Are English Bulldogs Smart? What The Science Says

When discussing the intelligence of different dog breeds, the bulldog may not be the first to come to mind, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart in their own unique way. Bulldogs are known for their affectionate, loyal, and gentle nature, but how they measure up in terms of intelligence is a topic worth exploring.

Canine intelligence varies, and it’s important to understand that different breeds excel at various tasks based on their breed-specific traits. For bulldogs, their strengths lie in their determination and tenacity, making them well-suited for certain activities. They are also extremely good at intuiting their humans emotions and working their pet parents to solve problems. To really answer this question, we are going to refer to Dr. Stanley Coren who studied dog breed IQs in his famous book, The Intelligence of Dogs.

So, Are Bulldogs Smart?

English Bulldogs rank 77th in dog intelligence according to Dr. Stanley Coren, indicating a lower degree of working/obedience intelligence. They typically need 80 to 100 repetitions to understand new commands and obey the first command only about 25% of the time or less. However, research also shows that Bulldogs have a different kind of intelligence

So, when it comes to the English Bulldog, you might be surprised to learn that they’re often underestimated in terms of intelligence. These dogs can be quite smart, but their stubbornness might give people the wrong impression. There is far more to the question of how smart they are than where they rank on Dr. Coren’s list. 

So, don’t worry, your Bulldog is certainly not dumb, and we’ll explain why below. But if you have your doubts, just see the video below of Rudy the Bulldog crushing a agility course:

Bulldogs can be pretty amazing when it comes to doing cool stuff like skateboarding or surfing. It’s not just about them being strong or agile; it’s also a sign of how smart they are. The trick to getting a Bulldog to learn these kinds of skills is to find what really gets them excited  and motivated. They love it when they’re rewarded and having fun. 

But remember, Bulldogs have a special kind of face shape that can make it hard for them to breathe sometimes, so we’ve got to make sure they’re healthy and not overdoing it. When they’re feeling good and interested, Bulldogs can be surprisingly good at learning and doing things that you might not expect from such chunky pups

So, let’s look at what the science says about how smart your Bulldog really is and dispel some myths and misconceptions about them, such as that Bulldogs are dumb.

Understanding Canine Intelligence

When it comes to our furry friends, intelligence is not a one-size-fits-all concept. In fact, there are different types of dog intelligence that can help determine how “smart” your bulldog might be. We will start with how Dr. Coren categorizes and measures a dog’s cleverness. 

Types of Dog Intelligence

There are three main categories of intelligence that can be observed in dogs:

  1. Instinctive Intelligence: This refers to what a dog is naturally inclined to do, like herding or guarding. It’s what makes your bulldog a bulldog.
  2. Adaptive Intelligence: This measures a dog’s ability to learn from its environment and solve problems. With some patience and training, your bulldog might just surprise you!
  3. Working Intelligence (also known as Obedience Intelligence): This is all about how well a dog can follow commands and perform specific tasks. Some breeds are natural stars in this category, but that doesn’t mean a bulldog can’t keep up with a little practice.

Now, you might be wondering how we can measure these different aspects of intelligence. Fortunately, a dog intelligence guru by the name of Stanley Coren has got us covered.

Stanley Coren’s Intelligence Criteria

Stanley Coren, a psychology professor and researcher, has developed Coren’s dog intelligence criteria to help determine where our canine companions stand in terms of these different types of intelligence. Based on his research, he divided the breeds into six categories (from “brightest” to “least intelligent”) and assessed them on the following factors:

  1. Understanding New Commands: How many repetitions does it take for a dog to learn a new command? Smarter dogs tend to catch on more quickly.
  2. Obeying First Commands: What percentage of the time will a dog obey a known command on the first try? Higher obedience rates usually indicate higher working intelligence.
  3. Breed Purpose: What is the breed’s original purpose? This ties back to instinctive intelligence.

When measuring Bulldogs this way, they fall pretty down the list at number 77th of the dog breeds. This means they can take 80 to 100 repetitions to learn a new command, and they’ll only respond to a command the first time about 25% of the time. But don’t lose hope, Bulldogs are still very trainable, it just takes a little patience and commitment. Just see the video below:

It’s important to remember that Coren’s criteria aren’t the be-all and end-all of doggy smarts. Your bulldog might have strengths and talents that don’t fit neatly into these categories. So, the next time your pup gives you a particularly clever head tilt, just remember that there’s more to canine intelligence than meets the eye. And who knows, your bulldog might just be the Einstein of the dog world in its own unique way!

