Are Beagles Smart?

are beagles smart

If you’re thinking about adopting a Beagle, you already know how loving and friendly they are, with an amazing sense of smell. Unfortunately, many owners will question if their Beagles are smart because they don’t listen to commands or do good recall.

Beagles are intelligent, determined, and independent dogs. Beagles are scent hounds, bred as pack animals to hunt rabbits for a long time, and are free thinkers, so they can be hard to train. Once they have picked up a scent, they are difficult to recall. They can also be easily distracted by smells around them.

A brief history of the beagle dog breed

Beagles are purebred dogs with a rich history dating back hundreds of years.

This breed is likely descended from the ancient Talbot hound and was first mentioned in writing in the 1500s.

Beagles were used as hunting dogs for small animals such as rabbits and bred for the long hunt.

Beagles have a strong prey drive and tend to follow their noses, sometimes leading them into trouble.

Modern beagles are smart dogs with an easy-going temperament, making them a great choice for a family pet.

What do we know about dog intelligence?

Did you know that dogs can count and understand more than 150 words? They’re also capable of deception by hiding things from other dogs or people – all in the name of getting treats.

This information comes from leading canine researcher Stanley Coren, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Stanley Coren, a psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher highly acclaimed for his research and understanding of canine behavior and the human-canine bond.

Based on his review of several studies, Coren has found that dogs are more similar to humans and other higher primates than people often think, with the ability to solve complex problems.

“We all want insight into how our furry companions think, and we want to understand the silly, quirky, and apparently irrational behaviors [that] Lassie or Rover demonstrate,” Coren said in an interview. “Their stunning flashes of brilliance and creativity are reminders that they may not be Einsteins but are sure closer to humans than we thought.”

According to several behavioral measures, Coren says that dogs’ mental abilities are close to those of a human child aged 2 to 2.5 years old.

The intelligence of various types of breeds does differ, and the breed determines some of these differences, Coren says.

The three types of dog intelligence

Dr. Stanley Coren divides dog intelligence into three categories in his book “The Intelligence of Dogs”: Adaptive, Instinctive, and Working.

The three types of dog intelligence are

  • Instinctive intelligence (instinctive intelligence is what the dog is bred to do)
  • Adaptive intelligence (adaptive intelligence is how well the canine learns from its environment to solve problems)
  • Working and obedience (the equivalent of school learning)

According to Coren, data from 208 dog obedience judges from the United States and Canada showed the differences in canines’ working and obedience intelligence.

Below is the order of these findings from the 208 obedience judges;

  1. Border collies
  2. Poodles
  3. German shepherd
  4. Golden retrievers
  5. Dobermans
  6. Shetland sheepdogs
  7. Labrador retrievers
The Border Collie comes out on top of intelligence tests

How to measure dog intelligence

Test your dog’s intelligence with activities designed to measure a canine’s capacity for learning and retaining information and how good he is at reasoning and problem-solving. There’s also a scoring system included so you can see where your pup falls on the dog IQ scale.

Task One: Put a towel or blanket over your dog’s head. This will test your dog’s problem-solving ability (adaptive intelligence).

Scoring: Award your dog three points if he frees himself in under fifteen seconds, two points for taking fifteen to thirty seconds, and one point if it takes more than thirty seconds.

Task Two: To test your dog’s ability to learn and remember information, place two or three buckets or cups upside down in a row. While your pup watches, place a treat under one of the containers. Distract him for a few seconds before allowing him to look for the treat.

Scoring: Award him three points if he goes straight for the container with the treat, two points if he checks one empty container first, and one point if he checks both wrong containers before finally finding the right one.

Task Three: In a room where your dog likes to relax, toss him out of the room and then rearrange the furniture. This exercise is meant to evaluate his cognitive thinking.

Scoring: If your dog goes immediately to his favorite spot upon reentering the room, give him three points. If he takes a moment to investigate before finding his accustomed spot, award him two points. One point should be given if he appears discouraged and opts for a new location instead.

Task Four: Place a treat within reach of your dog’s paws beneath a piece of furniture (low enough to the ground that only your dog’s paw will fit). This test will put your dog’s reasoning and problem-solving abilities to the test.

