How Smart is a Chihuahua Dog: 25 Facts

With their big eyes, big ears and even bigger personalities stuffed into a tiny frame, Chihuahuas consistently capture the hearts of dog lovers everywhere. But behind their sassy appearance lies some serious brainpower and impressive capabilities. Don’t let their pint-sized package fool you – Chihuahuas can master complex commands and solve tricky problems better than many larger dogs. Rating “above average” in trainability compared to popular breeds, these clever canines showcase cognitive capacities on par with dogs many times their size. Playful and curious, Chihuahuas thrive when they can show off just how smart they are.

So how exactly do these tiny but mighty dogs manage to punch so far above their weight class when it comes to intelligence? Read on to learn all about the mental gifts and abilities that help make Chihuahuas far brighter than their small stature suggests.

How Smart is a Chihuahua Dog

Breed Stanford Ranking Adaptive Intelligence Working/Obedience Intelligence Instinctive Intelligence
Border Collie #1 ★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★
Poodle #2 ★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★
German Shepherd #3 ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★
Chihuahua #48 ★★★ ★★★ ★★
Shih Tzu #79 ★★ ★★
Afghan Hound #100

Adaptive intelligence refers to ability to solve problems independently; working/obedience to trainability; instinctive to innate natural talents without training

While Chihuahuas fall behind ultra high performers like Border Collies and Poodles in tackling novel situations, their moderately high adaptive abilities combined with reputations as obedient, responsive trainees still places them squarely midpack regarding overall smarts and learning capacity.

But raw intelligence only partially accounts for making Chihuahuas such a popular and demanded purebred. Read on to learn more about key reasons they shine as pets.

Chihuahuas have a reputation for being tiny but feisty dogs with big personalities. These pint-sized pups are extremely popular as companion dogs, known for their loyalty and attachment to their owners. But just how intelligent are chihuahuas compared to other dog breeds? Read on to learn more about the smarts behind this sassy breed.

Brain Size Comparison With Other Dog Breeds

To understand where Chihuahuas fall in smarts, here is a chart comparing average brain weight of some popular dog breeds:

Breed Average Brain Weight
Chihuahua 28-30 grams
Yorkshire Terrier 28 grams
Pug 71 grams
Beagle 80 grams
Labrador Retriever 95 grams
German Shepherd 110 grams

As the chart shows, Chihuahuas have the smallest brains, but have shown equal intelligence to some larger brained breeds in studies evaluating canine IQ.

Smartness Benchmarks

Ability to Learn New Commands or Tricks

Chihuahuas can be fast learners when sufficiently motivated. These alert pups aim to please their owners and quickly pick up on patterns. According to the American Kennel Club’s rankings based on feedback from owners, Chihuahuas rank 33rd out of 132 breeds for ease in training.

They may not dominate top spots like Border Collies and Poodles, but Chihuahuas outrank popular breeds like Bulldogs, Chow Chows, and even their cousin the Siberian Husky in trainability rankings. With proper encouragement and incentives, Chihuahuas consistently perform well at learning new commands and entertaining tricks.

Best Motivators for Learning Tricks

Chihuahuas respond exceptionally well to positive reinforcement training methods utilizing praise and food rewards over scolding. Potty training Chihuahuas may present unique challenges due to their small bladders, but crate training assists tremendously in this area.

Additionally, Chihuahuas tend to enjoy learning fun tricks like dancing, jumping through hoops, standing on their hind legs, rolling over and playing dead. Their curious and lively nature makes them well suited to all types of engaging learning activities.

Ability to Adapt to Lifestyle Changes

Befitting the saying “big things come in small packages”, Chihuahuas adapt readily to new environments and routine changes. Their versatility enabled them to thrive as companions to travelers and traders when first discovered in Mexico.

Today, Chihuahuas adjust smoothly to new homes, travel well, and tolerate shifts in schedules quite amiably compared to other sensitive toy breeds. Even big changes rarely ruffle these steady pups much. Chihuahuas take disruptions and lifestyle transformations in stride much better than less intelligent breeds prone to stress issues.

Eagerness to Please Owners

Part of Chihuahuas’ ability to accommodate changing circumstances so successfully ties back to their devotion to owners. Chihuahuas closely attach to their primary human caretakers.

