted in training and obedience contexts. This measures how well a dog can learn from humans. While Chihuahuas can be perceived as less obedient or trainable compared to more docile breeds, this assessment doesn’t fully capture their intelligence’s breadth. Instead, it often reflects on their independent nature and the training methods used.

Are Chihuahuas Smart According to Dog Intelligence Criteria?

Chihuahuas often surprise with their sharp intelligence and spirited personality. While their miniature size might mislead some to underestimate their cognitive abilities, Chihuahuas embody the essence of canine intelligence across all three aforementioned categories, often in ways that defy conventional expectations.

In the realm of Instinctive Intelligence, Chihuahuas excel with their strong sense of companionship. Bred to be lap dogs, their natural inclination towards forming close bonds with their owners showcases their inherent empathy and understanding of human emotions.

Their Adaptive Intelligence is particularly noteworthy. Chihuahuas are quick learners who exhibit a remarkable capability to navigate their environment, solve problems, and adapt to new situations with remarkable ease. Many owners recount stories of Chihuahuas devising ingenious methods to reach high places or communicate their needs, underscoring their ability to think critically and adapt.

When it comes to Working/Obedience Intelligence, it’s essential to recognize that Chihuahuas may not always conform to traditional training methods as readily as breeds known for their work ethic like Border Collies or German Shepherds. However, this is not indicative of a lack of intelligence. Instead, it highlights their independent nature. With patience and positive reinforcement, Chihuahuas can master a wide range of commands and tricks, demonstrating their ability to learn and cooperate with their human partners.

Real-life scenarios underscore their intelligence beyond traditional metrics. Whether it’s figuring out how to communicate their desires to their owners, displaying empathy towards a family member in distress, or learning complex tricks despite their stubborn streak, Chihuahuas continually exhibit the diverse facets of canine intelligence.

In summary, Chihuahuas are indeed smart, manifesting their intelligence through their ability to adapt, learn, and bond with their humans. Their cognitive prowess, coupled with their vibrant personality, makes them not just adorable companions, but also intelligent ones, capable of navigating the world in surprising and intricate ways.

How Do Chihuahuas Rank in Terms of Intelligence?

According to Coren’s ranking, Chihuahuas fall within the “fair intelligence” category, placing them around 125th out of 138 breeds tested. This ranking suggests they may require more repetitions (40-80) to learn a new command compared to breeds at the top of the list. However, this perspective on intellect, grounded primarily in obedience-based tests, tells only part of the story of a dog’s cognitive abilities.

Beyond the Rankings

Chihuahuas are often perceived as less trainable, a trait that could contribute to their lower placement in Coren’s obedience intelligence ranking. However, it’s essential to consider what these rankings measure and what they might overlook. The criteria for Coren’s rankings heavily weigh a breed’s compliance to human commands, which can inherently disadvantage independent breeds like Chihuahuas. Their spirited and often stubborn nature might not reflect a lack of intelligence but rather an independent thinking process and a lessened desire to please compared to other breeds.

A Broader View on Intelligence

Acknowledging the limitations of obedience-based intelligence rankings invites a broader exploration of a Chihuahua’s cognitive abilities. Adaptive intelligence, or the ability to solve problems and learn from the environment, is a domain where Chihuahuas excel. Their keen observation skills, quick adaptation to changes, and ability to navigate complex social settings reveal a sophisticated level of intelligence not captured by obedience tests.

Furthermore, the emotional intelligence of Chihuahuas, reflected in their responsiveness to human emotions and ability to form deep bonds with their owners, stands as a testament to their unique intellectual capabilities. These aspects of intelligence, crucial for a harmonious human-dog relationship, underscore the multifaceted nature of what it means to be “intelligent” in the canine world.

The True Measure of Chihuahua Intelligence

To accurately gauge a Chihuahua’s intelligence, one must consider the breed’s adaptive problem-solving abilities, emotional intelligence, and capacity for independent thought. While obedience and working intelligence provide a frame of reference, they do not encompass the full spectrum of cognitive abilities that Chihuahuas possess.

In What Ways Do Chihuahuas Display Their Intelligence?

Chihuahuas exhibit their intelligence in numerous ways, showcasing their unique cognitive abilities in practical, real-world applications.

Cognitive Problem-Solving

Chihuahuas are often noted for their notable problem-solving prowess. They exhibit a remarkable ability to circumvent obstacles or navigate challenges to achieve their objectives. For instance, owing to their petite size, opening doors or retrieving high-placed objects may pose a physical challenge. Despite this, Chihuahuas have shown the ability to ingeniously fashion ramps or utilize conveniently placed objects to fulfill their goals.