Scoring: Give your dog three points if he takes less than a minute to bring the treat using only his paw. If he attempts to fit his head into the gap or uses both his nose and paws, just give him two points, but no points if he gives up altogether.

Task Five: Leash in hand, walk past your dog when you wouldn’t usually take him for a stroll. This exercise challenges your pup’s capacity to make and remember associations.

Scoring: If your dog immediately gets excited upon hearing the cue that it’s time to go somewhere, give him three points. Give him two points if you need to walk to the door before he realizes what’s going on. Finally, if he doesn’t seem to understand at all, give him one point.

While these tests aren’t always accurate, dogs that do well on them are often highly trainable and great candidates for service dogs.

Some dogs are just obstinate, and their lack of cooperation has little to do with their intellect.

Some people claim that the brightest dogs are the ones that wait for their owners to offer them a reward they don’t have to earn. However, even though your dog might not be the brightest, that doesn’t make his love for you any less.

Are beagles smart and intelligent dogs?

Beagle intelligence isn’t particularly high, but their priorities often differ from other dog breeds.

While some dogs were bred as companions, beagles were bred as hunters. Their job is to follow scents and find prey. Sometimes that prey is a fox … but mostly, it’s pizza, errant treats, and unattended food.

Beagles intelligence rank

Beagles rank 72nd in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs, putting them in the lowest level of the working/obedience intelligence category. However, Coren’s scale does not account for understanding, self-reliance, and inventiveness.

The beagle might not be ranked high, but they possess a different skill set that sets them apart from other dogs.

Are Beagles hard to train?
Beagles can be taught commands such as sit and leave

Most Intelligent Dog Breeds

Using Dr. Coren’s rankings, we can see the full list below;

  1. Border collie – Brightest Dogs
  2. Poodle
  3. German Shepherd
  4. Golden retriever
  5. Doberman Pinscher
  6. Shetland Sheepdog
  7. Labrador Retriever
  8. Papillon
  9. Rottweiler
  10. Australian Cattle Dog
  11. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  12. Miniature Schnauzer
  13. English Springer Spaniel
  14. Belgian Shepherd Dog (Tervuren)
  15. Schipperke, Belgian Sheepdog
  16. Collie, Keeshond
  17. German Shorthaired Pointer
  18. Flat-Coated Retriever, English Cocker Spaniel, Standard Schnauzer
  19. Brittany
  20. Cocker Spaniel
  21. Weimaraner
  22. Belgian Malinois, Bernese Mountain Dog
  23. Pomeranian
  24. Irish Water Spaniel
  25. Vizsla
  26. Cardigan Welsh Corgi
  27. Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Puli, Yorkshire Terrier
  28. Giant Schnauzer
  29. Airedale Terrier, Bouvier des Flandres
  30. Border Terrier, Briard
  31. Welsh Springer Spaniel
  32. Manchester Terrier
  33. Samoyed
  34. Field Spaniel, Newfoundland, Australian Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Gordon Setter, Bearded Collie
  35. Cairn Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, Irish Setter
  36. Norwegian Elkhound
  37. Affenpinscher, Australian Silky Terrier, Miniature Pinscher, English Setter, Pharaoh Hound, Clumber Spaniel
  38. Norwich Terrier
  39. Dalmatian
  40. Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, Bedlington Terrier, Smooth Fox Terrier
  41. Curly Coated Retriever, Irish Wolfhound
  42. Kuvasz, Australian Shepherd
  43. Saluki, Finnish Spitz, Pointer
  44. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, German Wirehaired Pointer, Black and Tan Coonhound, American Water Spaniel
  45. Siberian Husky, Bichon Frise, King Charles Spaniel
  46. Tibetan Spaniel, English Foxhound, Otterhound, Jack Russell Terrier, American Foxhound, Greyhound, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
  47. West Highland White Terrier, Scottish Deerhound
  48. Boxer, Great Dane
  49. Dachshund, Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  50. Alaskan Malamute
  51. Whippet, Chinese Shar Pei, Wire Fox Terrier
  52. Rhodesian Ridgeback
  53. Ibizan Hound, Welsh Terrier, Irish Terrier
  54. Boston Terrier, Akita
  55. Skye Terrier
  56. Norfolk Terrier, Sealyham Terrier
  57. Pug
  58. French Bulldog
  59. Griffon Bruxellois, Maltese
  60. Italian Greyhound
  61. Chinese Crested Dog
  62. Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen, Tibetan Terrier, Japanese Chin, Lakeland Terrier
  63. Old English Sheepdog
  64. Great Pyrenees
  65. Scottish Terrier, Saint Bernard
  66. Bull Terrier
  67. Chihuahua
  68. Lhasa Apso
  69. Bullmastiff
  70. Shih Tzu
  71. Basset Hound
  72. Mastiff, Beagle
  73. Pekingese
  74. Bloodhound
  75. Borzoi
  76. Chow Chow
  77. Bulldog
  78. Basenji
  79. Afghan Hound


