Are Golden Retrievers Dumb or Smart?

Pet Health


August 30, 2022

Are Golden Retrievers Dumb or Smart?

There can be something of a misconception that golden retrievers are lovable but dopey. This begs the question of just how intelligent they are. But the truth of the matter is that they are anything but dumb.

Golden retrievers are some of the smartest dogs out there. Their desire to please and good nature can make them come off more as the lovable idiot of the dog world, but they are truly one of the smartest.

So, Smart or Not?

Many people, not just dog owners, want to know, “Are golden retrievers dumb or smart?” Goldens give off the vibes of being these loveable dummies, but the fact is that they are extremely smart. There are different types of canine intelligence, and it isn’t limited to brain cells.

What most people don’t realize is that a dog’s intelligence is actually quite a bit more complicated than we expect. Testing their intelligence is harder than it might seem. There are no doggy intelligence tests, after all.

But there is a way to figure out which dogs are smart and which ones are not. There is a comprehensive record of performance across several breeds. With more than 133 breeds having been tested, the golden was ranked as the fourth most intelligent breed.

A Deeper Dive

What does all of this mean? How can these tests determine, “Are golden retrievers dumb or smart?” These tests can help to determine the IQ of a dog in two different sets of criteria.

The first is the number of times that a bred needs to repeat a new task to effectively learn it. The less repetition, the smarter the dog is. The second is the number of times that the breed succeeds in performing a known task the first time. The dogs with the best rate of accuracy score best.

Golden retrievers are generally at the top of the list in both categories. Generally speaking, it takes a golden roughly five attempts to learn a new task. On top of that, they can perform known tasks on the first try a whopping 95% of the time.

That just goes to show how smart golden retrievers really are. In comparison, most other dog breeds take anywhere from 25 to 40 times to learn a brand-new command. There is also only a 50% chance that they will perform a known task on the first go-round.

Why are Golden Retrievers so Smart?

The question then moves from whether or not they are smart to why are they so smart? It turns out that obedience is one of the biggest factors of intelligence. But there are other types of intelligence in canines.

Obedience is a skill that requires training, but instinctive intelligence does not. It comes from skills that are innate but only to certain breeds. For instance, one of the innate skills of a golden retriever is to fetch objects (typically waterfowl) from water.

Years of breeding have made golden retrievers ideal for hunting. With that ability and natural instinct, it gives them a fundamental intelligence that some of the other breeds out there don’t quite possess.

They also possess a less obvious sort of intelligence known as adaptive intelligence. This is the type of intelligence that is about how that dog interprets certain events and solves problems. This can differ even within the same breed. One dog might learn that a human putting on his or her shoes means going for a walk while the other would not register it.

Testing a Golden Retriever’s Intelligence

There are a couple of things that you can do to test out your dog’s intelligence. The first is putting a blanket over its head to test its problem-solving abilities. The amount of time it takes the dog to work out how to get free determines its score.

Should the dog take 15 seconds or less, give it three points. From 16–30 seconds gets them two points. Anything longer than 30 seconds and they get one point.

The second test is hiding a treat under a piece of furniture so that it can only be reached with a paw. If they do so with just a paw, that’s three points. Paw and mouth earn two while giving up nets a single point.

The final test involves putting three empty cups upside-down in front of them. Put a treat under one cup and then distract them. If it takes them 15 seconds or less, give them 3 points. 30-60 seconds is 2 points. When one minute has expired, give them 1 point. After a minute, come back to the cups and see how long it takes the dog to find the treat. Add up all the points.

If your golden manages to rack up more than nine points, it is quite smart. The dog is able to solve complex problems by choosing the best method to get the things that it wants. You can find other tests that help you measure your golden’s intelligence.


If you ever wonder whether golden retrievers are smart, stop to test them out. They handle processes far more quickly than other breeds and are capable of performing known tasks accurately most of the time.

Don’t let the happy, dopey demeanor fool you. Golden retrievers are one of the smartest breeds out there. They have adaptive intelligence that can be difficult to gauge but can be proven in a number of ways.