This post, originally published in Oct. 2015, has been updated and is republished.
It is an accepted belief that some dog breeds are not very smart. These breeds are generally listed on the dog intelligence list at about # 40 or higher – mostly higher. One of these breeds is the French Bulldog. This breed is listed at #58 on the list.
The French Bulldog is also listed as # 4 on the list of most popular breeds and has climbed the popular list ladder every year since 2013. Obviously, this dog is one that many people find appealing.
The idea that French Bulldogs are not very intelligent is simply a matter of:
1. the human not being proficient at training dogs and
2. Actually, I’m not sure what #2 is.
Here’s what we did to teach/learn the agility tunnel.
Henry, my French Bulldog friend, learned to go through the tunnel in under three minutes on day one and during the second session the next day, I was sending him through without luring. Henry is very food motivated. The issue I find with French Bulldogs is that they have difficulty in swallowing food quickly due to their face shape. But they ARE food motivated. Using food to train (or toys) is the key to training a dog breed that is considered “stubborn”.
Motivate the dog. It’s that simple.
To train Henry to go through the tunnel, I started shaping him to simply look at the tunnel.
I had originally not wanted to lure him through the tunnel – luring is faster, but can develop a dog that relies on the human more for direction if done too often. I also wanted to make sure that he was not worried about or scared of the tunnel, which some dogs are, so I tried to build a positive association with it by click/rewarding gradually. I did this first, for looking at the tunnel, and then for moving closer to it.
After about a minute of this, as he was standing on the open side of the tunnel opposite to me, I bent down and put my hand with the reward into the tunnel. He came flying through! No fear at all, and fairly enjoying it.
In our second session, I did no luring and by the end of the two minutes, I was simply sending him through the tunnel. Quite amazing for a difficult to train dog 😉
We kept the length of the training session short and the length of the tunnel was quite short as well as it should be when the dog is new to the obstacle.
This method can be used to teach “difficult to train” breeds to do any agility obstacle. You need to find what motivates the dog, then do several short, fun sessions for a particular behaviour.
To sum up training a French Bulldog, there is no reason why this breed should be considered less intelligent simply because it is less agile and can’t swallow food as fast, or can’t move as fast as other more “intelligent” breeds. If you are training your French Bulldog and want more encouragement check out my other blog posts: Crate training, or HERE .
As for other breeds that are seen as LESS intelligent than even a French Bulldog, consider this:
Here is a bulldog in agility at Westminster Dog Show in 2019. The Bulldog is listed third from LAST, # 77, on the breed intelligence list. As you can see, dog intelligence is mostly affected by humans and their attitudes.
The commentator’s words at the end of the video: “nobody expected this out of a bulldog tonight”.
Let’s get over rating dog breeds on intelligence. It’s simply not true.