Smart or Dumb? Debunking the Myths About Bulldog

So, we’ve looked at how Dr. Coren measures intelligence, but responding and learning commands is not the last word on how smart a dog really is. So, let’s look at what more research has to say:

Dog Skull Shapes and Training

When we talk about how easy it is to train different dogs, one thing researchers look at is the shape of their heads. This is called the cephalic index. It’s like measuring how long and wide a dog’s head is.

Studies found that dogs whose head shapes are kind of average (not too long or too wide) are generally seen as easier to train. Dogs with heads that are much wider or longer than average are often seen as harder to train.

1. Different Head Shapes

  • Average head (Mesocephalic): These dogs have a balanced head shape and are usually thought to be easier to train for lots of different things.
  • Wide, short head (Brachycephalic), like Bulldogs: These dogs have strong bites and are good at focusing on things right in front of them. They’re built more for strength activities like wrestling.
  • Long, narrow head (Dolichocephalic): These dogs are great runners and can spot things far away easily.

2. What This Means for Training A Bulldog

Basically, the way a dog looks can give us clues about what they’re good at. Dogs with specialized shapes, like Bulldogs, might be seen as harder to train not because they’re not smart, but because they’re built for specific tasks, not general ones.

This all means that when we think about how trainable a dog is, we’re really thinking about their shape and what it’s best suited for. Bulldogs, with their unique shape, might be better at certain things and not so much at others, just like all dogs.

So, when we talk about Bulldogs and training, it’s not that they’re not smart. They’re just built for different things than, say, a dog with an average head shape. It’s like having a different set of skills!

Bulldogs and Human Interaction: A Different Kind of Smart

One study investigates the intelligence and problem-solving abilities of Bulldogs, comparing them to another dog breed (Mudi, which has a more balanced head shape). Here’s what the study found and what it means in simple terms:

  1. The Experiment: The dogs were given a task where they had to open boxes to get food rewards. This tests how good they are at solving problems.
  2. Results for Bulldogs: Both English and French Bulldogs were less successful at solving the task compared to the Mudi. They took longer to try to open the boxes and spent more time looking at the humans around them instead of focusing on the boxes.
  3. Interpreting Bulldog Behavior: The Bulldogs’ tendency to look at humans more could be seen as them asking for help. This might make their owners think they’re more dependent or “helpless.”
  4. What This Means About Intelligence: The study suggests that Bulldogs may not be as good at problem-solving tasks as some other breeds. However, their behavior also shows they might be more inclined to seek human interaction or assistance, which is a different kind of smart. It’s like they know how to use their charm to get humans to help them. This is because Bulldogs are one of the most ideal companion dogs.
  5. Why Owners Love Bulldogs: The study also hints that the reason people love Bulldogs isn’t just because they’re cute (which they totally are!). Their behavior, which can seem more baby-like and dependent, might make owners feel more nurturing towards them. This behavior is part of their appeal.

So, in summary, Bulldogs might not be the top dogs in a traditional problem-solving test. But they have their own kind of smarts – they’re good at interacting with humans and maybe even getting a little help when they need it! This makes them great companions, which is a big reason why people love them.

Ranking the Bulldog’s IQ

You might have heard that bulldogs are not the smartest dogs around, but let’s take a closer look at the Bulldog’s IQ. In the world of dog breeds, intelligence can be ranked based on a dog’s ability to learn, adapt, and solve problems. While bulldogs may not be at the top of the list like a Border Collie or a Poodle, they are not as far down as some people might think.

Border Collie1
German Shepherd3

As you can see, bulldogs are ranked around 40th, meaning they are still smarter than many other breeds.

Comparing Bulldogs to Other Breeds

When you’re thinking about how smart bulldogs might be, it’s helpful to compare them to other dog breeds. Yes, bulldogs are not as intelligent as a German Shepherd or a Poodle, but they have a unique set of skills and qualities. These skills include loyalty, determination, and alertness, which make them admirable companions.

Here is a quick comparison to help you understand:

  • Border Collie: High intelligence and energy; excels at tasks like sheepherding.
  • Poodle: Smart and versatile; easily trainable in various disciplines.
  • Retrievers: Intelligent and friendly; great service dogs, search and rescue dogs.
  • Bulldog: Loyal and stubborn; excellent for companionship and protection.

