Are Chihuahuas Smart Dogs?

One thing would immediately stand out when talking about Chihuahuas – these are the tiniest dogs with personality surpassing their size. This couldn’t be more true and fur parents with a tiny Chi could attest to this.

However, there are still those who cannot help but ask whether personality is the only thing that is outstanding with a Chihuahua. This is particularly after stumbling into the dog’s intelligence test of canine psychologist Stanley Coren wherein Chihuahuas only ranked 125th in terms of intelligence out of the 138 dog breeds that were tested.

So is it really possible that Chihuahuas are not smart dogs? What are the parameters used to measure dog intelligence?

Great facts about the Chihuahua dog breed

There are many theories on the origin of Chihuahuas. These are also known as Mexican dogs but how they got to this country still remains a mystery.

It is believed that they arrived in Mexico as a product of trade. There are also those who believe that they were brought there as companion dogs. Nevertheless, the roots of the Chihuahuas could be traced to the Techichi dogs.

Techichis are mute dogs that were cared for by the Toltecs. Existing documents reveal that these dogs highly resemble the physical attributes of modern-day Chihuahuas except for their size which is relatively larger.

Techichis performed an important role having been not only companions for their fur parents but their part also on the rituals and day-to-day living. Some are even claiming that their meat was used as a great food source.

Even during the Aztec civilization, Techichi dogs remained to be very important dogs. Aztecs even deem them as magical beings. Thus, much respected. It is during this time, however, that it was believed that Techichi dogs were bred with much smaller dog breeds which produced the modern-day Chihuahuas we have now.

The coming of the Spanish conquerors was thought to have ended the breed of Techichi dogs. They were deemed to just have vanished and no trace was found for a while. Later on, they were traced to Chihuahua, Mexico which is how they end up with their name.

Chihuahuas are tiny dogs. They have big, dark eyes and equally dark colored-noses. Their heads are categorized into three types – Deer head, Apple-head, and Pear-head. The latter is a not-so-popular type but still adorable as Chihuahuas with the former two head types.

It can be said that Deer head Chihuahuas are quite bigger in terms of size compared to their counterparts. But they still do not go beyond the standard size of a Chihuahua.

Chihuahuas also have a compact body and short legs. Their coat could either be smooth or long-haired. They come in various shades of solid colors like tan, black, silver, fawn, and white. Some also come in two or more combinations of said colors with additional patterns like spots and patches. Needless to say, their overall look makes them the more adorable.

Measuring the intelligence of a Chihuahua

It is without a doubt that Chihuahuas are adorable. But are they really dumb?

It should be noted that in his book, Stanley Coren acknowledges that dog intelligence has 3 aspects:

Instinctive Intelligence

This pertains to the capability of dogs to do the job it was bred for. This includes hunting prey, herding animals, fetching, guarding, and even providing companionship.

Adaptive Intelligence

This pertains to the capability of dogs to use their knowledge based on their experiences and address any issues at present without help.

Working and Obedience Intelligence

This pertains to the capability of dogs to be taught by their fur parents and learn based on what they are taught.


It was determined that the Chihuahua had no problem passing the first two determined aspects of intelligence. It was even deemed that Chihuahuas have high adaptive intelligence and no fur parent with Chihuahuas could deny that they are indeed loyal companions. However, unlike other dog breeds that topped Coren’s dog intelligence test, Chihuahuas failed to meet the criteria for the third aspect of intelligence.

From the obedience trials conducted to various dog breeds during the experiment conducted by Coren, it was undeniable that Chihuahuas had difficulty responding to basic commands. They normally required an average of 40 to 80 repetitions of new commands before they could be understood by Chihuahuas. Further, these dogs were found to obey the first command mostly only 30% of the time.

Note that the above result is way lower when compared to other dog breeds’ results such as the Border Collie, Poodle, German Shepherd, and Golden Retriever which topped the list as the four smartest dogs based on Coren’s dog intelligence test. These dog breeds were found to respond to new commands in less than 5 repetitions and they were found to obey the first command 95% of the time, if not better.

However, many Chihuahua owners are still disputing facts. While some are raising that like humans, dogs also have their own strengths and weaknesses depending on the breed, others Chihuahua owners are claiming that the fact that Chihuahuas excelled in adaptive intelligence means that these fur babies could be taught. Thus, this shouldn’t be the sole basis of Chihuahuas’ intelligence.

