Are Golden retrievers smart: Fact or just a hype?

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If there is one thing you can’t question about Golden retrievers is how adorably cute and fluffy they are. Goldens are probably America’s favorite dog breed, but are Golden retrievers smart?

Well, according to Stanley Coren, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia, they are! Based on Coren and his research Golden retrievers are the 4th smartest dog breeds! Border Collies, Poodles, and German Shepherds are the only breeds that are smarter than Golden retrievers.

Are Golden retrievers smart? - Golden retriever wearing glasses.
Golden retrievers are the 4th smartest dog breed

Are Golden retrievers smart and how do we know?

What makes Golden retrievers actually smart, how do we really know that they are the 4th smartest dog?

Well, Coren bases his research on two factors:

The first one is the number of repetitions necessary for the dog breed to learn a new command. Golden Retrievers, being smarter dogs, required fewer repetitions to learn basic commands.

The second factor is the success rate that a dog breed obeys a known command on the first attempt. Basically, this means, the higher the success rate the smarter the dog, which then means that they’re considered “more intelligent”.

Instinctive and adaptive intelligence

There is one more way to measure a dog’s intelligence! We can see how intelligent a dog is by taking a look at a dog’s instinctive and adaptive intelligence.

Instinctive intelligence

First I’ll explain what on earth “instinctive intelligence” is. Just like the name says it’s about the dog’s instincts. It’s the inherited abilities that were bred into a particular dog breed. In our case that would be all the inherited abilities Golden retrievers have.

For example, just like their name says Golden retrievers love to retrieve, so they’ll happily retrieve things for you! Even without you asking!

Adaptive intelligence

Adaptive intelligence is what a dog can learn without you explicitly teaching them.

This sounds a little bit confusing, so I’ll use an example. When you’re leaving for work, you tell your Golden retriever to go to its crate. This happens three, four, five times, but then one day your dog will see you getting ready for work and go to its crate without you telling them. This is then considered adaptive intelligence, which they learned from a previous experience.

Golden retrievers can sense how we feel
Golden retrievers can sense how we feel

Emotional Intelligence Of Golden Retrievers

It’s not possible to talk about a Golden retrievers intelligence without mentioning their EQ – emotional intelligence.

We don’t love Golden retrievers only because they retrieve things or are fast learners. We love Golden retriever for how loving, affectionate and emotional they are.

Their EQ is another important trait that makes Golden retrievers smart dogs. They just know when you are happy or sad, angry or exhausted. They simply have an amazing and unbelievable understanding of humans and their emotions. 

Did you know that Golden retrievers are the most common dog breeds used as service dogs? Well, their EQ is why they are great service animals! Thanks to their EQ they are amazing at helping people, and they are highly sensitive to people who are in pain or hurting.


So as you could see Golden retrievers are very smart dogs! But their general intelligence isn’t the only thing that makes Golden retrievers smart. It’s also their emotional intelligence, how well they understand us and our emotions, and how loving and caring they are.

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