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How Intelligent Is Your Golden Retriever?

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Watching your Golden chase its own tail, bark at a wall, or scarf down their food until they throw up only to do it again might make you wonder, ‘How smart is my Golden Retriever?’

Even though Golden Retrievers are goofy dogs with plenty of adorable, derpy behaviors, they are actually one of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world!

Golden Retrievers have high instinctual, adaptive, working, and obedience intelligence.

This means they are able to read the emotions of the people in a room, understand what routines mean, associate certain objects with actions, and learn their training very quickly!

How Smart Are Golden Retrievers

Read on to find out exactly why professionals say Golden Retrievers are highly intelligent and how having such an intelligent dog can affect your life.

How Do We Know Golden Retrievers Are Smart?

It’s all good and well to say Goldens are one of the smartest dog breeds in the word, but how do we really know that?

The answer is fairly simple.

A very smart man did a lot of peer-reviewed research and came to the conclusion that our beloved Goldens are pretty intelligent!

Professor Stanley Coren, PhD., DSc., FRSC, is one of the most highly respected academics on dog psychology and the connection between human psychological health and canine companionship.

Coren has quite literally written the book on how dogs think and how their intelligence can be measured!

His books are all highly regarded both in the human and canine psychological fields. His doggy-centered books are:

How Did Coren Test Dog’s Intelligence?

The research Coren did to evaluate a dog’s intelligence was based on the ability of the dog to meet two criteria:

  1. Working Intelligence: This essentially boils down to many times a dog breed needs to repeat a command in order to learn it. A lower number of command repetitions meant the dog breed was more intelligent.
  2. Obedience Intelligence: This is how often a dog breed would successfully obey a learned command on the first try. Essentially, the higher the frequency of a dog breed obeying the command on the first try, the more intelligent they are.

Any Golden Retriever lover knows Goldens are able to learn a new command with few repetitions and often respond to the command successfully on the first try, which means they should be recognized as a very intelligent breed!

How Did Golden Retrievers Fare In Coren’s Tests?

In Coren’s study, Golden Retrievers performed very well. In fact, Golden Retrievers are ranked in fourth place out of the 138 dog breeds that Coren tested!

Golden Retrievers were able to learn a new command in only five repetitions over the space of 10 minutes!

This makes them exceptionally well-suited to service dog positions, as they are very adaptable and can learn their new commands quickly to help their human companions.

Furthermore, their success rate at obeying a known command on the first try was at 95% or more!

Not only does this mean they are incredibly trainable and reliable; Golden Retrievers are also very obedient dogs.

What Else Makes Golden Retrievers Intelligent Dogs?

Golden Retriever, Apache and Superman
Lego My Dog Superman

There are two other criteria that Coren did not test for but he agrees are as or are more important than working and obedience intelligence: instinctive intelligence and adaptive intelligence.

Golden Retrievers excel in both of these categories, which makes them truly intelligent dogs!

But what exactly do these types of intelligence mean?

Let’s take a closer look below.

Instinctive Intelligence

Golden Retrievers have high instinctive intelligence to fetch and retrieve things. This was intentionally bred into their nature.

Goldens were initially bred to be gun dogs that would retrieve prey their human companions had shot down, such as quail, hares, ducks, and other waterbirds.

Goldens retrieve things instinctually without being taught to do so! For instance, they can use their brains to navigate through puzzles in order to retrieve their target.

This is in part because they were originally bred to navigate through dense underbrush and murky water in order to fetch their prey.

Their ability to navigate through these puzzles as well as stay on task and retrieve their target and bring it back to their owner demonstrates exactly how instinctively intelligent they are.

Adaptive Intelligence

The Golden Retriever’s high adaptive intelligence is what makes it stand out from other dog breeds.

Adaptive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to learn how to do things for themselves based on their surroundings and previous experiences.

A Golden Retriever’s adaptive intelligence can also be called their sensitivity or emotional intelligence.

When a Golden Retriever makes a mistake and they’ve been corrected by a human (such as messing indoors) or suffered from the circumstances (being stung by a bee or eating something distasteful), they learn from their mistakes and can correct their future behavior.

Basically, they are able to learn and adapt from their experiences!

You may see adaptive intelligence in your dog when you grab their harness, open the cupboard where you keep their food, turn on the lights at night before feeding time, walk towards their crate in the morning, or pick up your car keys.

If your dog has high adaptive intelligence, they will have associated certain behaviors with your actions or objects.

For example, if you take them on a walk at the same time every day, then they will start to anticipate it and wait at the door at the right time!

Goldens are very successful service dogs because they have the ability to ‘read a room’ and adapt their behavior to it.

They are able to sense when their human is sad or needs a cuddle, some support, or space and are able to provide it without being trained to do so.

What Are The Benefits Of Having A Smart Dog?

There are many benefits to having an intelligent dog such as a Golden Retriever.

For starters, they can perform jobs, provide comfort, and allow you to live a comfortable life without you worrying too much about their behavior.

