Health & Wellbeing
Are Dachshunds Smart? A Long But Short Investigation
They're sassy, sweet, short-legged spunks. But how smart are they?
Copy: Katy & Shell
Photography: Dogfolk Pet Photography
Katy and Shell are two style-savvy dog mums celebrating the best in pet-friendly living. A professional pet photographer and dog lifestyle writer, together they share dog-friendly inspiration, pet product reviews, dog treat recipes, expert pet advice and on-trend dog brands with discerning pet parents around the world.
Are dachshunds smart? It’s the age-old question on the minds of doxie parents the world over. Dachshunds are among the most adorable dog breeds in the world for sure…but what about their intelligence? How smart are dachshunds really?
While the answer to this question may vary among doxie parents, science can help us work out the answer once and for all.
Let’s take a ~weenie~ good look into the matter and see just how smart dachshunds are, compared to other popular dog breeds!
Are dachshunds smart?
Want the TL;DR? The short answer is yes…dachshunds are smart!
However, the real question is…just how smart are dachshunds compared to other dog breeds? And how is dog intelligence even measured?
A dog’s IQ depends on two factors: the genetics of their breed, and the environment they grow up in. Remember the ol’ nature vs nurture debate? Both sides seem to play a role here.
While it’s true that some dog breeds are genetically predisposed to be smarter than others, if a dog isn’t properly trained, their natural-born intelligence won’t be so obvious.
But wait a minute. How can we actually know which are the smartest dog breeds?
Luckily for us, the canine psychologist and researcher, Stanley Coren, developed a study and created a ranking of the 138 smartest dog breeds!
138 smartest dog breeds
In 1994, the pHD Stanley Coren wrote a book called The Intelligence of Dogs which, in addition to delving into the inner-workings of your dog’s mind, includes a famous ranking of the world’s smartest dog breeds.
As a surprise to many dachshund parents, doxies ranked #92 out of 138 of the smartest dog breeds. Dachshunds were part of the “average intelligence” dog breeds group. But what does this mean?
According to this study, the breeds that made the “average intelligence” group, including dachshunds, could:
- Learn a new command with 25 to 40 repetitions
- Obey a known command on the first attempt with a 50% or better success rate
How smart are dachshunds compared to the smartest dogs?
Thanks to Coren’s book, we know that dachshunds rank #92 on the list of smartest dog breeds and are considered to have an “average intelligence”. But what about all the other dog breeds that ranked higher? How smart are dachshunds compared to the smartest dogs?
The top 10 smartest dogs of the list were placed under the “brightest dogs” category, which included breeds such as the german shepherd, golden retriever, rottweiler, poodle, doberman and – no surprises here – the beautiful border collie taking out the top spot.
These super-smart dogs can:
- Learn a new command with fewer than 5 repetitions
- Obey a known command on the first attempt, with a 95% or better success rate
The category following the “brightest dogs” is one called “excellent working dogs”, which includes breeds such as the schnauzer, cocker spaniel, weimaraner and bernese mountain dogs.
These smart and hard-working dogs can:
- Learn a new command with 5 to 15 repetitions
- Obey a known command on the first attempt with a 85% or a better success rate
Why do dachshunds rank low in dog intelligence?
So, why do dachshunds rank so low for dog intelligence according to the ‘smartest dogs list’?
When dachshund parents learn why, they might not be so surprised by the ranking after all!
Thing is, the relatively low ranking actually has nothing to do with low intelligence. Let’s see the two main reasons why:
1. Classic dachshund stubbornness
Many dachshund parents agree that their doxies are pretty stubborn! This means that if they don’t want to do something, it ain’t gonna happen – no matter how many times you repeat the same command.
This is a big part of the reason why dachshunds performed poorly on the working and obedience intelligence trials devised by Coren.
2. Dog intelligence methodology used by Stanley Coren
A dog’s intelligence is defined by three measures:
- Instinctive intelligence: a dog’s ability to develop the tasks they were bred for – such as guarding, herding and companionship.
- Adaptive intelligence: a dog’s ability to solve problems on their own.
- Working and obedience intelligence: a dog’s ability to learn from humans.
Now, what’s important here is that Coren only focused on one of these measures to evaluate the smartest dog breeds: working and obedience intelligence.
In order to properly assess this intelligence measure, he looked at:
- How many repetitions a dog needed to learn a new command taught by a human
- The success rate of a dog obeying a command they had already learnt on the first attempt
By running these trials, Coren and his team devised the dog intelligence list with the rankings and categories we mentioned above.
However, the problem with Coren’s methodology is that two measures of dog intelligence were left out of the equation: instinctive and adaptive intelligence.
And, as a matter of fact, dachshunds really shine in these two areas of a dog’s IQ.
Why dachshunds are smart?
So, while dachshunds might not be the best at working and obedience intelligence, they sure do excel at instinctive and adaptive intelligence.
As we touched on above, instinctive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to develop the tasks they were bred for, such as guarding, herding and companionship.
In relation to dachshunds, they were specifically bred for hunting badgers. The tiny, long bodies doxies are so loved for means they are always low on the ground, therefore allowing them to pass through small holes to capture their prey.
Although these days you aren’t likely to come across hunting dachshunds in the city, hunting was definitely a skill of theirs back in the day – and still is in some parts of the world.
Therefore, dachshunds’ instinctive intelligence is based on their ability to sniff out, hunt and capture prey.
Adaptive intelligence is a dog’s ability to solve problems on their own and learn things by themselves, without having them taught by humans or their pet parents.
Although there isn’t any scientific research to support the level of adaptive intelligence developed by dachshunds, there is plenty of anecdotal experience from dachshund owners that proves doxies are very good at learning new things by themselves, and solving problems.
Indeed, many dachshund parents claim their doxies can recognise words they benefit from, such as “going for a walk”, “food” or “water”. No one actually taught them to use these words, but thanks to their adaptive intelligence, they learned to positively associate that word with an object or experience they like.
How to measure a dachshund’s intelligence
Want to know how smart your dachshund really is? Here are two games you can play with them at home to find out:
- Place 3 empty cups in front of your dachshunds. Then, place one of their favourite dog treats under one of the cups. After doing so, try to distract your doxie for a few seconds and then let them look for the treat. If they go directly to the cup that has the treat under it, they have better absorbing information skills.
- To assess their problem solving skills, hide their favourite treat in a place you know they will have a decent chance of finding them. The sooner they find it, the better problem solving skills they have!
We recommend practicing these dachshund intelligence tests with healthy dog treats that are beneficial for your doxie’s overall well-being.
So, if you’ve ever asked yourself ‘are dachshunds dumb or smart?’ the moral of the story is: the more you train your dachshund, the smarter they will be!
In the above image, Sushi & Boba are wearing Dear Cooper custom dog hoodies as featured in our post, 12 Designer Dog Hoodies to Keep Your Cool Pup Cozy.
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Copy: Katy & Shell
Photography: Dogfolk Pet Photography