Fondly nicknamed Frenchies, French Bulldogs are beloved companion dogs that are firm favorites for city dwellers and small and large families alike. These adorable and surprisingly stubborn dogs are often a source of debate when it comes to their intelligence.
Using Coren’s criteria for dog intelligence, French Bulldogs are ranked 109 out of 138. While that’s a relatively low score on the official test, many Frenchie owners agree that their dogs are more intelligent than they’re given credit for. This is due to their instinctive and adaptive intelligence, partnered with their individuality and personal experiences.
Let’s clear up a bit of the confusion as to why French Bulldogs are considered less intelligent than some other breeds in this guide.
What Are French Bulldogs?
Although they were first introduced in England, the French Bulldog only truly became popular when they were exported to France. They were originally bred to be a toy version of the Bulldog and more of a companion dog rather than a bullfighter like their ancestors.
Due to their intention as companions, they were popular among the lace workers of Nottingham. They took the Frenchie with them when they emigrated to France.
The Frenchie was introduced to the U.S.A. in 1896, when the first French Bulldog appeared at a show hosted by the Westminster Kennel Club.
How Is Canine Intelligence Measured?
Before you can decide for yourself whether French Bulldogs are intelligent, it’s worth paying attention to how the official ranking for intelligence is done. The testing is so renowned that it’s often seen as the worldwide standard for canine intelligence.
The German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, and Poodle, among others, always dominate the list when it comes to intelligent breeds. These dogs were tested based on criteria determined by a psychologist called Stanley Coren and were part of a study group of 138 different breeds, the French Bulldog being only one of them.
Coren’s system is a little flawed, however. The breeds tested were limited to AKC- and Canadian Kennel Club-recognized breeds, which automatically ruled out mixed and less well-known, exotic breeds. Also, the testing itself didn’t consider the dogs as individuals or their natural talents.
Obedience and Working Intelligence
Out of the 138 breeds that were tested based on Coren’s obedience and working intelligence criteria, only 10 were part of the highest class. These dogs — like the Poodle — are now widely acknowledged as the most intelligent breeds.
There are two main parts to these criteria.
The first measure of a dog’s intelligence is how many repetitions are needed for the dog to learn a command. Compared to the highest performers, which learned a new command with fewer than five repetitions, French Bulldogs needed between 40 and 80 repetitions to properly learn something new.
For the second part of the obedience and working intelligence, the dogs were tested on how well they responded to a known command the first time that they heard it. The highest performing dogs did the best here, with a success rate of 95%. In comparison, the French Bulldog had a much lower success rate of 30%.
Are French Bulldogs Intelligent?
Going by the official testing, French Bulldogs don’t seem to hold much ground when it comes to their performance against other breeds. However, the official test based on Coren’s criteria doesn’t take into account a few key pieces of information.
While the idea itself is generally a good one, intelligence isn’t always as simple as how well a dog obeys commands. French Bulldogs in particular are renowned for being willing to please their family members. They’re loyal and are eager to put a smile on your face.
Frenchies also have a vicious stubborn streak. This is why they — and other notoriously strong-willed dogs — scored so low in Coren’s testing. Since it favors obedience, the test was unfair for dogs like the French Bulldog, which have qualities that go beyond how fast they listen to commands.
For many dogs, paying attention to their instinctive and adaptive intelligence gives a much better indication of how smart they truly are. Unfortunately, both types of intelligence can be incredibly subjective and vary depending on the individual dog rather than the breed. Both are also incredibly difficult to measure compared to Coren’s criteria for obedience and working intelligence.
All dogs were bred for a reason, even the oldest breeds that are still firm favorites among dog lovers. While it might seem like a breed’s original purpose doesn’t hold much sway in modern-day life, it’s an important part of their personalities. They have natural talent for certain jobs.
Collies, for example, were first bred for herding purposes. Even if they’re now considered family dogs, they still have fierce instincts when it comes to herding. It’s why they’ll try to herd cats, children, and even balloons. While training can help them hone their talents, they don’t need to be taught how to herd, it’s just part of who they are.
Conversely, French Bulldogs were bred for companionship, which gives Frenchies a particular brand of intelligence. While their herding cousins are known for their agility and obedience, the French Bulldog is known for their fierce loyalty. They’re naturally quick to form bonds with their families and don’t often latch onto only one person in the family. Frenchies also make for natural watchdogs and can even be overprotective and territorial.
While instinctive intelligence covers a dog’s base nature, adaptive intelligence is determined by their experiences. It’s a measure of how well a dog solves problems by themselves.
It’s their adaptive intelligence that makes properly socializing them when they’re puppies so important. The more experiences that your dog has — whether it’s people they’ve met, places they’ve been to, or tricks they know — the better equipped they’ll be at dealing with strangers and challenges later.
Age can also play a factor in adaptive intelligence. Young dogs are often much easier to train than older canines, which is why socializing them as puppies is much simpler than trying to introduce them to new things as adults.
With their relatively low intelligence score compared to more obedient dog breeds, the French Bulldog’s intelligence is often misjudged. In official testing, the French Bulldog’s stubborn streak and strong-willed nature often cause them to be marked down.
Determining if your French Bulldog is intelligent means paying attention to their individuality rather than their breed. Their ability to solve problems, their instincts, their experiences, and even their loyal companionship are just as important when figuring out whether your Frenchie is smart.
Featured Image Credit: speckfechta, Unsplash