Golden Retrievers are a smart breed, having been bred as hunting companions for humans. They are right up there with the Border Collies, Poodles, and the German Shepherd for intelligence. Compared to a human, the Golden Retrievers rate as a 2 – 2.5-year-old in intelligence, and they can learn over 165 words. That may not sound a lot, but for a dog, it is impressive!
Golden Retrievers love to work, want to feel needed, and need to be involved in whatever activity on which you are working.
In 1800 the dogs were bred to retrieve shot-down birds such as ducks and waterfowl and return them to the owner. They were known for having a ‘soft’ mouth which in other words, means that they were gentle in retrieval and did not rip the game to pieces. They were then and still are at the top of their game for that.
But their smarts are not only confined to a hunting position. Their intelligence and their willingness to learn make them ideal for search and rescue, therapy dogs, and service dogs. The more they work, the happier they are as they have abundant energy.
So yes, the Golden Retrievers are smart – there is no doubt about that if you are considering getting one as a pet.
But being smart is one thing, but the Golden Retrievers comes with a warning. They make great pets … for the right person.
Unless you have an active lifestyle and your new pet can be part of that, an under-exercised, under-mentally challenged Golden Retriever can turn mischievous, naughty, and become quite a handful to manage.
What do I mean by naughty or mischievous behavior?
I mean expect to find your furniture chewed, pillows ripped open, and they may engage in unacceptable behavior such as excessive barking.
Your lovely golden companion needs ACTION. They need to walk, run, and swim. They love to have a job to do and thrive upon a task. As a puppy, you will need to constantly follow them to ensure they do not get into trouble.
This breed does not want a cushy job, it needs plenty of room and action …so if you can’t offer an active lifestyle, or you live in a tiny unit with next to no yard, you would be better with another breed of dog. A quieter breed such as a Chihuahua, Miniature Pug dog, or a Pekingese would be suited better to your situation.
How Smart are Golden Retrievers?
This is a great question.
Did you know that the Golden Retriever ranks fourth in the smartest dog category for intelligence and working abilities?
Of course, it is easy to just say the Golden Retriever is smart, brainy, and intelligent – owners are always a little bit biased when it comes to their furry friends.
However, this ranking is based on factual evidence. A study by a leading canine psychologist from the University of Columbia – Stanley Coren – is responsible for the rating systems for canine intelligence. He is one of the world’s most respected people from the league of canine research.
He enlisted the help of two hundred North American and Canadian Obedience trial judges, and they assessed the dog breeds based on the following.
- The number of repetitions a breed needed to learn a new command.
- The success rates the breed had with a known common command on the first attempt.
Coren’s final ranking included only the dog breeds with a minimum of one hundred responses. No mixed breeds were included in the trial to ensure the results were from pure-bred dogs.
The Golden Retriever romped home in fourth place because of the trial. They performed in the top ten for dog intelligence in a line-up of 138 breeds. But the thing the Golden Retriever excelled in most, was their capability of learning a new command with fewer than five repetitions. Then they really showed off their prowess by showing their ability to obey a command with fewer than five repetitions!
An average dog by comparison was at least five times slower than the Golden Retriever to achieve the same ability.
Of course, other factors the professionals considered such as the instinctive and adaptive ability. Canines from a working background come with a variety of talents.
Some breeds of dogs herd animals, others are resolute guard dogs to sheep or cattle, or as in the Golden Retriever case, they retrieve waterfowl and delivered them to their master.
- Instinctive ability is where the dog just knows how to herd, gather, guard, etc.
- Adaptive ability is where the dog makes a mistake but learns from the mistake.
Where the Golden Retriever shines is with its understanding to sense human emotions and respond to them. If you are a bit down, your Golden Retriever will sense it, and offer cuddles, and dog smooches.
They can be silly and funny with the kids, tolerate a whack or two from kitties’ paw, or be soft and gentle with a bunny.
It is well known that the Golden Retriever has the keen ability to communicate and read our human emotions. This makes them fabulous children’s companions, a sympathetic shoulder to cry on, or they can read our excitement and follow our lead.
But of course, if you go and put on your running shoes, they will almost go through the door without opening it in their haste to join you on the track!! Their enthusiasm is contagious.