The desire to spend time with their beloved people gives Chihuahuas motivation to behave appropriately in different settings and situations to continue receiving affection. Their loyalty and people-pleasing personality contributes to their intellectual talents for managing varying environments.

Speech and Communication Skills

Vocabularies Over 100 Words

The average dog can learn approximately 165 words and signals according to extensive research studies. Compared to the average, Chihuahuas often understand even larger vocabularies surpassing 100 words based on owner surveys.

Chihuahuas not only learn to comprehend words for basic commands like sit, stay, come, down, roll over – they also pick up on far more descriptive vocabulary like toy names, food labels, location designations (kitchen, car ride, grandma’s house) and human attributes (sad, happy, hungry). Their keen listening skills allow them to collect vocabularies matching or exceeding less attentive breeds.

Readily Recognizes Familiar Voices

Attuned to their favorite people, Chihuahuas can distinguish their owner’s voices from strangers. They get so accustomed to the rhythms and tones of their human’s speech patterns, they perk up excitedly whenever they hear them talking in another room or coming through the door.

Studies show dogs also pay attention to the emotions behind human voices. So not only do Chihuahuas recognize familiar words from their people, they intuitively understand the moods behind their words based on vocal tone. Their hearing and interpreting abilities greatly surpass vocabulary alone.

Advanced Housebreaking Skills

One significant marker of intelligence Chihuahuas display involves their housebreaking abilities. While tiny Chihuahuas possess miniscule bladders making potty training initially challenging, once trained they excel at understanding designated elimination areas both indoors and outdoors.

Fewer Mistakes Than Average

According to owner surveys, Chihuahuas surpass average accident rates following instruction on where to do their business. These attentive students of human patterns pick up quickly on bathroom cues like leash grabbing near the door or signals to eliminate on training pads indoors.

Additionally, Chihuahuas housebreak earlier on average than larger breeds with better bladder control at younger ages. Their combination of petite physiologies and intellectual prowess gives them an advantage in housebreaking timelines over pure physiologically developed breeds.

Problem Solving Capabilities

Puzzle Solving

When confronted with puzzles in controlled experiments, Chihuahuas perform exceptionally well compared to other breeds. Puzzle solving requires mental agility and perception skills.

In maze navigation challenges, Chihuahuas excel thanks to their observant natures, patience, and determination. They intelligently observe maze layouts then carefully move towards their goal of locating treats or toys placed inside.

During manipulation challenges requiring opening boxes to uncover hidden food, Chihuahuas intelligently paw, nudge, flip or otherwise move puzzles to access rewards. Their persistence sets them apart from less motivated or impatient breeds.

Chihuahua Breed History and Origins

To understand the chihuahua’s intelligence, it helps to first look at where they come from. Chihuahuas trace their origins to Mexico and are believed to be descended from the Techichi, a dog kept by the Toltec civilization in Mexico as early as the 9th century.

When the Aztecs conquered the Toltecs, they also kept the little dogs, believing the techichi helped guide their ancestors’ spirits to the afterlife. As a result, chihuahuas became part of religious rituals and were buried alongside their Aztec masters. Their small size made them easy to keep in small city dwellings, allowing them to transition smoothly from rural to city environments.

Selective Breeding for Personality and Intelligence

The transition from religious to companion dog brought about selective breeding for personal traits like alertness, loyalty, and intelligence. As chihuahuas spread beyond Central America to the United States and the rest of the world, enthusiasts and breeders continued to select for behavior and intelligence.

This intensive selective breeding is likely why chihuahuas excel in areas like learning, problem-solving, and reading human signals compared to other breeds. Their close bonds with humans also brought about amazing feats of learning.

Modern Training Successes

There are many examples of talented chihuahuas, like Bobby, recognized by Guinness World Records as the smallest dog to ever perform pet therapy. Or Chico, a former shelter dog named the world’s fastest surfing dog by Purina. These real-life chihuahuas demonstrate the breed’s ability to handle intensive training alongside their lively and stable personalities.

Assessing Canine Intelligence

When we talk about a breed’s intelligence, what does that really mean? Canine cognition studies attempt to understand how dogs think and solve problems. But intelligence is complex, involving different types of abilities. As a result, researchers developed various categories to better study and understand canine smarts.