Other Misconceptions About Bulldog Intelligence

There are a few misconceptions about bulldog intelligence that should be cleared up. The first and foremost is that they are often seen as unintelligent dogs due to their stubborn nature. However, this is a misunderstood trait. Bulldogs may be independent thinkers, but let’s not confuse stubbornness with a lack of intelligence.

Secondly, bulldogs are prone to certain health issues, such as breathing difficulties. These health problems can potentially affect their energy levels and willingness to learn new skills. But remember, a bulldog’s physical limitations do not reflect on their overall intelligence.

So, next time you hear someone call a bulldog unintelligent, you can confidently set the record straight. Bulldogs may not outsmart a Border Collie, but their unique qualities make them lovable companions with a perfectly acceptable level of intelligence. Now go give your bulldog a hug and appreciate them for being who they are!

Training and Obedience

Bulldogs might not be hailed as the Einsteins of the dog world, but they definitely have their own charm and intelligence. Contrary to popular belief, bulldogs can be well-trained and obedient if you’re armed with the right strategies. In this section, we’ll explore some effective training techniques, how obedience and adaptability play a part in your bulldog’s training, and the role of socialization in your pup’s development.

Effective Training Techniques

Although bulldogs are intelligent, they can be stubborn at times. So, it’s crucial to approach training with a mix of patience, persistence, and humor. Here’s a list of techniques that can really help with training your stubborn, yet lovable bulldog:

  • Positive reinforcement: When your bulldog performs a command correctly or exhibits good behavior, reward them with treats, praise, or both! Reinforcing their actions helps to keep them motivated.
  • Keep it short and sweet: Bulldogs can’t handle long training sessions, so break them down into brief, 10 to 15-minute intervals throughout the day.
  • Use hand signals: Pairing verbal commands with hand signals can help your dog understand what you want them to do more effectively.
  • Stay consistent: Stick to a routine and use the same words for specific commands, so your bulldog associates the words with actions.
  • Force-free training: Avoid harsh punishment or dominance training methods since these won’t work well with bulldogs, and can damage your relationship with your furry companion.

Obedience and Adaptability

Bulldogs may not have the highest dog IQ compared to other breeds, but they still possess intelligence that’s unique to their breed. With a little persistence and the right training methods like positive reinforcement, your bulldog can become an obedient and adaptable companion.

Remember, bulldogs require more repetitions to grasp commands than some other breeds, so don’t get discouraged if it takes a little longer. Just keep your sense of humor and celebrate every small victory with your bulldog. Soon, they’ll be impressing you with their tricks and ability to understand your commands.

The Role of Socialization

Socialization is an essential aspect of your bulldog’s training. Start socializing your pup with other people, dogs, and environments early on. This will help them develop problem-solving skills, reduce fear and aggression, and ultimately become a well-rounded, adaptable companion.

Here are a few tips for successful socialization:

  • Expose your bulldog to various situations: Take your dog for walks in different environments, such as parks, neighborhoods, and pet-friendly stores.
  • Enroll in puppy classes: Attending puppy classes can help your bulldog become more comfortable around different dog breeds and learn essential skills.
  • Host play dates: Invite other dogs and their humans over for a fun playdate. This will give your bulldog an opportunity to develop social skills in a controlled setting.

Incorporating these elements into your bulldog’s training can help you raise a well-behaved and adaptable furry friend who will undoubtedly bring joy (and a few laughs) into your life.

Bulldog Behavior and Personality

Social and Affectionate Nature

Bulldogs might have a tough exterior, but beneath those wrinkles lies a heart of gold. These dogs are truly social and affectionate creatures who crave companionship. They are great with children and other pets, making them excellent family dogs. When you invite a bulldog into your home, you’ll quickly find yourself with a loving and loyal best friend.

Bonus: Bulldogs are also incredibly low-key and playful, so you don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to keep up with them. A few games of fetch, a short walk, or even some indoor playtime will keep them happy and stimulated.

Stubbornness vs. Independent Thinking

Now, let’s discuss the elephant (or bulldog) in the room: stubbornness. Bulldogs are known for their sometimes-stubborn nature, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t smart or incapable of learning. In fact, they are moderately intelligent and quite capable of understanding what you want from them.

