Entlebuchers – just how intelligent are they? Hint: Train them or be trained!



Hi it’s Linda here behind the keyboard again, back with the third part of our mini Entlebucher Mountain Dog series. In the first post I told you about our blog reader who wrote us asking about the difference between Labradors and Entlebuchers, in the second post I answered his questions about how much exercise an Entle needs and this week we’ll be looking at their intelligence.

Intelligence & Training

Q3: What would you think the Entlebucher Mountain dog’s intelligence level is in comparison to a lab? Do they try to please their owner like a lab? How is their focus when being trained, are they easily distracted?

Historically the Entlebuchers saw the cattle into the hills of their native Switzerland, and brought them back home again. Then the farmer sent them off alone to the cheese maker with the milk – that sort of work required a lot of brains and strict work ethics and set the foundation for the Entlebucher’s famous energy, intelligence and work drive.

Focused on the task

Focused on the task

Sense of Self

I read in an interview with the Entle Queso’s owner that Entle’s have a very strong sense of self compared to other dogs, and I think that’s true, at least for the Entles I’ve met. They are devoted to their people but don’t seem to go to such extreme or silly lengths as some labradors to please their humans – its like they like to keep their pride, or dignity intact.

Also, if they are not pleased with what you’ve told them they will give you feedback – our Alfie has an entire vocal range with accompanying facial expressions to share emotions from disappointment to excitement. He is a very good communicator (there is a reason every blog post signed off by Alfie starts with a Rooo ooo!).


Not impressed

A thinking Dog

Entlebuchers are incredibly intelligent. As an example, we potty trained Alfie in about a week and by the age of twelve weeks he knew most of the basic doggie commands. Having a clever pooch comes with both pros and cons though, and you have to watch out so the dog doesn’t start training you!

Every time I think about the difference between an Entle and other dogs I’ve encountered I like to draw parallels with when I learned about photography. Just like anyone can get a decent shot with a compact camera or camera phone – most people can reach pretty good results when training the average dog.

The Entlebucher is more like an advanced and expensive D-SLR camera. If you know which buttons to push you can achieve extraordinary photographs, whereas if you don’t know what you’re doing then all your photos are going to get blurry. In a similar way Entlebuchers can turn into real Entlebucher Monster Dogs if you don’t know how to deal with all their intelligence and energy.

A bored, or under stimulated Entlebucher will be quite happy to invent his own entertainment and I bet it will be something you won’t like – don’t forget I run a weekly feature on this blog called Monday Mischief and there is a reason for that.


Train them or Be Trained

These dogs are incredibly intelligent and focused on their owner, and when training Alfie I look at it as team work. Training is something you do with your Entle, not to him – and our Alfie responds a million times better to flattery than being told off.

They really are like little Swiss army knives with the right tool for everything from agility, obedience, rescue work, to herding and some are even therapy dogs. You can teach them absolutely anything you can think of and they will do it with a big Entle smile on their face.

Having a clever dog means you need to really pay attention and think things through beforehand when you train them. I used to own a German Shepherd and if I’d tell him to jump his reply would be ‘Sir, yes Sir” and then he’d await his next order. Alfie on the other hand would reply ‘Yes buddy’, start running and whilst flying through the air demand to hear the rest of the plan’. (No my dogs don’t actually talk to me but you get the idea!). These dogs learn so quickly that if you make things too easy they will start questioning your commands, wondering what you ‘really’ want them to do so you have to stay one step ahead all the time.

When we’re training agility that’s one of my main problems – I need to focus much further ahead than where Alfie is and know the route 100%. If I hesitate or don’t give the next command quickly enough, he is right by my feet complaining about my confusing orders!


One of our first agility lessons – what’s up buddy?

I distinctly remember the first time I realised that Alfie had started training me. One day he kept loosing his squeaky toy underneath the sofa – it was too far back and he couldn’t reach it. He looked so sad and miserable I simply had to help him dig it out. Having crawled around the floor three or four times more I caught him actually pushing the toy with his nose underneath the sofa before turning to me for help. The little monster had invented a new game and trained me to play it!

