Are Golden Retrievers Dumb? (or Smart)

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Are Golden Retrievers dumb?! Last week, I was playing with my friend’s Golden Retriever and it got me wondering how this breed ranks on the canine cleverness scale. I dug a bit deeper to find out how smart or dumb Goldens are.

So, are Golden Retrievers dumb? No. Golden Retrievers are among the smartest dog breeds. Their good nature and desire to please makes them seem like lovable idiots. But the truth is that these dogs are one of the most intelligent breeds, ranking number four in the world.

There are many different types of canine intelligence, and it’s not limited to your dog’s number of brain cells. In fact, testing a dog’s intelligence is more complicated than you might think.

How smart are Golden Retrievers?

Are Golden Retrievers Dumb…or S-M-A-R-T?

Testing a dog’s smarts is harder than it seems.

While you can’t give a dog an IQ test, one psychology professor found a way to work out how brainy each breed is.

Professor Stanley Coron worked with 200 obedience trial judges to test a range of dog breeds. He asked these judges to record the performance of AKC and CKC recognized breeds. Each breed included in his results had at least 100 responses – meaning that the data is pretty sound.

In total 133 different breeds underwent testing. These dogs were then divided into categories based on their performance.

So how did the Golden Retriever rank?

According to Professor Coron, Golden Retrievers are the fourth most intelligent breed!

But what does an IQ test for dogs look like? To test the brains of North America’s dogs, Professor Coron used two main criteria:

  1. The number of times a dog needed to repeat a new task to learn it. The fewer repetitions – the more intelligent the dog.
  1. The number of times a dog succeeded at a known task on the first attempt. Dogs with the highest rate of accuracy scored the best.

Golden Retrievers outdid themselves in these tasks. It only took the average Golden Retriever five repetitions to learn a new task. Furthermore, they were able to perform known tasks on the first try 95% of the time.

These are some smart dogs!

The Golden Retrievers scored better than other brainy dogs like the Doberman Pinscher. They were only outdone by Border Collies, Poodles, and German Shepherds.

In comparison, the average dog took 25 to 40 repetitions to learn a new command. They spent at least five times longer learning than a Golden Retriever. What’s more, average dogs only had a 50% chance of performing a task on the first try.

This sets Golden Retrievers apart from the pack as clever dogs with strong memories. 

Why are Golden Retrievers So Smart?

Obedience is not the only important factor to consider when testing intelligence. There are also other important types of canine intelligence.

While obedience is a skill that requires training, instinctive intelligence does not.

Instinctive intelligence comes from skills that are innate in a certain breed. The innate skill of a Golden Retriever is fetching objects from water.

Why? Well, years of breeding have made these dogs the ideal hunting companions. Golden Retrievers would fetch dead waterfowl and ducks for human hunters. Even dogs who have never been hunting before have the same instinct!

This sort of intelligence is a fundamental part of the Golden Retriever’s DNA.

Another less obvious sort of intelligence is adaptive intelligence.

Adaptive intelligence is all about how a dog interprets events and solves problems. This differs even within members of the same breed. One dog may learn that their human putting socks on means that it’s time for a walk, while another might be clueless!

Your Golden Retriever’s ability to learn routines is due to their adaptive intelligence. So next time you find them waiting by the door for their walk – know that it is all down to their smarts!

How to Test Your Dog’s Intelligence at Home (4 Tests)

If you want to put your own dog’s intelligence to the test, here are four quick tests you can try at home. Count the points your dog scores to know how your pup measures up!

Test 1

Put a blanket over your dog’s head to test their problem-solving skills. Time your dog to see how long it takes for them to work out how to get free.

If it takes 15 seconds or less, give them three points. If it takes 16 to 30 seconds, give them two points. If it takes them longer than 30 seconds, give them one point.

Test 2

Hide a treat under a piece of furniture so your dog can only reach it with their paw. This will test your dog’s creative thinking.

If your dog takes it with their paw, give them three points. If they use their paw and mouth, give them two points. If they give up, give them one point.

Test 3

Let your dog watch as you put three empty cups upside-down in front of them. Put a treat under one cup while they watch and then distract your dog. After a moment, come back to the cups and see how long it takes for them to find the treat.

If it takes 15 seconds or less, give them three points. If it takes 16 to 30 seconds, give them two points. If it takes them longer than 30 seconds, give them one point.

Test 4

Wait until a time of day when you don’t usually take your dog for a walk. Start your usual pre-walk routine and see if your dog notices. This will show their adaptive intelligence.

If your dog gets excited right away, give them three points. If they don’t understand until you walk to the door, give them two points. If they don’t understand at all, give them one point.

Survey Says…

10-12 points: A genius! Your dog can think on their feet and respond to changes in the environment. Not much can get in this dog’s way!

7-9 points: What a smart pup. Your dog is learning to solve complex problems and choose the best method to get what they want.

4-6 points: An eager student! Your curious dog is starting to explore the world.

1-3 points: A keen novice. Your dog has a way to go, but they are starting to experiment with problem solving techniques.

Remember that every dog is different. Some dogs will find these tasks easy, while others will struggle a little more.

But even if your dog gets a low score, don’t write them off as stupid.

Some clever dogs will refuse to perform, because they know their owner will give them a treat anyway. Watch out for your dog’s ability to follow patterns and routines – they may be smarter than you think!

But also, don’t worry if your dog is not the brightest tool in the shed. After all, the most important thing is the love you have for each other.

Related Questions

How do I train my Golden Retriever?

Start training your dog from the very beginning. It is important to use positive reinforcement to help encourage your dog. Using high value treats will give your dog more reasons to follow your commands at first. Be careful not to ask for too much during a training session to avoid exhausting your pup.

When will my Golden Retriever stop having accidents indoors?

House training happens at a different rate for every dog. But in general, your dog should be able to hold their bladder at around eight months. The key to helping your dog prevent accidents is consistency. Make a schedule and set regular reminders on your phone and until they are potty trained.

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