Forget the Smartest… Which 10 Dogs Are the, um, Dumbest?

Much has been written about the smartest dogs, so it stands to reason that there would also be designations of the “least intelligent dog breeds.”

Much has been written about the intelligence of dogs, lists of the smartest dogs, the most trainable dogs and so on.

It stands to reason that there would also be designations of the “least intelligent dog breeds.” It is with some apology to owners of these specific breeds that we present this compilation “Bottom 10” list, based on tests developed to measure canine IQ.

However, no matter how “dumb” these dogs are — or are perceived to be by some jerk with an IQ test — these animal companions aren’t any less lovable or loyal.

10. Basset Hound

Basset hound
Photos: Llima/Flickr

Never known for a razor-sharp response or detailed attention to training, the Basset Hound is nevertheless a faithful friend and most lovable breed.

Floppy ears, droopy jaws and a stoic expression bring smiles to anyone within sight of this whimsical hound. Not only do Basset Hounds provide love and companionship to their owners, but the breed has a nose that is a top-of-the-line model. Often used for tracking and scent detection, Basset Hounds excel at sniffing out the prize.

With a Basset Hound an owner never worries about her precious pup getting lost in a crowd. A basset’s baleful bark and mournful howl is distinct and can be detected for long distances. This breed may not own the award for a sharp intellect but certainly wins many hearts for its devotion and sweet, affectionate nature.

9. Beagle

This “least intelligent dog breed” designation may create some fighting debates. Come on, Snoopy is a Beagle and he can fly a plane! Perhaps Charles Schultz chose a Beagle for his famous comic strip because of the lovable personality and the happy, friendly demeanor of this breed.

Easy to care for, Beagles are tireless playmates, non-confrontational and always eager to please. For Beagle owners, the exposure to perpetual happiness is priceless.

8. Mastiff

Who needs a lot of smarts when you have all that brawn?

Despite the ability to win a smack-down, the mastiff is most likely to kill an opponent with kindness. One of the largest breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, the mastiff is a gentle giant. Mastiffs are typically very loyal, family-friendly animals, gentle and docile. Attractive, regal and charming attributes make the mastiff the true Miss (or Mr.) Congeniality of the dog show circuit.

7. Pekingese

This breed originated in China some 2,000 years ago. The pekingese was so revered in ancient China that only royal families were permitted to own one. No puppy mill problems were apparent in those days; the penalty for stealing a pekingese was death — end of story!

Owners should be prepared: The pekingese owns its human, not the other way around. This little diva loves nothing more than curling up on a comfortable lap to be dutifully worshiped. While their tiny toes are not well suited for jewelry, these royal descendants still expect a kiss-the-ring reverence!

Don’t Miss: Pekingese Breed Profile

6. Bloodhound

This large dog breed is noted nearly exclusively for its extraordinary scent ability. Bloodhounds are used by many police, military and rescue organizations to detect people, and they can locate their prey “dead or alive.”

Reputed to be a “solitary, silent, tracker,” when the bloodhound does speak, he means to be heard. The distinct bay of the dog is unmistakable and demands attention. As for intelligence, well, Walt Disney caught the demeanor of the breed for one of his most beloved characters — Pluto!

5. Borzoi

BorzoiThe Russian name “borzoi” translates to “fast,” and this breed is known for its athletic ability and independence. While the Borzoi may have the ability to run a marathon, the dog is content to lie on the sofa and enjoy the creature comforts of home. Borzois make the perfect housemates. They demand little, speak rarely and are overall contented companions.

Borzois do tend to wear their feelings on their sleeves — make that paws — and will sulk for hours if offended. Luckily, it doesn’t take diamonds to beg forgiveness; a yummy treat will suit this beautiful animal just fine.

4. Chow Chow

The “puffy lion” nickname perfectly describes the chow’s appearance and character. Chows are known for their fierce, protective nature.

Chows may be credited more for their intuitive skills than analytical intelligence. Sigmund Freud employed a chow in many of his therapy sessions. Freud documented his belief that the dog could accurately assess a patient’s mental state. Too bad Freud’s chow didn’t publish his own summaries.

3. Bulldog

From mascot to mattress salesman, the Bulldog’s gruff, cartoon-like appearance makes him a walking advertisement. The breed’s characteristic wrinkled face, hanging jowls and natural curled pigtail make up the lovable, distinct physical appearance of the Number 3 dog on the “Least Intelligent Dog Breeds” list.

The Bulldog may wear a “sourpuss” expression, but the breed is actually very friendly and gregarious. This breed’s reputed low maintenance requirements, docile nature and friendly attitude make the Bulldog the intelligent choice for many pet owners.

2. Basenji

Dog enthusiasts who subscribe to the notion that dogs should be seen and not heard may migrate to the basenji, often referred to as the “barkless dog.” Do not be misled by the reputation; this dog can still make himself heard. The actual sound the basenji makes is termed a “barroo” and is often thought to sound more like a yodel than a bark.

Basenjis are the canine escape artists: They love to climb and are capable of scaling high fences to gain freedom. Basenjis are considered aloof and are typically one-person dogs. The lovable, faithful basenji gives its heart for life. What dog lover can resist the call of his or her basenji — even if it sounds like, “Yodaladiewhooo!”

1. Afghan Hound

At the top of the “Least Intelligent Dog Breeds” list is the quintessential diva of dogs, the Afghan Hound. One look at this gorgeous creature and you can almost hear her thinking, “Don’t hate me because I am beautiful.”

