Clueless canines: Meet the dumbest dog breeds

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Intelligence comes in many forms and when it comes to our furry friends, some breeds have earned a reputation for being less than brilliant. With 200 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, surely some are smarter than others.

Bulldog laying on the carpet.
Bulldog. Photo credit: Pexels.

While every dog owner loves their pup and likely thinks it’s the best breed of all, this article will highlight some of the dopier breeds in the canine kingdom including how and why they got the distinction.

Understanding dog intelligence 

When it comes to measuring dog intelligence, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what that entails. Intelligence in dogs goes beyond just training ability and encompasses problem-solving abilities, adaptability and learning capacity.

Friendly dogs are often mislabeled as dumb whereas high-energy working dogs like the Dutch Shepherd or Belgian Malinois are considered the most intelligent of breeds.

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The dumbest dog breeds

No dog should really be labeled as dumb because every dog has its strengths and weaknesses but let’s explore some of the more goofy dogs that are sure to make your life a bit more entertaining and challenging just by living with them.

Basset hound and bloodhound

The basset hound and all hounds in general often make the list of dumbest dog breeds. With their long ears and wrinkly, droopy faces, their appearance certainly does them no favors in avoiding the label. 

While bloodhounds can be used as bomb-sniffing dogs and are incredibly adept at tracking and scent work, this dedicated one-purpose mission can often make them oblivious to other commands.

Their relentlessness in following a scent makes them easily distracted from anything else. In a working situation, this can be a wonderful trait. As a pet in your home, this stubbornness can be extremely frustrating.

Hounds are notorious for being incredibly difficult to housetrain but if you can survive that lengthy process as an owner, you’ll be rewarded with a companion for life in a basset or bloodhound.

Basset hound sitting in the grass.
Basset hound. Photo credit: Pexels.


Despite their muscular build and determined appearance, bulldogs are sometimes considered less intellectually inclined. With their short, squat face and protruding jaw, they certainly look the part as well.

While bulldogs can be great family protectors, like the hounds, they are not the easiest to train. The breed ranks low in being able to understand or listen to commands. 

Their short attention span requires brief but frequent and consistent training exercises. Without proper training, bulldogs tend to become stubborn and lazy acting like they own the house instead of you.

Afghan hound and borzoi

One glance at the majestic appearance of the Afghan hound or borzoi and you may wonder how either of these breeds could possibly be considered in a list of dumb dogs. Looks are never the whole story though.

Borzoi and Afghans are both sighthounds that are very similar in appearance. Both have a reputation for being quite neurotic as well as independent and have been labeled as cat-like at times.

While most breeds will do just about anything for a treat, an Afghan or borzoi couldn’t be bothered. Acting too cool for school is their motto and that applies to training them as well. An icy, aloof reaction is a more likely response from either of these breeds than an obedient, do-anything-for-a-reward typical dog mentality. 

In Stanley Coren’s 1994 research for his subsequent book, “The Intelligence of Dogs,” Afghans were consistently among the lowest measured.

They are the kings and queens of the canine poker face which has landed them with the label of air-headed and dumb. These breeds require a good dose of patience from their owners and it will oftentimes feel like you’re dealing with a difficult teenager rather than man’s best friend.

Afghan hound.
Afghan hound. Photo credit: Pexels.

Chow chow

You probably know chow chows as the dog that looks like a lion. However, while lions may be king of the jungle, the chow chow finds itself on this list because of its hard-headed nature making them almost impossible to train.

With a tendency to assert itself as dominant, this can lead to both a frustrating and sometimes dangerous situation inside your house without a strong alpha presence. 

Chow chows can be loyal companions but require a very regimented and assertive owner to show them who’s boss.


Pekingese may be one of the most popular arm candy breeds out there and they know it. This breed gets away with a lot because of their smaller stature and while they may be easy to walk on a leash because of this, their spoiled nature often shines.

This over-pampered breed has a proclivity for stubbornness and independence making training difficult. 

Pekingese can also show hostile attitudes towards other pets and children. They’re a classic only-child breed and while this may work for certain types of owners, it can be a challenge in other situations.

“While you’d expect that combining two smart breeds — a standard poodle and a golden retriever — would produce an equally smart dog, our goldendoodle is quite the goofball. Although he should take to water like a duck, he doesn’t like to swim. If anything minor blocks his path, like a shoe in the hallway, he sees a locked iron gate and cannot pass through. And although he is a large breed dog, he believes he has corgi legs and is unable to hop in the car.”

— Sage Scott,
White chow chow sitting on a cushion.
Chow chow. Photo credit: Pexels.

Beyond dumb: Celebrating canine quirks

Being a dog owner means appreciating all the quirks and charms that make a dog unique. While intelligence may be a hot topic, choosing a furry companion is not about finding the next Einstein in a fur coat. The bonds we forge with our four-legged friends transcend intelligence, encompassing loyalty, love and companionship that cannot solely be measured by how easy it is to train a dog to walk on a leash.

So, while it’s great to keep the nuances of these goofier breeds in mind, it’s also important to embrace their individuality and choose the best dog for your situation.

Gina Matsoukas, along with her K9 handler husband write the blog, What Can My Dog Eat? seeking to answer common food and training questions of all dog owners. They live in central New York with Skye, their Belgian Malinois police canine enjoying an active outdoor life.

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