Mar 21, 2010  •  In Comang, Personal

Not the Brightest Bulb in the Room

Reader tyeung612 left the following comment about my last post involving Comang:

I love your dog…I just wanted to share that! I have a shih tzu myself and I’m not sure if it is the breed or if it’s the fact that i dropped him on his head as a puppy but he’s definitely not the brightest! Love him just the same though!

So I became inspired to write about my dim-witted dog…

My sister once told me that the reason shih tzus are not very smart is due to their inbreeding.

The shih tzu breed originated from China and was once solely owned by Chinese royalty. Due to their association with imperial China, the breed almost died when the Communist Revolution began. In fact, every shih tzu today can be traced back to fourteen dogs — seven male and seven female — from this period in history.


Not Comang, but a random picture of a
shih tzu puppy I found online.

Although J and I always wanted a dog, a shih tzu is not a breed we would have picked. J prefers large dogs such as labradors and German shepherds — a “manly” breed that he could wrestle with and not be afraid to hurt. I prefer smaller breeds mostly due to my own diminutive size; however, I despise small yapping dogs.

For these reasons, we had compromised on a pug or a small bulldog a long time ago.

However, when the opportunity to take Comang came up, we couldn’t resist. We had previously dog-sat him for two weeks, and knew that he was house-broken and relatively well-behaved. We knew he was healthy and low-maintenance…and most importantly, he needed a good home.

Ever the advocate of pet adoption over pet stores or breeders (we once drove 3 hours to adopt a guinea pig…no joke), we decided to go for it and welcomed Comang into our lives.

J and I often joke that Comang is not the brightest dog. Sometimes I get concerned that we’re being being mean, but this is the truth! When I look into the eyes of most dogs, I see intelligence. When I look into Comang’s eyes, I see vacant confusion.

He chases his own tail. He forgets commands if we don’t enforce them every day. Sometimes when one of us steps out of the room only to return momentarily, he will act like we just returned home from a week-long trip.

And you know that cute ‘cocking the head to one side’ thing that most dogs do when they’re confused? Comang never does that. Do you know why? Because he’s constantly confused!

However, we can’t deny that he is one of the best-behaved dogs we have ever seen. He has never destroyed our property save for an errant tissue here and there. He has never had an accident in the house (except when Dante is around). He will never touch human food, even if we leave it lying around, wide open, with no supervision.

Perhaps his good behavior stems from his low IQ; for as they say, ignorance is bliss.

Evidence that Comang will never touch human food. Here he lies with a plate of leftover kalbi (Korean BBQ short ribs) in front of him and he is falling asleep.

So yes. Comang is definitely not the brightest bulb in the room, but we love him just the same. No one else could instantly make a crappy day better by greeting us with such exuberance at the door. No one else could take over the best spot on the bed and not make us angry. No one else could fart right on my face, only to have me laugh it off.

J’s mother suggested getting rid of Comang since we have a baby on the way. I vehemently refused, because Comang has been our first baby and I fully consider him a part of my family. I imagine our children playing with him as they grow older, enriching their lives as he has bettered ours.

Are you a dog owner? If so, is he/she intelligent and well-behaved?

13 Responses to “Not the Brightest Bulb in the Room”

  1. My family have owned three shih-tzus, and all of them have been smart to the point of craftiness. All of them have also been completely bizarre. Our latest shih-tzu, Gracie, has learned that she doesn’t have to jump onto the couch because if she barks long enough or paws us long enough, we will pick her up. She is extremely lazy and demanding. She also barks when her water bowl is less than completely full. Something is definitely off in those genes.

    • Patricia Czubak:

      I’ve had 4 Shih Tzus in my life. Only the first one Gizmoe a male was intelligent. The other 3 are females and they all have that confused look on their faces which makes them so endearing to me just the same. Thank God, all the girls found potty training easy. That’s because Gizmoe taught Gadget then Gadget taught Miss Dimples and Miss Dimples taught Dublin so no problem in that area. But none of them listen to commands unless they feel like it. You must remember these dogs were royalty in TIbet and China spoiled beyond belief. Hence the term “Palace Dogs”. They know what time dinner is and at exactly 5:00PM they demand it u would think they wore a watch. They come sometimes when u call them and at other times just look at u like your bothering them. Having said all this I wouldn’t have it any other way I love them and their beautiful faces make up for not being the sharpest knife in the draw. LOL

  2. Debt Free Girl:

    I have two big dogs, one is a Golden Retriever/ Duck Toller mix and the other is a Black Lab. They are both good dogs and behave well in their own way. The Lab is the smart dog and the yellow dog is the. . . happy dog! The Lab is so smart it can be annoying. If I put up a gate to keep her out of the kitchen she will run the other way to try to get to the other door before I can put up the other gate. If I put up a gate at one kitchen door and leave the other one un-gated the yellow dog will just sit behind it and cry, he never tries to find another way in.

    I have a friend that used to always play hide and seek with the dog when he came over. When I only had the yellow dog he could hide in the same spot every time and the dog wouldn’t find him. Now that I also have the lab my friend doesn’t play hide and seek anymore because she always found him so quickly and she remembers all the other places he has hidden.

  3. Although Shih-Tzus are not the brightest, I still think chow chows remain the dumbest, heh. ^__^;
    I’ve seen chow chows that walk into walls.