Top 10 Achievers List from the Study by Stanley Coren
- Border Collie – these dogs got the top spot because of their amazing ability to learn in an incredibly fast amount of time.
- Poodle – they are very smart, active dogs.
- German Shepherd – courageous and dedicated dogs.
- Golden Retriever – loved by all and high intelligence.
- Doberman Pinscher – smart and assertive and fearless.
- Shetland Sheepdog – very agile, obedient, and easy to train.
- Labrador Retriever – popular breed, loving, loyal and perfect companions
- Papillon – is the only small toy breed to make it into the top 10 list. Agile, attractive, and highly trainable.
- Rottweiler -powerful and robust, they are protective and loyal.
- Australian Cattle Dog – a working cattle dog bred, energetic, agile, and very intelligent.
Reasons why the Golden Retrievers are So Smart
The Golden Retriever has many things going in its favor. An even, loving personality is one thing that makes this breed so popular, but here are some other reasons they are considered an ideal friend.
- They are outgoing, friendly dogs with positive personalities. They love their owners and go out of their way to keep them company. These are the dogs that will follow you into the toilet just so they are with you. Privacy is a rare thing if you own a Golden Retriever.
- Their working background makes them keen to be busy. If you are digging in the garden, they will help. If you put the water spray on the lawn to water the grass, your Goldie will get soaked ‘assisting you. Helpful is their middle name!
- They learn very quickly. They have an adaptive type of personality and will watch to see what you want them to do, then they will be at it giving 100 % effort.
- In the evaluation done by Stanley Coren, we learned that the Golden Retriever learned new commands within minutes. But if they made a mistake (and what dog doesn’t) they adapted and learned from that mistake. Now that is one smart dog!
- Their empathy with humans is amazing. They just seem to know when you are feeling down and will come and comfort you. When little toddlers are around, they know instinctively to be gentle. They just have that inner understanding of a situation and know how to react accordingly. It is for that reason that they are often trained to be used as therapy dogs who help the sick and the lonely.
- They are great companions on a walk or make an ideal companion who can keep up the pace on a run. They are busy dogs. Sure, they like a snooze by the fire on a cold evening, or if the humans are talking, they will grab a five-minute nap. But if you so much as move in the direction of the pool, the door, or the car, they will be there first. The Golden Retriever is always ready for action.
The reason the Golden Retriever is so smart is that they empathize with humans; it is almost as though they can read our mind. They learn quickly so they can get on with the action, and they obey because it gets them what they want.
But it is because of their energy, that they may not be the right dog for everyone.
A person who is unable to get out and walk is not the ideal person for this breed. This dog needs to be busy, they like to exercise, long walks, games. But do not despair, there are many other dogs with a lower activity drive that will suit you.
Are Golden Retrievers Easy to Train?
They are smarter than many other breeds, placing fourth in the top ten smartest dog breeds test by Stanley Coren – the canine expert. These lovely dogs are highly trainable and learn to respond to over two hundred commands.
While they are smart dogs, the problem is that the Golden Retriever loves people, and I mean, all people.
When you are out walking, they will want to go and say hello to each and every person they meet, ignoring your pleas to come back! They get side-tracked by other dogs, people, and even flowers in the gardens until they learn better.
Once they get used to what you want, life will become easier. Mainly because as much as they love other people, they love treats even more.
When they learn to sit and stay when ordered to, they will quickly learn that they will get a reward. They just love putting food in their tummy which is a valuable piece of information when you are training them.
The thing is with this breed, they have a lot of energy, especially as a puppy. And they need to get rid of that energy and training helps them achieve that goal. If you don’t train your dog or offer them some mental stimulation, that is when the problems can begin.
A bored puppy will find other things to do. They may redesign the legs on the kitchen table, chewing them to pieces if they can. That is why these impressive bundles of energy should be kept busy.
The Golden Retriever can be taught many things, such as the sit and stay routine, but even small chores where they can help you will be a delight to them.
Let them retrieve the pegs from the clothesline that you throw can throw onto the ground and get them to place them in a basket. Then they can bring the basket in for you for a well-deserved treat.
If you have a fire, have a few small pieces of wood that your Golden Retriever can carry in for you. Teach your puppy to collect the mail carefully from the mailman and bring it to you. And remember to pay them with treats which will want them to do more.
