Boston Terrier TipsTraining & Behavior

How Smart is a Boston Terrier – Dog Intelligence Guide 2021

By looking at the characteristic profile of the Boston terrier, you may learn that they have an amazing friendly personality and adorable cheerfulness. Because of that, they can generally make fantastic companion dogs. Moreover, they also have the ability to learn on their own. So, is that mean that they are intelligent dogs? If so, how smart is a Boston terrier?

If this is also your query, we’ve got you covered. In this blog post, we have here all the details pertaining to the intelligence of the Boston terrier. From the way their IQ is measured to the way they perform in order to test their intelligence, we all have it here. As a bonus, we have here some tips on how you can enhance the IQ of your Bostons.

How Smart is a Boston Terrier – Dog Breed Intelligence Listing

Based on the dog breed intelligence listing of Stanley Coren, a canine psychologist, the Boston terrier ranked on the 100th spot. This ranking actually shows that the Bostons are not that smart, unlike the other dog breeds. Knowing that one would probably think how smart is a Boston terrier?

Moreover, the intelligence listing of Professor Coren highly depends on working intelligence and dog’s obedience. Well, in fact, there are other aspects of the dog’s behavior to take into account in order to measure their intelligence. For instance, adaptability, empathy, instinctive intelligence, and problem-solving skills may also establish the intelligence of the dog.  

How Smart is a Boston Terrier – Measuring their Intelligence

So, how do they able to measure how smart is a Boston terrier? Actually, there are 3 types of dog intelligence. And, obedience intelligence is just one of those. This means that there is a lot more that can measure the dog’s intelligence aside from learning new commands and being obedient.

how smart is a boston terrier
1-Obedience or Working Intelligence

Generally, among the 3 types of dog’s intelligence, obedience tends to be the most objective. Moreover, this type is the easiest one to test and measure. Unfortunately, the Boston terrier’s ranking for this dog’s intelligence is somewhere at the lower end of the middle portion.

2-Instinctive Intelligence

This type of dog’s intelligence is actually the natural ability of the dog in which teaching is not required. Meaning, the instinctive intelligence is directly related to the natural breeding skills or purpose of the dog. Let’s take the Golden Retriever as an example of this. The Goldens have a natural retrieving instinct and they basically know how to retrieve animals without any training.

The Boston terrier’s breeding purpose was originally to fight dogs and hunt rodents. Boston terriers of today’s time are not bred to fight dogs anymore. The modern-day Bostons have a very affectionate and gentle nature. So, checking on their instinctive intelligence as fighting dogs, the Bostons are already the opposite of that.

Yet, in terms of the Bostons’ natural instinct of running after vermins, they are still good on this aspect. The Boston terrier still has that eagerness to hunt small furry animals. But, that Bostons’ behavior is more likely for the purpose of his own entertainment and not for killing.

3-Adaptive Intelligence

The adaptive intelligence of dogs is actually their ability in solving problems and figuring things out on their own. Actually, this type of intelligence in dogs is quite hard to measure. Luckily, there are available tests that you can perform with the Bostons to determine how smart is a Boston terrier based on this intelligence type.

Generally, most puzzle toys are a good determinant of this adaptive intelligence in dogs. In case you will be selecting puzzle toys for the Bostons, go for toys that have higher levels of difficulty.

The Dog Intelligence Criteria

Going back to the dog breed intelligence listing created by Professor Coren, the test that they used in measuring dog intelligence was two-fold.

  1. This is based on how many repetitions does a dog breed requires in order to learn a new command. The lesser repetitions used to adapt a command, the smarter the dog was.
  2. The level at which a dog will follow a specific command with just on the first time. The higher the level of success means the more obedient and smarter the dog was.

Surprisingly, there was a big response on this trial and they actually did not expect it. Take note that not all dog breeds were able to be a part of the list and of the final rankings. The breeds that qualified on the dog breed intelligence list of Coren were those 100 respondents. And, to make the cut, the Boston terrier sits on the 100th spot.  

Moreover, only those breeds recognized by the AKC and CKC joined in this dog intelligence test. So, with that, some popular breeds like the American Pit Bull Terrier did not participate. Aside from that, common mixed dog breeds were not also included in the trial.