Next to their problem-solving abilities is their capacity to learn new skills and behaviors when properly trained. This form of intelligence is often linked to their receptiveness to positive reinforcement training, where desired behavior is rewarded, reinforcing its repetition. From learning to use a pet door to performing tricks, the potential of a Chihuahua’s learnability can be fully tapped with patient, consistent, and reward-based training.

Social Interaction

Furthermore, Chihuahuas display their intellect in the way they interact with humans and other animals. Their heightened sense of emotional intelligence enables them to discern and reciprocate their owner’s emotions. Additionally, they exhibit a deep understanding of pack dynamics, shaping their behavior based on the hierarchy established within a group of dogs or other animals.

What Challenges Might Arise When Training Chihuahuas?

Despite the many ways in which Chihuahuas display their intelligence, training them can present certain challenges. These potential difficulties stem from their breed traits and pave the foundational understanding of their intelligence.


Renowned for their bold and independent nature, Chihuahuas can be particularly stubborn. While this stubbornness can be misconstrued as a lack of intelligence, it’s often indicative of their independent thinking. This trait may lengthen the training process, requiring more patience and consistency from the owner.


Another characteristic often mistaken for a lack of cognitive ability is their distractibility. Chihuahuas, with their alert nature and high curiosity levels, can easily be distracted during training sessions, making it challenging to hold their attention for extended periods.

These breed traits can potentially mislead one’s perception of a Chihuahua’s intellect and create stumbling blocks in the training process. Understanding these characteristics and adjusting training methods accordingly is key to successful training.

How Can You Effectively Train a Chihuahua?

Successfully training a Chihuahua requires an approach that caters to their size, intelligence, and personality. Here are some strategies to train these tiny yet clever dogs effectively:

Patience and Consistency: It’s important to maintain a calm and patient demeanor when training a Chihuahua. Due to their sensitive nature, they respond best to a consistent schedule and routine, which helps build trust and understanding between the dog and the trainer.

Positive Reinforcement: This technique involves rewarding desirable behavior with treats, praise, or playtime, which encourages the dog to repeat those behaviors. Since Chihuahuas are particularly food-motivated and thrive on affection, positive reinforcement is highly effective.

Understand Individual Personality: Each Chihuahua has its own distinct personality and learning style. Some may be more food-oriented, while others may seek play or affection. Tailor your training methods to what motivates your specific dog, and be prepared to adapt your approach as you learn more about their preferences and quirks.

Short and Engaging Training Sessions: Keep training sessions short – about 5 to 15 minutes – to maintain your Chihuahua’s attention. Make sure that the training is fun and engaging, mixing in games and sessions that challenge them mentally.

Use Appropriate Commands: Start with basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “down,” and then gradually move on to more complex tricks and commands once these are mastered. Using clear and consistent command words is key.

How Can You Nurture and Test Your Chihuahua’s Intelligence?

Stimulating a Chihuahua’s mind is essential for their well-being and can also be a delightful and rewarding activity for both the dog and owner. Here are some ways to nurture and test your dog’s intelligence:

Puzzle Toys: These toys, which require the dog to solve a simple problem to receive a treat, are great for engaging a Chihuahua’s problem-solving skills. They can be used to keep the dog occupied and mentally stimulated, especially when they are alone.

Obedience Training: Regular training sessions provide mental exercise and can also reinforce the bond between you and your Chihuahua. Branch out into agility training or canine sports that are suitable for small breeds.

Social Interaction: Arranging playdates with other dogs or visiting dog-friendly parks can improve social skills and provide mental stimulation through new environments and interactions.

Daily Playtime: Incorporate playtime that requires your Chihuahua to think and react, such as fetch with a twist – asking them to choose between different colored balls or toys.

Simple At-Home Intelligence Tests

To test your Chihuahua’s intelligence, you can use simple at-home tests such as:

  • The Towel Test: Place a towel over your Chihuahua’s head and observe how long it takes for them to remove it. This test measures problem-solving skills.
  • The Cup Test: Hide a treat under one of three cups, move them around, and see if your Chihuahua can track the correct cup. This assesses both their memory and reasoning abilities.


In conclusion, the question “Are Chihuahuas smart?” elicits a resounding yes. These spirited dogs, with their sharp minds and adaptable natures, are far from lacking in intelligence. However, like people, each Chihuahua is distinct, and they display their intellect in different ways. Remember, understanding is the first step to effective training and a stronger bond with your Chihuahua.

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