Once they understand that you are willing to pay them (treats) for chores, they will be enthusiastic.
The Golden Retriever loves to be useful; they love doing things with and for you. As their puppyhood fades, they are easier to manage. They will be able to focus more on what you want, and less on the distractions around them.
One more thing, your Golden Retriever is smart. But they can also be mischievous.
If they figure out that instead of dropping your socks as ordered, they may decide not to obey, and then you will chase them to get them which is such fun for a little dog.
So be warned; these smart dogs are mischievous to train but a pocket full of treats will surely help.
Are Golden Retrievers Mischievous?
Oh yes, they are mischievous, especially when they are a puppy! You will find your shoes with teeth marks on them, your socks have holes chewed into them, and your little bundle of curiosity will explore anything and everything.
Take my advice and put everything up high where they cannot get hold of things or you will be racing them to the vet to correct a blockage caused by ingesting something that was never meant to have been a meal.
Chew toys or food dispensing toys are great to keep them mentally occupied.
Teach them to walk on a leash and don’t take them out without a leash as they will race away to see that nice person two beaches over whilst being conveniently deaf to your shouts to come back!
They love being with you and might end up under your feet, but they will learn quickly. And they soon learn how much you want something and then decide that you will have to chase them for it. This is one of their favorite games which can be frustrating when you are short of time and need your other shoe.
But with the Golden Retriever, everything is done with fun, not malice. And they tend to take their sense of humor into adulthood.
They do have a doggy sense of humor and will indulge it when nothing else is happening such as going and sitting on the cat and watching with wonder when the kitty retaliates.
This sweet pup will always be there for you. They will insist on coming into the bathroom to watch you shower and will push open the toilet door just to be with you. There is no logic for this, they are not being naughty – they just want to be with you.
They will be the last ones to tire in a game of tossing the ball, bringing it back time and time again. Occasionally you may have to chase them to get the ball back and you cannot miss the twinkle in their eyes when this happens.
Life is fun for a Golden Retriever. It is not to be taken so seriously and to prove it they will pinch your knickers and take them outside to show everyone they meet.
How to Mentally Satisfy Golden Retrievers?
Mentally stimulating your Golden Retriever gives your pooch something to do, a job if you will, a purpose to their life as well as dispersing any boredom.
These dogs are not content to do nothing all day, they must have an activity that uses up their abundant energy or they will find something to do by themselves. If left alone, boredom is often relieved by destructive habits such as incessant barking, chewing on the furniture, or your best shoes.
It is the wise owner who will ensure their little Golden puppy or dog has plenty of activity to concentrate on so that they don’t fall into bad habits.
Here are some helpful ideas for you:
- Exploration time when you are out on walks. Extend the lead so your Golden Retriever can sniff around the plants and bushes. The new smells will delight them.
- Train your dog the name of their favorite toy e.g., bouncy ball, snake, or one I often use is ‘get your cactus’. My dog has a cactus-style chew toy and when I give the command, the dog seeks it out and of course, gets a reward for doing so. Half an hour of fetching toys means they get a good workout.
- Set up an agility course at home – boxes or a chair that they must crawl through, a slightly raised balance pole, a rope to tug a door open. It is fun, challenging, and cheap to set up using what you have around the home.
- Teach them a new commands such as basic obedience, staying down when people arrive, and more. They will be happy to play any of your games if it makes you happy and they get a treat.
- Get them to stay in one room and wait while you hide a few treats in the next room. Then call them in and tell them to ‘find the treat’. These dogs have great noses and will usually find all the treats within minutes. If so, then make the next game a little more challenging.
- Anything to do with splashing in water will be fun for your pup. A child’s paddling pool makes an ideal tool; toss in two or three waterproof toys that sink and ask them to get them. They will not hesitate to dive down into the water to find the objects they want.
- Stuff a Kong dispensing toy or something similar with peanut butter and freezes it. This is ideal if you want to go out for half an hour or so and want to ensure your Golden Retriever has something to keep them occupied. They can spend hours trying to get all that delicious stuff out of the toy. Just ensure that the peanut butter has not been made with Xylitol, which is an artificial sweetener, as it can make your dog very sick. Natural peanut butter is best.
