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Are Golden Retrievers Smart?

Are Golden Retrievers Smart?

There’s no doubt that Golden Retrievers make for a perfect addition to the family. They are loving, playful, and easily trainable – but do you sometimes wonder if your Golden is perhaps outsmarting you and your children?

In this article, we will dive into whether Golden Retrievers are smart dogs and how a dog’s intelligence is understood and measured.

Read on to find out if your dog can potentially start tutoring your kids soon!


Are Golden Retrievers Smart?

The last sentence was obviously a joke, but, Goldens are actually an incredibly intelligent breed. In fact, they rank as the fourth-smartest dog breed in the world, behind these guys:

  1. German Shepherd
  2. Poodle
  3. Border Collie

But why are they deemed so smart? Well, they score extremely high in the following intelligence categories:

  • Adaptive intelligence
  • Obedience intelligence
  • Working intelligence
  • Instinctive intelligence

This means that Goldies are perfect at associating meaning to certain things and have quite a vocabulary as well. They are able to learn over 165 words as part of their command training!

This intelligence is just one reason why Goldies make such wonderful service dogs. This holds especially true when they’re trained as therapy dogs – Golden Retrievers are amazing at picking up and reading human emotions (arguably more so than husbands).

This way of understanding us so well makes this dog breed very pleasant to have around; they basically read what we want and react accordingly (again, take note guys).


How to Measure a Dog’s Intelligence

To fully understand how we can call Golden Retrievers smart, we must first know how a canine’s intelligence is being measured and analyzed.

Thanks to canine psychologist Professor Stanley Coren’s research into dogs’ intelligence, we can now determine how smart a breed really is.

Coren’s Dog Intelligence Criteria

Coren’s research on dog intelligence trials is based on two criteria:


In this test, Coren tried to look at how many repeats of a command different breeds required to learn it and respond to it correctly. The lower the number of command repetitions, the more intelligent the breed.


Obedience intelligence focuses on how many times different breeds would obey a command that they learned on the first attempt. The more often the breed obeyed the command on the first attempt, the more intelligent they were.

The breeds with the lowest numbers in these tests got the highest rankings in Coren’s intelligence trials.

It needs to be stated here that no mixed breeds were used in these trials.

How Golden Retrievers Performed

As most Golden Retriever owners will confirm, Goldens are extremely quick at learning a new command and respond to commands quite instantly on the first try.

This is also verified in Coren’s study. In fact, Golden Retrievers performed among the top five out of 138 dog breeds that were tested!

They were able to learn a new command in about five repetitions on average, within about 10 minutes. Their obeying a known command on the first try success rate was at or above 95%. This makes them some of the most obedient dog breeds.

All of the above makes Golden Retrievers extremely well-suited to becoming service dogs. Thanks to their adaptability and ability to learn basic commands so quickly, they are the perfect human companions.


More Reasons Why Golden Retrievers are Smart

Of course, there are more reasons to tell whether a dog is a smart dog or not. Just because your Golden Retriever doesn’t want to sit on the first command doesn’t mean it is stupid, maybe just a little stubborn.

Therefore, Coren came up with two further criteria he did not actively test dog breeds for, but that he deems important when looking into canine intelligence: instinctive and adaptive intelligence.

Instinctive Intelligence

Instinctive intelligence refers to whether dog breeds are able to perform tasks that are related to what they have been originally bred for. In the case of Golden Retrievers, they were primarily bred as hunting dogs. So, they should be good at instinctively retrieving and fetching things.

Golden Retrievers do instinctively retrieve and fetch things such as toys or sticks without the need to teach them so.

They can also navigate through mazes or puzzles in order to retrieve their target. This again, has been bred into them in order to find shot-down prey in the underbrush for their hunting humans.

Adaptive Intelligence

Adaptive intelligence refers to the ability to figure out situations and how to do things by themselves without being trained to do so. This means that the smartest dog breeds can simply use their experience to make sense of the world.

For instance, a Golden Retriever’s adaptive intelligence will allow it to understand that once they get stung by a bee, to stay away from bees. Another example of adaptive intelligence is your dog getting excited when you are walking toward the treat cupboard or grabbing the harness.

Golden Retrievers have a really high adaptive intelligence. This also translates into their emotional intelligence and their way of responding with sympathy (in the form of cuddles) to owners that seem sad or depressed.

All in all, Golden Retrievers excel in all of these categories. This makes them incredibly intelligent dogs!


The Benefits of Owning a Smart Dog

Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds, not just because of their cute face and fluffy fur. The fact that they are a very intelligent breed also boosts their popularity.


Intelligent dogs tend to be a lot more playful, and even more goofy dogs. This also holds true for a Golden Retriever. They need a lot of stimulation and interaction with their owners and therefore enjoy being involved in playtime.

