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How Smart Is a Pitbull? Facts & FAQ


May 9, 2023
Woman training a pitbull in the park


Woman training a pitbull in the park

Affectionate and friendly when socialized as puppies, the Pitbull is an amazing mixed dog breed. Many who own Pitbulls praise them for their devoted ways and their propensity to be friendly with children, strangers, and other dogs. However, one question you might have if you’re considering adopting a Pitbull is how smart they are.

The good news is that related breeds to Pitbulls are known to be quite smart and are rated relatively high in intelligence compared to other breeds with a 50-70% accuracy in obeying new commands on the Dr. Coren’s Tests. It’s been said that training a Pitbull is relatively easy; they learn quickly and are smart enough to learn new things on their own.

You may want to know how their intelligence compares to humans and whether your Pitbull will be easy or difficult to train. To find out, read on! We have the impressive answers for you below!


Are Pitbulls Easy to Train?

One of the best methods to determine the intelligence of a dog breed is to look at how easy they are to train. According to the AKC, the American Staffordshire Terrier, closely related to the Pitbull, has a trainability level of 3 out of 5, which is above average. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, according to the AKC, has a trainability level that’s even higher, 5 out of 5.

Of course, Pitbulls aren’t an officially recognized AKC breed but a mixed breed. They have similarities to three breeds that are AKC recognized, including the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and American Pit Bull Terrier. Some Pitbulls also have genes from various other breeds, making it difficult to determine their intelligence.

However, there are many reports that Pitbulls are easy to train, which leads to the logical conclusion that, while they aren’t all Einsteins, the average Pitbull is a pretty smart pup.

female pitbull puppy
Image Credit: J.A. Dunbar, Shutterstock

divider-dog paw

How Is Pitbull Intelligence Measured?

The truth about measuring a Pitbull’s intelligence, or, for that matter, the intelligence of any dog, is that it’s not easy, nor is it a precise science. Unlike humans, there’s no way to give a dog, for example, an intelligence or IQ test. Yes, the AKC and other organizations have obedience and working intelligence tests for dogs, but these tests hardly measure a dog’s total IQ.

The closest we’ve come to being able to measure a dog’s intelligence is the work of canine psychologist Stanley Coren. Coren’s testing, which was honed over decades working with canines, measures two specific intelligence factors, including how quickly a dog can learn a new command and how well they retain the information they’ve learned.

How Well Did Pitbulls Fare on Dr. Coren’s Tests?

As with training, we looked to AKC-registered dogs to get our information since Pitbulls aren’t a recognized breed. The American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier are both close relatives of the Pitbull, so looking at their scores can be a good indicator of how intelligent a particular Pitbull might be.

When tested, it was revealed that the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was average in terms of intelligence, while the  American Staffordshire Terrier was above average. For example, when told a command that they had already mastered, the  American Staffordshire Terrier will obey on the 1st try over 70% of the time. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, on the other hand, has a 50% chance of obeying a known command on the first try. That compares rather well to the smartest dog breeds, as we’ll see next.

Blue Nose Pitbull
Image Credit: Diego Thomazini, Shutterstock

How Do Pitbulls Compare to the Smartest Dogs?

Using the Cohen test results, which looked at several breeds, the smartest dogs were the Rottweiler, Poodle, and Doberman Pinchers, among others. These dogs can typically obey a known command on the first try an astonishing 95% of the time.

These ultra-smart dogs can also learn a new command in 5 repetitions or less, which is incredibly fast. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, in comparison, needs 25 to 50 repetitions to learn a new command, while the American Staffordshire Terrier can do the same thing in 15 to 25 repetitions. It’s logical to conclude that the Pitbull would be of similar intelligence and thus not as bright as the smartest dogs.

Are Pitbulls Adaptive Learners?

One of Coren’s findings when working with dogs is that the smartest can adapt quickly and learn for themselves without their humans teaching them. This ability to learn new things independently is called adaptive intelligence and is a good method to determine a dog’s intelligence.

You’ll be pleased to know that the American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier both get high marks in adaptive learning. From anecdotal evidence, it seems the Pitbull was blessed with the same. The average Pit will learn about its home, humans, and other aspects of its surroundings and act on that information without guidance.

Pitbull with Owner
Image Credit: Ksenia Raykova, Shutterstock

Are All Pitbulls Smart?

As we’ve seen, Pitbulls are above average in intelligence based on Dr. Coren’s studies and anecdotal evidence. It should be noted, however, that all dogs are different, and some are smarter than others.

How Smart Are Dogs Compared to Humans?

Although it’s hard to measure precisely how intelligent any dog might be, evidence points to dogs having intelligence equal to a human 2-year-old. For example, the average dog can remember about 150 words. Dogs have also been found to deceive their owners to get a treat, which is smart and sneaky.

pitbull running in mid-air with owner standing by
Image Credit: elbud, Shutterstock


Final Thoughts

From everything we’ve seen while researching this information, Pitbulls seem to be above average in intelligence. They can be trained relatively easily, learn new commands quickly, and have high adaptive intelligence. They’re not in the top 10 of the smartest canines, but they’re remarkable pets and loyal companions.

Featured Image Credit: Diego Thomazini, Shutterstock

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