When an animal looks this good, why would it need to demonstrate any other skills? The Afghan’s fine, silky hair and aloof, dignified manner make the breed synonymous with wealth and privilege. Afghan Hounds are very high-maintenance with daily grooming needs. They are prized for their looks, competitive presence in the show ring and as print cover models. Nothing says, “Yes, I am special” like a long-haired, elegant, regal Afghan Hound. Maybe an Afghan Hound is the real secret subject of Carly Simon’s famous song!

C.D. Watson

View posts by C.D. Watson
C.D. Watson has been researching and writing about pets for many years. She is a freelance writer and a corporate refugee. C.D. lives on a farm in the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee with her husband, 3 dogs and a variety of other pets.

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  1. Nikole Fairview
    September 10, 2012

    Aww. The title of this post made me feel a little sad, but you handled the descriptions with kindness. It seems that the common theme is that the dogs that are not as smart as others are really sweet and a genuine blessing for the family that they are living with. I was surprised at some of the breeds on this list though. I never knew the Beagle and Basenji weren’t smart. I would never have guessed that. I thought the Bloodhound counted as smart because of his nose.

  2. Mel
    March 06, 2013

    “Dumb” dogs are GREAT! Behavior problems arises not only from lack of exercise, but from lack of mental stimulation. The latter becomes a bigger and bigger issue the more intelligent a dog is. If you get an intelligent breed such as a Border Collie, and you’re only giving that dog 30 minutes of walks every day and you don’t spend it any time when you get home – expect some nasty surprises!

    The same can be said for “dumb” working breeds. You might get a dumb dog, but its instincts to work, work, work are strong and you will have to find ways to satisfy them! Working breeds are usually moderately to extremely intelligent, but Mastiffs are a working breed and they made it on the list so sometimes they can be on the less intelligent side.

    There are many qualities that can make dogs great for new owners, and I would argue that being “dumb” can be one of them! These dogs are great for new owners or owners who will not be spending every free moment with their dog. (Why get a dog, then? Well, to adopt it and keep it from being killed to free up space in the shelter is a popular reason for most.)

    ALL dogs regardless of intelligence level should be getting the proper amount of exercise that they personally need. That might be 20 minutes or 90 minutes a day. The difference in intelligence is that long as these lesser intelligent dogs are receiving an adequate amount of exercise, then they will be low maintenance in other areas of their life.

    Remember, the more intelligent they become, the more crucial it is that they:

    1. Receive longer walks (not for exercise but for the visual/mental stimulation. My dog only needs 30 minutes for exercise, but I should give her another walk later for 20-30 minutes for her to work out her brain.)

    2. Turn your dog into a jogging buddy. 30 minutes of jogging/running trumps 45 minutes of walking. Give your dog a wee bit more exercise than it needs. Exhaust your dog. Then do a cool down walk so your dog is allowed to sniff the smells that are missed while jogging.

    3. Providing mentally stimulating “games” and puzzles. This might mean feeding the kibble (if you aren’t doing raw/canned) in treat dispensers like the Kong Wobbler or Stuff-a-ball. They have to work for their food, which is great! It keeps them engaged. The more intelligent a dog is, the more they will enjoy this. The “dumb” dogs will get bored and frustrated by this. Exception: An intelligent dog who is very used to harder jobs might be bored by these dispensers.

    4. Teach your dogs tricks to make it work for its treats. You might find that more intelligent dogs will not readily take treats that are not earned. This isn’t a rule, but this generally never happens with “dumb” dogs. The more your dog is learning and using what it learns, the more fulfilled it will be.

    5. Teach your dog a “job” – much like a service dog. I have an American Eskimo, so this is where her intelligence needs ends – although she could learn these things if I worked hard on it. You will know if your dog wants to learn. It might have trouble at first, but you will notice it rising to the challenge. Trying to understand you and this new task. This is more for the Border Collies and Poodles out there. Teach your dog to retrieve useful items for you such as keys, the newspaper, remote control, etc. Train it to carry something on walks, such as a ball or stick. Make it turn on/off lights. Be creative.

    Doing all of the above should work. Doing simply 1 of the above should greatly benefit your dog, and thus obviously yourself. A happy dog = a happy owner = a happy home. Destructive habits will disappear. And if your dog doesn’t do anything destructive, you have the fulfillment of knowing that your dog is not miserable in your home! 🙂

    (Of course there are always exceptions to every breed. You may have an Einstein of the breed listed above. There are ways to test for intelligence. If you find a dog from another breed that turns out to be less intelligent than its breed is known for, don’t feel bad. These dogs are usually less work than their intelligent counterparts.)

  3. Johann
    June 24, 2013

    I’ve got 3 Basset Hounds and thus far it is the best breed of dog I’ve ever had. They respond very well to me and my family and they are most definately not dumb.

  4. BigPaws
    October 06, 2013

    I’m confused here- there are many Mastiff breeds. My Cane Corso’s breed profile on this site says they are highly intelligent. I’d say she’s considerably more clever than the Bullmastiff she replaced- and while I’m surely biased and I loved that Bully like no other – well let’s just say Bullmastiffs aren’t the sharpest tool in the Dog shed. My Bullmastiff’s BFF was our Rottie rescue. Probably the most intelligent dog I’ve owned- and Rotties are indeed a mastiff as are Boxers. So- if you mean “English Mastiff” you may have a point- but “Mastiff” is a broad label


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