Are Golden Retrievers Smart?

Goldens Retrievers are one of the smartest breeds of dogs. Along with their intelligence, they are gentle, reliable companions. In this article we will discuss why they are smart and what roles they take on because of their intelligence.

So Are Golden Retrievers Smart?

Golden Retrievers are smart. They are easy to train and learn new commands quickly. Golden Retrievers are about as smart as a 2 to 2.5-year-old human. According to Stanley Coren, a canine psychologist, they are the fourth smartest breed behind the Border Collie, Poodle, and German Shepherd.

Why Are Golden Retrievers Smart?

Golden Retrievers are ranked as the 4th smartest breed of dogs. Below is an explanation of the behaviors Golden Retrievers possess for this high ranking.

Stanley Coren is a well-known psychologist that studied the intelligence of dogs.  During his research, he asked nearly 200 North American obedience trial judges to help him identify the most intelligent dog breeds. He looked at two areas of behavior to determine their intelligence compared to other breeds.

  1. The number of repetitions it takes for a dog to learn a new command.
  2. The success rate in which the dog obeys a new command on the first attempt.

Golden Retriever Research Findings

Golden Retrievers performed exceptionally well during the study. Coren found that the Golden Retriever is the fourth smartest breed of dog based on his research.

He discovered that Golden Retrievers are capable of learning a new command with fewer than 5 repetitions. This is amazing compared to the average dog.

An average dog is ranked between the 63rd and 104th place. These dogs need between 25 and 40 repetitions to learn a new command. That is five times slower than the Golden Retriever.

As far as obedience intelligence is concerned, the Golden Retriever was also able to obey a new command on the first try with a 95% success rate. An average dog will obey a new command at 50% or higher.

Because Golden Retrievers aim to please their owner, it is no surprise they ranked in the top 10 breeds of dogs for intelligence.

Instinctive and Adaptive Intelligence

Stanley Coren also refers to instinctive and adaptive intelligence as a way to measure a dog’s intelligence. He did not use these specifically in his research, but admits they are two very important components in dog intelligence.

Instinctive Intelligence

Instinctive intelligence refers to inherited abilities that were bred into particular dog breeds. Not much human training is needed for this intelligence. Retrieving is the Golden Retriever’s instinctive intelligence.

Golden Retrievers have a natural desire to retrieve. In hunting, they retrieve waterfowl that has been shot by a hunter. Golden Retrievers will want to retrieve items for their owner because it has been bred into them.

Adaptive Intelligence

Adaptive intelligence refers to what a dog can learn to do for themselves. This means the dog is able to learn from previous experiences.

For instance, a dog might make a mistake and learn from it and not do it again. Golden retrievers have a high adaptive intelligence.

To give an example, the Golden Retriever may be told to go to their crate because their owner is leaving. The first few times, the owner has to tell them to go to their crate. After a few times, the dog notices the owner has keys in their hands and automatically goes into the crate without the verbal direction.

Golden Retriever Intelligence In Action

Below are some areas of Intelligence where Golden Retrievers shine. While these are not the only ways that Goldens can be successful, they are common strengths of their intelligence.


Golden Retrievers love the water, so no wonder they make for a good waterfowl hunting dog. From the beginning, Golden Retrievers were specifically bred to retrieve waterfowl. Because they require few repetitions to learn new commands, hunters have been able to train them as a hunting companion quickly.  

Their gentle mouths make it easy for them to retrieve the game and bring it to their owner unharmed. Many hunters use Golden Retrievers for hunting because they will do anything to please their owner.

Service Dogs

Golden Retrievers are one of the most common dog breeds used as service dogs because of their high intelligence. They are easily trained to help people do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.

They are natural helping dogs that are sensitive to people who are in pain or hurting.

They also have a keen sense of smell. Law enforcement often uses Golden Retrievers at airports, border crossings, and seaports, where they help in tracking down fugitives or cracking down on drug trafficking.


Many Golden Retrievers have been actors in T.V. shows or movies because of their intelligence. They are able to learn commands and directions easily. They have a calm temperament which helps when they have to be in a scene more than once.

Audiences enjoy watching them because along with intelligence they are beautiful and funny.

Some examples of Golden Retrievers in Hollywood are Buddy (Air Bud), Comet (Full House), Duke (Busch Beans), and Bailey (A Dog’s Purpose).

These Golden Retrievers are universally loved by viewers which helps draw the audience into the show.


Golden Retrievers are a highly intelligent dog breed. Not only are they smart, but they love to be around people. This makes them a great addition to the family, as well as, useful for hunting and helping others. They are very reliable and loyal; therefore, you can trust them to do just about anything.

If you are looking to train your Golden, be sure to check out our article on How to Train a Golden Retriever. We cover most of the basics in a short guide.

Corey Rawlins

Corey Rawlins has loved Golden Retrievers since he was a boy. His current Golden Retriever, Brady, was his inspiration to create Golden Retriever Society. He and his wife have three children who are always keeping Brady entertained. They love spending time together, traveling, and meeting other dog families.

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