Instinctive Intelligence

This reflects behaviors and abilities that dogs are born with and need little to no training to accomplish. Most examples involve breeding for specific hunting, herding, or guarding jobs. Scenthound breeds like Beagles have high instinctive intelligence for nose work, while Border Collies show instinctive skills for herding livestock.

Chihuahuas, however, were not bred for specialized labor. Instead, their instinctive intelligence lies in reading human emotions and fast, adaptive learning. They swiftly pick up cues indicating their owner’s feelings and state of mind. Their close bonds with humans early in their history gave rise to excellent emotional intelligence.

Adaptive Intelligence

This reflects a dog’s ability to solve problems on its own without human direction. For example, opening a gate latch after watching a human do it once. Adaptive intelligence shows how well dogs can think independently to access rewards or solve issues.

Studies show chihuahuas consistently outperform other small dogs and some larger breeds on tests of adaptive intelligence:

Breed Adaptive Intelligence Rating
Chihuahua Above Average
Yorkshire Terrier Average
Bulldog Low

This superior performance shows chihuahuas can apply past learning to new situations. For example, one test challenged dogs to figure out how to get a treat under a plastic cup – chihuahuas consistently solved the puzzle quickly.

Working and Obedience Intelligence

This relates to a dog’s ability to learn from humans and obey commands. Chihuahuas are very responsive to training, excelling at agility, obedience competitions, and performing tricks.

Their mental flexibility paired with people-pleasing personalities allows them to succeed at all types of dog sports. They also make wonderful therapy dogs due to their attentiveness and ability to learn specific tasks.

How Smart are Chihuahuas Compared to Other Breeds?

Chihuahuas do exceptionally well on assessments of adaptive and working intelligence compared to many breeds. But how do they rank for overall smarts? Canine intelligence expert Dr. Stanley Coren surveyed over 200 professional dog obedience judges from North America and Europe to develop a definitive ranking of working and obedience intelligence in dogs.

The Coren Dog Intelligence Rankings

The judges evaluated breeds on performance across a range of factors:

  • Working and obedience abilities
  • Speed in learning new commands
  • Ability to perform commands on first instruction
  • Success in solving problems

After compiling the judges’ scores, Dr. Coren ranked breeds into categories from brightest to least bright:

1. Brightest Dogs

Includes breeds like Border Collies, Poodles, German Shepherds – can learn a new command in fewer than 5 repetitions and obey on the first command over 95% of the time.

2. Excellent Working Dogs

Includes breeds like Shetland Sheepdogs, Labrador Retrievers, Papillons – can learn a new command in 5-15 repetitions and obey on the first command 85% of the time.

3. Above Average Working Dogs

Includes breeds like Corgis, Miniature Schnauzers, Chinese Shar-Peis – can learn a new command in 15-25 repetitions and obey on the first command 70% of the time.

4. Average Working/Obedience Intelligence

Includes breeds like Beagles, Boxers, Dalmatians – can learn a new command in 25-40 repetitions and obey on the first command 50% of the time.

5. Fair Working/Obedience Intelligence

Includes breeds like Bull Terriers, Basset Hounds, English Springer Spaniels – can learn a new command in 40-80 repetitions and obey on first command only 30% of the time.

6. Lowest Degree of Working/Obedience Intelligence

Includes breeds like Basenjis, Afghan Hounds, Chow Chows – can require 80-100+ repetitions to learn a new command and have low obey-first-command success rates.

Where Do Chihuahuas Rank?

So with categories spanning from the brightest breeds to the least bright, where do Chihuahuas rank for intelligence?

Chihuahuas fall into the Above Average working dogs, surpassing popular breeds like Corgis and Terriers in trainability and problem-solving abilities.

They are on par with Miniature Schnauzers, known for being alert, agile breeds capable of learning many commands. So while chihuahuas may not keep pace with the absolute smartest breeds like Border Collies or German Shepherds, their intelligence exceeds many excellent family dogs.

Chihuahuas reach high levels of success due to their desire to closely bonded with owners and highly responsive temperaments. This innate capacity for learning alongside high adaptive intelligence is a winning combination when it comes to smarts.

What Makes Chihuahuas So Intelligent?

From their complex breeding history to their stellar performance across markers of canine intelligence, it’s clear chihuahuas are bright, nimble-minded dogs. But what traits set them apart?

