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Why Are Shih Tzus So Dumb: (What No Ones Telling You)

I’ve heard many times that these adorable little dogs are considered “dumb.” They certainly engage in their fair share of goofy behavior, but does it really mean they lack intelligence?

Let’s dive into the world of Shih Tzu intelligence and find out if this label is deserved or if it’s just a big misunderstanding.

Let’s get started!

are shih tzus dumb

How Dumb Are Shih Tzus? Really

One of the main reasons why Shih Tzus have earned the reputation of being “dumb” is due to a popular intelligence test conducted by Dr. Stanley Coren, a renowned canine psychologist.

In his book, “The Intelligence of Dogs,” Coren ranked 138 dog breeds based on their intelligence, and Shih Tzus placed 70th.

This ranking was based on a survey he conducted with dog trainers who assessed the breeds on their obedience intelligence.

However, it’s essential to understand that this test primarily measured how quickly a dog could learn a new command and respond to it. It did not take into account other factors such as instinct, problem-solving abilities, and social intelligence.

To learn more about Stanley Coren’s intelligence test, check out this article by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

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The Truth: Shih Tzus Aren’t Dumb, They Just Have Different Priorities

Shih Tzus may not score high on obedience intelligence, but that doesn’t mean they’re dumb.

In fact, these dogs have many qualities that prove they’re smarter than they’re given credit for:

  • Instinctual intelligence: Shih Tzus were bred to be companion animals, and they excel in this role. They are highly skilled at reading their owners’ emotions and providing comfort when needed.
  • Problem-solving intelligence: While they may not learn new commands as quickly as other breeds, Shih Tzus are quite adept at figuring out solutions to problems on their own. This can sometimes come across as stubbornness, but it actually demonstrates their ability to think independently.
  • Social intelligence: Shih Tzus are known for their friendly and sociable nature. They are excellent at adapting to new environments and can often be found making friends with both humans and other animals.

So, if Shih Tzus are intelligent in these ways, why do they have such a low ranking on Stanley Coren’s test?

The answer lies in their priorities.

Shih Tzus were bred to be companion animals, not working dogs, so their focus is on providing love and companionship rather than following commands.

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Inconsistent Training: Another Factor Affecting Shih Tzu Intelligence

A significant reason why Shih Tzus may appear “dumb” is due to inconsistent training.

Many owners don’t prioritize obedience training for their Shih Tzus, believing that their primary role is to be a loving companion.

While this is true, it’s still essential to train your Shih Tzu to ensure they are well-behaved and safe.

Here are some common reasons why Shih Tzus may lack obedience:

  • Lack of consistency: Inconsistent training can confuse your Shih Tzu and make it difficult for them to learn commands. It’s crucial to establish a routine and be consistent with your training methods.
  • Inappropriate training methods: Shih Tzus are sensitive dogs, and harsh training methods can be counterproductive. Positive reinforcement and gentle guidance work best with this breed.
  • Inadequate socialization: Early socialization is critical for all dog breeds, including Shih Tzus. Proper socialization helps your dog become well-adjusted, confident, and more likely to follow commands in various situations.

To improve your Shih Tzu’s obedience, consider these tips:

  • Establish a consistent training routine and stick to it.
  • Use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, treats, and playtime as rewards.
  • Begin socializing your Shih Tzu at a young age, exposing them to different environments, people, and animals.
  • Enroll your Shih Tzu in a professional obedience class or work with a certified dog trainer if needed.

For more advice on training your Shih Tzu, take a look at this helpful guide by PetMD.

Mistaking Stubborness for Low Intelligence

Another factor that may contribute to the misconception that Shih Tzus are “dumb” is their natural stubbornness.

At times, their persistent nature can be mistaken for low intelligence when, in fact, it demonstrates their determination and independent thinking.

➡️ Why Are Shih Tzus Stubborn?

Stubbornness in Shih Tzus can be attributed to several factors:

  • Bred for companionship: As mentioned earlier, Shih Tzus were bred to be companion animals, not working dogs. They were not specifically bred to follow commands, which can make them appear more stubborn than other breeds.
  • Independent thinkers: Shih Tzus are intelligent and can think for themselves. This independent thinking may make them less likely to follow commands if they don’t see a good reason to do so.
  • Sensitivity: Shih Tzus are sensitive dogs, and they may become stubborn if they feel overwhelmed, frightened, or pressured. Ensuring a positive and supportive training environment can help mitigate this stubbornness.

➡️ How to Manage Stubbornness in Shih Tzus

To help manage and work with your Shih Tzu’s stubborn nature, consider these tips:

  • Patience is key: Be patient with your Shih Tzu, and give them time to understand and respond to commands. Remember that they may take a bit longer than other breeds to learn new commands, but they will eventually get it.
  • Positive reinforcement: Shih Tzus respond well to positive reinforcement. Encourage and reward your dog for good behavior, and they’ll be more likely to follow commands.
  • Consistency: Be consistent in your training methods and expectations. Changing the rules or your approach can confuse your Shih Tzu and make them more resistant to learning.
  • Engage their intelligence: Keep training sessions interesting and challenging for your Shih Tzu by incorporating puzzle toys, games, and new commands. This will keep them engaged and help channel their stubbornness into productive learning.

➡️ Stubbornness ≠ Low Intelligence

It’s important to remember that a Shih Tzu’s stubbornness does not equate to low intelligence. Instead, it’s a sign of their independent thinking and unique personality.

By understanding their stubborn nature and working with it, you can create a strong bond with your Shih Tzu and help them become a well-behaved, loving companion.

Shih Tzu Intelligence: Debunking the Myth

Now that we’ve explored the factors contributing to the belief that Shih Tzus are “dumb,” it’s time to debunk this myth officially. Here are some key points to remember about Shih Tzu intelligence:

  • Shih Tzus are smart in their own ways: While they may not be top performers in obedience intelligence, Shih Tzus possess instinctual, problem-solving, and social intelligence, making them excellent companion animals.
  • Intelligence rankings don’t tell the whole story: Stanley Coren’s intelligence test primarily measured obedience intelligence, which doesn’t take into account other forms of intelligence that Shih Tzus excel in.
  • Inconsistent training can affect your Shih Tzu’s obedience: If your Shih Tzu isn’t following commands, it may be due to inconsistent training, inappropriate training methods, or inadequate socialization. Ensuring proper training and socialization can greatly improve your Shih Tzu’s obedience.

Closing thoughts

In conclusion, Shih Tzus aren’t dumb, they just have different strengths compared to other dog breeds.

By understanding their unique intelligence and providing consistent training, you can help your Shih Tzu reach their full potential as a loving, well-behaved companion.

For more information on Shih Tzus and their intelligence, check out these reputable sources:

  1. American Kennel Club (AKC) – Shih Tzu Breed Information
  2. VCA Hospitals – Shih Tzu: Companion Dogs with a Royal Past

Remember, it’s essential to provide your Shih Tzu with the love, support, and training they need to thrive. By doing so, you’ll enjoy a lifetime of companionship and love with your intelligent, loyal, and affectionate Shih Tzu.


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.