Performance of the Boston Terrier

Since the Bostons landed on the 100th spot, how smart is a Boston terrier? Well, based on their performance, the Bostons did not perform amazingly. This means that they are just an average performer. But, don’t worry, most of the popular dog breeds also have the same intelligence level as that of the Boston terrier.

For instance, Dachshunds, Australian Shepherds, Great Danes, Greyhounds, Shiba Inu, and Siberian Huskies are dog breeds that also have an average level of dog intelligence. Actually, there are 42 other dog breeds that also shared the same score with the Boston terrier.

With that, we now have an idea of how smart is a Boston terrier. And, having an average level of dog intelligence, the Bostons have the ability to learn and adapt to new commands for around 25 to 40 repetitions. This means that you may need to give the Bostons one whole day to learn and comprehend the new command. And to a lesser extent, if the command is actually simple and straightforward.

Moreover, the Bostons are also able to obey an already familiar command for the first time within 50% of the time. Well, not bad taking into account that it is just for an initial try. In general, the Boston terriers are not just only decent learners but also obedient as well.

Boston Terrier Compared to the Smartest Dogs

How smart is a Boston terrier if you were able to compare it to the smartest dog breeds? Based on Coren’s dog breed intelligence list, the smartest dogs are those who landed in the top 10 positions. And these dog breeds are generally impressive.

The smartest dog breeds have the ability to learn new things and command for only about 5 repetitions or less. With just basic commands, the smartest dogs are actually teachable and ready for new commands with just a few minutes. Surprisingly, more complex commands will only take them about 30 minutes or more as an average.

Moreover, these smartest dog breeds have the ability to obey a familiar command the very first time with a success rate of around 95% or more. Because of that, you will definitely conclude that these smartest dogs are also the most obedient furry buddy.

So, for those who are curious about the list of the top 10 smartest dog breeds, the top three are the:

  1. Border Collies
  2. Poodles
  3. German Shepherds

Also, included in the top ten, in no particular order, are the:

  • Rottweilers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Golden Retrievers

Checking the list, the above-mentioned dog breeds also tend to be some of the most popular breeds. Well, I don’t know if this some kind of coincidence!

Reasons Behind the Low Intelligence Ranking of Boston Terrier

Since Boston terrier landed on 100th spot as a smart dog based on Coren’s dog intelligence rankings, why do some owners still claim that they have smart Bostons? Well, going back on Coren’s criteria of dog intelligence, it is more related to the obedience or working intelligence of the canine. And, not obeying your command does not necessarily mean that your Bostons doesn’t understand well what you want.

Here are the probable reasons why the Boston terrier might have low intelligence level:

Independence and Stubbornness

Generally, the Boston terriers are really stubborn dogs. Most of the time, they have that stubborn streaks and in terms of obedience training, they highly require more and more patience from their trainer. Moreover, ranking their stubbornness, the Bostons are part of the 15 most stubborn dog breeds.

how smart is a boston terrier

However, what does stubbornness means for the Bostons. Well, for this dog breed, they just enjoy going on their way and just do the things that they want. Yet, for pet owners, this Boston terrier behavior means difficulty for obedience training.

Once you had the Bostons on obedience training, don’t be surprised with this dog’s behavior as they do not enjoy sitting during the course of the training session. Instead, they perform well by hanging beside you or jumping and roaming around the backyard. However, the attitude of the Bostons on sticking on your side is not actually consistent because they are not that eager to do so.

Stubbornness and Housetraining

Basically, the Boston terrier is one of the dog breeds that are really hard to housebreak. And it’s really natural for them because of their stubborn attitude. Luckily, you can always employ methods that can usually help on potty training your Boston terrier. For instance, letting your Bostons stay on a dog crate or crate training them is actually a big help.

How does it work on dealing with the stubbornness of the Bostons? Well, no dogs ever want to soil on the spot where they sleep on. Actually, they also want to be clean, and staying inside the crate for a long time within the day will give the chance for bathroom breaks. Usually, they will want to do this on potty pads or outside the crate. That way, you will housebreak your Boston terrier properly.

Why Boston Terrier is a Smart Dog?

