Are Golden Retrievers Smart? Find Out How Smart They Really Are Here!

August 17, 2022 // 9 minute read

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Golden Retrievers are known for the understanding gleam in their eyes and their ability to cater to human emotions, but are Golden Retrievers smart? Many Golden Retriever owners or Golden Retriever fans want to know whether their impressions about the breed’s intelligence are correct. This article will give the answer you hope! 

If you thought Golden Retrievers were a brilliant breed… are correct! 

Golden Retrievers are extremely intelligent dogs. 

In fact…

Golden Retrievers are the fourth smartest dog breed in the world! This ranking is confirmed by Dr. Stanley Coren’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs. 

Do not be fooled by the Golden Retriever’s silliness. Amidst all that play is a great mind at work. Golden Retrievers’ obedience intelligence is superior to that of most other breeds. But what truly sets Golden Retrievers apart is their knowledge of human emotions. 

Read on to discover: 

  • Where Golden Retrievers rank on various forms of intelligence¬†
  • How Golden Retrievers‚Äô brain power compares to other dogs¬†
  • What roles Golden Retrievers can occupy thanks to their intelligence¬†
are golden retrievers smart

Are Golden Retrievers Smart: Forms of Intelligence 

As with human beings, there are useful ways of subdividing a dog‚Äôs intelligence. According to Dr. Stanley Coren, ‚ÄúThe intelligence of dogs also has several different aspects, among which we recognize three major dimensions.‚ÄĚ The dimensions Dr. Stanley Coren lists are‚Ķ

  • Instinctive intelligence
  • Adaptive intelligence
  • Obedience Intelligence¬†

This article explains an additional fourth form of intelligence that is especially important to consider when talking about Golden Retrievers ‚Äď emotional intelligence.¬†Read on to really find out ‚ÄúAre Golden Retrievers smart?‚ÄĚ

Instinctive Intelligence 

This references a dog’s ability to achieve what they were bred for. For example….

  • Herding dogs keep the sheep from going astray¬†
  • Guard dogs watch over¬†
  • Hound dogs track down traces and pursue them¬†
  • Companion dogs respond to human moods and needs¬†

Golden Retrievers were bred to retrieve a hunter’s kill during small game hunting. This original purpose can be seen today in the breed’s passion for fetch. 

It makes sense that…

Golden Retrievers who successfully retrieve would have good instinctive intelligence. They follow their natural instincts! 

It is important to note… 

It does not make sense to compare different breeds on their instinctive intelligence because they were bred for different purposes. 

Adaptive Intelligence 

Are Golden Retrievers smart when it comes to adaptive intelligence? Golden Retrievers tend to have good problem-solving skills and environmental awareness; therefore, they are said to have good adaptive intelligence.

A method for determining whether or not your Golden has good adaptive intelligence is paying attention to if they are associating objects with subsequent action. 

For example…

If your dog sees you pick up a leash and immediately bounds toward the door, they are showcasing adaptive intelligence. They expect you are going to take them on a walk. 

Golden Retriever owners will be happy to learn that…

Dogs with high adaptive intelligence tend to interact well with little kids and other pets. 

Do You Have A Golden Retriever But Aren’t Sure What Food To Get Them?

We wanted to find the best, healthiest food for Golden Retrievers! Click the button below to read our article about the best food for Golden Retrievers. 

Obedience Intelligence 

You should pay attention because….

Obedience intelligence, also known as working intelligence, is considered one of the most important forms of intelligence. It refers to a dog’s ability to follow a command. Acting on the instruction of humans was the original reason that canines became companions. 

Similar to children in school, dogs are taught to fulfill the roles deemed necessary for them. 

Are Golden Retrievers smart in terms of obedience intelligence?

It has been said that dogs are as smart as two-year-old humans. 

Golden Retrievers in particular are known for having impressive obedience intelligence. This means they are easy to train. 

Studies show that Golden Retrievers are five times faster at learning new commands than other dog breeds. These pups have a 95% rate of following instructions on the first try! 

Emotional Intelligence 

While emotional intelligence is not one of the traditional intelligence categories, it is an important subset to consider when it comes to Golden Retrievers. 

Emotional intelligence is what makes this breed stand out. 

Because Golden Retrievers were originally bred to please humans, by collecting the spoils of their hunt, they are still people-pleasers today. Golden Retrievers want you to be happy. 

They are skilled at picking up on and responding to human emotions, making them excellent pets. Many Golden Retriever parents describe their dogs…

  • Greeting them excitedly¬†
  • Cuddling with them
  • Licking them¬†
  • Making knowing eye contact¬†¬†

These are all ways that these intelligent dogs try to boost people’s moods. 

Golden Retrievers’ moods are boosted when they feel they have successfully cheered up someone. They enjoy creating happiness. 

two golden retrievers playing in the grass

Are Golden Retrievers Smart? Here’s How They Compare to Other Breeds 

Do you ask yourself ‚ÄúAre Golden Retrievers smart?‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúWhy are they so popular?‚Ä̬†

It is because they are one of the most brilliant breeds around! 