Let’s break down these benefits below.

Intelligent Dogs Are More Playful

The more intelligent your dog is, the more naturally playful they will be! This cannot be more true of Golden Retrievers.

Any true Golden lover will know Golden Retrievers are incredibly playful and goofy.

Fortunately, their goofy, playful nature does not detract from their intelligence. In fact, the more intelligent they are, the more playful your Golden will be!

This makes having a Golden Retriever an exciting journey. Goldens are the perfect dog breed to have in the home if you have children or other animals, as they are always up for games and rolling around.

Intelligent Dogs Are More Active

The more energy your dog has means they are generally more intelligent and trainable. Golden Retrievers are very active dogs and are full of energy, especially when they are puppies and young adults.

This makes them ideal dogs for families or individuals who love to be out and about, going on hikes, walks, to the beach or lake!

Your Golden will adore exercising with you and being your active companion.

We have a super active dog, ehem, ELSA and while she is incorrigible she is highly intelligent.

More Intelligent Dogs Are Easier To Train

As I mentioned earlier, intelligent dogs are able to pick up commands quickly and have a high success rate at obeying those commands. As Goldens are highly intelligent, they are very trainable.

Golden Retrievers pick up on training very quickly and can obey a variety of commands from the time they are only eight weeks old (and even earlier)!

What Are The Disadvantages Of Having A Smart Dog?

It’s worth noting that if you have an intelligent dog and they do not receive suitable training and socialization from a young age, they can become a serious handful and a pain to have in the home.

Not training your Golden Retriever may lead to severe behavioral problems.

As Golden Retrievers are so intelligent, they can be equally destructive!

If your Golden is allowed to become bored and have pent-up energy they do not know what to do with, then they will turn to destructive or anxious behaviors.

This can be a serious disadvantage to having an intelligent dog. Your Golden Retriever may know they are supposed to have a good long walk outside and are expecting to expend all of their energy.

However, if you decide to not take them, then they may do something destructive to tell you that they are unhappy–or they will do something destructive to release that pent-up energy.

How Can I Avoid These Issues?

Even if your Golden Retriever is well-trained and well-socialized, they may still have issues with boredom.

There are a couple of ways that you can help them avoid boredom.

  1. Occupy your Golden Retriever with mental puzzles. Mental exercise is as important as physical exercise, especially for intelligent dogs. 30 minutes of mental stimulation can tire out your dog so completely that they actually need a nap!
  2. Have a routine and stick to it. Helping your dog know when to expect exercise can help them regulate it.
  3. Train your dog from an early age and maintain their training throughout their lives.

FAQs On Doggy Intelligence…

What is the smartest dog breed in the world?

The Border Collies are generally regarded as the smartest dog breed in the world. In close second comes the Poodle, and in third place is the German Shepherd.

Collies are known to be the smartest dog breed in the world because they are highly trainable, can follow a vast array of human commands, work in perfect synchronicity with their pack, and can adapt to almost any lifestyle their human companion requires them to.

What dog breeds are of an ‘average’ intelligence?

According to the same study Coren did that claims the Border Collie, Poodle German Shepherd, and Golden Retriever as the top four most intelligent dog breeds, Boxers, Great Danes, Australian Shepherds, and Siberian Huskies were all ranked as having ‘average intelligence.’

Can you make your dog smarter than their breed allows?

Dog breeds have been created and carefully adapted over the centuries to fit the needs of humans.

Some dog breeds were created to be the perfect hunting dog, the ultimate lap dog, the strongest working dog, the meanest-looking guard dog, or the most highly trainable dog.

In the search for one personality or physical trait, some others may have been sacrificed along the way.

To create the cute, squishy face of the Pug, for example, a large cranium (skull) was sacrificed, and so Pugs do not have the same brain capacity as dogs with larger skulls.

While dog breeds will not have a 100%, fool-proof guarantee of certain characteristics like intelligence, their breed will predict most of their personality including intelligence.

Therefore, if a dog breed is known for its intelligence like Poodles, Collies, and Goldens, then it is more likely that your dog will be highly intelligent.

Can dogs learn to speak?

Dogs can recognize verbal commands, and they connect them with various actions or needs. Some dogs who are highly intelligent have been trained to use talking boards or speech buttons!

It takes a lot of patience and careful training with an intelligent dog (and trainer) in order to get your dog to ‘speak’ using their buttons.

Have a look at Bunny communicating here!

Rolling Over On How Smart Golden Retrievers Are…

Golden Retrievers are a smart dog breed.

They are able to adapt to their environment well, learn tricks and training very quickly, be very obedient and maintain their behavior, and behave in certain ways instinctively.

Plus, when compared to other dog breeds, more intelligent dogs like Goldens are:

  • More active
  • More playful
  • Easier to train

Having a highly intelligent dog can be hugely beneficial because of these traits, which also makes them excellent service dogs.

However, if they are not trained and socialized properly they can become problem animals.

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How Smart Are Golden Retrievers - Golden Retriever lying in the grass

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