Every dog is not the same, even within the same breed. However, keep in mind that just like there are “smart people,” so are there “smart dogs.” These two ways of grading intellect are often widely conflicting with one another. Therefore, let us find out how smart is a Shih Tzu.
One of the best ways to rate the Intelligence of your Shih Tzu based on how we humans do, is to get the book (“The Intelligence of Dogs”), by Stanley Coren, written in 1994. This book has become the standard-bearer in terms of rating the Intelligence of different dog breeds.
Although I agree with some aspects of the information contained in this book, I’m afraid I also have to disagree. In my experiences with many dog breeds, I can say that some dogs that score extremely low on the intelligence scale, such as the Shih Tzu, are brilliant in their own way.
Out of respect for the Shih Tzu, I teach my dog many tricks as well as advanced obedience, which makes him a highly attentive dog. He always wins the first prize in any trick competition he enters. Many people believe that small dogs sit there and bark all-day, but that is just not true. For example, I taught my Shih Tzu to speak when commanded using hand signals. I also taught him how NOT to bark out loud because my neighbors hate to hear dogs barking.
Therefore, do not pre-handicap your dog’s level of Intelligence just because of something you read in a highly esteemed book. Because each dog has its own exceptional set of traits, and much of how they progress mentally is up to its owner.
How smart is a Shih Tzu? Intelligence, Obedience, and Companionship
Coren bases the Intelligence of particular purebred breeds on three categories, as follows:
- Working/Obedience Intelligence: how quickly a dog can learn from humans
- Instinctive Intelligence: a dog’s ability to perform tasks their bred to do, such as guarding, herding, hunting, pointing, retrieving or providing companionship
- Adaptive Intelligence: how well a dog can solve problems on its own
According to Coren, the Shih Tzu falls in the “working/obedience intelligence category.” However, in my opinion, breeds bred to be true lapdogs like the Shih Tzu can be judged a bit harshly when it comes to their intelligence level because no one expects a lapdog to do great things. Coren ascertains that the Shih Tzu’s propensity to obey first commands usually only occur 30 percent of the time, or better. However, I think that a Shih Tzu appropriately trained is a lot smarter.
It is good practice to keep in mind that they are exceptions to every rule, and a particular breed’s degree of intellect is mostly related to their upbringing as a puppy as well as their early training.
In my many experiences with this breed, I can assure you that they are eager to please and learn, which makes them relatively easy to train. However, if you’re a Shih Tzu owner, you know that they can have a little bit of a stubborn streak, and because they’re sensitive as well, they do not respond well to harsh training. This dog needs a very patient owner if it is going to receptive to any learning and training. Therefore, you must find the right attitude with this dog.
There is no doubt in my mind that with the right training method and a lot of patience and calm, the Shih Tzu is highly trainable, and they’ll remain happy and mentally fit just as long as they are allowed to spend all of their time on the laps and in the company of their human parents.