  4. I was just laughing at Jellyby a few minutes ago because I was out on the deck with the patio door WIDE open. And she couldn’t figure out how to get out there. She went to the other part of the glass door (that wasn’t open) and scratched and whined. Sigh.

    I always say to her that it’s good she’s cute, because she’s definitely not the sharpest tack in the box. That being said, she still manages to be incredibly manipulative and sharp-witted about conning you for treats or for a lift on the bed. So maybe she’s actually brilliant but just plays dumb.

    Now that I know she’s descended from the same 14 dogs, though, I understand.

  5. We regularly dog-sit a shih-tzu. That dog is the BEST dog. She’s incredibly well-behaved, loves to go on walks, never barks, and doesn’t touch a thing. I love her.

    She also chases laser pointers, which is the most hilarious thing I have ever seen. And I’m not talking the pointer itself — she chases the red dot of the laser, and will chase it onto whatever you point at — and will chase it indefinitely!! She’d run into the wall if we let her, so we choose to point it at stacks of pillows instead. :)

  6. anon:

    funny how that dog looks SO MUCH like our own shih tzu!!!
    We’ve had her for two years now, and ever since we got her, we’ve accepted the fact that shih tzu’s are not "the smartest" dog out there (in fact, they’re ranked #70, out of 79 different breeds…) What can you say, the Chinese bred shih tzus to be foot warmers… and I suppose foot warmers don’t need to be that smart. lol.

    In terms of her intelligence… we don’t think she’s that smart, but I’ve been able to train her to do various tricks such as sitting, waiting, rolling, leaving things alone, crawling, waving, etc… which many of my fiance’s friends and family have been in awe with. (She’d give you her kidneys if you showed her a piece of chicken!)

    Anyways.. shih tzus… I wanted a poodle for their intelligence (they’re ranked like #2!) but I love ours none the less…
    She’s the perfect happy go lucky bimbo… even with her funky smelling face. (You know what I mean?)

  7. Vee:

    That’s such a great story about how you got your dog. We have two pit bulls. One is purebred and the other is a mutt, as I’m an advocate of adoption as well. The purebred we have is smart as a whip. And obstinate. Our mutt, however, is a little "special." She’s so dumb it’s cute. :) But I suppose that’s how "parents" have to think!

  8. tyeung612:

    Comang should meet my Brownie, they’d be a riot! Well if not for each other then definitely for us! Perhaps a mirror image of each other or long lost brothers I’m not sure which, but they definitely possess similar traits. I wouldn’t trade him in for anything since he too is a member of our family…but sometimes I wonder if he knows we are laughing "at" him….

  9. Emily:

    HAHA….i have exotic persian cats with smooshy faces and huge eyes and man….one of them is so dumb. He always looks confused and bewildered and acts accordingly. He does THE dumbness things. I know my cats and your dog are obviously very different…but I couldn’t help but think of all the times my husband and I have been like "that cat is dumb!" =]

  10. Jaqueline:

    I have always thought that adopting is way better than buying a pet. I’m a sucker for animals. For instance I’m severely allergic to cats, bad asthma and all, still, at one point I had 17 of them living with me. Now I live in an apartment so I don’t get to have many animals, only 6 cats, a shih tzu and a parrot. (Lol). One day I went to the hairdresser, which is like 2 blocks away from my place, on the way back I saw this tiny furry thing inside a cage on a petshop and I wondered if it was a persian cat and up for adoption. When I got closer I saw my Kitty and out of complete madness I got her. I was flat broke, with too many animals as it was (my cats were already getting annoyed with the little space for too many of them), she costed 800USD, I was against buying an animal and also never liked small dogs for their fragile and loud characteristics. But as someone once told me, “you don’t pick your animal, it picks you”. So suddenly I had her. The cutest little thing… but on the first week I was filled with regret… dear God was/is she dumb!!! Tried everything to potty train her and she insisted on doing it wherever. Grabbed all of the shoes and socks in the house and annoyed the cats to the fullest. I was ready to give her away and admit I was terribly wrong for taking her. Then her cuteness showed to be proportional to how dumb she is. And I was sold and madly in love.
    She is now 6 months old today and proved to be the dog I wanted all along. Even the cats like her now, to the point one of them lets her groom him and suck on his ear all day long… lol

  11. John:

    I must say, that the great majority of people posting comments, describing the Shih Tzu as not being intelligent ought to take a look at themselves in the mirror, because nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, the Shih Tzu is one of the most intelligent dogs. Many people will describe a dog as intelligent if it does tricks and comes when called. Forget it, it just won’t happen. The Shih Tzu is a very stubborn dog almost to the point it will display arrogance. They are master manipulators and know how to push ones buttons. And when they want something and don’t get it, they have their way of getting it. They will find a spot and sulk until you give in. In fact, The Shih Tzu will have you performing for them. The Shih Tzu will display aloofness and try and upstage you.
    I am not an expert on the Shih Tzu but, fairly well versed on their behaviour traits. Do not make the mistake of thinking they are not bright.

  12. Kat:

    I agree with the poster above. My shih tzu is incredibly intelligent and intuitive. She doesn’t always follow commands, but that’s simply because she doesn’t feel like it. She also knows how to milk it to get what she wants. I don’t think intelligence can be measured by obedience.

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