Are Golden Retrievers Smart? 8 Tests to Know How Smart is Your Dog

Golden Retrievers are loyal, obedient, and sweet dogs that make for the perfect family dogs, but what about their intelligence.

Are they really as smart as you think or is it just a myth? and how does this intelligence play in their day-to-day lives?

So, are golden retrievers smart? Yes, golden retrievers are smart, they are the 4th smartest dog breed, ranked just below the border collie, poodle, and german shepherd, their intelligence is similar to that of a 2 or 2.5-year-old human and they can learn over 165 words and can identify our emotions easily.

To understand exactly how smart is your golden retriever and what makes them so intelligent, let’s keep reading…

Are Golden Retrievers Really Intelligent? 

golden retriever sitting on porch to illustrate are golden retrievers smart

Yes, golden retrievers really are intelligent dogs, they are the fourth smartest dog breed, just behind border collies, poodles, and german shepherds.

So yes, you can say they are pretty intelligent. Golden retrievers can also learn over 165 words and it’s easy for them to pick up on our emotions.

Their intelligence doesn’t only make it easy to train golden retrievers, but it also makes living with them in general pleasant because they can pick up on what we want easily and without as much effort as it would’ve taken us with a slightly less intelligent animal.

How do we evaluate a dog’s intelligence? 

You can evaluate your dog’s intelligence based on the way Stanley Coren used to measure the intelligence of dogs.

He was a Ph.D. and a canine psychologist who did some brilliant work to help us understand canine intelligence and you can find his book, the intelligence of dogs, in the helpful sources section for reference.

Now, let’s see how he measured their intelligence.

He started his intelligence trials based on only two factors.

  1. For every dog breed to learn a new command, it’s necessary to have a number of repetitions. For example, smarter dogs such as border collies and golden retrievers required fewer repetitions to learn the basic commands 
  2. The dog breeds that obeyed a known command on the first attempt, so the breeds with the high success rate in this one were considered the “more intelligent” breeds

The dog breeds with a minimum of 100 responses were the only dog breeds in his final rankings.

No mixed breeds were included in his trials.

There are different types of dog intelligence just like humans, so the forms of intelligence he researched were adaptive intelligence, instinctive intelligence, working or obedience intelligence. 

How Smart Are Golden Retrievers vs the other breeds? 

We now know that golden retrievers are the 4th smartest dogs breed among 138 dog breeds, but how did they do compared to other dogs that are considered the average dogs, which are the dogs that ranked between 63rd and 104th spot.

The obedience 

Golden retrievers are able to obey a known command on the first try with a 95% success rate or even better.

However, it’s the golden retriever’s nature that they like to obey their owner, so this shouldn’t really come as a surprise.

Compared to the other breeds they are also capable of learning a new command with fewer than 5 repetitions.

For comparison, the average dog breeds need between 25 to 40 repetitions to learn an unknown order or command.

Which makes the other dog breeds at least 5 times slower than golden retrievers in learning an unknown command.

So, for the obedience intelligence, other dog breeds will obey a known command with a 50% or higher success rate on the first try.

How to know how smart is YOUR Golden Retriever? 

There are some IQ tests that you can give to your golden retriever to know how smart they are?

Whether they are games that you can buy for them or some methods you can try at home. Let’s see how you can do these tests at home.

The first test

This test will challenge your dog’s speed and how to think.

  1. For the first test, you’ll need a stopwatch and a towel 
  2. You just toss the towel over your golden retriever’s head and make sure that it covers their head completely
  3. In that same second start the stopwatch and see how long it takes for your golden retriever to free themselves from the towel

Now, it’s time to write down their score

If they freed themselves in 30 seconds or less3 points
If they took from 30 to 120 seconds2 points
If it took them more than 120 seconds1 point 
If they didn’t even try to free themselves0 points

The second test

This one is a memory test, you’ll prepare your dog for a small game.

  1. You’ll need three plastic cups and their favorite treats.
  2. Place a treat underneath a cup, lift the cup to let them know that the treat goes underneath the cups
  3. Repeat the process eight to ten time until your dog gets it 
  4. Now, place three plastic cups upside down on the floor
  5. Put a treat underneath one of the cups 
  6. Make sure that they are watching 
  7. Lead your dog out of the room for exactly 30 seconds 
  8. After the 30 seconds urge your golden retriever to find their treat

Time to know their score 

Gets the right cup on the first try 2 points 
Finds it in two minutes 1 point 
Doesn’t find it 0 points 

The third test 

For this one, you’ll need bricks or books, a wide plank, and their favorite treats.