Factors explaining Chihuahuas’ disobedience

It is a well-known fact that Chihuahuas could be stubborn dogs. This may be one of the reasons why in Coren’s dog intelligence test, this dog breed was found to have difficulty responding to the first command and it would require several repetitions before Chihuahuas could get it.

But to address this, it makes sense to understand first the reason why Chihuahuas are developing stubbornness.

Chihuahuas easily get distracted

There are instances when Chihuahuas are not really stubborn per se or don’t really mean to disobey your commands. It’s just that Chihuahuas get easily distracted by everything around them. Whether it is a new sight or sound, or a smell that it wants to look into further.

This is why a fur parent may deem that your Chihuahua is being stubborn when you issue it a command. It’s just its instinct telling it to satisfy its curiosity winning over its instinct to respond to your command.

This is observed to normally happen among Chihuahuas with ages below 5 months old. This is the reason why it would be to your advantage to train it in a place that is far from the usual distractions such as those along the road with usual pedestrian and vehicle traffic, grounds with other pets or animals loitering around, and the like.

Chihuahuas don’t know they need to listen

Small they may be but Chihuahuas have no qualms in embracing the alpha role. This is most especially during those instances when the pack hierarchy is not well-established from the onset.

Chihuahuas would have a hard time listening to any commands because believing themselves as a leader would mean that they shouldn’t listen to others. They would even be prone to misbehaviors particularly if no one is challenging them to the role. In fact, they could even exhibit aggression as their way of testing other humans around them.

Thus, it is vital for any fur parents to let their Chihuahuas know from the very start who is the alpha of the household. Failing to make this happen could mean that fur parents could have not only a stubborn Chihuahua but one that is also prone to misbehaviors.

Fur parents don’t have a solid relationship with their Chihuahuas

This is evident, especially among those Chihuahuas who are often ignored or do not receive their needed love and care from their fur parents. This causes a gap in the bond between fur parents and Chihuahuas, thus, do not motivate these little dogs to respond to any commands provided to them.

One way of addressing this is to find time to spend with your Chihuahua whether just by brushing its coat or playing a game of two with it. You could also walk it daily as part of its exercise requirements. Note that a cuddle or two per day could go a long way, particularly for a tactile creature such as a Chihuahua.

Chihuahuas are given the wrong idea that what they say goes

It is undeniable that Chihuahuas are adorable little darlings. Because of this, the tendency of many fur parents is to coddle them and give in to everything they want. All their bad habits are overlooked especially during puppyhood. Thus, this gives them the wrong idea that everything they say goes.

For fur parents who do not want their Chihuahuas to develop bad habits or to be stubborn, it is a must that they do everything they can to call out bad habits as early as possible. There are ways to discipline a Chihuahua but definitely, getting violent wouldn’t drive the right message. This would just cause a Chihuahua to be more stubborn, if not violent towards their fur parents.

Chihuahuas are not provided the needed mental stimulation

It cannot be denied that the absence of mental stimulation could also lead to the stubbornness of a Chihuahua. Even if it wants to listen to commands, because its mind is not exercised enough, it looks for ways to entertain itself.

Unfortunately, most of the time, this means destructive behaviors such as gnawing furniture, incessant barking, and even digging.

There are various ways to stimulate the mind of Chihuahuas. Daily exercises help a lot. So does combining exercises with other interactive activities. If you think you are not providing your Chihuahua enough exercises, then you could also invest in some interactive toys for your Chihuahua. In that way, you could give it means to be round the clock entertained.

Motivations to help a Chihuahua listen to commands

Chihuahuas should not be branded not a smart dog breed due to the lack of response to commands alone. However, if this remains a concern, then you could also help your Chihuahuas be more responsive by motivating them accordingly.

The best way to motivate your Chihuahua is still through positive reinforcement. This is also known as a rewards-based approach. This means giving Chihuahuas rewards for all the desired behaviors they achieved.

Contrary to what many believe, rewards are not always just in the form of yummy treats. It could also be in the form of praises. Cuddles and gentle rubs would work well too considering that Chihuahuas are very tactile.

Another way to reward a Chihuahua could also be giving it additional time with its favorite toys or spending more time with it doing its preferred activities. What would be more pleasing to it than to spend time with its favorite human right?

Needless to say, negative reinforcement or intimidation will never be a good way to motivate a Chihuahua. It should be kept in mind that Chihuahuas are naturally sensitive dogs. It would do more bad than good if one will encourage it by using violence or force.

In fact, this could just make a Chihuahua turn against you. It could break its spirit permanently and could cause it to be aggressive. Moreover, this could just cause it to be more stubborn. Overall, this wouldn’t do you any good.