The key is to recognize that their stubbornness is often a form of independent thinking. Bulldogs like to ponder things a bit before they take action. So when they seem resistant to your commands, perhaps it’s not obstinance but their brains working to find the best course of action.

Problem-Solving in Everyday Life

As we’ve established, bulldogs are far from being unintelligent. They can exhibit problem-solving abilities in their day-to-day life. While they might not win any canine Trivial Pursuit games, they’ve been known to figure out where you keep the treats or how to get around a baby gate.

To keep your bulldog mentally stimulated, try incorporating puzzle toys, new tricks, and interactive games into their routine. They’ll appreciate the challenge and reward you with even more of their lovable, quirky personality.

Remember, bulldogs’ intelligence may be underestimated, but it’s up to you to bring out their potential by offering mental stimulation, patience, and a sense of humor. And don’t forget – bulldogs are social and affectionate creatures, so cherish the time you spend bonding with your wrinkly best friend.

A Bulldog’s Mental and Physical Health

Health Issues Affecting Intelligence

Bulldogs are known for their distinctive appearance and lovable personalities, but did you know that their unique features can sometimes impact their mental and physical health? It’s true! Bulldogs can be prone to certain health issues that might affect their intelligence, such as respiratory problems due to their short snouts. However, don’t let this discourage you, as bulldogs are still intelligent creatures when provided with the right environment and care. Just be sure to consult your vet about any concerns regarding your bulldog’s health.

Environmental Enrichment

Creating a stimulating environment for your bulldog can help improve their mental capabilities. Provide your bulldog with a variety of puzzle toys that will challenge their problem-solving skills and boost their mental stimulation. You can also create an interactive environment by incorporating a mix of:

  • Squeaky toys;
  • Tug toys; and
  • Hide-and-seek games with treats.

Regular Exercise and Mental Challenges

Bulldogs have unique exercise needs due to their build and potential for exercise intolerance. To maintain a healthy balance between their physical health and mental well-being, remember to incorporate tailored exercises into their routine. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  1. Daily walks: Like any other dog, your bulldog enjoys a good walk, but keep in mind that shorter, more frequent strolls are better for them than long, exhausting adventures.
  2. Playdates: Socializing with other dogs can be a fun way for your bulldog to exercise both their body and mind. Just be sure to supervise the interactions to ensure everyone’s safety.
  3. Brain games: Apart from puzzle toys, consider teaching your dog new tricks or commands. Bulldogs might surprise you with their eagerness to learn and intelligence once properly motivated.

Remember to always monitor your bulldog’s energy levels and overall health, and adapt their exercise routines accordingly. With the right balance of mental and physical stimulation, your bulldog can thrive and surprise you with their smarts!

The Significance of Genetics and Upbringing

Hereditary Factors

To understand if your bulldog is smart, let’s talk about genetics. Bulldogs, like all dogs, inherit characteristics from their parents. Some breeds may be more likely to display intelligence due to their genetic makeup. However, it’s vital to remember that each dog is unique, and there can be individual differences even within the same breed.

For instance, a study on Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Pugs found that French Bulldogs are known for their quick learning ability and being great family dogs. So, genetics does play a role in determining a dog’s intelligence to some extent.

The Impact of Early Life Experiences

Now, let’s have a look at the role upbringing plays in your bulldog’s intelligence. A dog’s early experiences can make a world of difference when it comes to their intelligence and behavior. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Age: When you start training your bulldog, the saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks may or may not apply. In general, it’s easier to train puppies because they’re more receptive to learning during their early developmental stages.
  2. Canine Psychologist: You heard that right – doggies have psychologists too! Canine psychologists believe that a dog’s upbringing is essential in determining their intelligence and behavior. So, if you provide a stimulating, loving, and interactive environment for your little bulldog, they’re more likely to reach their full potential in terms of intelligence.
  3. Socialization: Introducing your bulldog to a variety of people, animals, and environments helps them become smarter, well-rounded, and adaptable canines.
  4. Training: Regular training and mental stimulation are key components in developing your bulldog’s intelligence. You can try puzzle toys or engaging activities that challenge your dog’s problem-solving abilities.

In conclusion, genetics and upbringing both play a role in determining a bulldog’s intelligence. Bear in mind that each dog is different, and by providing a well-rounded nurturing environment, you’re doing your part in helping your bulldog unlock their full potential.

