Are Golden Retrievers Smart? (And How To Tell If Yours Is!)

Golden retrievers are one of the most beloved dog breeds, known for their kind hearts and friendly personalities. Temperaments aside, many may wonder if golden retrievers have a smart brain to match their great hearts. This is a valid question whether you own a golden retriever already or are looking to buy one.

Golden retrievers are intelligent dogs that are easy to train. In conjunction with their trainability, their excellent temperaments make them a popular choice for a variety of pursuits, including sports and hunting, as well as therapeutic purposes. 

However, a golden retriever’s innate intelligence will need to be matched with effective training. Keep reading to learn more about the truth behind golden retrievers’ smarts, as well as some useful training tips. With some investment of time and care, your intelligent golden retriever will grow into the dog of your dreams.

How Do We Measure Dog Intelligence?

Most people agree that dogs can be very smart, but you may wonder just how this level of intelligence is determined. Dogs are not like humans in that they can take IQ tests or demonstrate their intelligence through academic performance or other formal challenges.

Instead, dog intelligence is usually measured by studying how dogs demonstrate behaviors and learn new information. Researchers in dog cognition may look for signs of intelligence by how well a dog remembers and reacts to learned cues and how they solve problems.

Researchers will collect data across different breeds and use them to make a generalized claim on how intelligent a dog is. This can be compared with the average intelligence capabilities of other breeds to determine if a dog is smart. Golden retrievers typically score high in all of the intelligence measurements.

Human Cues

Intelligence is measured by how well dogs respond to human cues. This can include training a dog to sit or lie down, or even encouraging them to approach you with a simple nonverbal hand gesture.

Researchers can also gain a measure of a dog’s intelligence by the human vocabulary they recognize and respond to. Some dogs learn words that they associate with things they like, such as “squirrel” and “walk.” Intelligent dogs can amass a pretty impressive collection of words they recognize and respond to.

Dog breeds that are highly intelligent in responding to human cues are typically known to be trainable breeds.

Learning By Inference

Just like wild animals do, dogs learn a great deal by watching others within their species. Another way that we can get a measure of dog intelligence is by watching how they learn from other dogs’ actions.

For instance, if a dog sees other dogs performing a certain behavior to receive a treat, he may quickly learn to do a similar behavior to receive the same reward. A dog who can pick up on a variety of inferred behaviors quickly and with ease would be considered very intelligent.

Emotional Intelligence

One of the reasons why so many people love dogs is because of their almost uncanny ability to detect human behavior. Many dogs seem as though they recognize when their owners are feeling certain emotions, such as anger and sadness.

In canine intelligence measurements, researchers will track how quickly a dog picks up on human emotions. Additionally, they may document instances of dogs appearing to demonstrate certain emotions, usually in the form of moods.

Complex Behaviors

Researchers will also look at how dogs demonstrate complex behaviors, such as deception and problem-solving, when determining dog breed intelligence.

Many dog breeds can problem solve. For instance, a dog may find a way to get across a blocked entry or find food in a hard-to-reach area.

Dogs can also be deceptive. Some dogs will pretend not to have an object like a toy or a treat until their owner is out of the room.

Are Golden Retrievers Smart

How Smart Are Golden Retrievers?

Now that we know that golden retrievers are smart, the next natural question is to wonder how smart they are. Golden retrievers are very smart, and they rank 4th among a study done on more than 150 dog breeds.

However, their intelligence can be broken down into two distinct categories: how well they respond to commands and their emotional intelligence.

Learning Cues

Golden retrievers are known to be highly intelligent in picking up and responding to cues. This means that they can be trained to perform a variety of behaviors. This most likely stems from their history of being bred as hunting dogs that have to be highly attuned to their owners’ commands.

Golden retrievers are so good at learning commands that they have even been shown to pick up new commands after as few as 5 repetitions. Golden retrievers are very smart, and you can put their mind to good use by teaching them to respond to tricks and verbal and nonverbal cues.

Emotional Intelligence

Because of their reputation as unparalleled companions and family dogs, it should come as no surprise that golden retrievers score highly in the emotional intelligence category. Golden retrievers are more likely to notice and respond to emotions displayed by their owners.

Golden retrievers are also highly expressive dogs. Owners of goldens will likely notice their dogs displaying a wide range of moods in response to things they notice in the world around them.

Are Golden Retrievers Easy to Train?

Intelligent dog breeds are not inherently easy to train, especially if their intelligence comes with other common traits like stubbornness that could complicate the training process. Fortunately, golden retrievers are highly trainable and can be a great companion for many different pursuits.

Golden retrievers are easy to train family dogs. They will learn how to do simple commands around the house with ease and can pick up on vocabulary that may make them seem almost human. Your golden retriever will respond well to the time and energy you invest in their training.