What you should train your Chihuahua

You should be strategic when training a Chihuahua. As mentioned above, positive reinforcement could be a good indicator. Aside from this, however, it also pays if you are going to start as early as possible.

The explanation for this is that when a Chihuahua is young, it is still idealistic. If you do it right, you can guide it through the right path so stubbornness could never be an issue.

Among the first things you need to teach your Chihuahua would be obedience training. Teaching it the basic commands such as sit, stand, heel, stop, and no could not only make both of your day-to-day lives easier but could also help keep your fur baby safe, especially during dire circumstances. Further, your Chihuahua’s ability to respond to your command could also keep the people around it safe.

Aside from obedience training, it would also help if you will house train your Chihuahua. Teach it the right place to pee and to potty so you wouldn’t need to always clean after its mess.

It has proven effective during the potty training of Chihuahuas when fur parents would set a schedule on when to bring them out to do their business. The ideal time is normally upon waking up, before going to sleep, and in-between meals.

By religiously following this schedule, you will find soon enough that your Chihuahua gets what you are telling to. It would soon establish its own routine and even if it feels like doing its business before the allotted time, it would develop a way to communicate this to you.

Since a Chihuahua could also be prone to separation anxiety, you should not forget crate training it. Contrary to all the negative connotations attached to this, crate training is not always bad. In fact, when executed well, you are giving your Chihuahua a safe place to rest whenever it needs to.

You can start by buying it a nice big crate where it could freely move while inside. Make this crate as comfortable as possible by putting its favorite things inside such as its blanket and toys.

Don’t force your Chihuahua to go inside until it’s ready and you can just open the crate when it is inside so that it will not feel threatened. As a start, you can begin by associating the crate with all good things such as feeding and playing.

You will find that when your Chihuahua is sufficiently crate trained, it will not be as anxious to be left behind by its fur parents whenever needed. The key is in the execution.

Why still consider Chihuahua over other dogs

Chihuahuas may rank low on Coren’s dog intelligence test, but this doesn’t mean that they are not great dogs to have. In fact, many fur parents would agree that this is still the perfect choice of a pet dog if you are being practical and want one that is low maintenance.

Chihuahuas do not need much size-wise

Chihuahuas are small dogs. They are known to be the smallest canine dog breed in the world growing only at an average size of 6 to 9 in high and weighing 3 to 6 lb.

Considering its size, it is given that it wouldn’t really need much size-wise. Unlike other dogs that would need a lot of space and even a fenced-in backyard, Chihuahua could thrive already even if you have a small apartment. This is as long as you are meeting its daily exercise needs – and this is not even much.

Chihuahuas are pretty low maintenance

Being tiny dogs, you could already expect that the care and maintenance needs of Chihuahuas are on the down-low. This is starting from their diet, down to their grooming, and of course, their exercise needs.

Fur parents could already assume that they would make a lot of savings with Chihuahuas, not only in terms of actual expenses but in terms of time and effort as well, as compared to when they would choose other breeds of dogs or even other pets.


An average Chihuahua consumes only about a half cup to 1 and 1/3 cups of dog food formulated for it daily. This just means that its bite-size should be just right and easy for a Chihuahua to chew.

The said portion could still be increased depending on the activity level of a Chihuahua but even then, it is still a lot less compared to the several cups of kibbles needed by larger dogs.


In terms of grooming, you can get away with brushing a Chihuahua at least once a week, no matter its coat type. It could be increased during the shedding season to prevent its hair from spreading all over your clothes and furniture, but this won’t need to be a hardship to you. In fact, you can even consider this as a good bonding experience with your pooch.

Bath-wise, this doesn’t need to be often too. Chihuahuas are prone to developing bad smells when not bathed regularly. This could be done every two weeks or even just once a month especially if your Chihuahua is not that prone to becoming dirty with its regular activities.

Frequent bathing could even do more bad than good for Chihuahuas. This could wash away the natural oil they produce on their skins which makes their coats look shiny and healthy all the time.

Exercise needs

It is inarguable that Chihuahuas are highly-energetic doggos. Luckily to those who are not fitness enthusiasts and not very active fur parents, their size means that they do not require much in terms of exercises needs.

They could live with just an average of 30-minutes of exercise daily. Walking should make up a portion of this mixed with other types of activities that would be mentally stimulating.

Ideally, a game of fetch and tug of war should work. But you could also be as creative as possible. Your fur baby would enjoy it especially if you are going to take part in the activity.

