Are Pitbulls Smart

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Pitbulls are well known for their muscular body frame and strength, in addition to showing steadfast loyalty to their human caregivers.

But, are Pitbulls smart?

Whether you’re a seasoned Pitbull owner, or you’re looking forward to adopting one, you may have wondered if there’s more that these dogs can offer aside from their well-built frame.

Pitbulls have been the subject of unfair criticism over the years for being naturally aggressive, but that’s far from the truth.

But do you know what’s accurate about these dogs? Their decent intelligence!

Yes, you read that right. Pitbulls are among the top 100 smartest dog breeds in the world, making them an interesting breed to consider.

Continue reading this post to discover the fascinating world of Pitbulls’ brainpower and why they excelled as working dogs in their historical period.

Are Pitbulls Smart?

Now that we understand the three dimensions of canine intelligence, it’s time to make a conclusive argument about the intelligence of Pitbulls.

The short answer to this question is yes – Pitbulls are intelligent dogs! They may not be the smartest dogs in the room, but they fall within the top 100 smartest dog breeds.

Are Pitbulls Smart
Image Credit: Stiv xyz from Pexels

It’s indeed possible to underestimate the intellectual knack of Pitbulls but keep in mind that these gentle giants can easily be trained to pick up new commands.

Factors Affecting Intelligence in Dogs

1. The Role of Genetics: How Genes Shape Canine Intelligence

The mental attributes of dogs including brain power can be passed down from one generation to the other through genetics.

In fact, Professor Stanley Coren, a distinguished canine psychologist, puts it that up to 51% of a dog’s intelligence stems from their genes while the remaining 49% comes from outside factors.

Different dog breeds have varying genetic makeup structures, making them have noticeable differences in cognitive abilities.

Pitbulls were initially bred for bull-baiting, meaning they have an inborn attribute of figuring out how to deal with a real-world problem for their handlers.

Although genetics lays a foundation for canine intelligence, other factors such as training and environmental enrichment can contribute to the overall acumen of a dog.

2. Nurturing Intelligence: Environment, Training, and Upbringing

The immediate environment of a dog, previous training, and upbringing can play a vital role in determining how smart they are.

Pitbulls, just like any other dog breed, can have improved intelligence with the right combination of the factors influencing their cognitive abilities.

3. The Impact of Socialization

Socializing your dog, right from puppyhood into their senior stage is crucial in developing their cognitive abilities.

Your dog can learn a lot when interacting with other pets, and different people, and sniffing the environment when going for a walk.

A socially trained pup is more likely to have advanced adaptive intelligence compared to those who haven’t been exposed to the outside world.

4. Cognitive Stimulation and Learning

Dogs who engage in mentally straining or problem-solving activities can shape their intelligence to become better.

Providing your canine friend with mentally stimulating activities can keep them challenged to perform better, which helps in building brain power.

Some of the activities that help keep your dog’s mind sharp include interactive plays, command training, puzzle games, and treat dispensing toys.

How to Assess Pitbull Intelligence

You can evaluate your Pitbull’s intellectual powers by observing how they behave and interact with you in different settings.

Measuring Canine Intelligence: Methods and Considerations

1. Repetition during Command Training

You can assess your dog’s obedience intelligence by looking at how many repetitions it takes for them to learn a new command.

This is a proven model that was developed by Professor Coren to determine the obedience and working intelligence of dogs.

Intelligent Pitbulls can learn new commands quickly and make consistent success rates in obeying known commands.

2. Problem-solving

A good way of assessing your dog’s adaptive intelligence is by evaluating their ability to solve problems without requiring human involvement.

You can do this by hiding a few treats in a puzzle toy, requiring your Pitbull to solve the puzzle before getting the reward.

Low Angle Shot of an Adorable Pitbull
Image Credit: Lucia Barreiros Silva from Pexels

Dogs with higher cognitive abilities may take a few chances before solving puzzles to uncover hidden treasures.

3. Adaptability

You can gauge your Pitbull’s intelligence by looking at how easily they can adapt to changing environments without feeling overwhelmed.

A highly intelligent Pitbull will adapt to unfamiliar environments and figure out ways of creating fun instead of whining due to fear.

4. Interactions

A scrutiny of your dog’s social interactions with humans and other dogs can give you valuable insights into their state of intelligence.

Pitbulls with high intelligence can interact with different people and animals based on how they can foster positive relations.

If your dog struggles to put up with fellow canine companions, then there’s a high chance that they lack adaptive intelligence.

Insights from Studies: What Research Says About Pitbull Intelligence

Professor Stanely Coren tested the obedience and working intelligence of various dog breeds, and with the help of 199 trial judges from North America, he came up with a list of the most intelligent dog breeds.

Among the Pitbull dogs, only the American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier took part in Prof. Coren’s test since they are the only recognized breeds under this category.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier stood out as the 49th most intelligent dog breed while the American Staffordshire Terrier took the 94th spot out of 138 breeds tested.

Based on these results, the American Staffordshire Terriers were classified as averagely intelligent while the Staffordshire Bull Terrier got an above-average remark.

This classification showed that the Staffordshire Bull Terriers could learn a new command with just about 15 to 25 repetitions while the American Staffordshire Terrier can take in new commands with 25 to 50 repetitions.

