How Smart Are Pit Bulls?

The intelligence of a dog breed is important regarding temperament, ease of training, and many other things you’ll need to know as an owner.

How Smart Are Pit Bulls

Pitbulls are a type of dog that has a lot of misinformation floating around about them, so if you’re considering getting one, then you probably have some questions.

In this article, we’re going to be taking you through everything to do with the intelligence of Pitbulls. How smart are these dogs? And how does this impact how you’ll interact with them as a potential owner?

We’ve also made sure to include a short FAQ to let you know the answers to some of the most common questions about this issue. 

Pitbull Overview

Despite their shared name, “Pitbull” actually refers to a few different breeds of dog. This is the first thing that’s important to know because there are slight differences in intelligence depending on the breed.

Pitbulls were originally used for fighting or other blood sports, but in more recent years they have become faithful, loyal companions that owners across the world love. 

There are four main types of Pitbull: the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Bulldog, and the American Pit Bull Terrier (Find out How To Tell A Staff From A Pitbull here).

These are all similar-looking dogs, so you can probably understand why they get grouped together under one similar name. That said, there are some significant physical differences, as well as some differences in their history and intelligence.

How Intelligent Are Pit Bulls?

It’s very difficult to measure the overall intelligence of an animal, let alone a specific breed of dog because animals do not have the same capacity as humans.

There are many facets of a dog’s mental capacity that can be used to determine their overall intelligence, including emotion, obedience, and how long it takes them to learn a new command. 

One of the best studies we have for measuring the intelligence of a dog is from psychology professor Stanley Coren, who did work in this field in the early 1990s.

In his book The Intelligence of Dogs, he created a way of ranking dogs based on their intelligence. In this method, he decided to rank dogs based on how quickly they could learn a command. The formula was something like this:

  • Amount of repetitions before a dog could learn a new command.
  • How likely the dog was to learn a command the first time. 

We didn’t get any data on other Pitbull breeds, only the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier. We’re going to take a look at how both of these breeds did in the space below. 

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

This breed ranked 94 out of 138 breeds tested. This puts them at the lower end of the rankings.

They have a much wider range of possible repetitions – between 20 and 50, and have a much smaller success rate of learning a new command the first time (50%). 

American Staffordshire Terrier.

This breed ranked a lot higher, coming in at number 48. On average they took from 15-28 repetitions to learn a new command, and they have a high rate of learning a command the first time. 


So neither of the two dogs ranks spectacularly high on this scale, but that’s not to say this research gives the full story. 

Types Of Intelligence

Understanding of human intelligence is much higher than that of animals, mostly because humans are able to communicate through words or other means, making us a lot easier to measure.

How Smart Are Pit Bulls (1)

The most common way of measuring human intelligence is with IQ – a flat number that is used to determine how well humans are able to think, learn, solve problems and adapt to incoming stimuli. 

Whilst IQ has traditionally been a great way of measuring intelligence, it’s not the full story.

Other researchers have indicated that human intelligence is better analyzed as a larger spectrum, including logic, special, physical, emotional, creative, and others. So if we can employ these in humans – can we do the same to dogs?

Well, it’s a lot harder to measure intelligence in dogs. Emotional intelligence in animals is something we’re beginning to understand, and many breeds are now selected as emotional support animals who are much more in tune with human emotions.  (You might also want to check out How To Adopt An Emotional Support Dog?)

Emotional Intelligence of Pitbulls

Pitbulls were used as working dogs for a long time, and this means they have a history of obedience and wanting to please their owner.

It’s generally accepted that Pitbulls are extremely loving dogs with a lot of emotional intelligence. Pitbulls are very affectionate and often form great bonds with their owners and families.

Pitbulls are a great pick if you’re looking for a breed that is easy to train, relatively fast to learn, and will be very emotionally intelligent.

Providing they are given enough of an outlet for their energetic tendencies, they will be a perfect match for a family dog.

They also make great guard dogs that love to look out for their owners.

Final Thoughts

Whilst there isn’t much actual research into the intelligence of Pitbulls, what we can confidently say is that each breed ranks around the middle of the scale for learning new commands through repetition.

The emotional intelligence of a Pitbull makes them sensitive and loyal pets that will always want to please their owners, eventually becoming well-trained and faithful companions.

We hope that this article has given you a general understanding of how smart Pitbulls are and that you now feel more confident about where they rank and their overall strengths when it comes to mental capacity.

If you still have some questions, keep reading for our short FAQ.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How Easy Are Pitbulls To Train?

Pitbulls are generally seen as easy dogs to train. They need quite a lot of physical exercise, but they’re not as large as other breeds and are quite easy to train on a leash.

They might take a bit longer than other breeds to learn commands, but they make up for it with their general obedience and affection for their owners. 

What Is The Smartest Breed of Dog? 

One of the smartest dogs is thought to be the Border Collie. Border Collies have a history of high-functioning work because they were used (and still are) as sheepdogs.

They have a great natural instinct and are very quick to learn.

Emily Andrews
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