- Most dogs just love going out with you in the car. If you can take your dog, please do. They will love the sights, the new smells, the people they meet, and so on. But never ever leave them in the car as it can be fatal when the temperature rises which it will do. If you can’t take them with you when you reach your destination, then leave them at home.
- A follow on from above, train your dog to behave when visiting friends and family. After the fun car ride, take them with you on your visit, as long as they know a few basic commands such as sit, stay, etc. A well-behaved dog is welcomed wherever they go.
- Other ideas such as a game of tug of war with a sturdy rope, blowing bubbles that they can chase in the breeze, and the old favorite – get the ball will always be accepted by your dog.
- A new toy to play with, a playdate with another dog owner, or about anything that the Golden Retriever is invited to do with you will be accepted.
- And puzzle toys are fun and a challenge that will wear off a little of their energy and stimulate their mindset so that they lead a more fulfilling life.
Do you still want a Golden Retriever?
After all the facts about the Golden Retriever, the conclusion is that they make an ideal pet for most families.
They are great with young children and be trusted around them as they seem to understand that a small child needs careful handling. They are also good with other animals including cats, so they can fit right into your life.
But before you race off to adopt a Golden Retriever, please consider these points:
- Do you have enough space in your home and yard for them to play? The Golden Retriever can grow up to be around 40 kg therefore size is important to care for them properly.
- Do you have the time and energy to look after this dog? They will require up to 1.5 hours of walking, playing, and exercising per day. Can you handle that?
- Can you afford a dog? Many people overlook how a little cute fluffy puppy can grow into a large solid dog that will live for approx. 12 + years.
- They will require vaccinations, grooming, worming, and vet bills that cover dental care, eye care, and general health care. The trips to the vet will add up so be aware of that and try to work it into your yearly budget.
- Then you have the cost of a decent dog bed, dog food and treats, dog toys, a crate for travel, and leads – it just goes on and on.
- Are you ok with a doggy mess – by that I do not mean the toiletry kind although picking up poop from your yard is a constant chore. But the Golden Retriever has a thick double coat that sheds during the spring and autumn. That is a lot of dog hair, and I can tell you from experience that it equates to multiple handfuls of hair each day! You will have tumbleweeds of hair rolling around the yard. So, you need to be ok with dog hair and dog paw prints around the home.
Do not get me wrong, I am not trying to put you off getting a Golden Retriever, they offer fantastic companionship and add a lot of joy to your life.
But the reality is that they do grow into large dogs, and vets’ bills and dog food can add up to a large portion of the family budget.
If you cost it out and find you can manage their cost, then go for it.
There is something magical about having a Golden Retriever join the family. They are a true companion and live to serve you.
They are fun to walk with, they will join you for a swim, they will watch over your children, and will follow you everywhere.
One thing that they are not, is a guard dog. Sure, they will bark and warn you when someone is around, but they are more likely to help a villain carry off your television and will show them where you store your cash than protect your goods.
The Golden Retriever is a popular breed of dog because of their lovely nature.
You cannot go wrong with this breed, just make sure they get plenty of opportunities to use up their abundant energy and all will be good.
Golden Retriever Resources and Tips
Check out all the necessary information on everything about the Golden Retriever breed profile, and what would be needed in raising a Golden Retriever puppy. You also get to learn in detail, the 5 stages of Golden Retriever Puppy Growth (from baby to adult), and what to expect with your pup in each stage of its growth.
- Are Golden Retrievers Good for Allergy Sufferers?
- At What Age Do Most Golden Retrievers Calm Down?
- Miniature Vs. Standard Golden Retriever: Which One is the Best Fit For Your Lifestyle?
- Male vs. Female Golden Retriever: Similarities and 10 Key Differences
- Types of Golden Retrievers: Decoding Their Colors and Patterns
- Field Golden Retriever vs. Show Golden Retriever Comparison
- English Vs. American Golden Retriever: The Complete Comparison
- How Long Do Golden Retrievers Live?
- Full Breakdown Cost to Buy and Raise A Golden Retriever
- What do I mean by naughty or mischievous behavior?
- How Smart are Golden Retrievers?
- Reasons why the Golden Retrievers are So Smart
- Are Golden Retrievers Easy to Train?
- Are Golden Retrievers Mischievous?
- How to Mentally Satisfy Golden Retrievers?
- Do you still want a Golden Retriever?
- Golden Retriever Resources and Tips