Additionally, many golden retrievers are used for other purposes. Some people train their golden retrievers to be hunting dogs. In other circumstances, golden retrievers are used as therapeutic or service dogs, providing emotional support or working as a seeing-eye animal.

Positive Reinforcement Training

If you are looking for the best methodology to use for training your golden retriever, positive reinforcement is a common training tactic that is as useful as it is easy. The idea behind positive reinforcement is that you reward your dog every time they do something right.

For instance, if you are training your dog to sit, you would give the sit command. If your golden retriever actually does sit, reward this behavior with praise and a treat. Because golden retrievers are so attuned to their owners, they will quickly learn to perform behaviors, so they can receive positive reinforcement.

Remember that your golden retriever is a very sensitive and intelligent creature, and you should not punish him or her if they are struggling to grasp a training concept. There may be other influences preventing learning. Remaining dedicated to positive reinforcement will result in an effective and fun training experience.

Why Are Golden Retrievers Smart?

It is no accident that certain dog breeds end up displaying higher levels of intelligence than others. It most often occurs that dog breeds are more intelligent when they were bred for a purpose that requires a quick ability to learn and responsiveness to owners’ commands.

Golden retrievers were originally bred to be sporting dogs, specifically retrieving shot waterfowl. Because of this, breeders came to value dogs that could respond well to commands and selected these traits, allowing them to pass down over generations and become prevalent in many golden retrievers.

Golden retrievers are also highly valued family dogs, which requires a lot of emotional intelligence. Breeders in the past and present have learned to select for this trait, resulting in more dogs that are smart and easy to train.

Of course, this is a general rule. There are exceptions in every breed, but most golden retrievers are smart dogs who love to learn new skills and tricks and listen well to their owners.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you are considering buying or adopting a golden retriever or simply want to know more about the dog you already have, keep reading for some common questions about the breed.

Are Golden Retrievers Smarter Than Labradors?

Golden retrievers are commonly compared to their counterpart, labrador retrievers. While both breeds are extremely trainable and friendly, on average golden retrievers are slightly more intelligent. In the list of smartest dog breeds, golden retrievers rank fourth while labrador retrievers rank seventh.

However, if you are debating between the two breeds, you should not let this very minimal difference in intelligence change your mind in either direction. Both breeds have their distinct traits, and you should ultimately choose the dog that works best for you, knowing that both will be very smart and trainable.

Are Male or Female Golden Retrievers More Intelligent?

There is no major difference in intelligence between male and female golden retrievers. That being said, female golden retrievers do mature a bit faster mentally. This means they may grasp training commands from an earlier age and become fully trained while still in puppyhood.

Additionally, even though aggression is rare in golden retrievers, female golden retrievers are less likely to display aggressive behaviors. For this reason, while female golden retrievers may not necessarily be smarter, they can overall be easier to train.

How Long Does it Take to Train a Golden Retriever?

The amount of time it takes to train a golden retriever puppy varies a lot on the individual dog. Dog owners should consider training their animals to be a lifelong commitment and never stop giving their dogs mental stimulation that keeps them happy and healthy.

It typically takes between 4 and 5 weeks for a golden retriever puppy to begin grasping and performing numerous commands. House training your dog may require a full 4 to 6 months. If you have just brought home your golden retriever puppy, be prepared for a time commitment before your dog is fully trained.

If you are hoping to train your golden retriever to be a service animal, know that this can take even longer. Service dogs can take 1-2 years before they are considered fully trained enough to be reliable service animals. These numbers take into account the intelligence of the breeds that typically are service dogs.

How Will I Know If My Golden Retriever is Smart?

Dog intelligence capacities can vary a lot on the individual animal. Even though golden retrievers are very smart overall, you will want to get to know your dog on an individual level before making a judgment on how smart they are.

If you are adopting a golden retriever, ask the shelter how easy the dog has been to train. This is usually a good indicator of how intelligent you will find the dog to be.

If you are purchasing a puppy, ask how smart or trainable its parents were. Intelligence can be a genetic trait in dogs, so the parents’ intelligence may tell you a lot about your future dog’s smarts.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that golden retrievers are among the most intelligent of dog breeds. They are fast learners and dedicated to their owners, making them an ideal choice for those looking for a trainable and intelligent breed of dog.

Having an intelligent dog does not guarantee that it will be well trained. No matter how smart your dog is, you will need to invest time and energy into their training process, providing positive reinforcement and guiding them as they learn throughout their lives.

Make sure that your intelligent and fun-loving golden retriever has a lot of opportunities to use his or her brain through the form of interaction, toys, or time spent learning new tricks. When you purchase or adopt a golden retriever, know that you will be taking home a smart and friendly dog who will bring you joy for years to come.