Are Golden Retrievers Smart? (Pros & Cons Of Having A Smart Dog)

We all know that dogs are one of the most intelligent animals on the planet. But which breeds rank amongst the smartest?

Golden retrievers are a much loved breed of dog. They make great family pets due to their docile, placid, and calm nature. They are great with children and are generally non-aggressive. Perhaps one of their leading qualities is that they are highly intelligent. They are super easy to train and learn fast.

Measuring Canine Intelligence & Tests 

A popular dog expert who has studied dog behavior for many years comments that dogs can solve complex problems and are similar to humans, more than previously thought.

As you can imagine there is much debate about what defines intelligence both in humans and animals, and it’s worth bearing in mind that what a person would consider intelligent another would not.

Dogs are all different as are humans and will display different skill sets and attributes so it’s difficult to put them in a metaphorical box, nor should we try to, however, there are a few common factors that can help identify whether a dog is smart or not.

As with humans, all dogs have the potential to be classed as smart, but some take longer than others to figure things out, this poses the question: should we categorize them as intelligent or not? Although this is problematic, it’s the only way of measuring intelligence in another species.

According to some studies, dogs are able to recognize more than 150 words and it’s thought that their mental abilities are similar to a 2-year-old human.

If your dog can pass the following tests, you probably have a smart canine. Golden retrievers score high in the following tests, which suggest they are indeed clever furry friends. 

1. Problem-solving 

If an animal can solve a problem successfully within the context of their own species, then we can consider them as intelligent. When measuring canine intelligence, we must compare them with other dogs to get a fair comparison. Interspecies comparisons are problematic as there are so many variables.

One popular test is a detour task. Dogs are known for their navigation skills, so placing a toy or object behind a fence tests their problem-solving ability.

Some dogs will successfully master this task with little problem, but others will take longer. For a golden retriever, this task is a simple one, and they’ll be playing with their favorite toy in no time at all.

2. Memory 

To test a dog’s memory, you can create a game by arranging several cups and showing them a treat. Place treats under a cup, then move them around. You should also walk around the cups to disorientate them slightly.

If your dog finds the treat immediately, they win the memory test (and should definitely win the treat). Again, a goldie will have little problem with this exercise.

3. Corrections 

In general when training dogs, repetition is key to helping them grasp commands. However, a highly intelligent dog will understand what you’re asking them after two or three; a great test for the super smart golden retriever.

A common IQ test for dogs is the towel exercise. Throw a towel over your dog’s head and time how long it takes for them to get free. If it’s less than 30 seconds it’s safe to say you have a smart dog, if they try and don’t succeed, not so smart. If they don’t even try, your dog isn’t the sharpest tool (so to speak)

4. Communication 

Many dogs will learn ways to communicate their needs to owners, which is a good sign of intelligence. They will wait by the door and bark when needing the toilet, letting you know when it’s dinner time or when they want to go for a walk.

Dogs are fantastic at picking up on routines and will communicate with owners at certain times of the day to get their needs met.

There are various online tools to help define how intelligent your goldie is, such as Einstein, Renaissance dog and Dognition. They show you how to do different games with your dog.

You then input data to reveal which profile your dog fits into. It’s not foolproof, but you’ll have fun playing the game with your attentive goldie.

Golden Retrievers and Intelligence 

Based on intelligence trials testing abilities such as discussed above and research, golden retrievers have proven to be amongst the world’s smartest dogs. They rated in the top ten, landing forth amongst 138 dog breeds. 

This means that goldies can learn new commands in a short amount of time with 5 repetitions or fewer. The study also revealed that goldies were able to obey a command on the first try 95% of the time. Given how much they want to please it isn’t surprising they are amongst the most compliant dogs around. 

These tests only give us a snapshot of how smart dogs are, and really only provides a linear way of measuring intelligence. What about their instinctive performance? 

In times past, goldies were working dogs, so they instinctively have skills such as herding and retrieving. So goldies are amazing at fetch games and bringing objects back. It is intrinsically part of their nature. They are able to navigate uneven terrain and retrieve an animal, which adds to their highly intelligent nature. 

Goldies also have a high level of adaptive intelligence. This refers to how well a dog can learn from previous mistakes. They may do something wrong but will never repeat it. Goldies are able to read their surroundings and environment and adapt accordingly.

In addition, they are also good at linking objects with actions. For example, if you always wear the same jacket when walking your dog, it won’t take long for him to realize that it’s walk time when he sees the jacket. He will evidence this by getting super excited even when you head towards said jacket. 

Perhaps a wonderfully unique trait of the golden retriever is their ability to read people and understand their human companions.

A goldie will always know if members of their people are upset and seek ways to comfort them, this makes them highly emotionally intelligent and is why they are one of the most favorite family dogs. With these things in mind, then what are the pros and cons of owning a smart dog?


One of the greatest advantages of having a smart dog is that they are easy to train. Right from puppyhood, training a goldie is a delight, and they learn fast. They enjoy pleasing their owners and want to make them happy, making training a breeze.

What can you teach them?

You can teach them lots of tricks which will keep them stimulated and provide lots of fun entertainment for your family. Puzzle toys are a great way to keep their minds active and give you a break from constantly entertaining them.

What products can you use?

There are loads of products on the market designed to help keep dogs occupied, so it’s good to research online to discover which ones would work well. Interactive games are a good way to build the bond between you and your dog and help wear them out and reduce boredom.

Where can you take them?

The beauty of the wonderful nature of goldies is that you can take them anywhere, and they will enjoy the adventure. Taking them in public places such as pubs will ensure they are not lonely at home and will contribute to them having a happy and sociable life.

Are intelligent dogs better behaved?

Another positive aspect of having an intelligent pooch is that it reduces bad behavior. Having a badly behaved dog that is difficult to train can be stressful in everyday life. You may not be able to trust them when out in public if they don’t respond properly to commands.

Can you trust them?

You may be anxious about letting a badly behaved dog off the lead in case they don’t return to you. In the case of aggressive dogs you may have to be very careful around children and other triggers to protect others.

A smart dog is a safe dog, and it’s reassuring if you have an intelligent pooch you can trust.


The downside of sharing your life with an intelligent canine is that they need constant stimulation and this can be tiring, especially if you already have a busy life.

Smart dogs are headstrong and will get bored easily, and if they haven’t got enough to do they can be destructive. They may chew things up or bark excessively, so it’s crucial they stay occupied.

Owning a slightly less intelligent dog can come with all sorts of benefits. As long as they don’t behave badly, dumb dogs can be easier to look after than intelligent ones.

They don’t need constant stimulation, and every day is fun to them. Their carefree attitude can be very endearing, and they help us not to take life too seriously.

Where a smart dog may demand attention in terms of stimulation and a dumb dog often wants silly play and belly rubs, what’s not to love about that.

Dogs are a great gift, and sharing our lives with a beautiful matured soul such as golden retrievers is well worth the effort.