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Are Shih Tzus Smart? Is Your Shih Tzu Clever Than Most?

The Shih Tzu is one of the most popular dog breeds in the UK, and these small, longhaired and noble-looking little canines certainly have the sort of appearance that indicates that they’re more likely to be in demand for their looks than their brains – but is this true?

Whether you’re considering buying a Shih Tzu as your next pet and trying to find out if training a Shih Tzu is hard or easy, or if you’re looking to narrow down your choice of dog breeds to find a dog to perform a certain role or take part in a certain hobby and want to make the right choice, finding out if the Shih Tzu is clever or not might help you to make a decision.

If you’re wondering “are Shih Tzus clever?” Or if you own a Shi Tzu and want to know how smart the Shih Tzu breed is as a whole and how your dog compares to others of their breed, this article has the answers.

Read on to find out how to judge Shih Tzu intelligence, learn how clever your own Shih Tzu is, and learn where the Shih Tzu falls on the canine intelligence spectrum overall… If you’re sure you want to know!

How do we judge Shih Tzu intelligence?

Whilst there have been many different attempts to work out how intelligent dogs are compared to humans and other animals over the years, such equivalents aren’t really accurate or meaningful – and don’t tell us very much about dogs themselves!

In order to judge Shih Tzu intelligence, you need to be able to compare them like for like to dogs of other breeds to find out their ranking compared to the average for the species as a whole; as well as knowing what their position in the ranking means in practice.

The most widely used benchmark for this is the result of a methodology developed by canine psychologist Stanley Coren, which involved attempting to teach dogs a brand new command and counting how many attempts it took for them to understand it, coupled with counting how often a dog was apt to follow a known command the first time they are asked to.

Using a cross-section of different dog breeds and enough dogs of each represented breed to produce an average on a breed-by-breed basis resulted in a list 138 dog breeds long, ranked from the smartest to the dumbest.

The listing also groups the dogs into sets, with indications for each set as to how many repetitions the breeds in question took on average before they’d understand a new command, and how often they were likely to follow a known command the first time.


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How intelligent is the Shih Tzu?

So, when it comes to how many times the Shih Tzu needs to hear a new command in order to understand it and how likely they are to follow a command first time, how does the breed perform? Are Shih Tzus intelligent?

Well… No, the Shih Tzu is not intelligent if you’re being brutally honest!

When it comes to how many times the average Shih Tzu needs to hear a command before they understand it, the breed’s average is a whopping 80-100 repetitions or even more… And so the Shih Tzu is not a very fast learner.

When it comes to how often a Shih Tzu will obey a command the first time they are given it, they are likely to do this just one in four times or worse… And so the Shih Tzu is not obedient as a rule either!

How do Shih Tzus compare to other dog breeds in the intelligence stakes?

The above information gives a very clear outline of the sort of learning abilities and obedience displayed by the average Shih Tzu, but how do they compare to dogs of other breeds?

Are Shih Tzus smarter or dumber than most dog breeds? Bad news once more, Shih Tzus are dumber than most other dog breeds. Out of the 138 ranked dog breeds on the Coren scale, the Shih Tzu falls way down in 128th position, making 127 dog breeds smarter than them, and only 10 dumber!

How can you tell how smart your Shih Tzu is?

The Shih Tzu dog breed is included within the very lowest canine intelligence group – the one reserved for dogs with the lowest degree of working intelligence and obedience. However, they are the highest-ranked breed within this group, and so the average Shih Tzu is likely to perform toward the higher end of the intelligence norms for the group as a whole.

This means the average Shih Tzu might need 80 repetitions of a new command before they understand it, but this should be nearer 80 than 100 or more.

The average Shih Tzu is also likely to need to be given each known command a few times before they respond, but should respond by the fourth time it is given.

If your Shih Tzu performs at around this rate, they’re about average for the breed, but if they pick up new commands faster, or are rather more obedient, they’re smarter than the average.

How many commands a Shih Tzu can learn in total isn’t something that was assessed in the study, but the breed should be able to pick up and retain around five commands if properly taught by a patient handler, so pick your chosen commands carefully!

And once more, if your Shih Tzu can manage better than five commands, they might be smarter than most of their relatives!


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