  1. Put four bricks on top of each other and put another four bricks on top of each other to make a gap in the floor between the bricks, finally put the wide plank on top of them.
  2. You can also use the couch instead 
  3. Place a treat underneath the couch or the plank 
  4. Make sure that your dog is watching you when you are placing the treat
  5. Push the treat so they can’t reach it with their muzzle 
  6. Encourage them to get the treat 
  7. Time them while they are trying to get the treat 
Gets the treat while using their paws within 2 minutes 4 points 
Gets the treat while using their paws within 3 minutes 3 points 
Fails to get the treat within the first 3 minutes but they were using their paws 2 points 
Can’t get the treat because they are only using their muzzle 1 point 
They do not try to get the treat 0 points 

The fourth test

In this one, you will need to do a bit more work

  1. You will need a piece of cardboard five feet wide and too tall for your pooch, build a barrier for them by attaching each end of the cardboard to a box big enough so it can support it.
  2. Now, in the center of the cardboard, cut a small rectangle about three inches wide
  3. It starts about four inches from the top 
  4. Ends about four inches from the bottom
  5. Toss the treats behind the barrier 
  6. Make sure that your golden retriever is watching their treat fall through the window you just cut into the cardboard 
If they take 30 seconds or less to walk around the barrier to get the treat3 points 
If they take between 30 seconds and one minute to walk around the barrier and get the treat2 points
If they get their head stuck trying to get through 1 point for their cute effort
If they do not even try0 points

The fifth test 

This is the easiest one, all you need is a towel and their favorite treats 

  1. Show your golden retriever their treats 
  2. Place the treats on the floor 
  3. put a towel over their treats 
  4. Start the stopwatch 
  5. Let your golden retriever reach its treats 
They get to the treats in 30 seconds or less3 points 
They reach the treat in more than 30 seconds (30-60 seconds)2 points 
They failed to get the treat in the first 60 seconds 1 point 
They don’t even try0 points

The sixth test

It’s time to go for a walk with your golden retriever, but first, you need to choose a time or a day when you don’t normally walk your dog.

  1. So first you chose the time
  2. Pick up your keys and their leash
  3. While they are watching you 
If they get excited immediately 3 points
If you have to walk to the door for them to realize it’s time to go2 points 
If they are just sitting looking confused 1 point 

The seventh test

This one needs a bit more effort from your side;

  1. Let your dog out of the room 
  2. Make sure they do not enter until you finish 
  3. Rearrange the furniture of the room while they are out
If they walk directly into their favorite spot 3 points
If it takes them 30 seconds to find their favorite spot2 points 
If they sit anywhere 1 point 

The eighth test 

Place their favorite toy under something low enough so it can only fit their paws and not their head such as a chair or a table

If they reach the treat within the first minute 3 points 
If they use they use their paws and nose 2 points 
If they cannot reach the treat in the end1 point
If they do not even try 0 points

Their score 

PointsHow Smart?
16 or higher Your golden retriever is the sherlock holmes of the canines 
13 to 16 They did a pretty good job, congrats, you have a very good boi 
9 to 12 Maybe being the smartest isn’t their thing, they could be the funny or the good looking one
1-8 Your pup is probably not a thinker, but that doesn’t stop them from being the best and kindest pup.
0 It’s either your pup was sleeping while taking the test or you tested a cat.

How well your dog does on these tests should not really change anything in how you treat them and love them – just like you would do with a child doing the same kinds of tests.

How to make your golden retriever smarter? 

A dog can be intelligent for two reasons; the first is the breed and the second is the ability to learn.

You can improve their intelligence by introducing them to some games that keep them mentally active such as interactive puzzles or toys.

You can make playtime a mentally engaging activity.

Use treats to motivate your pooch to learn new tricks and commands.

Here are some toys you can get for them to make them smarter

You can get even more toy recommendations for golden retrievers here.

Also, you can play some of the tests as games, you don’t have to do them all in one day, but you can keep them active by hiding their treats and it’s a great way to keep track of their IQ so if you write the score, you are going to know if they improved or not.

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Related Questions 

Are Golden Retrievers Stupid or Dumb? 

Golden retrievers are not stupid, they are the fourth smartest dog breed, however, golden retrievers have a loving and adorable nature that they will do anything to please their owners which can make them goofy and not show off how intelligent they really are. 

What are the smartest dogs? 

Here are the smartest dogs

  • Border collie
  • Poodle 
  • German shepherds
  • Golden retriever 
  • Doberman pinscher 
  • Shetland sheepdog 
  • Labrador retriever 
  • Papillon 
  • Rottweiler 
  • Australian cattle dog 
  • Pembroke welsh corgi 
  • Miniature schnauzer 
  • English springer spaniel 
  • Belgian Tervuren 
  • Schipperke 
  • Gordon setter
  • Welch terrier 
  • Old English sheepdog 
  • Bernese mountain dog 
  • Bloodhound 
  • Australian shepherd 
  • Alaskan husky 

If this was helpful to you, share it with your family and friends it might be useful to them as well and I will definitely appreciate it.

Helpful Resources 

The Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide to the Thoughts, Emotions, and Inner Lives of Our Canine Companions 


Hey there, I'm Matt, the author behind With a deep love for dogs and a dedication to strengthening the bond between owners and their retrievers, I've created a hub of resources for enthusiasts like you. Through engaging articles, training guides, and product reviews, I aim to provide practical advice that makes a real difference in your life as a dog owner. Whether you're a seasoned pro or new to the world of retrievers, my approachable and informative writing style ensures that you'll find valuable insights. Join me on this incredible journey of discovering what makes retrievers tick, unlocking their potential, and creating an unbreakable bond with your furry companion. Let's embark on an adventure of dog ownership together. Thank you for visiting and being part of our vibrant community.

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