Beyond Intelligence: What Bulldogs Excel At

Loyalty and Companionship

You might have heard that bulldogs aren’t exactly rocket scientists. But don’t let that fool you, because they excel in other areas! One of their most valued traits is their incredible loyalty and companionship. With a bulldog by your side, you’ll always feel loved and secure in their presence. These affectionate pups are known for forming deep emotional bonds with their humans.

On top of their loyalty, bulldogs are naturally protective, making them great watchdogs and guard dogs. Even though they won’t ace an agility course or earn obedience titles like a Border Collie, their presence alone is often enough to deter any trespassers. This might just be that famous bulldog scowl they’ve got going on, or perhaps it’s their stocky build that makes them one formidable canine!

Bulldogs in Work and Play

Beyond just being great companions with their protective and emotional sides, bulldogs are also downright playful and hilarious. They might not win any agility or rally competitions, but they are experts at making you laugh! Bulldogs love to play, and their goofy antics can keep you entertained for hours. Just imagine that stout body, wiggling around, trying to catch a toy – snort and giggle all around.

ActivityBulldogs’ Level

Remember, bulldogs may not be renowned for their intellectual prowess, but they’re committed, loyal, and always eager to please. They’ve got the heart and determination to tackle life’s challenges, even if they don’t always have the quickest brains. So, if you’re looking for a steadfast, loving companion who will definitely keep you in stitches with their comedic antics, a bulldog might just be your perfect match!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do bulldogs have hidden brainy talents?

Why, yes! Bulldogs may look tough and stocky, but they have their fair share of intelligence. Some owners even say they learn quickly. So, don’t be fooled by their appearance, your bulldog may just be a smarty-pants in disguise.

Can a bulldog outsmart your average sofa cushion?

While we wouldn’t exactly call them masterminds, bulldogs do show potential for some pretty smart problem-solving skills. They might not be able to perform complex calculations, but they’re certainly capable of figuring out how to get that hidden treat between the cushions!

Is it a cinch to teach bulldogs new tricks?

Teaching a bulldog new tricks could be easier than you think. They might not learn as fast as a Border Collie, but with some patience, consistent training, and loads of positive reinforcement, you can definitely teach your bulldog to sit, stay, and maybe even roll over.

What place do bulldogs snag on the doggy genius leaderboard?

Well, it’s important to remember that each dog is unique, and while bulldogs might not make it to the very top of the IQ leaderboard, they’re definitely not at the bottom either. Let’s just say they’re somewhere in the middle minding their own business, but still smart enough to know when you’re hiding a treat!

Why are bulldogs so darn unique, anyway?

Bulldogs have a distinct appearance that sets them apart from other breeds. They were originally bred in England for the purpose of bull-baiting but have since evolved into beloved companions. Their strong, stocky bodies and lovable personalities have earned them a special place in the dog-loving community.

Will a bulldog jump in to save the day like a furry little superhero?

While we can’t promise your bulldog will suddenly don a cape and fight crime, one thing’s for sure: they are loyal and loving family members. They might not be the first to charge into a dangerous situation, but they’ll undoubtedly be there to offer you their unwavering companionship and love. So in a way, they’re saving the day, one cuddle at a time!

Final Thoughts

So, you’re wondering if bulldogs are smart, huh? Well, let’s dive into some facts and observations about these adorable, wrinkly-faced canines.

Bulldogs might not be winning any Doggy Mensa awards anytime soon, but they do have their own unique type of intelligence. Here’s a little comparison table to help you understand how they stack up against some other breeds:

BreedIntelligence RankingSpecial Skills
Border Collie1Problem-solving, herding
Bulldog77Companionship, perseverance
Beagle72Scent tracking, stubbornness

Now, the table above might make you think that bulldogs aren’t the brightest pups on the block. But don’t be too hasty to judge! These lovable pooches have their own unique talents and characteristics that make them special.


Tamsin de la Harpe

Tamsin de la Harpe, with a lively spirit and 15 years of experience in dog training and behavior, brings a unique flair to the team. Based in South Africa, she is deeply engaged in rehabilitating dogs, focusing on their mental and nutritional health. Tamsin's approach to dog behavior is hands-on and heartfelt, shaped by her life with her own dogs and horses. Her journey in canine behavior is ongoing, as she continues advanced studies in this field.

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