In addition to their learning speed, Pitbulls showed a 50% success rate in responding positively to learned commands, which is not bad at all.

Pitbulls and Working Abilities

The working abilities of Pitbulls are evident for everyone to see. These gentle giants are not only brawny in appearance, but they also have some impressive judgment skills.

Pitbulls were historically used as farm dogs and hunting dogs after the banning of bull-bating, which was a cruel bloody sport of pitting bulls against strong canines.

Some unscrupulous individuals have in the past used Pitbulls in dog fighting rings, and this largely contributed to the negative criticism and stereotype of these lovely canines.

In the positive historical context, Pitbulls played a vital role in rural farmsteads where they assisted ranchers to control livestock.

Hunters also maximized the desired attributes of Pitbulls to control wild hogs and other large game in the hunting fields.

Due to the unparalleled loyalty that Pitbulls showed their handlers, they were trained and deployed as guardian dogs to protect homestead and property.

Versatility and Intelligence: How Working Roles Require Smart Dogs

For dogs to serve as working partners, they not only require the desirable physical attributes, but they also need a smart brain to make informed decisions.

Pitbull intelligence was manifested in how they covered different terrains to chase after hogs for their masters.

The cognitive powers of these muscular dogs demanded that they should bark to inform their handlers of the new catch, instead of consuming it.

Other than that, Pitbulls were also capable of interpreting cues and commands from their masters in the hunting field and this made sure that they succeeded in making a catch without fail.

Pitbull’s Intelligence in Everyday Situations

Pitbull owners can attest to how nice it feels to own such a wonderful breed. There are plenty of real-world stories of how Pitbulls can be trained to solve everyday problems at home.

How Smart Are Pitbulls Compared to Other Breeds?

When compared to other dog breeds, Pitbulls are neither the smartest nor the least intelligent among all.

They fall somewhere in the middle with an average and above average performance distributed across the distinctive Pitbull breeds.

The following is a table that compares the intelligence of selected dog breeds comparison to Pitbulls as shown in Dr. Coren’s study:

RankDog BreedIntelligence Category
1Border CollieVery high
2PoodleVery high
4Golden RetrieverVery high
15Belgian SheepdogHigh
49Staffordshire Bull TerrierAbove Average
56Norfolk TerrierFair
60Italian GreyhoundFair
79Afghan houndFair

How to Nurture Pitbull Intelligence: Training and Enrichment

Tapping into the potential of your Pitbull’s intelligence can help in maximizing their mental prowess and ability to solve problems.

One of the best ways of nurturing your dog’s cognitive reasoning is by providing the right mentally enriching activities and training.

Make sure to use positive reinforcement techniques when training your dog on behavior and command.

You can reward your Pitbull with high-value foods when they consistently show repeated positive behavior.

This will help in reinforcing positive behavior and shape a progressive learning experience, making your dog smarter.

Training your dog can be a difficult task. We always suggest that you be patient with your Pitbull and allow them to take in commands at their own pace.

Consistency is also key in ensuring your dog is upbeat in their learning curve and showing an impressive success rate of following commands.

Are Pitbulls Easy To Train?

Pitbulls have a naturally strong desire to make their human caregivers happy and this makes them an easy breed to train.

Apart from basic command training, Pitbulls can be trained to perform various tasks including search and rescue or serve as therapy dogs.

This should not be a general statement for all Pitbull types and mixes. Keep in mind that every dog is an individual and they may take varying amounts of effort to train them successfully.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Are Pitbulls emotionally intelligent?

Pitbulls are one of the most emotionally intelligent dog breeds for families and especially those with kids.

These affectionate canines are people-oriented, and they derive a lot of pleasure in making their owners happy.

It is the admirable emotional intelligence of Pitbulls that makes them ideal candidates to serve as therapy dogs and service dogs.

2. Is a pitbull smarter than a German Shepherd?

Canine intelligence is distributed across various dimensions including adaptability, working, and instinctual intelligence.

German Shepherds have shown consistently excellent scores in various aspects of cognitive abilities which makes them excel in working roles such as police dogs.

Although Pitbulls have shown an above average score in other dimensions including problem-solving skills, German Shepherds can generally be categorized as smarter than Pitbulls.

Keep in mind that the intelligence of a dog is not only a factor of the breed but also encompasses individual training and mental enrichment.

3. Can Pitbulls excel in activities like agility and obedience training?

Absolutely Yes! Pitbulls are naturally bursting with energy and they can do very well in agility courses and also obedience training.

The natural drive for athleticism added to the decent cognitive abilities of Pitbulls makes them ideal candidates to excel in agility training.

Pitbulls can easily be trained to perform well in intensive physical activities and navigate through obstacles, which is a testament to their mental capabilities.


Pitbulls are not just muscular and well-built. If you ever wondered if Pitbulls are smart or not, we hope that this post has shed light on your doubt.

The intelligence of pitbulls may not be the highest among all dog breeds but they sit somewhere in the middle, which makes them a decent breed for training.

Pitbulls were historically used as working dogs, and they have now evolved to become one of the best family-friendly canines due to their staunch loyalty.

The nature of work done by Pitbulls requires them to make some cognitive decisions, which form a base for their intelligence.

Bear in mind that the smartness of a dog can be altered by training, different environmental factors, and socialization.

Written By

Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.

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