But if you are running out of ideas, buying interactive toys for dogs could also help. This would keep your Chihuahuas entertained so they wouldn’t be prone to destructive behaviors such as gnawing, chewing, incessant barking, and even digging.

Chihuahuas are best fitted to almost all households

One of the best things about Chihuahuas is that they are very adaptable. They adjust well under different circumstances. This is the reason why they are fitted with almost every type of fur parent.

Chihuahua would be a great companion to you whether you are a single fur parent or a retiree. It will bring additional color into your life which you won’t realize you even need. More than that, expect that there will be no dull moments because it will provide you with never-ending entertainment with its antics.

Fancy a quiet afternoon? Trust that a Chihuahua could be a silent companion too.

It doesn’t seem like it but Chihuahuas are very in tune with their humans. It is not impossible for them to just quietly keep their humans company particularly if they just need companionship.

Some Chihuahuas would show this by curling at the lap of their humans. Other Chihuahuas would exhibit this by sitting beside their humans and even lying down at their feet.

Chihuahuas would also be a good fit even if you have kids. They could be great playmates with how playful they are. However, fur parents with too young kids should take additional precautions. Supervision is a must, especially on how kids should handle a Chihuahua.

The size of a Chihuahua doesn’t allow for rough plays. It is even the opposite because its size makes a Chihuahua vulnerable. In fact, children should be properly briefed on how to handle a Chihuahua.

Lifting Chihuahuas unceremoniously during playtime is definitely a no-no. It is likely that these tiny dogs won’t survive a high fall when they are accidentally dropped.

Are you a fur parent with other breeds of dogs or pets aside from your Chihuahua? Usually, this wouldn’t pose as an issue with your tiny fur baby especially if they are raised together. If they are not, then extended socialization may be required.

It is a must that the interactions between your Chihuahua and other pets are strictly supervised. This is most especially if your other pets are composed of larger dogs.

With the size of a Chihuahua, it is easy for it to be perceived as prey by other dogs. As fur parents, this is what you wouldn’t want to happen.

If there is one fur parent a Chihuahua will not be compatible with, it would be those that are frequent travelers.

Chihuahuas easily bond with their owners. When they have chosen their favorite humans, they tend to stick with them up to the point of tailing them like the little shadows that they are. You will rarely find a Chihuahua away from its favorite human.

It is for this reason that Chihuahuas have the tendency to develop separation anxiety. They cannot withstand being separated from their fur parents even with doors only separating them. Thus, Chihuahuas are also not outdoor pets.

Chihuahuas have good temperaments

Chihuahuas are known to have a bold disposition. Tiny canines Chihuahuas may be but they are more than meets the eye. Some people could even say that the personality they have makes them way larger than their size. They bring this personality with them wherever they go which allows them to stand out in any type of crowd.

Chihuahuas are fearless dogs. They are not scared to challenge humans and dogs that are bigger than it is. They are not afraid to assume the alpha role if you’re going to provide it. This is the reason why a pack hierarchy should be established as early as possible.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a Chihuahua is naturally aggressive. It is far from it. This is most especially when your Chihuahuas are trained and socialized at an early age.

In fact, Chihuahuas can actually be the sweetest dogs you’ll ever meet. They are very loyal and devoted to their owners that you will find that they are always alert to any potential dangers that may befall them.

It is not easy to get past Chihuahuas without them noticing. This character trait of these dogs combined with their confidence to communicate make them great watchdogs.

Chihuahuas can be a little reserved towards strangers. But even then, they don’t just bite. But trust that after you have introduced the stranger to your small dog, it will be in no time that they would be friends. This makes a Chihuahua all the more adorable. Thus, it does not come as a surprise anymore that more and more fur parents want to get one of these tiny dogs.

Chihuahuas live long

It is indisputable that one of the saddest days in the life of all fur parents who cherished their pet dogs to no end is saying goodbye to their fur babies. Unfortunately, this is inevitable. This is most especially since the average lifespan of dogs, in general, is just between 10 to 13 years.

Having Chihuahuas, you’d be happy to know that you can have them for longer than the average. They have an average life expectancy of 15 to 20 years which is quite long considering it in doggy years.

Of course, this wouldn’t just happen instantly. It would require effort from the fur parents.

For instance, they should ensure that their fur babies are in perfect condition at all times. They should maintain their healthy lifestyle and bring them to the vet for their regular care.

