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Beagle Intelligence: An In-Depth Look

Beagle Intelligence


I don’t care what anyone says: I believe my beagle is the most intelligent dog — period.
Is that the case? Of course not. But just like any pet owner who actually knows the answer, I remain blissfully clear that my pet is the most intelligent anomaly. At the same time, I had to ask: Where does beagle intelligence fall when compared to other breeds.


Where Do Beagles Rank On Intelligence?


Beagles’ intelligence is ranked lower than average, as are most hounds and terriers. They tend to take between 80 and 100 repetitions to learn a command. They do not always obey, only in 25% of cases. For older breeds like hounds and terriers, they were bred to hunt and run prey down for humans while other breeds such as collies and retrievers were bred to follow commands.

Fortunately, there has been some detailed research done as to the basis of dog intelligence to back it up.

Dr. Stanley Coren, a psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher highly acclaimed for his research and understanding of canine behavior and the human-canine bond.

In 1994, he published his book The Intelligence of Dogs, which became his most famous piece of research. Republished in 2006, the book ranks over 100 different dog breeds according to their intelligence.


The Three Types Of Canine Intelligence


  • Instinctive Intelligence: abilities that the dog possesses instinctively, such as sheep herding, guarding or company, among others.
  • Adaptive Intelligence: skills that dogs have to solve problems.
  • Work Intelligence and Obedience: the ability to learn from a human being.

In addition, that 51% of a dog’s intelligence stems from its genes while 49% is based on environmental circumstances. Together, they evaluate the animal’s problem-solving capabilities, obedience, memory, social training and powers of observation.

This variance tends to align with the types of dog breeders set out to create. For example, working, herding, guarding, hunting, and sporting dogs all require different levels of intelligence and training.


How Do Beagle Intelligence Compare to Human Intelligence?


According to research by animal psychologists, beagle intelligence is as strong as an average two-year-old child. Amazing, right?

Studies show that beagles can learn: where is a valuable object, the shortest routes in an environment, how to handle simple devices, and the meaning of words and their symbols.

Professor Coren believes centuries of selective breeding and living alongside humans have helped to hone the intelligence of dogs.

They have also compiled a list of the most intelligent and least intelligent breeds using information from obedience classes. Border collies and retrievers were rated among the most intelligent while hounds and terriers were the least bright.

It’s no secret that purebred dogs have very different skills depending on what they were bred to do. For instance, herding breeds like Border Collies, Australian Shepherds and Corgis are universally considered to be extremely intelligent. Due to the nature of their work, they are excellent at both making independent decisions and taking instructions from humans.

While most dogs understand simple commands such as sit, fetch and stay, a border collie tested by Professor Coren showed a knowledge of 200 spoken words. The collie was able to recognize the names of items it was asked to fetch and correctly retrieve them.

The dog was also quick to learn the names for new items and after being taught a new word, brought back the correct item 70% of the time. Other dogs have shown similar abilities, although often with fewer words but with gestures instead.


Highest Degree To Lowest Degree Of Intelligence Groups


Brightest Dogs: Master commands with less than 5 repetitions and generally obey 95%+ of the time, the first order. Example: Border Collie, German Shepherd.

Excellent Working Dogs: Comprehend new commands in 5 and 15 repetitions, usually obey 80% of the time. Example: Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Cocker Spaniel.

Above-Average Working Dogs: Understand new orders between 15 and 25 repetitions. They usually respond in 70% of cases. Example: Dalmatian, Gordon Setter.

Average Working/Obedience Intelligence: Interpret new commands in 25 and 40 repetitions, usually obey 50% of the time. Example: Siberian Husky, Jack Russell Terrier.

Fair Working/Obedience Intelligence: These dogs need between 40 and 80 repetitions to understand an order. They respond 30% of the time. Example: Scottish Terrier, Great Pyrenees.

Lowest Degree Of Working/Obedience Intelligence: They learn new orders between 80 and 100 repetitions. They do not always obey, only in 25% of cases. Example: Beagle, Bloodhound.


Why Are Many Hound Breeds Ranked Lower?


“Pretty much all scenthounds are governed by their noses,” says Dr. Nicholas Dodman; BVMS, Dipl. ACVB, professor emeritus of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

“They’re hard to train because they don’t really look up, they look down. Beagles aren’t as interested in listening or pleasing anybody, as much as they’re just interested in tracking with their noses. The sighthounds want to chase anything that moves. For every dog breed there’s a purpose, and the mixed breeds are just a combination of the purebreds.

I can see how it might be easy to superficially judge a dog who is kind of slow and not paying a lot of attention to what you say and really not that interested in performing tricks, but it doesn’t mean that they’re not smart, and in some ways, being very independent could be more intelligent than being obedient.”

Scenthounds like Basset Hounds, Beagles and Bloodhounds can sniff out almost anything. Sighthounds can spot their prey making the slightest movement and swiftly chase it down.

A Border Collie is far more trainable than a Bloodhound, but a Bloodhound is far superior at tracking scents than a Border Collie.




Beagle intelligence is magnified with dedicated training and appropriate care, resulting in a well-behaved, more obedient beagle.

They each have their own unique skills and excel in their own ways.


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