Even if the Boston terrier lands on the 100th spot of dog breed intelligence test, there are more than Bostons can do to defend their dog’s IQ. In fact, on Coren’s measurement criteria, two aspects of the dog’s IQ are not being measured. These are their adaptive and instinctive intelligence. Unfortunately, there is no way to measure subjective aspects into which those two types of dog intelligence fall into.

The Boston Terrier’s Instinctive Intelligence

Generally, as mentioned above, this type of dog intelligence refers to their natural ability and the purpose behind their breeding. In fact, all dog breeds were developed in order to perform tasks helpful in society. Originally, the Bostons are bred to be fighting dogs and hunters of rodents and vermins. But, now their purpose of being fighting dogs was already eliminated.

As this dog breed is already downsized, they are now popular as companion dogs and show dogs. Moreover, in terms of alterations, their temperaments were also changed into calmer and docile dogs in town. Well, looking at the Bostons, the result is obviously a loving and incredible furry buddy.

Nowadays, Bostons instinctive intelligence tends to be their ability to communicate with their owners and basically to comprehend human emotions. Well, these are all characteristics of great companion dogs in which the Bostons really excel. And, no doubt, this dog breed really shines in this aspect.

The Adaptive Intelligence of the Boston Terrier

The dogs are capable of learning on their own through their past experiences and their surroundings. Aside from their instinctive intelligence, the Bostons are also excellent in this aspect. You may say that a dog has a high level of adaptive intelligence if he performs great at problem-solving. Moreover, the dog may also have a good comprehension of the situation.  

Boston Terrier Intelligence versus Cognition

Another way to measure how smart is a Boston terrier is by looking at the other aspects of dog intelligence. Based on Brian Hare, these generally include the dog’s communication, cunning, empathy, memory, and reasoning.

  • Dog’s communication – it is the ability of the canine to read on the gestures of humans and convey their personal intentions
  • Cunning – it is measured by assessing the ability of the dog to check on their owner’s attention for their own sake
  • Empathy – this is the ability of the dog to connect and pay attention to their owner
  • Memory – the dog has the ability to recall or remember the information and previous situations
  • Reasoning – the ability of the dog to come up with a solution to a problem

Dog cognition, based on Hare, is actually the flexibility of the dog’s mind in solving problems. Generally, it uses inferential reasoning so that the dog can solve the problems flexibly. With that, the dog cognition profile assesses how smart is a Boston terrier based on his performance on those 5 aspects.

Moreover, the Boston terrier’s ancestry along with the present training has something to do with his abilities. That concludes that measuring how intelligent are the Bostons is not really accurate. But, measuring it is the only way to determine the cognitive profile of the Bostons. That way, you will understand deeply your Boston terrier as an individual.

Ways to Improve the Intelligence of the Boston Terriers

how smart is a boston terrier

Regardless of the test measurement you perform in order to assess the IQ of the Boston terriers, they are already smart ones. Yet, for you to enhance more of their intelligence consider doing the following:


As much as possible, offer the Bostons a number of opportunities to mingle with other dogs and animals, even with people.


Giving new tricks and commands is a channel to stimulate the mental aspects of the Bostons. That way you will generally enrich their intelligence and increase their brainpower.


For some time, some dogs tend to get bored in eating straight from their food bowl. With that, try to use puzzle toys and feeders in feeding them.


Generally, the Bostons are highly active dog breeds and basically need lots of exercises. Allow your dog to be healthy because it makes them less stressed and bored. The end result will be a smarter dog.


Maintaining the dog’s health is really crucial because it is the main factor to let them function at their best. So, don’t forget to feed your Boston terrier with a high-quality dog diet.


Every time your dog shows signs of intelligence, reward and praise him.


As much as possible, try to give your Bostons a more interesting and engaging living environment.

Final Thoughts

Although ranked on the 100th spot for obedience or working intelligence test, the smartness of the Boston terrier can also be measured on other aspects of a dog’s intelligence. However, the other aspects in measuring the IQ of the canines are quite hard to quantify. Boston terriers tend to excel greatly on the instinctive or problem-solving skills of the dog. Moreover, they also perform excellently on the adaptive intelligence aspect. This is far good to conclude that regardless of the dog’s IQ measurement, the Boston terrier is smart enough in their own unique ways.

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