Attention & Focus

I mentioned in my previous post that Entlebucher Mountain Dogs are incredibly focused on their owners. Until you’ve seen ‘that look’ in real life you don’t know just how intently they focus on their human. When I’m training Alfie in doggie school his attention is 100% on me. He is very food and toy motivated but as soon as he’s learned a new ‘trick’, he is happy to work for praise and attention.

In my opinion, teaching an Entle new tricks and stuff like that is real easy – you usually only need to repeat the directions 1-3 times before they get it. Because they are so stubborn and persistent its much more difficult to teach them what not to do, (especially if they perceive there is some sort of a reward for their bad behaviour) – don’t pull the leash, don’t jump up in the sofa, don’t steal my food and so on.

The real challenge in training an Entle is to keep up with and channel their energy into positive outlets and not mischief. If you can do that – then you have your dream dog!

Here’s what our Facebook friends said about their Entle’s intelligence:

“Imho, labs live to please their humans and are very intelligent and can learn almost anything, entles live to please their humans can learn anything but they can teach it to their friends with modifications once they have learned:-D. They think more outside the box so to speak. I have been known to quote a friend’s who says” if my dog had opposable thumbs I would be the one in a crate” Suz

“I can see the “wheels turning” in my B dog Entley. I have never had such a naturally focused on human dog before. He is 24/7 trying to figure out what I want from him, and how to get what he wants. Scary intelligent…..” Analee

“I think Entlebuchers are smarter, but sneakier. They can be distracted, however when you turn that energy for fun and mischief into drive you’re rewarded tenfold with their loyalty and trainability.” Sarah

Q4: Are they chow hounds like labs that make their dinner disappear almost as soon as it hits the plate? 

We feed our Alfie a raw diet and he loves it. He quite literally licks his bowl ten times after he’s finished his food just to check if he’s missed anything. He also ‘supervises’ any activities that involve food in the kitchen – sometimes he knows I’m about to open a packet of bacon even before its out of the fridge. Some Entles are less interested in food, but overall they seem pretty food loving.

Let me know in the comments section below just how clever your Entle is, if he ever landed himself in mischef by being too clever or if you’re channeling it all into pawsome training….

PS. If you liked this post then why not join Alfie’s pawsome pack and get every blogpost sent straight to your inbox?




  1. says

    I’ve enjoyed these posts! Alfie sounds like such a fun dog, even if he can be a little challenging at times. He keeps you on your toes. You’ve done such a great job with him. Also glad to hear how you started training him basic commands at such a young age and he caught on right away. I wish more people would begin training obedience right away.

    • says

      Oh we started training him from day one – you should have seen his little puppy face, so eager to learn! He is a wonderful dog but you are right, he does keep us on our toes :-)

  2. says

    Omigoodness. I just love Alfie. I love brilliant dogs with attitude. Our Aussies have always been too smart for their own good, training us so much better than we’ve trained them. AROOOOOO!

  3. says

    Since we know a few of your kind, we know you are quite smart but also quite persistent…not as bad as a Border Collie, but you don’t handle boredom well. You are a wonderful breed for sure!

  4. Monica L Kelly says

    I love your posts and its so very true! Flattery especially. I own Greater Swiss Mt Dogs, and 1 Entlebucher and my biggest mistake was treating the Entlebucher as a small Greater Swiss when they only relate to the Swissy by color! These are indeed thinking dogs, you can see them calculating in their eyes. When we did stock work, my Ava learned it, and then insisted she didn’t need lessons anymore. In Agility I do fail horribly at staying ahead of her. Obedience she soars and makes me look like a great trainer. Then there are those times she gives me this “You know I am right.” as we hit a stalemate. Greater Swiss treat everyone they don’t know like long lost relatives, my Entlebucher is more reserved. The first canine I’ve ever had who is MY dog 100%.