If you prefer to have an interactive dog, then a Golden Retriever is absolutely perfect, thanks to the dog breed’s high intelligence. This also makes Golden Retrievers the perfect companion dogs for those with children.

It’s important to note that if you don’t provide Golden Retrievers with enough sources of stimulation and play, they can get bored really quickly.

That’s right: highly intelligent dogs can also turn into highly destructive dogs if they are bored. This can lead to chewing on furniture or shoes and getting pretty noisy, which can be quite annoying for neighbors (and you!).

You should therefore make sure that your Golden Retrievers have enough toys and items to play with if you intend to leave them alone or not interact as much with them for a while.

Physical Activity

As just mentioned, intelligent dogs tend to be more active. This means that they require a lot of walking or at least entertainment. Just think about how much a Border Collie can and wants to run.

The same goes for a Golden Retriever. They need to be walked daily, making them a great dog breed for families or singles who love to be out and about. Going for a daily walk is also good for your health, by the way!

As stated above, if your Golden doesn’t use all of its energy during your daily walks, it will put its pent-up energy elsewhere. This elsewhere is likely going to be your furniture or favorite shoe. So you should always make sure to tire your Golden Retriever out as much as possible so that they do not get frustrated and act on it!


As we already mentioned in this article, Golden Retrievers can pick up over 100 different words. This means that they can learn an extensive amount of commands and do so very quickly as well.

This will make obedience training and getting your dog house-trained extremely easy and quick. In fact, unlike other dog breeds, you can start training your Golden Retriever at about eight weeks of age. So make sure you have lots of dog treats for positive affirmation around and get training your Golden pup now!

Service Dogs

As we’ve said, your Golden’s ability to read human emotions and their incredible adaptability makes them the perfect service dog.

Goldens do well as therapy dogs and guide dogs, so it’s certainly a breed to consider if you have any additional needs.



Should I get a Golden Retriever?

As long as you know what getting a large breed and highly intelligent dog means, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t get a Golden Retriever!

Golden Retrievers are luckily really easily trainable, which makes up for their size quite a bit.

On top of that, you will always have bragging rights that you own one of the smartest dogs in the world.

What is the smartest dog breed in the world?

Border Collies, Poodles, and German Shepherds are ranked the highest for dog intelligence.

Border Collies are known to be the smartest dog breed, however. They are much more trainable and adaptable to their pack than your average dog at home. This makes them the smartest dogs and also the most popular working dogs.

German Shepherds also have high adaptive intelligence and the ability to learn an extensive amount of commands. This makes the German Shepherd the perfect service dog. This is why they are often used as K9 police dogs to detect drugs, firearms, or other potentially hazardous substances.

Are there disadvantages to owning a smart dog breed?

As we mentioned before, if you do not train and socialize your Golden Retriever from a young age, you might have problems with them later on.

Similar to other breeds that have a high demand for physical and mental activity, you will need to walk and play a lot with your Golden Retriever to avoid them getting destructive in your home.

On top of that, a Golden Retriever can also get quite mischievous when they want to get their way or to get you to play with them. They might start stealing rags from the kitchen or your shoes at the entrance to engage with you and get a reaction out of you!

Since they have this high adaptability intelligence, they know which situations will get them in trouble and which won’t. But for some reason, they will do certain things in spite of their knowledge. Almost simply just to mess with you! So beware and take it light-hearted. Your Golden certainly never wants to actually anger you.

What are good toys to give a Golden Retriever?

Smart dogs require smarter toys! A Golden Retriever will thoroughly enjoy engaging toys, although they love a good cuddly toy as well.

In order to keep them mentally engaged, why not look into buying them mental puzzles or treat puzzles that will require your Golden to figure out how to get a treat by pressing a button or moving the toy in a certain direction? We promise you this is not something average dogs can figure out by themselves!

Here are some examples of fun toys that offer sufficient mental stimulation for your dog. Don’t forget to check out our homepage to see full reviews on the best toys for your pet:

  • Squeaker balls
  • Wobble bowls
  • Interactive treat puzzles
  • Plush toys that can hide a treat
  • Outdoor agility kits


Final Thoughts

There you have it, Golden Retrievers are pretty intelligent dogs. And with their high level of intelligence comes a lot of playfulness, goofiness, and a loving heart that will make them wonderful companion dogs for singles, families, and those with special needs.

Make sure you meet your dog’s needs for physical and mental stimulation on a daily basis and you will have the best friend you can possibly imagine for as long as they live.

If you would like to know more about Golden Retrievers, Barks In The Park covers all questions dog-related – from should you cut your Golden Retrievers’ hair, to when are Golden Retrievers full-grown.