The onset of any symptoms of illnesses should also be addressed appropriately. It should also be kept in mind that Chihuahuas could be susceptible to hereditary diseases. Thus, they should only be sourced out from legitimate breeders.

Getting the perfect Chihuahua for you

Choice of breeder

If you have decided already that a Chihuahua is for you, then trust that you will not regret having one. This is most especially coming from a licensed breeder.

There is no doubt that this is only the place to go. This is the safest source wherein you’d have the guarantee on your every penny spent.

Just so you know, you’d need to prepare about USD800 to USD2500 if you want a high-quality Chihuahua. This is just for a standard Chihuahua. Getting one from the champion line or that is of show-quality, rare coloring, and teacup-sized would cost you a lot more. You can already expect to pay about USD5000 on average.

The amount to pay for a Chihuahua pup is not cheap. Granted, you can get them at a relatively lower price if you will source them out from backyard breeder and puppy but this is not recommended.

These breeders are known to breed for bucks which normally compromise the quality of the dog breeds they produce. Even if you can get a pup for a cheap price from them, there is no assurance that you can get one that has no hereditary diseases that would cost you more in the long run.

Licensed breeders have strict breeding controls in place. The parents they cross are properly vetted including health and temperament checks. Thus, you have the assurance that your money will be worth it and you can sleep at night knowing that your fur baby is healthy and without temperament issues.

Getting from the rescue

You can also get your Chihuahua from the rescue shelter. Know that when you do, you are helping a lot of stray Chihuahuas and other dog breeds find a new home.

It is unfortunate but even purebred Chihuahuas get abandoned there by their fur parents for one reason or another. Thus, you are helping make a difference by taking one home.

You will never have an issue training even an adult Chihuahua you will get from the shelter. Although training from puppyhood is ideal, training an adult Chihuahua could still be done. You only need to have some patience and employ the right strategy. Know that Chihuahuas will give you unconditional love as long as you can provide it with the right care it needs.

However, know that when you take a Chihuahua home, you are making a great commitment. It is not easy to care for a Chihuahua and any other dog breed. This means that you’d need to provide for their care so they’d have a comfortable life.

The cost of the upbringing of any pet is a serious business. It can cost over a thousand bucks per year to cover their food, accessories, and even their regular vet expenses. The fur parents’ inability to cover this could impact negatively their health and well-being.


Overall, there will be no reason for regrets when you decide to get a Chihuahua dog breed. They may not be the smartest dog around based on other people’s perception of smart, but this doesn’t diminish their value.

In fact, Chihuahuas still remain to be among the top choices of family dogs around. They never fail to spice up the life of their fur parents with their sassy attitude. Moreover, they have a perfect temperament that makes them great companion dogs.

It is without a doubt that getting a Chihuahua is a priceless experience. Many fur parents would agree that it will be worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are Chihuahuas an intelligent dog?

A: Chihuahuas ranked 125th out of 138 dog breeds in terms of intelligence on the study conducted by the canine psychologist Stanley Coren. But many Chihuahua owners are disputing and calling the parameters used as insufficient.

It can be considered that Chihuahuas are not as responsive to commands compared to other dog breeds but it cannot be ignored that they still excelled in terms of adaptive and instinctive intelligence. Moreover, with the right motivation, Chihuahuas could still be trained in terms of obedience.

Q: Are Chihuahuas hard to train?

A: The stubbornness of Chihuahuas could make them hard to train. But you can turn the chances in your favor by motivating your Chihuahua correctly. For instance, a reward-based approach is known to work well with a Chihuahua. This could make them listen and learn to obey your commands faster.

Q: Do Chihuahuas pick one person?

A: Chihuahuas are loyal and devoted to their fur parents. However, they normally pick one person to be their favorite. Normally, you can easily gauge this as Chihuahuas have the habit of tailing their favorite person as much as they can and as much as they are permitted to.

Q: What are Chihuahuas known for?

A: Chihuahuas are popular for being the tiniest dog breed in existence. They normally grow only at an average height of 6 to 9 in tall and weigh only somewhere between 3 to 6 lb. There are even Chihuahuas that could grow smaller than this standard size and they are called the Teacup Chihuahuas.

It should be noted that Chihuahuas are also often known for their bigger-than-life personalities. They could be stubborn. However, their stubbornness could easily be curbed with the help of the right strategy such as positive reinforcement.

Note that negative reinforcement, intimidation, and violence do not work well with a Chihuahua. You have a better chance at permanently breaking their disposition and turning your Chihuahua against you when you use this approach.

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