    • says

      Hahah I know what you mean about agility – I’m going to have to go back to the gym just to have a small chance at keeping up with him! Oh and that ‘look’ – you can just see their brain working! :-)

  5. Jess says

    Our Entle, Rogue, is super smart. He’s notified me when my son wakes up from his nap, and even when he needs to go out by ringing a bell. He is so food motivated and will do anything to eat. When he did agility, he was the fastest dog in the class.
    I love that he actually likes to cuddle with us.

  6. says

    Hey Alfie, Great summary – you do seem like a pretty smart guy. We’d love to see how you do on that Dognition assessment we are doing – that would be really interesting and probably show lots more differences. Having always had Labs I can attest to their somewhat goofy demeanor. Sounds like you might be closer to Border Collie on that scale.

  7. says

    Another great article! Lots of quality info from your first hand experience & Alfie is an awesome breed ambassador & representative! We are crazy about this breed too. We’ve had 3 Entles plus we’ve fostered another 3. While they can be stubbron, certainly any dog can- something I’ve learned is that Entles really do want to please, bond & work- they are easy to motivate, love praise, toys & food! Before I jump to labeling a behavior, I always look at myself first. Am I being clear in my directions! What could I do differently or better to communicate? What “value” is in this for my dog? Are there competing influences that make it harder for my dog? If I think it through, I can usually problem solve and have quicker & greater success for our team.

    We enjoy agility, obedience, rally-o, tracking, nosework & a little herding. But agility is by far our favorite sport! I watch with enthusiasm & agerness for your videos, photos & blog posts- Thanks for sharing & inspiring Alfie!! Keep up the greatness dude! Your Entle friends in WI, Data & Kai

    • says

      Thank you so much for stopping by! Just had a look at your website – sounds like your ‘Data’ and our Alfie are very much alike!
      Great training tip – our Alfie always tries to do everything we ask of him so if he doesn’t ‘get’ something, then just like you I try and analyse my own behaviour, and there usually something I could do differently. Our agility trainer is great at pointing all those things out….

  8. Inga says

    Wonderful post – again!
    My favorite part? Alfie pushing the squeaky toy underneath the sofa, knowing for sure that you would retrieve it for him…;-)

  9. says

    My terrier mix, Tucker, plays the exact same game of “Jeez, I lost the Ball under the couch and I can’t get it.” Smart dogs–and smart cats–will train their people. One of my cats has trained my husband to pick her up. She sits on her haunches (picture a dog begging) and meows so plaintively, he can’t resist. Humans train well. ;-)

    –Woofs (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats.

  10. says

    Hi Y’all!

    We Chessies are like Enties in that if a command given at a certain time doesn’t make sense, we accomplish the task but in our own, much better way!

    I tried that “ball under” trick. My Human is as stubborn as I am, though. She won’t get up and get it until my Human Papa gets tired of my barking and says “shut him up or find out what he wants”. She;ll get the ball for me once. If I try it again, she takes me outside. When we come inside she ignores any further requests from me.

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  11. says

    wow SO much of this sounds like a Vizsla. I always say if there is a dog that is human like in their thinking and manipulating it’s a Vizsla. Sure they are sweet, and smart but you better have a good handle on what you want and how you plan to get there. I am constantly trying to stay one step ahead of my girl. She really pushes the limits being a girl too, and a serious one at that. Not a goofy girl, and is an observer. Honestly she is way too much like myself lol, makes it a little more challenging.

    Thanks so much for the insight into this breed, it is one I considered due to being less hairy draft/farm dog, and smaller too. Now off to read the energy part of the breed.

  12. says

    Perfect Entle descriptions! Well done & thank you for the help to describe this amazing breed. I always felt odd saying ‘Jenny’ is My dog, it wasn’t respectful enough, in my eyes. I have learned to say she is my partner.
    Everything you have said is spot-on. (Hmm, is there a pun in there?)
    As a service dog jenny goes everywhere, & such, people who might not otherwise be exposed to the potential of some dogs gets her example. She has been an awesome ambassador for inter-species co-existence.
    Endless stories to tell & daily accolades from the people who see her & sense her focus & intelligence.


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