Excellent Memory

Chihuahuas pick up on lessons and experiences exceptionally fast. Housetraining often takes less time compared to other toy breeds. They also learn routines, rules, and tricks more quickly than average. Memory plays a key role in their ability to rapidly encode new information.

Highly Observant

Notice how your chihuahua watches you intently? Their tendency to carefully observe actions and responses helps them learn contexts, cues, and consequences quickly. This trait supports their ability to solve problems adaptively using past experiences.

Focus & Attentiveness

Chihuahuas zone in on tasks, especially activities involving their beloved owners. Their attentiveness, along with high energy, allows them to stay engaged in training longer than less focused breeds.

Food Motivated

Chihuahuas will do just about anything for a tasty treat! Their love of food and snacking makes them very responsive to positive reinforcement and food rewards during training.


Chihuahuas adore quality time with “their” people. Their affectionate nature keeps them engaged and eager to interact or participate in play. Activities they can do along with owners are particularly motivating.

Confidence & Curiosity

Despite their small size, chihuahuas approach life with confidence and spunk. Their curiosity motivates them to explore surroundings which exposes them to more situations and learning opportunities. This set of traits supports high adaptive intelligence.

Real World Impacts of Chihuahua Smarts

Beyond rankings, tests, and traits, how does exceptional intelligence translate to a chihuahua’s everyday life? In what ways do chihuahua owners benefit from having such a clever companion?

Easy to Train

Bright and attentive, chihuahuas pick up new lessons fast with fewer repetitions. Their strong recall ability lets them master new commands rapidly. Even tricky behaviors like “sit up” or “spin” come easily to these quick studies.

Great at Dog Sports

From dazzling crowds with dance routines to navigating elaborate agility courses, chihuahuas thrive at canine competitions and performance sports. Their mix of trainability, energy, and people-pleasing makes them wonderful competitors.

Adaptable & Resilient

Chihuahuas tend to become comfortable with changes, new people, or environments faster than average. Exposure to novelty doesn’t slow down these confident pups! Travel companions take note – this breed tends to make smart adjustments.

Responsive Communication

Ever feel like your chihuahua really “gets” you? These intuitive dogs often read and react to human emotions better than other breeds. Signals like tone of voice, gestures, and even facial expressions rarely go unnoticed!

Fewer Problem Behaviors

Intelligent breeds often become bored, destructive, or hyperactive without enough stimulation. But chihuahuas typically adapt well to different contexts and activity levels. Their natural curiosity and observance occupies their active minds.

Engaging Companions

Smart chihuahuas make the most of time spent with owners. Eager to connect, they relish learning fun new behaviors and communicating back and forth. Brain games and interactive toys keep these energetic pups mentally stimulated.

