What are the most and least trainable dog breeds? Dog behavior expert Alyona DelaCoeur offers her personal insights. Alyona is the spokesperson for Why Does My Dog, a video-driven website that delivers bite-sized tips and techniques that improve the relationship between us and our dogs. Nutmeg is proud to have co-developed the Why Does My Dog platform and brand.
Most Trainable Breeds
- Labrador Retrievers are one of my favorite breeds to work with. They are very much people pleasers and they seem to be always happy to do things. They have a fast bounce-back rate after doing something incorrectly or encountering something new. They are extremely mouthy when young, but if you can live through that stage, you’ll be golden later.
- Pit mixes are extremely loyal to their people and want to do everything right. They get a little too enthusiastic and may try to do everything in their repertoire all at once just to get your affection. My one caution is to remember that pits are terriers and have a lot of energy that can cause issues if allowed to build up. They are also very athletic, so they are perfect for dog sports like Disc Dogs and FlyDogs.
- Poodles are known to be one of the most intelligent breeds. They are my favorite to watch when training as they always have an air of dignity. They act like they already know what you are training them to do and they are just letting you pretend to teach them.
- Russell Terriers, Jack Terriers and Rat Terriers are also extremely quick learners. They can pick up tricks very easily and seem to be able to store large quantities of those tricks in their command bank. One thing to keep in mind is that these dogs are so high energy they need jobs to do. Combined with a similarly energetic and dedicated owner, there really isn’t much these dogs can’t do.
- I hate to sound cheesy but rescued dogs are very interesting and easy to train, unless the dog experienced some kind of unfortunate circumstances that left him or her with high anxiety or constant fear. Rescued dogs are usually already potty trained so the hardest part of training is already done for you. They seem to be so happy to be in a home that they try to do the best they can to make up for lost time. Working with rescued dogs is also very rewarding when you see how loving and grateful they are.
Least Trainable Breeds
- American Eskimos are the toughest dog I’ve work with. There’s been a lot of inbreeding to make them small and some behaviorists have speculated that that’s had a negative effect on their temperament and ability to learn. I find that they lose interest in training very quickly (maybe I’m just not exciting enough for them!). They have their own agenda and need a lot of stimulation. In the hands of an amazing owner, though, they can be wonderful pets.
- Chows are another breed that can be very hard to train. They are considered an ancient breed, which means their genes are nearly indistinguishable from wolves. They tend to be very aggressive and one of the few breeds that are considered very dominant. They are not a starter dog and need an experienced owner who will be able to set strict rules and dedicate a lot of time to help them adjust to be a family pet.
- Basenji are extremely dedicated to their one person! I like to think of them as a cat stuck in a dog’s body. They attach to one person (could be the owner or an outsider) and do not listen to anyone else. When training, I usually have to bring another dog for demonstration purposes and then let the owner try with the Basenji. They are often referred to as stubborn, but I think they are just not interested.
- English Bulldogs are my favorite breed—I love their faces! However, they have two things on their mind: sleep and cuddling. They’re just very lazy. All they want to do is lounge around with their person and that’s about it. We’ve all seen the video of the sleeping bull dog with the French fries and burgers!
- Scent-dogs such as beagles or basset hounds can be difficult to work with. They might be focused on you but their nose will pick something up and they are off on the trail of the smell. You have to constantly get them back to pay attention to you.