How does beagle intelligence compare to human intelligence?

According to studies by animal psychologists, dogs, and by association, a beagle’s intellect is comparable to that of a two-year-old child.

According to Professor Coren, hundreds of years of living with humans and being selectively bred have helped dogs become intelligent. The beagle’s hunting instincts and abilities were likely key in their survival and helped them become one of the most popular breeds worldwide.

What breed of dog is most intelligent?

Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs states that the Border Collie is the most intelligent dog breed.

The Collie is a working and herding breed of dog that was originally bred on the Anglo-Scottish border. They are known for their high intelligence, speed, and agility.

A linguistically gifted border collie from South Carolina called Chaser could recognize over 1,000 words. However, It’s not simply a question of being “book smart.”

The collie is a descendant of European herding dogs, bred to be agile and intelligent enough to survive the harsh conditions of the Anglo-Scottish borders.

It’s also endowed with a strong work ethic. According to the American Kennel Club, which recognized the breed in 1995, they are “clever, loving, and energetic” and “very bright working dogs.”

The AKC warns that potential border collie owners should be ready to offer these dogs plenty of physical and mental activity.

The breed is incredibly intelligent and very good at understanding humans, to the point where it’s not unreasonable to think that many of them are quite adept at getting what they want from their owners.

How smart are beagles?

As pointed out in Dr. Coren’s studies, beagles were placed pretty low on the intelligent dog breeds list. However, this does not mean that beagles are not smart dogs.

In fact, beagles are scent hounds, which means they have an incredible sense of smell. This is one of the main reasons why beagles are used in law enforcement and detection work.

So while the findings may not classify a beagle as the smartest dog breed, beagle intelligence shows in many other ways.

These include;

  • Being good at problem-solving
  • Having a strong sense of smell
  • Being good at tracking and trailing
  • Being good at following commands (with positive reinforcement)

So while beagles might not be the smartest breed on paper, they are intelligent dogs with a lot to offer to dog owners.

Are beagles easy to train?

Yes and no. While they are not the easiest dog breed to train compared to different dog breeds, all is not lost.

Beagles can be stubborn, which can make them difficult to train.

However, if you are consistent with your training and use positive reinforcement, you will find that beagles can be trained.

Beagle owners can use their love of food to help train them with positive reinforcement methods to teach new tricks or commands since their dogs will want nothing more than praise and tasty treats from their owners!

The key is consistency and patience. Beagles are intelligent and will eventually catch on if you are consistent with your commands and rewards.

Social Intelligence of Beagles

Beagles are friendly, sociable dogs that love spending time with people. The fact that beagles are sociable shows a certain level of intelligence.

Being social means that beagles can read and understand human emotions. This is not an easy feat for dogs (or even some humans!).

Problem-Solving Intelligence of Beagles

Although beagles often prefer following their noses rather than obeying orders from their owners, this doesn’t mean they lack problem-solving skills.

On the contrary, beagles are capable of critical and creative thinking, which allows them to solve problems in different environments when necessary.

Law enforcement and other organizations harness this natural ability to train beagles as detection dogs for various substances, including drugs, bedbugs, and even cancer cells, as health inspection dogs.


While some people may think that beagles are not as intelligent as other dog breeds, there is ample evidence that these dogs have many qualities that make them smart and clever.

Whether it’s their instinctive problem-solving abilities or their natural curiosity, beagles certainly deserve our respect when it comes to intelligence!