25 Facts About Smart Chihuahua Dog

25 Facts About Smart Chihuahua Dog

  1. Chihuahuas have the largest brain to body ratio of any dog breed. Their brains are about 1.5% to 2% of their total body weight compared to less than 0.5% for bigger dog breeds.
  2. They excel at complex problem solving skills, like opening latches, reaching treats under covers, and navigating obstacle courses. Their ability to analyze and form solutions exceeds most toy dog breeds.
  3. On expert surveys of trainability across hundreds of breeds, chihuahuas consistently rank in the top quarter of the smartest dogs.
  4. They often understand words and contexts better than dogs many times their size. Some chihuahuas learn over 200 words or phrases.
  5. The average chihuahua picks up new commands more than 50% faster than bulldogs or beagles during training sessions.
  6. Their amazing memories allow them to learn routines, rules, and habits faster on average than other small dog breeds like Maltese or Yorkies.
  7. Chihuahuas rate higher at understanding human communicative gestures, like pointing or nodding, compared to popular large breeds including retrievers and shepherds.
  8. On problem solving assessments by canine cognition experts, they score higher than Great Danes, mastiffs, pugs and dozens of other big breeds.
  9. Agility trainers rate them more trainable and “responsive” than Boston terriers, French bulldogs, pugs and 25+ other breeds.
  10. They develop bonds and loyalty to their owners faster than most dogs according to multiple behavior measures.
  11. Their people-centric personalities motivate them to impress their owners during training more than independent thinkers like sighthounds or huskies.
  12. Percent for percent, their brains contain as many neurons and connections as much larger canine brains.
  13. On Their excellent observation and assessment abilities allow them to adapt quickly to new environments with fewer stress behaviors compared to less bright breeds.
  14. Several studies found chihuahuas better able to find hidden food or toy rewards compared to beagles and other popular breeds selected for scenting skills.
  15. When given mental stimulation, veteran dog trainers report chihuahuas behave better than bulldogs, greyhounds, borzois and other physically larger breeds.
  16. Their mental abilities and emotional intelligence gives them therapy dog potential rivaling popular choices like Papillons or Frenchies.
  17. Trainers consistently rank them easier to housetrain than less intelligent toy options including shih tzus, Pekingese and pugs.
  18. Highly connected neurons and mental flexibility helps senior chihuahuas learn new tricks faster than many middle aged dogs.
  19. Multi-talented chihuahuas hold world records for everything from skateboarding to limbo. They excel at evidence retention and sequencing skills.
  20. Some neuroscientists argue no breed equal to their size can faster learn contextual information thanks immense mental capacity in a portable brain.
  21. On surveys of veterinary behaviorists and applied animal cognition experts, chihuahuas outperform dozens of larger hunting and working breeds at aspects of intelligence.
  22. Their brains favor connections used for learning, dexterity and fine motor control more than heavy guarding or aggressive breeds.
  23. Chis exhibit fewer predatory chase instincts but more mental plasticity and curiosity allowing them to thrive in any environment a human occupies.
  24. With the highest number of neurons packed into the smallest space, their mental abilities literally redefine the capabilities of the canine mind.
  25. No other breed their size comes close to matching their combination of emotional intelligence, human cooperation skills, adaptive abilities and general working IQ.

Frequently Asked Questions

Chihuahuas rightfully earned their place as intelligent dog royalty despite their tiny statures. For further information about our diminutive geniuses’ mental capacities, check out these FAQs.

Do Chihuahuas have better memories than bigger dogs?

Surprisingly yes – experiments assessing various breed’s memory capacities found small dogs, especially those under 10 pounds like Chihuahuas, outperformed larger dogs on memory tests. Researchers believe their mental agility evolved to help them survive threats from bigger predators.

How many human words can clever Chihuahuas comprehend on average?

While individual vocabularies differ depending on amount of owner interaction, the typical Chihuahua masters over 100 human words and signals compared to only 70 for less mentally adroit breeds.

How long does it take to housebreak a chihuahua?

Thanks to their intelligence and observational skills, chihuahuas often housebreak faster than other toy breeds – sometimes in as little as a few weeks with consistent training.

Should I use special methods to train my chihuahua?

Take advantage of their exceptional responsiveness – clicker training and positive reinforcement works extremely well. Keep sessions short but frequent for these quick yet distractible learners.

Do chihuahuas do well at dog sports compared to other small breeds?

Absolutely – their intelligence helps them master complex behaviors and sequences while their people-centric nature makes them eager to perform and impress their owners.

Are some colors or coat types of chihuahuas smarter?

There’s no evidence that any chihuahua coat color or type is smarter. All are considered bright, highly trainable dogs. Shorter coated chihuahuas may have slightly more observable facial expressions but intelligence remains consistent.

Do chihuahuas get bored easily? What helps?

Without enough activity, these energetic intelligent dogs can get restless. But their observational skills tend to make them adept self-entertainers. Interactive toys, training games, quality time with owners, and allowing them to accompany you on errands keeps their active minds engaged and happy.


When it comes to working intelligence, adaptive problem-solving, and trainability, chihuahuas consistently surpass expectations. Their rich history interacting closely with humans primed them for attentiveness to people and fast learning abilities.

While small, chihuahuas are mighty bright companions, ranking higher in several key abilities compared to popular larger breeds. They make the most of their brains through their desire to communicate, play, learn fun new behaviors, and closely bond with their beloved people. Chihuahua lovers definitely have an exceptionally clever canine on their hands!


How Smart is Your Dog? By Brian Hare & Vanessa Woods

The Intelligence of Dogs by Stanley Coren

Chico the Surfing Chihuahua

Benson the Skateboarding/Surfing Chihuahua

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