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How Smart Is a Pitbull? Facts & FAQ

Written by: Greg Iacono

Last Updated on June 1, 2024 by Dogster Team

pitbull wearing red collar

How Smart Is a Pitbull? Facts & FAQ

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

The good news is that Pitbulls are known to be quite smart and rate relatively high in intelligence compared to most other breeds, with a 50–70% accuracy in obeying new commands according to Dr. Stanley Coren’s dog intelligence tests.1

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!

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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, which is closely related to the Pitbull, has a trainability level of 3 out of 5, which is above average.2 The similar Staffordshire Bull Terrier has a trainability level that’s even higher, 5 out of 5.3

The “Pitbull” isn’t an officially recognized AKC breed, as the name is typically applied to three purebred breeds or mixes of these: the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the American Pit Bull Terrier. Some Pitbulls also have genes from various other breeds, making it difficult to truly determine their intelligence.

However, it’s been said that training a Pitbull is relatively easy, as they learn quickly and are smart enough to learn new things on their own. So, the logical conclusion is that while they aren’t all Einsteins, the average Pitbull is quite a smart pup.

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

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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 an intelligence test, for example. The AKC and other organizations have obedience and working intelligence tests for canines, but these tests don’t truly measure a dog’s total IQ.

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

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

The Pitbull isn’t an officially recognized breed, but the American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier are both close relatives, so looking at their scores can be a good indicator of how intelligent a particular Pitbull might be.

When they were 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 would obey on the first try over 70% of the time. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, however, had a 50% chance of obeying a known command on the first try. This compares rather well to the smartest dog breeds.

Blue Nose Pitbull
Image By: Diego Thomazini, Shutterstock

How Do Pitbulls Compare to the Smartest Dogs?

According to the Cohen test results, the smartest dogs are the Rottweiler, the Poodle, and the Doberman Pincher, among a few others. These dogs 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 five repetitions or fewer, 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 is of similar intelligence and thus not as bright as the smartest dogs.

Are Pitbulls Adaptive Learners?

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

The American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier both get high marks in adaptive learning, and from anecdotal evidence, it seems that the Pitbull was blessed with the same ability. The average Pit will learn about their home, humans, and other aspects of their surroundings and act on that information without guidance.

Pitbull with Owner
Image By: Ksenia Raykova, Shutterstock

Are All Pitbulls Smart?

Based on Dr. Coren’s studies and anecdotal evidence, Pitbulls are above average in intelligence. However, it should be noted 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 By: elbud, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

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: Mary Swift, Shutterstock

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