As a reminder…Golden Retrievers were ranked as the fourth smartest dogs in the world! 

There are several reasons why…

  • They can understand over 200 commands¬†
  • They can learn a new command within 1-5 tries, much faster than other dogs¬†
  • They can comprehend over 165 words¬†
  • They are aware of their environments¬†
  • They respond to human emotions¬†

To give you a better understanding of how Golden Retrievers rank among other popular breeds, let’s do a quick comparison!  

Related article: Golden Retriever


It may come as a shock that….

Poodles are smarter than Golden Retrievers! They earned an impressive second place on Dr. Stanley Coren’s list ranking the intelligence of dog breeds. 

Poodles are known for their fluffy coats, but they are much more than pretty. These dogs were used in World War II because of their exceptional problem-solving and obedience. 

Border Collies

Ranking above Poodles, earning the title of smartest dog is…the Border Collie. 

Numerous experts have been stunned by the Border Collie’s intelligence, not just Dr. Stanley Coren. They think fast, have good reflexes, concentrate well, and their agility is impressive.

Golden Retrievers may be able to achieve the same results as Border Collies, but Border Collies can get there faster.  

German Shepherds 

Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds are almost equal when it comes to popularity and intelligence. 


German Shepherds are smarter than Golden Retrievers by a smidge. 

In Dr. Stanley Coren’s list, German Shephards are placed third. That is one spot above Golden Retrievers. 

German Shepherds were bred to be alert guard dogs, so they are extraordinarily sharp. 

Related article: Best Dog Food For Golden Retriever Puppy, A Comprehensive Review Of 4 Products

Labrador Retrievers 

Like German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers rival Golden Retrievers in terms of popularity. According to many sources, Labrador Retrievers are the most popular dog in the United States. 

However when it comes to intellect….

Golden Retrievers have Labrador Retrievers beat. 

Labrador Retrievers are ranked seventh, and Golden Retrievers are ranked fourth. 

Still, Labrador Retrievers have their own talents such as an advanced sense of smell and the ability to self-train. 


The husky’s speed and agility might give people the impression that they are quick thinkers. 

But in reality….

Huskies rank 74 out of the 138 dog breeds on Dr. Stanley Coren’s list. They are of average intelligence. 

When learning a new command, Golden Retrievers only need up to five repetitions. Huskies often require 25 to 40 repetitions. Even after that, Huskies still only respond to learned commands 50% of the time 

Golden Retrievers might not be the smartest dogs in the world, but fourth place is definitely something to be proud of, especially considering their stiff competition. Golden Retrievers are full of talent.

Jobs Golden Retrievers Can Have 

Speaking of talent…

Let’s take a moment to talk about all the cool roles Golden Retrievers can fulfill in society because they are so brilliant. 

Golden Retrievers are:

  • Natural people-pleasers¬†
  • Problem solvers¬†
  • Skilled sniffers¬†
  • Mood boosters¬†
  • Order followers¬†

All these attributes make Golden Retrievers prime candidates for a number of positions including…

  • Hunting dogs ‚Äď can help their owners kill, track, and/or retrieve prey.¬†¬†
  • Search and rescue dogs ‚Äď detect human smell to find missing people after a disaster.¬†
  • Police dogs ‚Äď put their lives on the line to ensure order and protect their human partners. Their jobs can include searching for drugs and explosives, uncovering evidence, holding criminals hostage, and locating missing people.
  • Therapy dogs ‚Äď are trained to provide comfort for people to reduce their stress. Often, therapy dogs visit schools, hospitals, and nursing homes‚Äďplaces where people need to be comforted.¬†
  • Service dogs ‚Äď are different than therapy dogs. They are trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability and accompany their owners as they perform daily tasks.¬†

While following orders from their owners (or bosses), Golden Retrievers will commonly have a huge grin on their furry faces. It makes them happy to satisfy the needs of those around them. It is in their DNA! 

three golden retrievers laying in the grass

Did We Answer Are Golden Retrievers Smart? 

If you are asking, ‚ÄúAre Golden Retrievers smart?‚ÄĚ, it is probably because you want to know whether they make good pets.¬†

The answer is…


Golden Retrievers happily intuit and act on the needs of humans around them. 

In return, their owners should give them the care they deserve. 

To make sure your Golden Retriever’s mind stays sharp, follow this advice:

  • Keep them mentally stimulated with toys and/or puzzles¬†
  • Spend quality time with them¬†
  • Ensure they have outlets for their energy like going on walks or playing fetch

Adding a Golden Retriever to your family means getting an incredibly smart and caring companion.¬†We hoped we answered the ‚ÄúAre Golden Retrievers smart?‚ÄĚ question for you! Thanks for reading along!

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